Persistent itchiness and diarrhea are vague symptoms that puzzle many pet parents. They attempt to make their pups feel better by switching to a different food, but become even more puzzled when these symptoms persist. It’s clear something is wrong with your dog’s diet, but you can’t figure out what!
Many of the common ingredients in commercial pet foods are known to trigger allergic reactions among dogs. With the help of a vet, you can identify which ingredients your dog is allergic to and feed them the right diet.
How to identify food allergies in dogs
The first step is to confirm that your pup does, in fact, have a food allergy. Dogs with food allergies display symptoms that are easy to spot. Many symptoms overlap with other diseases, so pet parents should always seek a professional diagnosis before attempting to treat their dogs.
Here are some common food allergy symptoms to look for:
- Non-seasonal itchiness
- Facial swelling
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Lack of energy
- Recurring skin or ear infections
Find the source with a food allergy trial
If the vet suspects your dog has a food allergy, they will recommend a food allergy trial. This is the most effective way to figure out which foods your pup is allergic to. A food allergy trial involves temporarily switching to a diet with new ingredients and slowly reintroducing original ingredients one at a time.
You’ll start by gradually transitioning your dog to a hypoallergenic diet. This process should take about a week. Switching to a new food rapidly may cause further gastrointestinal upset. Feed your dog the hypoallergenic diet for at least eight weeks or until their allergy symptoms clear up.
Once your dog’s symptoms are gone, the vet will instruct you to feed your pup select ingredients from their previous diet. Add single-source ingredients like chicken strips or wheat germ to their food and watch your dog for allergy symptoms. Keep adding ingredients back one at a time until you identify which one is triggering an allergic reaction. The entire process can take months, depending on how easily you identify your dog’s allergy triggers.
The best foods for allergic pups
Pet parents often stress about what their allergic pup can eat. The most common allergens are beef, chicken, corn and wheat, which are found in most commercial pet foods. Luckily, these sources of carbs and protein are far from your only options. The vet can help you settle on a hypoallergenic diet that fulfills all your dog’s nutritional needs.
One popular option is to feed your dog novel carbs and proteins. A novel food source is one your dog rarely eats or has never eaten before. Some examples of novel carbs include sweet potato, white potato, green peas and rice. Dogs are also less likely to encounter salmon, venison and duck. If you cut a protein source from your dog’s diet, remember to substitute it with a novel alternative. Dogs rely on protein as their main energy source.
Your vet might also recommend hydrolyzed proteins. This is a protein broken down by enzymes to the point where your dog’s immune system can’t recognize which animal it came from. Vets recommend hydrolyzed proteins for dogs who experience allergic reactions from all types of animal meat. These dogs need hydrolyzed proteins because their immune systems won’t tolerate the typical novel proteins.
In many cases, the vet will instruct you to keep feeding your dog the hypoallergenic diet from the food allergy trial. Diets used during food allergy trials are designed to give dogs a balanced serving of proteins, carbs, vitamins and minerals. Although such trials are temporary, you can continue with the diet as long as it doesn’t trigger an allergic reaction in your pup.
Lastly, pet parents should always ask their vet for food recommendations. Many commercial pet foods claim to be hypoallergenic when there’s a good chance they contain trace amounts of common allergens. Plus, pet food manufacturers aren’t legally required to list every ingredient that’s in the food. Your vet can prescribe a hypoallergenic food to your dog that’s guaranteed to be free of allergens. You will know exactly what’s in the prescription diet, and it won’t have the fillers and preservatives found in many commercial foods.
Keep in mind that identifying food allergens can be a long and tedious process. Commercial pet foods are filled with common allergens, and it takes time to figure out which one is making your pup itch. Have faith that your vet can and will get to the bottom of the issue. There will come a day when your pup can munch happily and live allergy free!