As in all types of diseases, the key to treating dog food allergy hinges on accurate diagnosis. For a vet to be able to diagnose correctly, he needs to properly assess the dog food allergy symptoms presented.
You, as the owner, will have to go through tedious procedures of identifying the cause of the allergy.
Only then can you and your vet proceed to treat the condition.
What are the typical dog food allergy symptoms?
Generally, food allergy in dogs presents as:
- Intense itching
- Excessive scratching
- Licking and biting
- Inflamed lips, feet, or skin
- Ear infection
- Skin infection
- Hair loss and bald patches
- Hot spots
- Stomach upsets and diarrhea
Most dogs present only some symptoms. Few unlucky ones may present all those listed and more. Other symptoms, though rather rare, are:
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Weight loss
As we very well know, dogs are individuals unique from each other. They have unique traits and hereditary predispositions.
It’s totally normal for them to react to similar conditions in different ways.
The gravity of the symptoms will also vary from one dog to another.
The presence of these symptoms is only suggestive, not conclusive, of food allergy. The vet will rule out unlikely causes and conduct tests.
This will take some time and, understandably, you may feel impatient about it.
There’s no short route to it, though. What you can do is cooperate with the vet. This way you don’t make the procedure longer than it already is.
Meanwhile, the vet will prescribe medications to provide temporary relief from the discomforts of dog food allergy symptoms.
What causes food allergies?
It’s important to understand that almost 75% of the whole immune system resides in the digestive tract.
The digestive and immune systems start working together in complex processes the moment that food enters your dog’s mouth.
Food travels until it reaches the intestines where it will be prepared for absorption into the bloodstream as nutrients. However, not all food components qualify as nutrients. They must be cut down to the proper size. Stomach acids and enzymes are responsible for reducing food to its molecular components. Proteins are broken down into amino acids.
Now the food substances are ready to cross the border, so to speak. They go through what you may call “border guards” (IgA cells) and “border barriers” (enterocytes). The border guards can bounce them back for more digestion, or reject them altogether. The border barriers will make sure that only those qualified as nutrients can get to the bloodstream.
Sometimes, however, security breach still occurs and some large substances can go through the intricate system. Failure in structure and systems could be due to weak health, advanced age, genetic predisposition, or other reasons. When large proteins are allowed to pass, that sets off the alarm that there has been an intrusion. At that point, an immune response is immediately launched.
This is responsible for the itching and other dog food allergy symptoms.
Why do dogs suddenly become allergic to food they’ve been eating for a long time?
“I have fed the same food for quite some time, but it’s only now that my dog has this reaction,” you say. Good observation. The immune system has what is called gut-associated lymphoid tissues (GALT). It’s like having a conflict manager who works to contain the responses. For some time, it will look like everything’s going to be fine.
However, as you continue to feed your dog the same food that the system reacts to, the reaction builds up.
This goes on and on until such time that the manager will not be able to pacify the immune responses any longer. It becomes a full-blown hypersensitivity. This is when you notice that your dog has “developed” an allergy.
What is the best dog food for allergies?
No single food fits all dogs diagnosed with food allergy. There are many options, but here’s one quick and dirty tip for you:
Identify the food that your dog reacts to, and avoid it no matter what. It’s that simple!
If you’ve gone through the long process of identifying the allergen, then identifying the best food for your dog shouldn’t be all that difficult. We suggest that you look into the following:
- Food that contains uncommon ingredients. They are marketed as “novel” or “exotic” food. Your dog has not been exposed to these ingredients so hypersensitivity is unlikely. Understanding how allergies develop, you should also know that your dog can develop allergies later to whatever new dog food you introduce now.
- Food with fewer ingredients. You’ll see them labeled as single-protein or limited-ingredient diet (LID). This works on the principle that this food has fewer ingredients, so the chance that dog food allergy symptoms will occur should also be lower.
- Prescription hypoallergenic diets or dog food made of hydrolyzed protein. This refers to prescription diets that are highly digestible because they contain proteins that had been broken down into “hypoallergenic” size. You will notice that these diets still contain common triggers like chicken and beef. But since they had been chemically modified, they should not trigger the immune responses.
- Homemade food. This approach takes time, money, correct setup, and commitment. In short, this may not be the best option for most pet owners. The logic here is that when you personally prepare your dog’s food, you know everything that goes into the food. The drawback though, aside from the difficulties, is that you may not be providing your dog with balanced nutrition. Worse, you won’t even know that unless signs of malnutrition begin to manifest.
For us, the main takeaway here is to simultaneously deal with the short and long term issues about dog allergies.
Your goal should always be to improve your dog’s quality of life – the present and the future.
You should be willing to go through the more important process of identifying the main cause of the allergy, which can be very draining to you. Yet you should also provide relief for the more urgent dog food allergy symptoms, which can make your dog’s life miserable.