food allergy in dogs

Understanding and Managing Food Allergies in Dogs

Food allergies in dogs can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience for both the dog and their owners. Symptoms can include severe itching, recurring diarrhea, and skin inflammation, which can severely impact a dog’s quality of life. About 15% of all dogs suffer from a food allergy, with many young animals experiencing food intolerance.

How can you tell if your dog is allergic to a certain food ?

Food allergies in dogs occur when a dog’s immune system overreacts to certain ingredients in their food. It often affects young dogs, but can also occur in older dogs. The allergic reaction is usually associated with skin inflammation and severe itching. It’s important to note that even if a dog initially tolerates a certain food, they can develop an allergy to it later on.

If a dog is diagnosed with a food allergy, an elimination diet can help identify the allergen in their food. Once the responsible component has been identified, it is essential to avoid including it in the dog’s diet in the future. This process can take time, and owners may need to try different types of food to find one that their dog can tolerate.

Food allergy vs food intolerance

It’s worth noting that there is a difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are two separate processes. A food allergy is an immune system reaction, while a food intolerance is a non-immune system response to food. The latter can cause digestive issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and gas. Which means identifying and managing a food allergy in dogs is essential to improve their quality of life. With proper care and management, many dogs can live happily and healthily lives even with their food allergies.

A food allergy in dogs on the other hand, is a condition in which the immune system responds excessively to contact with certain ingredients in the dog’s food. Typically, proteins such as those found in chicken or beef can trigger the immune system to form antibodies and messenger substances that cause inflammation.

This immune response can result in severe symptoms such as skin inflammation, recurring diarrhea, and intense itching. Unlike other types of allergies, the immune system responds strongly to any further contact with the allergen, so even small amounts can cause severe symptoms.

Similar symptoms may also occur in cases of food intolerance, but the mechanisms behind this condition are different. There is no sensitization of the immune system, and the reaction to the component of the dog food that triggers the intolerance depends on the amount contained in the food. Small amounts of the intolerant ingredient do not usually cause a reaction.

Dogs with food allergies always experience serious digestive problems. The flatulence, vomiting, and diarrhea they suffer can be debilitating, and the dog may defecate up to three times a day. The stool is often liquid and may be covered with a layer of mucus. In addition to digestive problems, dogs with food allergies may experience severe itching and red skin changes in areas such as the face, external auditory canal, paws, and abdomen.

The dog’s excessive scratching can cause further damage to the skin and make it vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections. The constant rubbing against objects, sliding on the floor, and gnawing on paws can also lead to dehydration and reduced skin elasticity. In cases where the external auditory canal is affected, the dog may shake its head frequently due to inflammation.

A dog food allergy is a type of immune system response triggered by contact with certain ingredients in the dog’s food. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, itching, and skin inflammation, which can be particularly severe on the face and abdomen.

Proteins in dog food are the most common cause of food allergies in dogs, with beef, poultry meat, soy, milk protein in cheese or yogurt, and eggs being the most likely culprits. Some grains, such as wheat and spelt, can also trigger food allergies, but rice and potatoes rarely do so.

Allergens in ready-made dog food can include glycoproteins, which are large molecules made up of protein and carbohydrates, as well as antioxidants and haptens, which are small proteins. Identifying the specific allergen causing the reaction requires an elimination diet, in which the responsible component is removed from the dog’s diet and gradually reintroduced to identify which ingredient is causing the reaction.

How to diagnose food allergies in dogs ?

Diagnosis and treatment of food allergies in dogs require a careful approach to identify the specific allergen triggering the reaction. Blood tests can reveal an elevated level of eosinophils and immunoglobulin E, but it cannot pinpoint the exact substance causing the allergy. Therefore, an elimination diet is often recommended, where the dog is fed a limited ingredient diet containing novel protein sources and carbohydrate sources that the dog has not eaten before, such as horse meat or insects.

This diet should be followed for at least eight weeks to allow the allergens to be eliminated from the dog’s body, and to assess whether the symptoms improve. After the elimination diet, a provocation test is performed by introducing a suspected allergen and monitoring the dog’s response. This helps to confirm the specific allergen causing the dog’s reaction.

Once the specific allergen is identified, the most effective treatment is to avoid any further contact with it. This can be challenging, as dogs with food allergies are often allergic to other substances, such as flea saliva, dust mites, and pollen. Special care shampoos and essential fatty acids in the dog’s food or as a spot-on treatment can help heal the inflamed skin and rebuild the skin barrier.

In some cases, if the dog is scratching itself excessively, a cone or a body suit may be necessary to prevent further damage. It is important to note that cortisone treatment is not a permanent solution, as it only suppresses the immune system without eliminating the root cause of the food allergy. Therefore, it should be used judiciously and under the guidance of a veterinarian. In conclusion, the key to managing food allergies in dogs is early detection, identification of the specific allergen, and avoidance of further exposure to it.

Treating the allergy

When it comes to treating a dog’s food allergy, a feed diet can be an effective solution. This type of diet consists of proteins that have been modified to prevent triggering an allergic reaction. Hydrolysis is often used to break down the protein molecules, reducing their size and rendering them less likely to cause an immune response.

Special feed diets are typically recommended for dogs that are hypersensitive to a wide range of proteins. These diets usually contain a single source of protein and carbohydrate, making it easier to identify and eliminate the allergen.

When choosing a feed diet, there are various protein and carbohydrate sources to consider. For instance, horse meat, insects, and exotic meats like kangaroo are all good options. Sweet potato and Jerusalem artichoke are popular carbohydrate sources. Ready-made diets are also available, which often contain exotic protein sources and are specifically designed to address food allergies in dogs.

It’s important to note that once the allergen has been identified, different foods can be fed to the dog. This may include special diet feeds from the veterinarian, home-cooked meals, or even ready-made feeds with exotic protein sources. Consulting with a veterinarian is always recommended to ensure that the dog is getting the proper nutrients and is being treated effectively for their food allergy.

When a dog is diagnosed with a food allergy, identifying the allergen is crucial to treatment. One effective way of doing this is through an elimination diet, where the dog is fed a diet consisting of only one source of protein and one source of carbohydrate for eight weeks. During this time, the dog is not on a restricted diet and can eat as much as they need.

Elimination diet to treat dog allergies

The protein sources that are suitable for an elimination diet include horse, kangaroo, and insects. Previously, fish, ostrich meat, and rabbit meat were also used, but feed allergies have been reported in recent years. For carbohydrate sources, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, or millet are excellent choices, but rice is not recommended. After the eight weeks of the elimination diet, a provocation test is performed.

During this test, the dog receives a food component that could trigger the allergy, such as poultry meat. If the symptoms reappear, the allergen has been identified. If no allergic reactions are visible after a few days, the search for the allergen must continue by introducing another source of protein.

Once the allergen has been identified, different dog food options can be fed. Ready-made feed with exotic sources of protein, such as insects, horses, or kangaroo, special diet feed from the vet, or home-cooked feed are all options. It’s important to ensure that the allergen is avoided in any new food fed to the dog to prevent further allergic reactions.

When it comes to feeding a dog with a food allergy, there are a few options available for owners. One of these is to cook the dog’s food themselves, rather than using ready-made feeds. However, it is important to ensure that the home-cooked feed is easily digestible, tasty, and contains all the necessary nutrients to avoid any deficiencies.

Once the allergen has been identified through an elimination diet, it is crucial to ensure that it is no longer included in the dog’s diet. Even traces of the allergen can cause an allergic reaction. In addition, some vegetables and fruits can cause cross allergies with certain meats, so it’s important to be aware of this when planning the dog’s diet.

Common allergenic meats include beef, chicken, lamb, and pork. Meats that are less commonly allergenic and may be suitable for an elimination diet include horse, kangaroo, and insects. Sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, and millet are good carbohydrate sources for home-cooked feeds, while rice is not recommended.

Some fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, celery, parsley, basil, bell peppers, apples, pears, and peaches, may trigger cross-allergies and should be avoided.

You might be interested: 10 Fruits And Veggies That Are Surprisingly Harmful For Your Dog’s Health

It’s important to note that the elimination of allergens can take longer than expected, and owners should not rush to reintroduce new protein sources. The earliest time to do this is typically the seventh week of the elimination diet, although waiting for eight weeks is recommended.

Additionally, owners must be diligent about avoiding any potential sources of allergens, including in snacks and supplements added to the dog’s food. For example, salmon oil must only consist of oils and should not contain any traces of protein. By following these guidelines, owners can help manage their dog’s food allergies and ensure they receive a healthy, balanced diet.

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