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Dog-gone Food Allergies

Monday, 11 February 2013  |  Kate

Food allergies can be one of the most frustrating causes of strife in your dog's life simply because they can be so hard to pinpoint. Different things can influence a food allergy; they are a genetic inheritance but they are usually triggered by the environment i.e. the diet.

Ten per cent of all known allergies in dogs are caused by food allergies and the frustrating thing is that a dog can become allergic to most ingredients given enough exposure. Food allergies are the third most common type and cause of allergies in dogs after flea bite and atopic allergies.

Any dog or puppy, male and female, neutered or not, can experience food allergies. There is no direct scientific correlation between certain breeds and the number of food allergy sufferers as it's largely dependent on the individual dog and their lineage.

Little is known for sure about food allergies in our pets scientifically speaking but several ingredients have been identified as common causes. These are:

  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Chicken eggs
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Soy
  • Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Fish
  • and Corn

It is no coincidence that some of those common causes listed above are ingredients found in leading commercial dog foods. Food allergies are usually triggered by repeated exposure however the symptoms are nearly indiscernible from many other canine conditions and problems.

The symptoms of a food allergy in dogs are similar to other allergic responses: itchy skin particularly affecting the ears, face, paws, armpits, forelegs and the area surrounding the anus, inflammation of the ears, and gastrointestinal problems. It is important to recognise the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance.

Food allergies are legitimate allergies that cause typical symptoms associated with allergies such as itching and skin problems. A food intolerance is simply an intolerance to certain types of food and can cause vomiting and diarrhoea from consumption in the same way that spicy foods might cause us humans to do the same.

The symptoms of a food allergy can lead to chronic (ie. long lasting) conditions such as recurring infections, extreme scratching, hair loss, hot spots etc. Recurring infections that don't respond to antibiotics or steroids have been shown to be common sign of a food allergy.

Other tell-tale signs of a food allergy are dogs that suffer from allergies all year round or display symptoms when winter begins or younger dogs that suffer from harsh skin conditions. As previously mentioned the symptoms of food allergies are similar to other problems in dogs so it can be hard to pinpoint.

If you're unsure visit your vet because it is important to rule out everything else that could be causing allergies before suspecting a food allergy. If all other possibilities have been exhausted then it's entirely possible that your dog may be a food allergy sufferer. Time for an elimination diet!

Elimination Diets

If you're unfamiliar with the term, an elimination diet (also known as a food trial) is a specified feeding regime that is made up of one source of protein and carbohydrates that your dog hasn't had before.

They are used to eliminate all allergy triggers by replacing their food with an allergen free diet. The diet must be fed for a minimum of 12 weeks and must be strictly upheld to be effective.

This includes not letting your dog roam around where he could find edible objects, any new foods introduced even accidentally during an elimination diet could render it invalid. This also means the dog can't be given any foods apart from those on his elimination diet so no treats, no rawhide, and no flavoured medication.

If the symptoms of the dog's food allergy significantly subside then the dog can be put back onto their normal diet. If the symptoms return after they're back on their regular diet then they have a food allergy. This is the only definitive way to confirm a food allergy and it's known as 'provocative testing'.

In some cases there can be no change in symptoms but if you still suspect that your dog has a food allergy then you should switch the main ingredient of the elimination diet and try again. If your dog responds well to an elimination diet and allergic symptoms subside then you can gradually introduce ingredients one at a time to find out which your dog is allergic to.

There are commercially available elimination diets to be found but you can always make your own. Bear in mind however that a dog's diet needs to be properly balanced with the essential amount of ingredients, vitamins and minerals. Cooking your dog's food yourself means that you know exactly what's going into their food but it can be time consuming. It can be more trouble than it's worth as it's easy to get it wrong and accidentally leave out essential nutrients.

Another annoying thing about food allergies is that dogs can become allergic to most ingredients given enough exposure so try rotating their diet every few months so they can become stable on varying diets. Consult with a canine nutritionist if you're interested in exploring these options.

While it is impossible to outright prevent food allergies in dogs, if they are fed a varied and rotating diet as a puppy then they have the best chance of developing a healthy gut that can handle different foods. If your dog is displaying symptoms of food allergies or an intolerance then Lintbells Yumpro BioActiv can provide the relief they're after. It's a unique blend of prebiotics and probiotic bacterial designed to support digestive health in your dog's stomach.

Probiotics top up the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria found in the stomach as opposed to antibiotics which introduce foreign bacteria which the body doesn't always know how to handle. Yumpro BioActiv relieves the symptoms of food allergies so you can keep your dog happy while you search for a long term solution.