There are many different types of dog allergies, food allergies being the third most common and affecting about 10% of all domestic dogs. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the colorings and additives in dog foods that can lead to dog food allergies, but instead it appears to be foods that are not natural to dogs such as cheese and tuna, and also an excess of proteins in protein-rich foods.
However, that does not explain all allergies in dogs relating to foods, since many dogs can take a severe allergic reaction to foods specifically designed for dogs. It would appear that just as humans have allergies to nuts, fish, eggs and so on, a dog allergy, food-related or not, can be equally random in the way individual dogs react to it. So how can you diagnose such allergies?
Dogs react to food allergies in many different ways although the general reaction is scratching. Most dog allergies irritate the dog’s skin, and so, just as we do with an itch, the dog will scratch. However, should a dog allergy become severe, it can go beyond scratching and bite or even gnaw at the offending area of its skin. The physical result can be a loss of hair and inflammation of the skin as the immune system does its work to increase blood flow to affected area, and eventually react to any bacterial infection that can arise from the dog breaking the skin.
However, with regard to a dog allergy, food will naturally pass into the digestive system, and a true allergy will tend to cause loose stools or even diarrhea, and also vomiting in many cases. Even in the absence of these rather extreme effects, the dog’s bowel movements will be more frequent, and there might be sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, loss of appetite and anal irritation.
Your dog might sit down and pull its nether region along the carpet to ease the anal itching, and many dogs will also have significant ear infections when they suffer a food allergy. It is important that you consider all of these symptoms together, rather than in isolation, because each in itself could indicate another health condition or even a different allergy However when taken together, it should be possible for you to diagnose a dog allergy – food related rather than for any other reason.
Flea allergies and other topical allergies display some of these symptoms, but not them all, and the same is true of atopic allergies such as dog hay fever. Only a canine food allergy will display them all, and then you can consider how to help your dog with his or her diet. Your dog eats what you provide, and your ‘best friend’ relies upon you to provide food that it enjoys eating and that is safe to eat. Once you have diagnosed a dog food allergy, you can certainly do something to help.
First, dogs rarely develop an allergic reaction to food overnight, so this situation will likely be connected with some change in his diet, or something your dog has been eating without your knowledge. In order to establish the root cause of the problem, you might consider any changes you have made to your dog’s diet lately – have you found a less expensive deal on dog biscuits, or maybe made a change to its canned food?
Whatever the cause, it would help you and your dog significantly if you could identify the change to its diet since the problem was first noted. A dog allergy food-related problem often occurs due to animal proteins, such as turkey, chicken, pork or cheese and other dairy products that have been fed to it as a ‘treat’ – often at some family get-together event when you have guests who might ‘feed the dog’ with tidbits at the table.
You are best to keep any pets out of the house or in a different room at such times, because this kind of protein-rich food that your pet is not used to is a common cause of food allergies. So what is the cure if you believe your best friend to have a dog allergy, food related rather than caused by some other allergen?
You can try to determine which food is the cause of the problem, or get the dog back to the food he has been eating until you noticed the problem. Have you changed his diet lately? Has she been disappearing for a while and then seemed not to be as hungry as normal later? Follow her and see what she is getting up to. You could feed your dog the normal food that he has been reacting to, and then remove one ingredient at a time until you identify what is causing the problem.
Any dog allergy – food related or not – can be serious because your dog will scratch and bite and gnaw at its skin until it is severely infected. So find the cause and deal with it.