Dog allergies? Ask a vet.

Dog food allergies

Ask a Vet about Allergies

Have an itchy dog?  Have you ruled out flea allergy dermatitis?  If it is seasonal, it is likely canine atopic dermatitis, but if it shows now seasonal distribution, it may be that your dog has food allergies.  Food allergies compose about 10% of dogs with allergies, and it can be a very frustrating thing to diagnose.  This is largely because there is no diagnostic test.

Food allergies happen when a specific allergen, such as chicken, eggs, beef, or corn, elicit an immune response in the pet.  The pet has to be exposed to them more than once to have a food allergy, and oftentimes, the longer the pet is eating the food with the ingredient he or she is allergic to, the worse the immune-mediated allergic reaction is.

Clinical signs are usually related to skin, GI, or both.  Skin issues include itching, chewing, having recurrent skin infections, (especially ear and foot infections), hair loss, and redness.  GI issues include vomiting, diarrhea, and excess flatulence.  Unlike canine atopy, food allergies are year round, however GI issues may wax and wane to a mild extent.

Diagnosis is made via exclusion, or first ruling out flea allergy and atopy.  Next, you would have to put your dog on a food elimination diet.  You can make this diet at home if you have the time and resources, or you can purchase a prescription commercially-prepared dog food diet.  My favorite would be a hydrolyzed diet because with these diets it is guaranteed never to trigger an immune response.

The goal with the trial diet to introduce a completely new protein or carb source that your pet has never been exposed to, and therefore cannot react to.  With the hydrolyzed diet, the molecule of the food that causes the pet to elicit the allergic response are so small, they can’t bind to the receptors to cause an allergic reaction.  Brilliant!  The pet must be on the new food for 2-4 months to see if they improve.

While on the food elimination trial, it is important to follow strict rules to not give your pet any food other than the food itself.  This means no treats, chews, or even flavored medications.

The prognosis of pets when the food allergy is identified is good as long as the pet parent takes the time to make sure the pet never eats that food ingredient again.