Allergies in dogs aren’t unlike our own. The same allergens that are everywhere just waiting to hit you can affect your canine companion. From things in our homes to stinging bugs, allergens are a nuisance.
Believe it or not, dogs can have food allergies too. In some cases, what you feed a dog can be the cause of many other allergy symptoms. Meaning, instead of a skin allergy, he may be itching from his kibble. The good news is that dog food allergies is a straightforward fix once correctly identified.
When pricey shampoos don’t help, and medication is not a favorable option, look at what’s in that bowl. That dog dish can hold the key to various allergic reactions. Food allergies in dogs can cause skin irritation, itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and even behavioral problems.
Most dog foods use common ingredients that can trigger a reaction. Beef, chicken, eggs, corn, dairy, and grains are all known culprits. Certain dog breeds can also be predisposed to having food allergies. The most common include the American Pit Bull Terrier, Boxer, Bull Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, and Maltese.
The best dog food for dogs with food allergies are limited ingredient and grain free food. However, the best thing you can do is put your dog on an elimination diet. First restrict your dog to simple, easy-to-digest foods, then slowly reintroduce other foods one at a time and watch for allergy symptoms. The problem food can then be removed from the diet.
But before you put your dog on a allergy specific diet, you need to confirm your dog actually does have a food allergy.
Does Your Dog Have Food Allergies?
Only a professional veterinarian can determine if your dog has allergies. Food allergies in dogs are not that common. They occur when your dog’s body sees a protein as an invader. This triggers an immune response.
Skin tests, much like the one a dermatologist would use on a person, can determine what Fido is allergic to. This is an accurate way to test for multiple things at once. The great thing is it isn’t blood work so most dogs shouldn’t be stressed out by it. However, it is time-consuming. I had one done when I was ten-years-old and found out onions make me swell up like a balloon.
There are commercial blood tests you can buy. These are not recommended because they are less accurate. According to one study, there is no proof to even say that blood tests for dog food allergies work at all. So if you suspect your dog may have a food allergy, take them to the vet to get confirmation.
What To Do When Food Allergies Are Confirmed
Now that you know more about allergies themselves and how they can be diagnosed, the next question is what type of food should you start feeding your dog? Glad you asked because we have answers!
1. Foods With Limited Ingredients
These are the foods that limit what they put in. Commonly, they will have one protein and one carbohydrate component. Most will use lamb or turkey instead of chicken or beef, with something like sweet potatoes. Merrick has a good selection of limited-ingredient dog foods available. Acana also has a respectable formula with freshwater fish that contains parts of freshwater, locally sourced fish. They call it “whole-prey” ingredients because it has bone, organs, and meat in it. The Best thing about it is you can see the ingredients and recognize the words, so you’re not left scratching your head reading them.
2. Going Grain-Free
With grain-free you get just that. Ingredients including corn, barley, wheat, and rye are cut out. This is not to be confused with gluten-free foods. Not all grain is created equal, and not all grain has gluten.
It’s recommended to mix these with your dog’s current food first to let them adjust. Along with easing allergies, grain-free can help reduce feedings, increase energy, and might make your dog’s breath less offensive.
Orijen original is a grain-free dry food that also uses the whole-prey ingredients. This particular food has 0 percent of grain, tapioca, and plant protein concentrates with 85 percent protein ingredients.
3. Get Allergy Specific Food
This option can be pricey. Even your vet will save this as a last resort. If this is the only option you have left, two brands stand out. Hill’s has several types of food sensitive diets. Royal Canin has what they call “selected protein” food formulated with allergies in mind. They even have a category you can browse through called “food elimination trial.” It is precisely what you think. Both companies have rave reviews regarding changes in people’s pets.
4. Holistic Food
This food contains ingredients such as bison, venison, whitefish, and salmon. This alleviates the guesswork if you think the protein source is behind the allergic reactions.
Earthborn is one of many companies that have taken this direction. They offer limited ingredients, no fillers, and a list chockfull of unique proteins. If you think your dog fancies some squid or pollock, then you should give them a look.
5. Homemade Food
If you are still concerned about what commercial dog food companies put in their food (I don’t blame you), then homemade could be for you.
You are in complete control over the process from start to finish. Every aspect of preparation is in your hands. Doing a search on the internet for dog food recipes for food allergies will pull up a treasure trove of links.
They are all things you can do in your home with ingredients you pick out at your local supermarket or farmer’s market. You put in what your dog can eat. Dedication is a must with this option, though. You have to make sure you are putting in the nutrients that your dog needs. It can get expensive making real food for your pet, so keep that in mind.
How to Properly Use The Elimination Diet
If the vet has confirmed your dog has food allergies, the absolute best thing you can do for your dog is to put them on an elimination diet. The reason for this is because you need to figure out what’s causing the allergy in the first place.
An elimination diet means you eliminate a certain ingredient for about a week to see how your dog responds. If they are still showing allergy symptoms, then you eliminate another ingredient and see how they respond. You continue to do this until you figure out the exact ingredient(s) that are causing your dog to have this reaction.
Start With The Meat
Almost all dog food allergies are meat related. Most dogs can handle chicken just fine, but some dogs can develop an allergic reaction to it after years of eating it. When doing the elimination diet, always start by switching up the meat. If the primary meat in your current dog food chicken, switch it to either salmon or bison. There’s a very good chance that will fix the issue.
Move Onto The Carbs
If switching meat didn’t help, it’s time to switch up the carbohydrate source. The carbohydrate source for most dry kibble is corn. Switch it to either oat meal or rice. Both of those are much easier for dogs to digest and could help get rid of the allergies.
Eliminate The Grain
As mentioned above, one of the first things you should do is eliminate the grain. You don’t have to start by eliminating all grain. Start by taking out just the gluten and see if your dog responds well to that. If that didn’t help, then eliminate all grains and see what happens.
The elimination diet is essential when trying to figure out what is causing your dog to have food allergies. Once you figure out the source of allergies, it’ll make life easier on the both of you!
When it comes down to it, your vet can help figure out what to do. Communicate with them so you can help sooth that tummy and get your pet in tip-top shape.
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