Food is one of the most common allergies or hypersensitivities known to affect dogs. In pets, the immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to fight against the allergen. Since antibody production is required for an allergy to develop, food allergies usually manifest after prolonged exposure to one brand, type, or form of food.
The most common food allergens in dogs are proteins, especially those from dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy or gluten (from wheat). Each time a pet eats food containing these substances, the antibodies react with the antigens and symptoms occur.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms most commonly include:
Itchiness – can occur anywhere on the body
Redness of the skin
Ear infections – particularly yeast infections
Less commonly we may see:
Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
Excessive gas or flatulence
WHAT IS AN ELIMINATION DIET?
An elimination diet, also known as exclusion diet, is a diagnostic procedure used to identify foods that an individual/animal cannot consume without adverse effects.
This includes; Allergic reactions, food intolerance - the pet’s immune system responds to a particle in the food causing an inflammatory reaction, physiological mechanisms such as behaviours or a combination of all of the above.
The exact cause is not completely understood and it is not easy to distinguish between true allergic reactions and food intolerances. Food allergies can develop even when a pet has been fed the same diet for a long period of time.
CHOOSING THE ELIMINATION DIET
It is most important to find ingredients that your dog has not eaten before.
Start by writing down a food history; try to remember all of the different foods that your dog has eaten. This list will guide your choice for the elimination diet ingredients.
Make the change from the old diet to the elimination diet gradually.
Day 1 1/4 new diet, 3/4 old diet
Day 2 1/2 new diet, 1/2 old diet
Day 3 3/4 new diet, 1/4 old diet
Day 4 all new diet
CAN THE PROBLEM BE CURED?
Yes! Some pets will require medication during severe episodes, but most pets can be successfully treated with a hypoallergenic diet. Once the offending food substance has been identified, a diet is chosen that does not contain these particular substances. There are a number of Premium grade, tasty, hypoallergenic diets that can be fed for the rest of your dog's life based on the results of testing.
IS IT LIKELY THAT MY DOG COULD DEVELOP OTHER FOOD ALLERGIES?
Dogs that have developed an allergy to one particular food may develop other food-related allergies in the future. In addition, many dogs with food allergies have other allergies, such as atopy (inhalant allergy) or flea allergy.
If you think your pet may have a food allergy, you should discuss this with your local veterinarian, who can help your pet resume a healthier, itch-free life.