Food allergies to humans are no mystery. Peanuts, fish, wheat, eggs, and many other foods are common allergy triggers. Their symptoms are unmistakable. One may develop a rash, their throat may swell, hives may develop, and many other symptoms may arise. We recognize food allergies in our own lives so easily, but what about in our pets? Did you know that your pet can have food allergies just like humans can? Dogs and cats are both susceptible to developing a food allergy at some point in their life. In fact, about 10% of dogs have food allergies. An even higher amount of dogs develop intolerances to certain foods, but more on that later.
Dogs can be allergic to a variety of things. They can be allergic to pollen in the environment, insect bites (specifically flea bites), and even their own food. Dealing with a pet food allergy is one of the most frustrating things a pet owner has to deal with. One can go through many different brands and types of food and still not find a food that works. Contrary to popular belief, corn or grain is more than likely not the cause of your pet’s food allergy. Instead, the problem typically lies with the protein source in the food. The most common sources are chicken, beef, turkey, and lamb.
Diagnosing allergies in dogs can be a little complex. It is fairly easy to tell when a type of allergic reaction is taking place, but determining an exact trigger can take some investigating. Dogs that are allergic to their food may display symptoms such as biting, licking, or scratching at their skin. They could have a poor hair coat, and may also experience recurring ear infections. A food intolerance is a little bit different, but presents a similar problem. An intolerance is similar to an allergy, but does not truly trigger an immune response like an allergy does. A food intolerance may display itself as vomiting, or diarrhea after consuming a type of food. Once symptoms have been detected, regardless of a suspected allergy or intolerance, a diagnosing process can begin. It is always advised to consult your veterinarian before making any major changes to your dog’s feeding program.
The most recommended solution is to first to completely change your dog’s food. If he is having an adverse response to a chicken based food, try beef or a fish based food. Remember to make gradual changes when trying a new food. Always be sure to mix new with old, and gradually keep adding more new until the old is gone. If you see a marked improvement, then you can begin to conclude that the allergen/intolerance stemmed from your original food. If there is not much difference, then you can try something else. It may take a little experimenting to find what works best. We are fortunate to have so many protein sources available to us in dog food. Don’t be afraid to try different sources such as rabbit or venison. Typically for dogs with true allergies and intolerances, a fish based dog food is a great option. It may be a little stinky, but it can do wonders for dogs. If your pet is still experiencing symptoms after trying different types of food, it is best to work with your veterinarian and perhaps see if performing an allergy test on your dog is possible.
Dog food allergies and intolerances are common. Just like people they can experience the same discomfort and unpleasantness that comes along with eating the wrong thing. You as the owner know your dog best. If you notice anything out of the ordinary that is concerning, contact your veterinarian first. When trying to decide on a new food to try, certainly consult your veterinarian, but also you can talk to a pet food specialist. Most pet stores will have trained staff to help point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing a new food for your pet. Remember that allergies and intolerances typically stem from protein sources, not grain. When trying to correct an allergy, look for a different protein source when choosing a new food. Be patient, and you will find the right solution.
Article provided by Carson Meyer, Feed Sales Intern for Purina Animal Nutrition