While it has become common to watch out for the signs of life-threatening food allergies in young children, it still comes as a surprise to some dog parents that their four-legged companions can also suffer from food allergies.
Just like in humans, a food allergy occurs when a dog's immune system mistakenly believes a specific food is harmful. The dog's immune system responds with antibodies, which triggers a series of dangerous symptoms.
Many seemingly random symptoms can be signs of a food allergy in a dog. These include:
- Chronic ear inflammation
- Paw biting
- Poor coat quality
- Obsessive licking
Other symptoms more closely mimic symptoms seen in humans with food allergies, such as:
- Skin rash
- Chronic diarrhea
- Itchy rear end
- Chronic gas
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is extremely important to have them checked out by a vet to determine if the symptoms are indeed signs of a food allergy.
The more the dog is exposed to the allergen, the more severe the reaction will become. Even if your dog is only irritated by the symptoms initially, they could be life-threatening the next time they eat the problem food.
Kinds of foods to watch out for
Dogs can be allergic to nearly any specific food ingredient. However, there are certain meats and grains that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction in your dog. These include:
If your dog is allergic to one ingredient, she's likely allergic to other ingredients as well.
To isolate which foods your dog is reacting to, your vet will likely put your dog on an elimination diet, followed by a food challenge. This is done by solely feeding your dog one or two foods, such as ground turkey and sweet potatoes. Once you've established that your dog doesn't have a reaction to these two foods, you can start the food challenges.
Gradually, more items are added in, until you notice that your dog has an allergic reaction. This will clearly identify which allergens your dog is reacting to, and you can then create a diet avoiding any triggers.
If you find that your dog is still suffering from an allergic response, no matter what combination of food you give, then it's likely your dog is not allergic to a particular food but may suffer an allergy to something else present in the environment, such as pollen, dander, a specific fabric, or a medication.
While it may seem overwhelming to care for a dog with food allergies, it is much simpler today than it was in the past. Many more foods are available, offering a wide variety of protein and grains that your dog may not react to, such as kangaroo, venison, potatoes, or oatmeal. With a little care and education, you can keep your dog safe, happy, healthy, and well fed.