Heed these takeaways
- Food allergies can cause irritated and itchy skin, ear and skin infections, and gastrointestinal problems.
- Common sources of food allergies in dogs include proteins like beef, chicken, milk, eggs and wheat.
- Food allergies are diagnosed by feeding an elimination diet that helps you determine the offending protein.
- Feeding a high-quality food that uses an alternative protein source can reduce and eliminate food allergy symptoms.
Is an irritating itch driving your pup to distraction? Is his skin red and angry, is his hair falling out in certain places or is he constantly battling recurring ear infections?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, there’s a chance your dog could have a food allergy.
Food allergies can be a cause of much discomfort for your fur-kid, so it’s important to tackle them head on. Keep reading to find out how.
Symptoms of Food Allergies in Dogs
In humans, food allergies can sometimes produce dramatic and life-threatening symptoms — as anyone who suffers severe allergic reactions to peanuts will be able to testify.
In dogs, the main sign of a food allergy is itching and scratching. This irritated and itchy skin could be present across the whole body or localized to specific areas, such as the ears, paws and rear end.
Other symptoms include chronic ear and skin infections, and digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea and excess flatulence.
Anaphylaxis can result in severe cases, but is thankfully quite rare.
What Causes Food Allergies in Dogs?
Before you start jumping to conclusions about the causes of your pup’s discomfort, we should point out that food allergies in dogs aren’t as common as you might think. In fact, only around 10% of allergies in dogs are food allergies.
From flea allergy dermatitis to fungal and bacterial skin infections, there are several other potential causes of irritated and itchy skin. Vomiting, diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset can also indicate a wide range of potential health issues, so your vet will need to rule out many other problems before a food allergy even comes into consideration.
An allergic reaction occurs when your dog’s immune system has an over-reactive response to certain ingredients, treating them as a foe rather than a friend. The most common causes of food allergies in dogs are proteins like beef, chicken, milk, eggs and wheat.
While food allergies often present in the first 12 months of a dog’s life, they can occur in dogs of any age. Food allergies don’t develop the first time your pup tries a particular ingredient; for an allergic reaction to occur, your dog will need to have been exposed to the ingredient in the past.
They also shouldn’t be confused with food sensitivity or intolerance, which doesn’t involve an immune system response and will develop gradually.
Side note, but extremely important. Feeding your pup the same diet for years can cause your pup to grow a sensitivity to the ingredients in that recipe. Chicken is a great source of protein and one of the most common protein used in dog food. Many pup parents believe that their pups are allergic to chicken, when it is more likely a sensitivity developed due to feeding their pup the same recipe with the same chicken protein for years. Hence, here at Heed, we really encourage pup parents to cycle through different proteins every 6-12 months.
Does My Dog Have a Food Allergy?
Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy way to test for food allergies. So, once your veterinarian has checked that there aren’t any other reasons for your dog’s discomfort, he or she can then diagnose a food allergy by developing an elimination diet.
This trial essentially involves going back to basics with your dog’s food and feeding them a protein source that they’ve never eaten before. Over time, you can then gradually reintroduce ingredients into your dog’s diet to work out which one is the cause of any problems.
A food trial is a time-consuming process that usually takes a minimum of 10 weeks. It also needs to be developed in conjunction with your vet or veterinary nutritionist to ensure that your pup will still be getting all the essential nutrients he needs.
But despite its downsides, it’s an effective way to determine the source of your dog’s food allergy. Once you know the culprit, you can then make more informed choices about what to feed your pup.
For greater peace of mind, you might want to switch to one of Heed’s premium kibble blends. We use protein sources like salmon, cod and turkey in some of our blends to offer a healthy alternative for dogs with food allergies and intolerance's. We also design each of our recipes from the ground up to focus on promoting good gut health.
So, if your dog’s diet is causing itching, irritation or an upset stomach, switching to Heed can make a big difference.