It’s quite common for your dog to develop dog food allergies to certain foods that it has been exposed to repeatedly in the past.
Your dog’s own immune system overreacts, mistaking these food components as a threat and producing extreme reactions. These reactions are what we call food allergies.
This is very much the case with humans and other animals, and dogs are not an exception.
So while initially your dog eats beef-based dog food, for instance, and enjoys it without any problem, there’s a chance that it will later be sensitized or will develop an allergy to beef or to the other components that go with that particular food. It’s not surprising, therefore, that
the usual food allergens are also the food or ingredients most commonly found in dog food – and these include chicken, beef, eggs, dairy, and grains.
Dog food allergy symptoms
At some point in a dog’s life, you’d see it scratching vigorously, biting and chewing at its skin. Your pet may even suffer to the point of losing hair and developing hotspots. You’d naturally inspect its skin, checking the armpits, groins, and other hiding places for possible blood-sucking pests.
If you don’t find the anticipated culprits, you’d be puzzled naturally, “My dog is always scratching but doesn’t have fleas, or ticks, or mites, so what could it possibly be?”
Not all skin problems in dogs are caused by skin parasites.
There are actually many conditions that can cause these same symptoms. These could be symptoms of fungal or bacterial infection, or endocrine disorder. In fact, these could very well be dog food allergy symptoms.
Dog food allergies usually present as extreme skin itching and sometimes as gastrointestinal problems, like vomiting and loose stools.
Still, your vet would be the most qualified person to rule out the other conditions i.e. environmental issues. For this article, we’d like to focus on these symptoms as a result of food allergies.
Some dog breeds – such as Golden Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, Terriers, and Pugs – are more prone to food allergies than other breeds are, but this does not exempt the other breeds from becoming allergic to a particular food.
Dog Food allergy treatment
The best method for treading dog food alleries is by a process called elimination diet trial. The first part of this treatment involves evaluation and diagnosis by a veterinarian to determine if indeed your dog’s condition is due to food allergy. This is not like a quick lab test, though, that would simply require a specimen from your dog and, voila, you’d have the result written on paper in a few minutes.
Instead, this entails 6 to 8 weeks – even longer in some cases – of feeding your dog a special diet and observing how this regimen affects the symptoms.
This is a totally different diet from the previous food your dog has been accustomed to. If within this period the skin problems and the rest of the symptoms begin to diminish, then it would be safe to conclude that your dog’s condition was indeed a case of food allergy.
The second part is identifying the offending food – the ingredient or component that has caused the allergy. This is done when the symptoms have totally subsided and your dog’s condition has substantially improved. The old food is then introduced one ingredient at a time and added to the new diet while carefully observing if the dog food allergy symptoms recur with each addition.
The ingredient that triggers a flare-up would then be identified as the allergen, which is usually a protein or carbohydrate source, although other ingredients may still cause allergies. Avoiding the allergen in the future is the key to treating dog food allergy.
What is the best dog food for dogs with allergies?
Now let’s talk about the special diet used during the elimination diet trial. Before veterinarians could recommend any special dog food for dog food allergy symptoms, they’d usually ask for a list of what you’ve been feeding your dog. They then generally suggest unique single-protein and single-carbohydrate food, such as rabbit meat and potatoes. This limited-ingredient diet minimizes the chance of exposing your dog to possible allergens.
You may also prepare your dog’s food yourself, if you’re up to it. There are two very important things to remember when planning and preparing dog food for dogs with skin allergies:
that the diet you choose does not include anything from your dog’s previous usual food, and that you feed your dog nothing else but this diet during the observation period.
Under this diet, you must not give your dog treats, supplements, bones, human food, milk, and flavored medications that may contain the yet unidentified allergen. Should your dog need medication, choose the unflavored ones. You may also allow for bones, which are important in maintaining healthy gums and teeth, as long as the bones come from the meat in the special diet.
In summary when asking the question what is the best dog food for dogs with dog food allergies, there is no single best dog food for dogs with allergies, because no two dogs are exactly alike. Even dog foods labeled as hypoallergenic diets don’t provide 100% assurance that your dog’s allergies will completely disappear. These veterinarian-prescribed diets can only minimize allergic reactions. The best approach would still be to identify the allergen and to exclude it from your dog’s food in the future.