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Like humans, dogs can have food allergies. However, dogs can't explain the symptoms they are experiencing to their pet parents. Since dog food consists of many ingredients, it can be very difficult to identify which they’re allergic to. Even the most expensive, premium blends made with the most nutritious ingredients can have an allergen in them.
An allergy is the body’s immune response to something, while intolerance is difficulty digesting something. Recognizing signs of food allergies in dogs can be difficult because food allergens are not very common in canines. Dogs tend to be more susceptible to environmental allergens, like pollen or hay, than food allergens. If a dog develops food allergies, the cause is likely genetic.
Common food allergens in dogs include high protein ingredients such as beef, chicken, lamb, and eggs. Protein is a common allergen and beef is the main ingredient in many dog food brands. Dogs can be lactose intolerant, which is not an allergy but can lead to a dairy allergy. Blood and skin allergy tests are available, however, these tests aren’t always accurate.
Here are some signs of food allergies in dogs:
Itchy skin and/or paws
Scaly, oily, and/or leathery skin
Vomiting and diarrhea
Bacterial infections of the skin or ears
Because other medical conditions can also cause these symptoms, veterinarians will likely order several diagnostic tests to rule out other possibilities before testing for allergies. In severe cases, dogs might go into anaphylactic shock, an extreme immune response that can cause blocked breathing and a drop in blood pressure. If a pet parent suspects their dog is in anaphylactic shock, call a veterinarian immediately.
Pet parents can put their dog on an eight to 12-week "food elimination" diet as part of a pet health plan recommended by their vet or dog nutritionist. Depending on what their vet thinks might work best, this plan may involve replacing their dog's current diet with a home-cooked, prescription, or limited diet.
Once their dog's on their new diet, pet parents will begin feeding them one protein source and one carbohydrate source that was not part of their previous diet, like rabbit, venison, and potatoes. Making sure not to feed their dog any other foods while they’re on this food elimination diet, including treats, table food, supplements, or medications, unless they're veterinary-approved.
Once the allergen has been identified, the treatment is simple: always avoid any foods containing the particular allergen. It'll be important to read labels on any food or treat products. Also, if the allergen is something the dog commonly eats, make sure to store it in a secure place the dog can’t access.
Veterinarians may choose to treat some of the symptoms the dog's been experiencing, such as skin reactions, to prevent an infection. Anti-itch medicine for dogs and over-the-counter antihistamines are commonly used to help give dogs some relief. It’s important that dog parents talk to a veterinarian about the correct dosage before treating their dog. Keep in mind, treating the symptoms won’t cure every dog. Pet parents will still need to continue the veterinary recommended treatment plan to establish the cause for the allergic reaction.
Fuzzy offers 24/7 help via Live Vet Chat and can answer any questions or concerns pet parents have about dog food allergies. Fuzzy also offers many dog skin and coat supplements that will give peace of mind and keep pets healthy and happy.