Dogs with food sensitivities, also known as food allergies, develop skin issues and digestive upset when fed a diet containing one or more ingredients they are allergic to. This sensitivity usually develops over time, when your pup is repeatedly exposed to an offending ingredient in his diet. To properly diagnose and treat this condition, your vet will put your pup on a special diet that won't trigger his allergies.
Food sensitivities account for up to 20 percent of dermatitis issues in dogs, according to the Nutro Natural Choice website. These sensitivities can develop at any age and to a variety of ingredients, primarily proteins. Meats, grains and vegetables can contain protein that triggers an allergic reaction in your dog. When your pup develops an allergy to a protein, his immune system reacts by attacking the protein after he ingests it, viewing it as an "invader" to his system. His immune system's cells then release a chemical called hertamine to deal with the protein, which unfortunately leads to itchy skin, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes and infections, according to Modern Dog Magazine.
If you suspect that your dog has food sensitivities, bring him to the vet for an exam. Once she rules out other potential causes of Fido's upset tummy or itchy skin, your vet will put him on a special prescription diet to confirm a food allergy. These therapeutic foods include limited antigen and hypoallergenic diets, according to the Pedigree website. Limited antigen diets contain only one protein and one carbohydrate. These diets contain unusual proteins such as duck, kangaroo, fish, alligator or venison and carbohydrates such as potato or rice. Hypoallergenic diets contain hydrolyzed proteins, which are pulverized into tiny pieces that won't trigger an allergic reaction by your dog's immune system.
Prescription canine allergy diets come in canned and dry formulas. If your pup is used to eating canned food, keep him on a canned version of a prescription diet as well, to make his transition easier. Canned foods are more palatable for dogs, especially for young or elderly dogs, who may have trouble chewing the crunchy kibble in dry formulations, recommends Dogster. If you have tried to feed your pup a dry version of a hypoallergenic or limited antigen diet and he won't eat it, try a canned version. Canned foods may smell better to Fido. You can warm it in the microwave for a few seconds to enhance its aroma before serving.
Some prescription dog food manufacturers produce limited antigen and hypoallergenic canned foods. Hill's Pet Nutrition produces different types of limited antigen diets in its d/d canned food line and also has the hypoallergenic z/d canned formula. Royal Canin produces the limited antigen Hypo Selected Protein formulations and a hypoallergenic Hypo Hydrolyzed formula as well. Your vet will give you a prescription to purchase therapeutic foods, which you feed Fido for around 12 weeks to see if an improvement in his symptoms occurs, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Once a food allergy is diagnosed, ingredients are added back into Fido's diet to determine which ones he is allergic to.
- Nutro Natural Choice: Could Your Dog Have a Food Sensitivity?
- Modern Dog Magazine: Food Allergies 101
- WebMD: Caring for a Dog with Food Allergies
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Allergies
- Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital: Canine Food Allergies
- Pedigree: Caring For Dogs With Food Sensitivities
- Dogster: Wet or Dry Dog Food?
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