Dog owners often wonder why their dog has gastrointestinal problems or thinning hair when eating certain foods. These signs are often associated with food allergies, but they can also occur in food intolerances.
The difference between food allergies and food intolerances is that food allergy is caused by an inadequate response to the immune system, while food intolerance is just a response of the digestive system to a certain ingredient in your dog's diet.
It is estimated that about 10% of dogs are affected by food allergies. But other types of allergies can also cause persistent skin problems, such as seasonal or non-seasonal environmental allergies or flea allergy dermatitis.
Although food allergy is a significant problem and relatively easy to treat, other allergic causes should also be considered in dogs affected by itchy skin, infected ears, or recurrent skin problems.
How Do I Know if My Dog Is Allergic?
Never underestimate the first symptoms your dog shows when it is allergic, such as restlessness and scratching. Immediate diagnosis of your dog's symptoms at the vet will reduce the risk of your dog experiencing secondary skin infections, which are common in allergies.
Sometimes the only clinical signs you can see in your dog if it has an allergy are recurrent ear infections - the ears are particularly prone to inflammation in food allergies.
Your dog will scratch its head, shake its ears, and have a repulsive odor. Its skin will often be red and inflamed and sometimes covered with scabs or sores (from intense scratching). Its fur will become thinner, and hairless areas can occur, especially in the spots where the dog scratches excessively. Your dog will groom intensely and rub against objects to scratch those itchy spots.
These symptoms do not appear seasonally, as in the case of environmental allergies, but last throughout the year or until you change your dog's diet.
What Is a Food Allergy?
Food allergy occurs when the dog's immune system reacts excessively to one or more ingredients in its diet.
Common food allergens in dogs can be represented by:
- Chicken meat
- Rabbit meat
- Dairy products
However, a dog can be affected by any dietary ingredient that acts as an allergen on its immune system. Regardless of the allergen, it is important to remember that the diet is not to blame - other dogs may eat the same diet and have no problems at all - but the dog's immune system is hyper-reactive to foods to which it is allergic.
Food allergy can occur in small dogs or big dogs, regardless of age or gender, but certain breeds are particularly prone to it, such as Labrador retriever, German shepherd, Boxer, West highland white terrier, English Cocker Spaniel, Schnauzer, and Dogo Argentino.
Treatment for Food Allergies in Dogs
For food allergy diagnosis, it is important to rule out all other causes that can generate the same symptoms. The treatment for food allergies in dogs has a basic principle: identifying the food to which the dog is allergic and avoiding feeding it with that food.
The exclusion diet is very important, as it is possible to identify which food or, more precisely, which protein in the food causes an inadequate immune response (the most common allergens are chicken or beef).
When a dog's immune system identifies proteins (or other ingredients) as potential intruders, rather than a nutrient, an inadequate immune response is triggered. The immune response usually comes after a while (not immediately) and is most often manifested through gastrointestinal and skin reactions.
Elimination Diet Process - What Is Hypoallergenic Dog Food?
There is no single hypoallergenic diet to help all allergic dogs. When starting a diet elimination study, the focus should be on a single protein diet with no added extra proteins.
The protein source should ideally be new to your dog (new protein, meaning it has never been eaten by your dog before) or should be hydrolyzed (protein molecules are small enough to minimize the chances of an allergic reaction).
Best Dog Food for Allergies
Many owners decide to exclude the allergen by trial and error, using ready-made hypoallergenic food - food that is statistically least likely to cause allergic reactions. But may lead to a lack of proper nutrition and all the required nutrients a dog needs for a healthy lifestyle. And do you really want to take your dog through the discomfort and unhealthy lifestyle that might lead serious gut issues while doing trial and error with homemade food?
Wilder Harrier Hypoallergenic & Sustainable Farmed Insect Recipe made with protein-rich Black Soldier Flies (BSF) is a great product to start with. The recipe is wholesome, contains only one protein, and has all the nutrients your dog needs. But if you are looking for a more conventional food for your dog you can also try the Sustainable Fish Recipe which is made from Asian carp and is high in omega 3 and filled with natural nutrients.
Sustainable fish puppy food makes a great choice if you have an allergic pup because it is high in Omega-3, easy to digest, natural, and wholesome. It supports muscle development, strengthening of bones, healthy gut health, and more for optimal growth of your puppy.
Our products are designed to be organic and healthy for dogs, and the recipes include novel protein, upcycled fruits, and vegetables making them highly sustainable with a low carbon footprint.
Sustainable dog food contains only one protein and helps reduce the amount of waste produced. The only proteins you find in our sustainable and hypoallergenic dog food are insects (black soldier flies and crickets) and fish (Asian carp).
Insect dog food is a relatively new type of dog food suitable for allergic dogs. Made out of Black soldier flies and crickets representing a complete protein and are a natural source of iron, omegas, fiber, and taurine.
Insect dog food is an excellent option for dogs that are allergic to chicken, beef, or other proteins, being easily digestible. And for pet parents who are ready to feed their dogs non-conventional novel protein.
Regardless of the diet, you must remember to introduce new food slowly and gradually over a period of time to protect your dog's digestive system. With the new food, go from 25% of his daily needs on day 1 (with 75% of the current food) and then gradually put more in every portion to have 100% of the new food on day 7!
About The Writer:
Dr. Iulia Mihai is an experienced veterinarian, researcher, and medicine. She did her Bachelor's in veterinary medicine followed by a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Veterinary Medicine, and has over 10 years of experience in the field, she knows her way around animals. In addition to working with animals at a vet clinic, she also helps the team at Wilder Harrier help dog parents on topics such as health, allergies, diet, and care for pets.