Just like humans, our dogs can get a food allergy or intolerance no matter what age they are. It could even happen years after your pet’s been eating the same food. Food accounts for about 10 percent of allergies experienced by dogs.
How a dog displays a food allergy may be different when compared to people. Find out what to look for as we dig deep into the world of doggy food allergies.
What does a Food Allergy Mean For Dogs?
When a dog becomes allergic to food, the immune system has an overreaction and produces antibodies to ingredients that it would usually tolerate. Proteins or complex carbohydrates are the usual culprits.
Because antibody production is necessary for an allergy to develop, food allergies often only crop up after prolonged exposure to a particular brand, kind, or form of food.
Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance
A food intolerance differs from an allergy because it does not involve the immune system. Problems digesting food often lie behind intolerance.
Clinical signs of a food intolerance typically include stomach and gut issues. Food intolerance may cause excess wind, bloating, or stomach pain but sometimes they can also have an impact on the entire body as well.
What Are the Symptoms of a Dog Having a Food Allergy?
In a dog, the signs of a food allergy include:
- Chronically itchy skin, paws, or ears
- Skin lesions and frequent ear infections
- Digestive issues such as vomiting or diarrhea
- Weight loss, hyperactivity, aggression, or a lack of energy
Allergies to pollen, mold, and mites can cause similar issues. It’s a good idea to track your dog’s symptoms and see if there’s a correlation with the changing of the seasons, for example, when there may be a higher pollen count.
All breeds of dogs can develop allergies. Some kinds of dogs may be more prone to develop them than others. Breeds most commonly affected include:
- West Highland White Terriers
- Cocker Spaniels
- Labrador Retrievers
Food allergies often crop up in dogs aged between 1 and 3 years old – although this isn’t always the case.
How Can I Be Sure that My Dog Has a Food Allergy?
The most usual food allergens in dogs are proteins, particularly those from dairy, chicken, beef, eggs, wheat gluten, or soy. However, just like in humans, a dog could become allergic to nearly anything.
Every time your dog eats food containing an offending ingredient, the antibodies react with the antigens. Your dog may then display the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Although proteins tend to be the most common cause of an allergy, almost any food ingredient can cause one.
Diagnosing food allergies in dogs is not always easy! Other conditions can look very similar. You’re likely to need the help of a vet to get to the bottom of the symptoms.
Ruling Out Other Health Issues
Your vet will look at your pet’s medical history. They may run tests for other conditions that cause similar symptoms. These include environmental allergies, bacterial and yeast infections, ringworm, and flea infestations.
Your vet might find a potential cause for your dog’s symptoms, particularly those related to the skin and ears. They may still consider a food allergy is playing a part in any problems because yeast infections can flare up due to food allergies, for instance.
If a food allergy appears to be a distinct contributory factor to the symptoms your dog is experiencing, your vet will very likely recommend a food trial. Your pet would then eat nothing but a prescription, hypoallergenic diet for a month or 2 to see if symptoms disappear.
You must feed your dog no other foods, supplements, or treats during the trial period. This includes some parasite preventives and extra vitamins. If your dog eats any other foods, even human foods or dental sticks, it will make it extremely hard, if not impossible for both you and your vet to work out what the issue is.
If the symptoms do resolve themselves, your vet may suggest returning to your dog’s former diet to check if symptoms return. This is to ensure that your dog really is allergic to one or more of its ingredients.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Food Allergy?
When you’ve worked out what the offending food substance is, you should settle on a diet that doesn’t contain that particular ingredient. Your vet will be able to recommend one of several hypoallergenic diets that you can feed your dog for the rest of their life. The main kinds of hypoallergenic diets are:
A Veterinary Hydrolyzed Protein Diet
In this diet, the protein molecules get reduced to a magnitude so tiny that your dog’s immune system can’t recognize them.
A Veterinary or Home-Prepared Novel Protein Diet
This diet will contain no products that were present in your dog’s previous foods. Venison, rabbit, or other ingredients that your dog has never consumed in the past get used instead of the more common protein sources.
Some dog food brands may claim to contain no ingredients that dogs can be allergic to. However, over-the-counter pet foods are not always foolproof. Your vet is best placed to prescribe the most appropriate option for your dog’s specific needs.
Treating the Symptoms of a Food Allergy
There is really only one way to fully control a food allergy – and that is to remove the offending ingredient from your dog’s diet. However, there are options to treat some of the symptoms caused by the food allergy.
Your vet may sometimes want to prescribe topical and oral medications to help soothe the effects of itching. They may also wish to treat any secondary issues, such as ear and skin infections.
Consult a Vet Today!
If you think your dog may be allergic to food, you should consult a vet, especially if they are displaying any of the symptoms that a food allergy in dogs can cause. We have a team of highly experienced vets available to talk you through all aspects of allergies. Book a timeslot with one of the team today and get the advice you need to deal with a food allergy in dogs.