In case you didn’t already know, your dog can suffer from food allergies, in the same way as a human can. Food allergies in dogs occur when the dog’s immune system mistakenly identifies a particular food substance as being harmful. Antibodies are released to neutralize the allergen. When the food is eaten again, the antibodies sense this, and release histamine into the animal’s bloodstream. This can cause a wide range of allergy symptoms.
An allergy can manifest itself in various ways. One common symptom is itching – it can be simple or extreme. The skin irritation can cause the dog to lick, scratch or chew himself to relieve the itch. The most common areas are his ears, muzzle, paws, underarms, groin and rear end; they may constantly be licking at their paws. He may suffer from diarrhoea, and may also have painful gas. As with humans, his nose may drip and eyes water. He may also suffer from raised red bumps and pustules.
Food allergies in dogs can occur at any age; they may occur when he is a puppy, or not appear until adulthood. Most typically, they appear between 2 and 6 years of age. There can be a genetic predisposition to allergies, and the environment can also be a causative factor.
20% of allergies in dogs are due to food. Dogs may also have a food intolerance, which differs from an allergy in that it is a digestive problem rather than an immune one. A food intolerance involves mostly digestive distress… gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. One of the most common of these is lactose intolerance, in which the dog is not able to break down lactose, the sugar that is found in milk.
Although almost any food can cause a food allergy, certain ones are known to be the most common triggers. These include:
• Dairy products
Most dogs are allergic to more than one food substance. They can eat these foods for many years prior to showing an allergic reaction.
Keep in mind that it may not food they are allergic to. Check what you are using to wash their bedding or even what you put on your carpets and floors. Also a dog may have fleas or ticks, or alternatively they could be suffering from an allergic reaction to chemical flea treatments or other medicines. If you think that your flea treatment is causing problems then I recommend you take read more about natural flea and tick prevention for dogs.
No one particular breed is known to be pre-disposed to allergies, although a breeder who has several animals with allergies is probably going to produce more of the same.
Determining whether your dog has food allergies, and what foods trigger these allergies, is a simple but time-consuming process. The first step is to eliminate all of the foods he is presently consuming, and introduce him to food he has not eaten before. When the dog’s symptoms improve, we can begin to reintroduce other foods that may have been the trigger, one at a time. If he suffers from a reaction to a specific food, you know that he has an allergy to it, and remove it permanently from his diet. This process is continued for other foods until you are certain which foods are causing the symptoms.
If you use commercial dog food, there are many good hypoallergenic dog foods available, including:
• Acana Dog Food
• Addiction Dog Food
• Blue Buffalo Basics
• Bravo Balance Dog Food (Raw Frozen)
• Brothers Complete Advanced Allergy
• Some organic dog food brands
…Among many others
These will generally contain limited ingredients (these make it easier to pin down the suspected allergen), novel ingredients (contain ingredients which the animal probably has not been previously exposed to — and is less likely to be sensitive to, such as buffalo, pheasant, or kangaroo), and hypoallergenic recipes (which avoid the use of ingredients most likely to provoke an allergic reaction).
Seeing your dog compulsively itching, scratching and biting can be almost as upsetting to you as to your dog. Finding out what food allergies in dogs may be causing it is the first step to curing it. No one food is appropriate for every stage in your dog’s life, and changing it can mean a happier, healthier lifestyle for your favourite pet.