How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Allergic To Food?
What Are Dog Food Allergy Symptoms?
The most common dog food allergy symptoms are:
- constant itching and scratching of the skin
- pawing at the mouth area
- swollen mouth
- licking at paws constantly
- hot spots
But some of these are also common symptoms for other types of allergies also such as seasonal allergies from pollens and grasses (just like humans), chemical allergies from insecticides and household cleaners, and even flea allergies.
If you believe your dog may have food allergies, the best thing to do is trying feeding a diet that is wholesome, with simple ingredients and a minimal amount of grains. Some options you might want to consider are:
- You may want to try feeding homemade dog food — where you will have complete control over the ingredients your dog gets. If so, I recommend the Canine Nutrition Guide to help ensure you provide adequate nutrition.
- Change to a premium or super-premium dog food — sometimes it is just the inferior ingredients and a lot of grains used in many commercial dog foods that cause the allergy or intolerance. See my article on how to read your dog food ingredients label to figure out if your current dog food is any good.
- If you are already feeding a good quality dog food, you may want to try adding digestive enzymes and probiotics to improve your dog’s gastrointestinal system.
The most common food allergens are listed below. But remember, your dog can develop an allergy or intolerance to any type of food — especially if it is the same food fed over a long period of time.
Does My Dog Have Food Allergies?
Do you think your dog has food allergies? Before you go down the long road to find the right dog food for dogs with allergies, think about your dog’s symptoms. Are they seasonal? Do they coincide with pollen or flea outbreaks? Dog itchy skin is an allergy symptom of more than just food. If your dog’s allergy symptoms include vomiting or diarrhea, then a food allergy is way up on the list.
If your dog is only dealing with itchy skin and constant scratching, and it is not flea or mange related, you may want to try adding a coat supplement to his food. Many times your dog’s itchy skin and scratching is because the current dog food is not nutritionally sufficient for him. An added supplement for healthy skin and coat can do wonders to ease and eliminate that aggravating scratching.
The healthiest dog food in the world won’t help your dog if it has something in it that your dog is allergic to. Finding the right dog food for dogs with allergies is very difficult because finding the allergic ingredient can be a very long and tedious process.
How do you know what food your dog is allergic to? It is simply a process of elimination.
It is best to start with the most common ingredients that tend to cause allergic food reactions in dogs grains (wheat, barley, corn, soy and rye), dairy (milk, cheese, whey, casein, etc), and artificial preservatives and colors. Corn, wheat, and soy tend to be the biggest offenders, as well as dairy, and on the protein side, beef.
Cut out your current dog food ingredient label so you know what he has been eating and keep it handy. Then go to the store (or you may have more choices looking online) and find a brand labeled to help with allergies these tend to show that they are made with rice, or oats. Look at the ingredient label and make sure that it is different from your current brand and that it contains no corn, wheat, or soy. It is best if you can find a dog food that has the fewest ingredients. Also make sure all preservatives are natural (vitamin E/tocopherols or vitamin C/ascorbic acid).
Buy a small bag of this new dog food and feed it to your dog. NOTE: If your dog has a sensitive stomach, sometimes changing a dog food can cause diarrhea or constipation for a few days. If you do not want to chance this, you could gradually mix in the new dog food with the old, but realize that this will prolong the allergy and the elimination diet.
Take notes if you see any improvements, especially focusing on the skin and ear issues for your dog’s food allergy. If no improvements are seen after two weeks on only the new food, add these ingredients to your list of possible problems. You need to just keep trying different foods with different ingredients until you see an improvement.
If your dog is in really bad shape and just miserable — or you just don’t want to go through different types of commercial dog food, you might want to try making your own healthy dog food. You’ll need to find out a bit about what quantities of proteins/carbs/fat/vitamins/minerals you need to feed (canine nutrition) your dog.
After you figure that out, you can control the ingredients that he eats. It would be best to start with meat (with fat) and serve with cooked brown rice or oatmeal, and any supplemental vitamins needed. Serve this for two weeks and take daily notes as to whether this helps his condition or not. If his condition improves, you can add or change one ingredient and serve for a week, again noting whether his condition gets better or worse.
After a couple of months you should have a list of foods he is or isn’t allergic to. If you want to go back to commercial dog food, use this list and compare it with the ingredient list on different dog foods (refer to What Exactly Are Premium Dog Foods for more information on ingredients).
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