Caring for a Dog With Food Allergies

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Food allergies in dogs are very common. It's something that we see on a fairly regular basis, and about as evenly as environmental allergies. The common symptoms that we see with food allergies are itching; ear infections; potentially even gastrointestinal issues, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or even excessive gas. So they'll be itching at their ears, scratching, chewing at their paws, just have a generalized red skin all over.

Some of the common triggers-- potentially if the dog is under stress; if we change the food on them abruptly and the protein source in the food just doesn't agree with their GI tract or their immune system; and other things like potential other stressors on the body, such a seasonal allergies or even fleas, skin infections-- even just environmental allergens, such as allergens of fabrics, plastic, perfume, rubber, even cigarette smoke.

The most common things in foods that dogs react to allergy-wise are going to be the proteins, which include beef, chicken, or pork, are the mainstay common proteins in foods. But they can also react to dairy, wheat, or even soy.

In treating a food allergy, what we commonly do is we target the protein that the dog is eating. So we would either go with a novel protein, which is a protein that they're not normally exposed to, such as kangaroo, duck, rabbit, venison, or salmon, and get them on a very specific diet, and feed them that diet for at least 12 weeks, because it takes up to a month for the previous food's protein to be removed from the cells, so that's why we have to treat it for a long enough duration to see if it will correct the symptoms. The other type of food that we commonly feed which would be targeting the protein is a hydrolyzed protein diet, which basically just means that the protein's already half broken down so that the body's immune system doesn't react to it the same.

It's important to address food allergies in dogs because it's just the quality of life that we're talking about. They're just constantly itching, they can have chronic ear or skin infections, as well as the gastrointestinal upset that's possible. When we correct a food allergy, you can almost immediately tell the improvement in their quality of life because they're not dealing with this chronic ailment, and it allows them to sleep better, creates less anxiety for them, as well as overall day-to-day activities are a lot easier for them. So if you suspect that your animal has a food allergy, the best thing to do is to talk with your veterinarian and formulate a game plan.