With the commercialisation of dog food varieties, food allergies have become quite abundant within canines. Though dogs are more likely to show allergic reaction to artificial ingredients present in dog kibble, the dog food is not always at fault. It is happens when dogs eat the same meat and/or carbohydrate for a long stretch of time. There are many pet food companies that insist that you stick to a singular formula till they reach a different stage of life. This may harm your dog more than the actual diet itself.
In this article we will look deeply into food allergies occurring in canines, what causes it and how we can prevent it. Food allergy is the over response of the body’s immune system towards a particular protein, carbohydrate or vegetable. It is not the same as food intolerance. Food intolerance is the bodies intolerance towards a certain food product. It usually occurs from a young age and is often quite predictable. For instance, if a person is lactose intolerant, they would find out at an early age and would have it all life. A food allergy, on the other hand, can develop at any stage in life and it is irreversible.
The Science Behind Food Allergies
When your dog eats something, their mouth, tongue, stomach and small intestine contribute to digestion and absorption of the food. Stomach enzyme contribute towards breaking down the food into smaller simpler particles. Enzymes also recognize proteins from plant and animal sources and converts them to amino acids. Similarly, another set of enzymes recognise sugars from plant and meat sources and breaks them down.
The semi digested food then travels to the small intestine. Here the food is digested further till they convert to their basic structures. Protein coverts to amino acids and sugar converts to glucose and/or fructose etc. The final step then is for the simpler parts to get absorbed into the body. But what if they get absorbed before breaking down to simpler parts? It is possible for a body to easily digest some food particles to their simplest constituents and send others back into the intestine and this is what causes allergies.
How do I know if My Dog Has It?
Around 70% of our body’s immune system is present within your dog’s gastrointestinal tract which is why food allergies are quite common for them. It is often characterised by sore and itchy skin, sudden loss of hair, lethargy, irregular and loose/constipated bowels etc. Unlike food intolerance, allergies towards a certain food item can occur suddenly. So, if your dog had no problem digesting chicken rice during their early years, they may show an allergic reaction to it as they grow older.
The problem is, there is no definitive way to know if your dog has a food allergy because the symptoms mentioned above can due to seasonal changes, pollen allergy, stress etc. So, if your dog has any of the above-mentioned symptoms, ask yourself the following questions:
Does my dog have the symptoms:
- When s/he comes back from a walk?
- During a certain time in the year?
- After s/he comes back from the pet hostel?
In case of itching or hair loss, notice if is all over the body or in a localised area. For instance, itching and redness around their neck and chest area (where they wear their leash/harness) would indicate that they might need to change the fabric of their leash/harness. Itching and redness around the stomach might indicate allergies to floor cleaners, carpets, insecticides and/or pesticides (sprayed on grass) or anything that comes into constant contact with their stomach. Also remember that dogs are sensitive to perfumes and deoderants. So, if you notice yous dog itching, or gnawing at their paws, having redness around their skin ever since you changed your deo/perfume, you might have to let the scent go.
If you answer yes to any of the questions mentioned above, chances are your dog has a seasonal allergy or is stressed in certain situations. However, if you answered no to all the above questions and the symptoms are a rather new occurrence in your dogs life, they may be showing an allergic reaction to something they are eating.
How to Treat a Dog with Severe Food Allergy
Now that we know that our dog has a food allergy, how do we know what is causing it. Well, specialists claim that allergies from food occurs when the body has grown accustomed to it. For instance, if your dog has eaten chicken and rice all their life, chances are, they may develop an allergic reaction either towards the chicken or the rice. Also keep a note of everything they eat on a daily basis. Treats, table scraps, snacks etc can all lead to allergic reactions.
Once you are sure that your canine has a food allergy, we suggest you take a day to note down everything they are eating. Even if it is a morsel of bread, keep a note of it, so that you don’t miss out on what may be causing the allergy. After noting down everything that is a part of their daily diet, change it from the following day. So, if they eating chicken and rice on a daily basis, switch to lamb and sweet potato. Change their current treats for another variety that they have never tried before and eliminate table scraps altogether.
If you feed them pellets, carefully go through the list of ingredients in the formula. Check for artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. More often than not, dogs show allergic reactions to an artificial colour, flavour or preservative than the food itself. The next step is to choose a formula that has a low shelf life and is made of a completely different primary meat. So, if your current formula uses chicken as the primary ingredient, go for fish; if the current formula uses fish as a primary ingredient, choose pork, etc.
If the symptoms were caused by food allergies, you will see changes within days. Check if their bowels are becoming normal and whether they are growing scanty hair again. Once your canine is back to his healthy happy self, you can slowly re-introduce what they used to eat. Make sure to introduce one food at a time, so that you find out what they are allergic to. So, you can start by re-introducing their dog treats. Let them have a few bites and wait for a few days. If you don’t see any skin eruptions or changes in the bowels in those few days, you can rule out the biscuits. Continue the process with all the food items they used to have (though we don’t recommend re-introducing table scraps because they are not healthy). Once you find out what they are allergic to make sure you never feed it to them again.
How Can I Prevent Food Allergy?
Unlike food intolerance, we can play an active part in preventing food allergy. Many pet food companies insist on sticking to a singular dog food formula, but recent studies have shown that diet rotation is more beneficial for dogs. So, don’t worry about introducing many meats and carb sources like potatoes, sweet potatoes, herbs vegetables, etc from a very early age and keep changing it from time to time.
Diet rotation, if done properly, makes it easier for dogs to transition from their earlier food to their current one. They are less likely to adapt true anorexia in such cases. Of course, there are also certain dog breeds who are naturally prone to food allergies. Don’t loose hope and keep going at it. You will find a number of dog safe food items you can count on for your favourite canine.