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Pet parents aim to provide their dogs with vitamin-rich foods that support optimal health. But sometimes dog foods contain ingredients that can trigger allergic reactions, such as vomiting.
If a pet parent notices signs of common dog food allergies, it's important to seek treatment for their pet to prevent long-term damage.
Fuzzy members may spot signs of either a true food allergy or a food intolerance in their pets. A dog with either of these conditions will have similar symptoms, although the causes are different. True food allergies are caused by an autoimmune response to a food protein. When a dog has a food that they're allergic to, cells in their body release histamines, which can cause itching and other allergic reactions.
Conversely, when a dog has a food intolerance, they have difficulty digesting a specific food, so they have adverse food reactions like increased flatulence. For example, if a dog struggles to process lactose in cheese or other dairy products, they may have diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems.
If a dog consumes a food that they're allergic to, they may start to itch.If a pet parent is wondering how to tell if their dog has food allergies, they can also look for these signs:
Licking to soothe red, irritated skin
Vomiting or diarrhea
Changes in behavior
Sneezing or runny eyes
Swelling on their eyes, ears, or other areas
Dogs with food allergies don't have a rapid, life-threatening reaction, but if they remain untreated, they could develop mouth ulcers, eczema, and other similar skin problems.
Fuzzy members can help improve their dog's quality of life by looking out for potential allergens in dog food. There are several that are commonly included in popular brands and even in recipes developed for dogs on a special veterinary diet.
Dogs who are fed canned, dry, or homemade diets that include beef, chicken, or other meat can experience allergic reactions to the type of protein that's found in those food sources. A food allergy caused by chicken, beef, or another animal-based protein source may cause symptoms such as sneezing, diarrhea, itchy skin issues, or swelling of the lips, face, or ear flaps.
Even if a dog isn't initially allergic to beef, they can develop an allergy if they eat beef on a regular basis. Veterinarians recommend that dog parents change the type of protein that they use in homemade pet foods regularly. Chicken — and chicken byproducts — is one of the most common dog food allergy ingredients due to overconsumption. Dogs who are allergic to fish, chicken, or beef are more likely to develop skin infections due to increased itching and scratching.
It is worth noting, though, that pet parents should consult a veterinarian before switching to grain-free diet. Dogs on grain-free diets have higher rates of heart disease. Dog breeds known to be more susceptible to taurine-deficiency dilated cardiomyopathy may, unbeknownst to the pet parent, develop additional health complications. The following breeds may be more likely to develop health complications due to the overlap of food allergies and grain-free dog diets:
American Cocker Spaniels
Carbohydrates like wheat are a good source of energy but wheat-based treats can cause some dogs to drag their ears on the ground or constantly itch. Soy and other common ingredients in dog food can also cause an allergic reaction. If they're allergic to wheat, soy, or other common plant-based protein sources, dogs are likely to show it by:
Frequently needing antibiotic treatment for bacterial skin infections
Developing secondary infections on their skin due to self-trauma
Having frequent infections in their ear canals
Pet parents can use an elimination diet to figure out whether a dog is allergic to soy or another food. Fuzzy vets can help guide the process of systematically removing ingredients from their diet, to find out which ones they may be allergic or sensitive to.
Once a pet parent has a confirmed food allergy diagnosis from a vet, it's important to restrict a dog's access to any ingredients that can be harmful to them. Sometimes pet parents might need to physically separate all of the animals in their household during feeding time by placing them in separate rooms.
Even a small taste of an allergen can cause symptoms. Pet parents should take steps to inform and train any people that come in contact with the dog about their allergies and what appropriate food or treats are allowed. Dogs must stick to their new diet. If a dog has been diagnosed with an allergy, they may need to be fed a special diet for the rest of their life. They may also receive other treatments, such as immunosuppressive medicines.
When a dog is being treated for a dog food allergy, a veterinarian will try to find a diet that won't trigger symptoms. Dogs that switch to hydrolyzed protein dog foods usually experience an improvement in their symptoms.
Hydrolyzed protein is protein that's broken up into pieces by using water. The proteins are so small that a dog's immune system can't react to them. Dogs with food allergies that are caused by protein won't have allergic reactions if they're fed a hydrolyzed diet.
When dogs develop dry, irritated skin, they're more prone to infections. For itchy skin, pet parents can apply a topical spray, salve, or cream to their dog's paws or other affected areas.
Specifically for light to mild cases, a dog's health may start to improve if this method of treatment is used along with a special diet and other strategies recommended by a veterinarian. Some dog food allergies may be so severe that additional treatments or time may be necessary for pet parents to get them under control.
Dogs can experience discomfort or poor quality of life due to common dog food allergies. Fuzzy veterinarians can help pet parents figure out what's causing an allergic response in their dog and develop the right course of treatment.
For dogs with sensitive GI tracts, pet parents can feed them snacks that are gentle on their stomach, like hydrolyzed dog treats that have been screened and recommended by Fuzzy veterinarians.