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Dogs With Food Alleries
It is a well-known fact that people can be allergic to ingredients within their food. Dogs also can be allergic to ingredients within their diet. An allergic reaction to food occurs when the immune system has an exaggerated response to a normal food constituent. The immune system in dogs suffering from food allergies doesn’t view the food component as harmless, instead viewing it as a foreign invader and over reacts to it resulting in the release of chemicals which cause inflammation.
Does your dog have a food allergy or food intolerance? A food allergy is a reaction to a food which involves the immune system whereas a food intolerance is a reaction to a food without the involvement of the immune system. In reality the distinction between the two is often not made as the immunological process occurring within the body is usually not determined.
Signs of Food Allergy
Dogs with food allergies can have skin problems and may also show gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting or diarrhoea.
Typical signs are itchy skin (or pruritus) affecting the face, ears, feet, axillae (armpits), stomach, groin and the skin around the anus. Not every dog with a food allergy will have these signs. Some dogs may only have recurrent ear infections which affects either one or both ears. There is redness of the skin and dogs will scratch and lick the affected areas. Secondary skin infections, alopecia and thickening of the skin are often seen.
Symptoms are usually seen in younger dogs although older dogs are also affected. The signs are non-seasonal and are present throughout the year. As the signs of dogs suffering from allergic reactions to environmental allergens (atopy) are very similar to those of food allergies it can be very difficult to distinguish between the two conditions. Dogs may be allergic to both food and environmental allergens. Further diagnostic tests are required for diagnosis.
What Foods are Dogs Allergic to?
There are several different food constituents that dogs can be allergic to. However, dogs tend to be allergic to the foods which are commonly found in their diet. The most common causes are beef, chicken, pork, turkey, lamb, eggs, corn, wheat and soy. It is possible that some dogs are allergic to more than one food component.
There are no definitive diagnostic tests to diagnose a food allergy. The only way of diagnosing a food allergy is by performing a dietary trial. It is important that other possible skin diseases are ruled out by your veterinary surgeon and any bacterial or yeast skin infections treated.
A dietary trial consists of trialling a specific food for a certain period of time. The idea of a food trial is to remove all the food from the diet the dog has previously been fed and therefore any possible offending food components and feed a new novel diet and monitor the dog for resolution of clinical symptoms under the supervision of a specialist veterinary surgeon.
The choice of food to use in the dietary trial is also very important and will be decided upon by your veterinary surgeon or specialist depending on the diet the dog has previously been fed. Therefore, if a dog has been fed a diet containing beef then a diet may be chosen avoiding beef.
Your veterinary specialist will choose either a novel protein diet or homemade for the dietary trial.
Novel protein diets contain whole proteins which dogs have not usually eaten before. The choice of diet is very important and is decided on after careful examination of previous diets fed to the dog.
Homemade diets can be used as these avoid the artificial additives which are used in the production of some pet foods and which may cause allergic reactions. However, these diets are labour intensive which may lead to failure to continue the dietary trial and they are not recommended for growing dogs or for long term maintenance.
The length of time a dietary trial should last is also important. The diet needs to be fed long enough to enable the dog to respond. Usually the diet is fed for between 6-8 weeks. It is crucial that during this time no other food is fed. No dog treats or scraps from the table must be fed as this will influence the dietary trial. Initially drugs such as antibiotics and antifungals may be prescribed for your dog to control secondary skin infections. It is important that the dietary trial continues after the treatment has ended so that any improvement in signs can be attributed to the diet and not the drug treatment.
If the symptoms improve then your dog may have a food allergy. To confirm the presence of a food allergy the dog is normally fed the original diet and monitored for return of signs. Symptoms usually recur within a couple of weeks although they often reoccur within the first
couple of days. If the signs recur on feeding the original diet then a diagnosis of food allergy can be made. Dogs may also be allergic to several different allergens.
A dietary trial can be challenging to undertake. It is important that everyone in the family understands why a dietary trial is being performed and the necessity to eliminate everything else from the diet other than the prescribed diet. No dog treats or treats from the table are allowed to be given during the period of the trial. Dietary trials can fail if dogs are given other foods during this period. During this period only water must be given to the dog to drink.
Once a food allergy has been diagnosed they can be easy to manage just by avoiding the offending foods. However, as allergies to food develop over a period of time it is possible that dogs can become allergic to the new diet.
Blood tests have not been found to be very accurate in the diagnosis of food allergies and a dietary trial is the preferred way to diagnose an allergy to food.
Hypoallergenic diet is a term used to describe a diet which is low in allergens. An allergen is a substance capable of causing an allergic reaction. Diets that have a small number of ingredients will have a lower number of potential allergens.
Naturediet has a range of natural complete moist and dry dog foods which are highly palatable. We use only a limited number of ingredients in our menus and all are wheat and gluten free therefore avoiding the possibility of gluten allergies. Our Chicken menu and Lamb menu are single source meat proteins.
The Naturediet Sensitive menu contains only salmon as the protein source and is wheat and gluten free. This may be fed to dogs with allergies to meat based proteins. No other protein sources are used in the manufacture and even the oils will be sourced from salmon which are a natural source of omega 3 fatty acids that helps promote a healthy skin and coat. Dogs with a sensitive digestion may also be fed this diet.
Naturediet Grain Free menus have been developed to exclude all glutens for those pets who have a complete gluten intolerance. The range includes Chicken which contains only chicken, Lamb which contains only Lamb and Sensitive which only contains fish, white fish and salmon.
All Naturediet menus are complete and therefore do not need to be fed with any other foods and are produced without the use of artificial preservatives, colourings or flavourings.
Naturediet dry food can be fed alongside the moist food taking into account calorific values, refer to Detailed Feeding Guides.