Food allergies in dogs are uncommon, but when they do occur, the symptoms can be distressing for both owners and their canine companions. In this post, our Cleveland veterinarians discuss the best foods for dogs with allergies.
Food Allergies & Your Dog
Do you think your dog has food allergies or is sensitive to one of the ingredients in their regular dog food? Then you must understand the signs and symptoms of food allergies, as well as what to do if your dog is diagnosed with one.
Signs of a Dog Food Allergy
Food allergies in dogs typically begin to appear as the dog reaches their first birthday, although allergies and sensitivities can develop at any age.
The most common signs of food allergies in dogs include:
- Red irritated skin
- Rashes on the ears and feet
Causes of Food Allergies in Dogs
The most common cause of dog allergies is proteins from animal or plant-based ingredients in the diet. The most problematic foods for dogs are usually beef, dairy, corn, and wheat. Food allergies can take a long time to manifest their symptoms, which may appear counterintuitive. It's not uncommon for a dog to develop an allergy to a food they've been eating for months.
Diagnosing Food Allergies in Dogs
The only real way to diagnose food allergies in dogs is through an elimination diet.
If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has a food allergy, he or she will recommend a specially formulated hypoallergenic dog food. You will only feed your dog the prescribed food for at least 8-10 weeks to see if the change in diet helps to alleviate your dog's symptoms.
It is essential that only hypoallergenic food is given to your dog while they are on the elimination diet. (Unfortunately, that means no sneaking in the odd treat). This special 10-week diet will allow your dog's body to adjust to the food and allow your vet to assess your dog's overall health.
If your dog's symptoms clear up while on the elimination diet, your vet may request that you return to feeding your dog their original diet. If original symptoms return then your vet can be confident that your dog has a food allergy.
The Best Foods for Dogs with Allergies
Following the diagnosis, your vet will work with you to determine the best diet for your dog. Several food options are available to help alleviate your dog's allergy symptoms.
Prescription Dog Food
- If your dog's food allergy symptoms are severe, your veterinarian may advise you to feed him prescription dog food. While this is a more expensive option, novel protein, and hydrolyzed diets available only by prescription are usually superior to those available over the counter.
Grain-Free Dog Food
- If your pet has a sensitivity to corn, wheat, and other grains a grain-free dog food may be ideal. These foods have the added benefit of also being gluten-free.
Limited-Ingredient Dog Foods
- Limited-ingredient dog foods avoid allergens by containing only one protein source (such as beef, lamb, or chicken), which is often combined with a single carbohydrate source. When shopping for limited-ingredient dog foods, look for the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) seal of approval as well as the manufacturer's claim of "complete and balanced."
Novel Ingredient Dog Food
- Traditional dog food proteins like beef and chicken are replaced with more unusual proteins like salmon, duck, or venison in novel ingredient dog foods. To help balance the diet, many novel ingredient dog foods use unusual carbohydrates like sweet potatoes.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.