Canines suffer from many types of allergies, including those that result from exposure to fleas, pollen, carpet deodorizers, rubber, and of course, certain food items. Experts suggest that one in ten allergic reactions in dogs occur from this last factor.
As with people, the triggers behind these reactions remain largely unexplained. Unfortunately, we can’t explain why a dog’s body produces the response that leads to hot spots, skin irritation, and other symptoms generally attributed to good allergies. However, experts have identified common warning signs as well as reliable methods for diagnosing and treating the problem.
Keeping that in mind, this article will first examine the difference between allergies and a food intolerance in your dog. We’ll also describe symptoms that indicate he’s likely suffering from one or more food allergies. Lastly, we’ll explain the process by which they are diagnosed and the steps taken to treat them.
Is He Allergic Or Simply Intolerant?
Just because your pooch reacts poorly after eating a particular food item does not mean he is allergic to it. There’s a strong possibility he is merely intolerant. For example, certain foods might cause him to vomit. They may also produce diarrhea. In the same way that people can often react badly to certain types of food (e.g. spicy dishes), so too, can your pooch. By contrast, an allergic reaction is consistent with itching, hair loss, ear infections, and similar responses.
This is not to suggest that your dog be allowed to continue eating items toward which he shows intolerance. Instead, simply remove them from his diet just as you might avoid eating certain meals yourself.
Warning Signs Of Allergies
Some of the most common catalysts for an allergic reaction include dairy products, eggs, soy, chicken, and beef. Oddly, these are the same ingredients that can be found in most commercial dog foods. That means your pooch is highly exposed and you’ll likely notice an antibody response.
One of the first signs of a food allergy is scratching. Your canine will develop itchy skin, especially near his eyes and ears. He may also start scratching his feet and legs. Allergic reactions can include abrupt hair loss, sneezing, and skin and ear infections. In some cases, dogs have more frequent bowel movements, though not necessarily accompanied by diarrhea.
Diagnosing The Problem
The method used for diagnosing food allergies in canines is a clear-cut process. The challenge is making a diagnosis that is not influenced by other existing conditions. For instance, many of the symptoms that can indicate an allergic reaction to food can also be caused by flee bites, foreign material in the intenstine and even bacterial infections. The veterinarian must first rule out these other factors before conducting a food trial.
During a food trial, the veterinarian will only provide your pooch with a special, limited diet. Treats, rawhide, and even flavored toothpastes are avoided. This is done over a 12-week period. If there are no symptoms, your dog is put back on his regular diet. If symptoms return, they confirm the diagnosis of a food allergy.
Occasionally, veterinarians will also perform a blood test to identify a potential food allergy. Most experts find the blood tests are often inconclusive. The only consistant way to expose hypersensitivity to certain foods is with a controlled food trail.
Treatment Starts With Avoidance
Once a particular food item that is producing an antibody response is identified, it should be removed from your dog’s diet. A lot of owners attempt to build a tolerance in their pets by continuing to give them the offending food. That is a bad idea and can affect your canine’s health and comfort.
Instead, simply remove the offensive item to put a stop to the symptoms. Then, occasionally introduce new foods to your dog that he’s never tried. If symptoms don’t present, and he enjoys the new foods, add them to his diet. That way, you’ll help him remain free from allergic reactions while providing him a healthy menu of choices, including healty treats.