What does a food allergy look like on a dog
If food allergies are sure, your veterinarian may recommend hypoallergenic dog food and treats for your dog to eat. These types of foods take special precautions to avoid being cross-contaminated. Hypoallergenic dog foods may also be hydrolyzed, meaning that they go through a process of breaking below proteins on a molecular level so that they are too little for the dog’s body to recognize them as allergens. This is often a prescription dog food, so you will need to talk to your veterinarian about this as an option for your dog.
While some companies sell over-the-counter foods that claim to be excellent for allergies—and some may contain supplements that can be helpful in controlling environmental allergies—these foods are not ideal for treating food allergies.
As with limited ingredient foods, there is nothing to guarantee that your dog won’t become allergic to them in the future. These dog foods are also less regulated than prescription dog food and as such, might contain other contaminants that trigger an allergic response. It’s also best to be wary of any hypoallergenic claims made by over-the-counter grain-free dog foods. Remember, it’s animal proteins, not grains, that are most likely causing food allergies in dogs.
Dog food allergies are tricky trade.
Fortunately, they’re also the type of allergy your dog is least likely to suffer from. If your dog is showing signs of allergies, talk to your vet before making any changes to his food. Even if it turns out that he does own a food allergy, changing his food without a vet’s supervision could make it more hard to diagnose.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she generally writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.
The term cutaneous adverse food reaction (food allergy) is often used to define the food-triggered clinical syndrome of allergic dermatitis, gastrointestinal (GI) signs or both.
Food allergies may be responsible for chronic skin and ear disease in both cats and dogs.
Potential allergens can include protein sources (e.g. chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, soy, dairy, eggs) or carbohydrate sources (e.g. corn, rice, barley, wheat). Some pets can own more than one food allergy. Food allergies often start in pets younger than 1 or older than 7 years of age, but they can be acquired at any time, even when a pet has been eating the same food for months to years.
What does food allergy glance like?
Food-allergic animals generally own nonseasonal pruritus because the source of the problem does not change with the weather or seasons.
About 20% of food-allergic pets also own GI signs such as flatulence, vomiting, diarrhea, noisy intestinal sounds, or defecating more than four to five times a day. Dogs may scratch their face, ears, feet, groin or anal area or develop recurrent skin or ear infections (Figure 1). A frequent presentation includes licking at the anal area in addition to problems with the ears-this is why the condition is often referred to as one that affects “ears and rears.” Cats may overgroom certain areas of the body or the whole body, exhibit intense itching at the face or neck, or develop ear infections.
Skin infections in a food-allergic cat (top) and dog (bottom). Images courtesy of Judy Seltzer, BVetMed, MRCVS, DACVDThe onset of food allergy can be slow and gradual or more sudden. Clinical signs often continue to progress as endless as the offending allergen is fed. It can take several weeks to months for clinical signs to resolve once the allergenic agent is removed from the animal's diet. Up to 30% of food-allergic pets may own other allergies, such as a flea allergy dermatitis or atopy (environmental allergies).
About 50% of food-allergic dogs will not reply favorably to steroids.
Diagnosis and treatment of food allergy
The only precise way to diagnose an animal with a food allergy is to remove all of the currently fed foods and start a strict elimination diet trial. Available blood and saliva tests are not dependable for diagnosing food allergies in cats and dogs, and skin testing has also been found to be ineffective.
An elimination diet consists of a prescribed home-cooked or prescription therapeutic diet that contains a unique protein and carbohydrate source to which the animal has not previously been exposed.
The most common novel protein diets include rabbit and potato, venison and potato, and kangaroo and oats. Numerous fish and lamb diets are no longer considered novel as these ingredients are more commonly used in over-the-counter (OTC) diets.
Another option is to use a hydrolyzed (low-molecular-weight) diet, also available by prescription. These diets are composed of common ingredients (such as chicken and soy) that own been molecularly altered to be under the allergenic threshold.
This alteration prevents the animal's immune system from recognizing the food.
Oh, no, you didn't
Simply changing from one brand of pet food to another does not constitute an allergy diet trial. Several OTC “allergy” or “limited-ingredient” diets are now available in pet stores and online, but they are not always as pure as they claim to be or may own hidden ingredients.
Some pets with food allergies will not get better on a pet store diet.
A little percentage of truly food-allergic animals remain undiagnosed with commercially prepared diets and need to be trialed with a home-cooked diet.
Home-cooked diets. Examples of proteins used in home-cooked diets are tilapia, salmon, duck, rabbit, pork or pinto beans, generally mixed with sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa or barley. A home-cooked diet should be nutritionally balanced. Therefore, recommend that the client consult with a board-certified nutritionist before feeding a home-cooked diet.
Nutritionists are also extremely helpful when an animal has a concurrent disease, such as urinary tract infection, history of bladder stones or irritable bowel disease, and they can work with the primary veterinarian or dermatologist to formulate an appropriate diet. Websites including balanceit.com and raynenutrition.com own also been helpful in formulating home-cooked diets for a trial.
Therapeutic diets. Veterinary dermatologists often prescribe therapeutic diets from Royal Canin, Hill's and Purina for use in elimination trials.
In addition, Rayne Clinical Nutrition makes rabbit, kangaroo and pork diets for dogs and cats that are less processed than dry kibble or canned foods. Selecting a diet will depend on your patient's diet history. Furthermore, some cats and dogs will require a wet food to assist ister medications, and some owners are adamant about having treats to feed their pet. Knowing the needs of your patient and client will assist in choosing the most appropriate diet for your patient.
Did we mention elimination diet trials are strict?
Emphasizing to clients that absolutely no other food products or treats should be given during an elimination diet trial is imperative.
The pet should be allowed to consume only the prescribed diet, associated treats and water. Pets in an elimination trial cannot have:
Rawhides, pig ears, bones or other chew toys made with animal products
Supplemental fatty acids
Parasite preventives, medications or toothpastes with added flavor
Treats used to ister medications (e.g. peanut butter, cream cheese, lunch meat, pill pockets).
Regardless of which elimination diet is selected, it should be introduced gradually over a five- to seven-day period.
This is extremely significant as some animals may develop GI problems if their diet is changed suddenly. Most pets adapt to the new diet well, but some need time to adjust. If the pet doesn't adjust to the new diet within a week or two or refuses multiple therapeutic diets, a home-cooked diet can be formulated with the assist of a veterinary nutritionist. To formulate the best possible plan for your patient, it is also significant to take into consideration challenges such as households with multiple pets or little children.
The elimination trial should continue for at least eight to 12 weeks and a minimum of one month beyond resolution of a skin infection.
The pet should be rechecked frequently to assess the progress and results of the diet trial. Rechecks may be more frequent if the pet is being treated for an athletic infection.
If the pet has a food allergy, we expect to see at least a 50% reduction in licking, scratching, chewing or other dermatologic signs. This may happen within the first four weeks for some animals; in others the response may take up to 12 weeks.
Cats may need to be on the elimination diet for three to four months before a food allergy is confirmed.
The diet challenge
To prove that a food allergy is responsible for a pet's condition, a diet challenge is typically performed. This involves reintroducing the original diet, or ingredients from the original diet, to see if the pet has any reaction. In the food-allergic pet, clinical signs will generally worsen within hours to two weeks. If an adverse reaction occurs, resume the elimination diet exclusively. Once the flare-up is resolved, reintroduce individual ingredients from the previous diet one at a time to identify the specific cause.
Beyond proving the food allergy diagnosis precise, a food challenge helps to determine which specific foods or treats should be avoided and to identify an OTC diet that the pet can tolerate.
If we can determine the ingredient causing the problem, we can manage the condition by eliminating the offending food(s) from the pet's diet for life.
Keep in mind, however, that this may not always be possible. Some patients may need to remain on a therapeutic or home-cooked diet for life.
Feeding a therapeutic diet long-term will not harm a pet because these diets are well balanced. Therapeutic diets tend to be more expensive than OTC diets, however, and numerous owners prefer to feed a commercial diet.
As with other types of allergies, there is no cure for food allergy. What's more, animals can develop new food allergies over time. However, if a food allergy is the sole cause of a pet's skin or ear problems, identifying and eliminating the protein(s) or carbohydrate(s) causing the allergy may significantly increase the pet's quality of life and reduce or prevent skin and ear problems in the future.
As noted earlier, pets with an allergy to food ingredients are at higher risk for developing other allergies such as atopic dermatitis or flea allergy dermatitis.
To hold under an animal's itch threshold, every food-allergic pets should be maintained with strict flea control and monitored for secondary skin infections and itching.
Dr. Judy Seltzer graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in London and completed her residency in dermatology at the University of Florida. She has been working in her home state of New York since 2009, currently at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in New York City.
She and her husband own a little girl and four cats and enjoy traveling, drop festivals, winter activities and dining out.
Having a dog with allergy issues can be incredibly frustrating… for you and your dog. Allergies mean:
- Recurring ear infections
- Itchy skin
- And non-stop scratching at his ears, paws, face, and back that drive you crazy
Your vet may own prescribed a seasonal dose of Benadryl or Claritin, but the itching persists. Maybe feed more Omegas to moisturize his skin. You wait it out. Nothing helps, and you are at your wit’s finish … seasonal allergies really shouldn’t final thislong, should they?
Not only are allergies frustrating, but if you are exposing your dog tounaddressedallergens, just treating the symptoms might not be enough.
Allergies are immune system responses where your dog’s body goes a little haywire in response to a trigger.
And no matter what you do to treat them, if you’re exposing your dog to allergens, the problems and discomfort continue.
Below are some common but little-known signs that your dog may be suffering from food allergies.
Diagnosing Dog Food Allergies
Unfortunately, there are no dependable ways to test your dog for food allergies. The only way to determine which foods your dog is allergic to is through the process of elimination. Typically, your vet will prescribe a special, limited-ingredient dog food containing types of meat and carbohydrates that aren’t in your dog’s usual meals and seeing how he does on it.
If your dog’s symptoms clear up on this special meal plan, after a period of time your vet may own you switch your dog back to his ancient food to see if the allergy symptoms reappear. If they do, that will confirm that you’re dealing with a food allergy.
The next step is to identify the specific ingredient causing the allergic reaction in your dog. This requires changing back to the limited ingredient food. Once your dog’s symptoms clear up, your vet may then own you add ingredients from his ancient food back to his meals one at a time and monitor the results in order to identify which ingredients trigger an allergic reaction.
During this elimination trial, it’s extremely significant to only feed your dog the prescribed food.
The most frequently mentioned reason for failure in determining allergies in elimination tests is household sabotage. This consists of giving your dog food that was not directly recommended by your veterinarian including dog treats, table scraps, diverse dog foods, etc. During these trials, dogs can’t own even one of these in order for the test to be effective at diagnosing the allergy. To put it in perspective, a human that is allergic to nuts cannot own even a single peanut.
The same is true of your dog. To fully determine the cause of dog food allergies (if any does exist), you must be as strict as possible, and that includes everyone else in your household too. It’s hard when your pup sits there with his large begging eyes, but it is worth it if you can determine if an allergy exists. These elimination tests typically take about 12-weeks after which your veterinarian will verify that your dog isn’t experiencing any of the previous allergy signs.
It is significant that if you believe your dog is experiencing allergies of any sort, food or environmental, that you check with your veterinarian to assist you best diagnose your pup.
Self-diagnosis can be unhelpful or even dangerous in certain cases. Because food allergies and environmental issues present some of the same signs, it is hard to know which is the cause without proper testing. Unlike in humans, dog allergy tests are much less dependable, which is why your veterinarian will likely give you specific instructions on what to expose your dog to and how to monitor his health over time to determine the specific cause for his health issues.
You may be tempted to do a limited-ingredient diet (LID) on your own as well.
This is also not recommended for a couple of reasons. The first being the difference between intolerance and allergies. Without proper testing, it is hard to know the genuine cause. The second reason why LIDs aren’t always grand in self diagnosing your dog’s condition is that even limited-ingredient foods can be subject to allergen contamination. For instance, if you suspect that your dog is allergic to chicken, and you switch him over to something love lamb or venison, he might start feeling better, but because numerous food companies will use the same machinery to make their chicken product dog foods and their lamb-filled food there is a chance that some of the chicken allergens make it into your dog’s lamb food.
Love mentioned before, any introduction of an allergen, even a little quantity, can affect your dog overall. This is why it is best to follow your veterinarian’s strict instructions when asking about allergies.
What Causes Food Allergies?
According to Tuft University, «Food allergies happen when an animal’s immune system misidentifies a protein from a food as an invader rather than a food item and mounts an immune response. The finish result of this response can be itchy skin or ear and skin infections in some pets, while it may cause vomiting or diarrhea in others.» Once an immune response is triggered, it grows stronger every time that type of protein enters the body, which means your dog’s allergy may worsen every time he eats that specific food.
#1 Chronic Ear Infections
Frequent ear infections … meaning more than 2 or 3 treatments per year … are a telltale sign of a food allergy.
While yeast infections, ear mites, and “swimmer’s ear” can every be common causes of ear infections, ear infections that persist throughout the year can indicate a food allergy.
What It Looks Like:Stinky, yeasty ears with black or brown build-up. Persistent head-shaking and scratching at the irritated ear. Frequent cleaning (multiple times per week) does little to prevent re-occurrence. You may own tried over-the-counter otic ointments without success, as these will treat the symptoms but don’t often resolve the holistic problem.
What It Means:Food allergy.
Law Out …Ear mites, yeast infection, or water (dogs who swim are prone to this).
Try This …
- Wipe inside the ear with a cotton ball soaked in witch hazel, which can reduce inflammation and give your dog some relief
- Use a home-made otic solution made of 50/50 purified water and organic apple cider vinegar to clean the ear
- If the ear infections persist, attempt a food-elimination diet or food allergy test to identify the trigger food (I’ll tell you how to do this later)
[Related] Don’t run to the vet for an ear infection.
Attempt one of out top 5 natural remedies.
Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance
It’s also significant to note the difference between an allergy and an intolerance. If your dog is unable to tolerate a certain type of food, such as lactose, this means he lacks the digestive enzyme necessary to properly digest that food, and gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea, may result. An allergy, on the other hand, is an immune response. When your dog comes into contact with something he’s allergic to, his immune system goes into overdrive attacking the allergen, resulting in skin problems, itching, or hair loss.
If your dog is suffering from a food intolerance rather than a food allergy, then hypoallergenic dog food is unlikely to assist. We recommend seeing your veterinarian to get the best possible solution for your pet.
Are Dog Food Allergies to Blame?
While people are often quick to blame a dog’s skin problems on what he eats, the truth, says Tufts University’s Cummings Veterinary Middle, is that food allergies in dogs are not every that common. The most common causes of allergies in pets are environmental including fleas, dust mites, grass, pollen, and other environmental causes.
If your pup’s allergies tend to clear up during the winter or become worse at the height of flea season, then it’s likely his allergies are environmental. But because actual food allergies can cause skin and ear problems similar to those caused by environmental allergies, it’s up to your veterinarian to assist you law out other types of allergies for certain before determining whether your dog’s food is to blame.
Common Allergens in Dog Food
The most common foods to trigger an allergic response in dogs are animal proteins including chicken, beef, dairy, and eggs, says Tufts.
Lamb, pork, and fish are less likely to cause allergies, although it is possible. While some dogs own proven to be allergic to wheat and corn, this is actually much more rare than common wisdom would own you believe. Instances of other grains, such as oats or rice, causing allergies are rare to nonexistent.