You may have a friend or family member affected by food allergies. But did you know your dog could develop food allergies, too?
If your dog is itching or scratching frequently, develops ongoing canine ear infections, or develops poor coat quality, he may have food allergies. As more and more dogs are found to have an adverse reaction to food, the awareness of food allergies in dogs continues to rise.
Read on to find out the most common food allergies in dogs and how to treat them to ensure your pup gets the proper nourishment for a happy, healthy lifestyle.
What Are The Most Common Food Allergies in Dogs?
Allergies are the immune system’s response to fight off a harmful substance. Food allergies are the response of your dog’s immune system to a harmful protein found in his food.
Allergy-inflicting proteins are not limited to meats. Grains and vegetables also provide protein, which means that any one of these sources can cause a food allergy.
The most common food allergies in dogs are:
If a dog is allergic to one, he is most likely allergic to a combination of proteins.
What Causes Food Allergies in Dogs?
Food allergies in dogs are caused by a variety of factors. Though the leading cause of food allergies in dogs is a genetic predisposition, the environment can also be a factor.
Approximately 70 percent of the body’s entire immune system is centered in the gastrointestinal tract.
Your dog’s gastrointestinal system, which includes the mouth, stomach, and intestines, protects your dog from potential allergens every day. When your dog eats, the food is first digested in the stomach. Large pieces of food are broken down by stomach acid, which works with enzymes to break down complex protein structures into smaller ones.
The food, partially digested, passes into the small intestine. This food is further digested until the proteins are broken down into amino acids, which are absorbed into the body through enterocytes. Enterocytes are special cells which usher in amino acids they deem worthy and expel the amino acids they don’t.
When a whole protein is absorbed instead of being broken down first, the immune system reacts in what is known as a food allergy.
How Common Are Food Allergies in Dogs?
Ten percent of allergy cases in dogs are caused by food allergies. Dogs can also suffer from food intolerance, though this is different from an actual allergy.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Has a Food Allergy?
While food intolerance is the result of poor digestion, food allergies produce more severe symptoms.
The most common symptoms of food allergies in dogs are:
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Frequent itching
- Hair loss
- Inflamed, red skin
- Chronic ear problems
- Underdevelopment in young dogs
- Coughing, wheezing, or sneezing
Many of these symptoms can also point to other serious conditions. Consult your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs for a proper diagnosis, and treatment.
What Should I Feed a Dog With Food Allergies?
Once your veterinarian has determined food allergies, he or she will also put together a dietary plan fitting for your dog. Because many over-the-counter foods still contain trace amounts, or more, of common allergens, your vet may prescribe one of the following diets:
- A novel protein diet, or elimination diet, introduces uncommon meats to your dog’s system. Meats include ostrich, quail, rabbit, bison, duck, alligator, and kangaroo. The purpose is to eliminate all common meats, and possible allergens, from your dog’s digestive system. This enables the GI tract—where food is digested—time to detox and heal in order to function normally.
- A hydrolyzed protein diet focuses on a single, commonly allergenic protein. Hydrolysis breaks down the protein and introduces it in small particles so they’re no longer recognized by the immune system as an allergen. This allows the GI tract to adapt to the allergen, essentially “tricking” the immune system.
It’s important to work with a veterinarian to determine the allergen, and approach, for your dog. Randomly identifying and eliminating ingredients from your dog’s diet without medical input puts your four-legged friend at risk for an unbalanced diet.
Food allergies are certainly nothing to sneeze at. With the proper identification and treatment, you and your pup will better savor happier, healthful days—together.