Your dog is capable of developing allergies to food, just like people. Here, our Johns Creek vets explain what the symptoms and signs of a food allergy in your dog might be, as well as what your best diet options are.
Understanding Your Dog's Food Allergies
Sensitivities or allergies to food can cause unpleasantness for both your dog and you. As a dog parent, it's important to know what symptoms of allergies can look like and what action to take if your dog suffers for an allergy to food.
What signs should I watch out for?
Unlike an allergy to something like shellfish in people, dogs' allergies to food are usually expressed through itching out of season. Common symptoms related to this are redness and rashes around the ears and feet (although it can appear anywhere on their body). In some instances, allergies can make dogs gassy or cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Most commonly, these signs will appear before the dog's first birthday, but a food allergy can develop at any point in an animal's life.
How is a food allergy diagnosed?
Getting your dog a proper allergy diagnosis can be a lengthy process which involves the "elimination" food trial using different hypoallergenic foods. After being assigned a hypoallergenic food, your dog should exclusively eat it for at least two months. Sometimes they should eat it for even longer in cases like Labrador Retrievers or Cocker Spaniels.
After symptoms improve, you'll need to switch back to the original diet to confirm the diagnosis. If accurate, the original symptoms should reappear within two weeks.
What diet options are available?
These days, there are many different options on the market, both over-the-counter and from your vet. Here are some of the most popular types of diet foods available:
Grain-Free Dog Food
Like the name suggests, these food and treats are grain-free. They are good choices if your dog is sensitive to corn, wheat or other grains. Because they are grain-free these foods are also gluten free. It's important to remember, however, that not all gluten-free foods are also grain-free.
Limited Ingredient Dog Food
These food address the presence of allergens by reducing their contents to one protein source such as beef or chicken. Sometimes, they will also be reduced to one carbohydrate source as well. If you are looking for limited ingredient dog food, you should make sure the brand you are interested in is approved by the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) as well as has a "complete and balanced" claim from its manufacturer to ensure its quality.
Novel Ingredient Dog Food
Novel ingredient dog foods are nutrition options which do away with conventional ingredients that may be causing your pet's allergies to flare up such as chicken, lamb or beef, and replaces them with ingredients your dog won't have likely encountered before such as veal, venison or salmon. These foods will also often use novel carbohydrates too, like potato.
What's the right one for my pet?
Ultimately, your dog's best diet option is going to be specific to his or her allergy and needs. Your veterinarian is going to be able to correctly diagnose if your dog's symptoms are indeed a result of an allergy and make the best recommendations for your pet's health, including prescription dog food if need be.