Just like with a human, a canine food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly identifies a particular food protein as harmful. Antibodies are created which fight the perceived enemy, and an allergic reaction occurs.
Dogs can have a food or environmental allergy, or both. Food allergies can be identified by a year-round reaction especially if you are using the same food for every meal. As the food comes in, the allergic response will occur. Environmental allergies will occur seasonally or with moves from one location to another.
Food allergy symptoms in dogs
Gastrointestinal issues including diarrhea, gas and vomiting may occur since, obviously, food is consumed. There may be hot spots, localized alopecia/baldness, and itchiness as a skin reaction. Sometimes a dog will run his face against the couch, rubbing or itching for relief. Some low-grade reactions may be almost indistinguishable and include poor hair coats and a poor aroma. Sometimes there are recurrent anal gland and ear gland problems.
Avoiding food allergies in dogs
When pets are fed the same foods over and over again for months or even years, their bodies can become sensitized to the ingredients in the food, so it’s good to vary your pet’s diet. Keeping variety helps avoid developing allergies as well as exercising optimal intestinal fortitude.
“Diversity is critical to avoid food-based allergies,” says Dr. Karen Becker of Natural Pet. Becker cycles through 12 different foods before repeating in order to avoid food allergies in her pets.
The best way to avoid allergies for your dog is to switch food every three or four months. Wean from one to another slowly so you don’t incite gastrointestinal distress. Some dogs may need more time than others.
Treating food allergies in dogs
If you suspect your dog is having an allergic reaction, switch your pet’s food to a source it hasn’t had before. When your dog enjoys this new food and has a healthy response to it, don’t get lulled into thinking you have found the answer. Be ready to change the food again in about three months.