Do you get a runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes certain times of the year? If you do your doctor has probably told you that you have allergies. Your body’s immune system is overreacting to the proteins in pollens. That overreaction causes the release of histamines from white blood cells and the uncomfortable symptoms. The protein in certain foods can also cause the same allergic release of histamines in dogs, but the symptoms are different.
The symptoms of dog food allergies are:
~Red, infected ears and red or rough, blackened skin around the anus, “ears and rears” are the classic food allergy symptoms
~Some animals with food allergies may itch, scratch, have skin problems all over their entire body (especially the leg pits and belly) and lick their
paws all year round
Food allergies are NOT the most common allergy in dogs. The list by importance is:
~Insect allergies (fleas)
~Environmental (tree and plant pollens, grass, fungus, household insects)
Dogs that lick their paws, itch or have ear infections only certain times of year are more likely to have allergies to pollen. Allergies that are not seasonal, but all year around, are probably food allergies, except in the southwest and southeast US where the climate allows plants to make pollens year-round. Many dogs have a combination of environmental and food allergies.
How Are Dog Food Allergies Diagnosed?
Testing for food allergies can be done in 4 ways:
~Limited ingredient, elimination diet trial is the “Gold Standard”
Skin testing, although accurate for pollen allergies, is less accurate for food allergies Blood and saliva tests are not accurate and “over diagnose” allergies. You could waste enormous amounts of time and money searching, buying or making foods your dog may not even be allergic to because of these tests.
Dietary trial is the most accurate way to determine food allergies. Scientists recommend homemade, limited ingredient diets to test for allergies. Limited ingredient diets have only one meat and one carbohydrate. Bison, duck, lamb, pork, rabbit, salmon, whitefish and venison are the proteins often used. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and quinoa are the best carbohydrates. Any oils can be used because they do not contain proteins and can’t cause an allergic reaction.
If food allergy symptoms disappear after 3-8 weeks on diet trial, your dog has food allergies. But the trial doesn’t tell you what ingredient in the old food caused the allergy. You only know that your dog is not allergic to the ingredients in the trial diet. The only way to prove what your dog is allergic to is to add suspected meats or carbs back into the diet one at a time for 3-8 week intervals until symptoms re-appear. But who wants to make their dog itch by reintroducing an allergic food?
Choosing a Hypoallergenic Diet for Your Dog?
Hypoallergenic diets have meat and carbohydrates that are not found in regular dog food. They contain meats and carbohydrates like those listed above. The problem with commercial hypoallergenic diets is that they also have many ingredients other than meat and carbs that your dog may be allergic to. The articles listed below highlight research that has found many commercial products are contaminated and mislabeled so they could still cause allergy reactions.
Homemade hypoallergenic dog food is better because it allows:
Often dogs that are fed homemade dog food don’t need special meats and carbs in their diet. Owners have found that dogs that are allergic to chicken or beef commercial dog food are not allergic to homemade dog food made with real meat cuts of chicken or beef. The change in the quality of the diet is all that was necessary.
Hypoallergenic homemade diets need to be nutritionally complete. They need a pure, hypoallergenic vitamin and mineral supplement. Using food ingredients as a source of vitamins and minerals may cause an allergic reaction.
Hearthstone Homemade has over 50 hypoallergenic recipes and a supplement with only purified vitamins and minerals. Our fish oil supplement helps relieve itching no matter what type of allergy your dog may have.
These interesting articles provide more information you need about hypoallergenic dog food:
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN