Dog Food for Dogs with Sensitivities

by Christina Stephens
I'm so hungry, but my food is making me sick.

I'm so hungry, but my food is making me sick.

Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images

What happens when treats turn from yum to glum? Sometimes your dog’s food can make him sick. What’s an owner to do? Good news, with some key ingredients and support, pooches with sensitive tummies can start looking forward to mealtime again. After all, every dog has to eat.

Food Allergies

Food allergies can be a nightmare for you and your pup. They can cause gastrointestinal upset, hives, itchiness and skin rash. It’s important to watch your dog for any sign of food allergies, as they will not clear up on their own. Food allergies are sometimes tricky. Their symptoms can mimic many seasonal inhalant allergies and/or flea allergy. Watch your buddy closely, and monitor his behavior and skin after he eats if you suspect he may have a food allergy. Use of a monthly flea preventive will help rule out flea-induced dermatitis.

Consistency

If your dog is having trouble digesting his customary food, don’t take that as a sign to throw the food out and start over with a brand new brand and variety. It’s best to introduce any changes to your dog’s diet gradually. Unlike humans, your dog doesn't eat a variety of foods each day. Any abrupt changes to his diet could cause vomiting and loose stools or diarrhea. Consult your veterinarian about hypoallergenic dog food options if you suspect your pal has developed a food allergy.

Ingredients to Avoid

Food sensitivities or not, here are some ingredients notorious for causing food allergies: dairy, beef, chicken and egg. There's a common misconception that grains such as corn, wheat and soy cause many canine food allergies, but veterinary nutritionists have declared them innocent. Veterinarians at the American College of Veterinary Nutrition have concluded corn is neutral, posing neither benefits nor problems in the canine diet. Your dog is much more likely to have an allergic reaction to a meat protein than to a grain.
It’s often difficult to identify the cause of a dog's food allergy. Your vet may recommend trying a hypoallergenic dog food as an initial step to clear up the allergic symptoms. Hypoallergenic dog foods contain far fewer ingredients than traditional dog foods, which reduces the risk of allergic reaction. It's crucial during the trial to avoid any foods or treats other than the hypoallergenic diet for at least 6 weeks, or until the symptoms clear up. Once your dog is symptom-free, your vet will suggest foods to incorporate back into his diet one at a time to determine what triggers his symptoms.

Skin Sensitivity

A dermatological study reported by the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine found that about a third of all canine allergic skin issues are reactions to food. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and generally involve the dog's ears and hindquarters. Diets based on novel proteins such as duck, fish, lamb, venison, rabbit or kangaroo are generally prescribed for dogs with food allergies who have not been exposed to these meats before. Diets that also are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce skin inflammation. A variety of both prescription and non-prescription diets are available that can address your buddy's skin sensitivity, such as Hill's Prescription z/d Ultra and Iam's H/A.

Gastrointestinal Sensitivity

Whether it is acute or chronic, an upset stomach is never fun for your dog. Some dogs just have weaker stomachs than others. Remain sensitive to and eliminate any foods, treats or specific ingredients that cause excess gas, loose stools or vomiting.
Simplifying your buddy's diet is key. Lower fat (approximately 15 percent is ideal), high-fiber dog foods are easiest to digest. Royal Canin Hypoallergenic HP19 and Nestle Purina's HA Diet are a couple of gentle non-prescription diets to try in consultation with your vet. Iams Skin and Coat Response dog foods are also formulated with alternate protein and carbohydrate sources to serve as maintenance diets for dogs with sensitivities. Purina Veterinary Diets, available by prescription, is based on novel proteins.
Use your food-sensitive pal's dog food as treats to keep the diet consistent. Consult your veterinarian if his symptoms persist or return. Dogs with sensitivities can eventually become sensitive to whatever protein they eat.

Photo Credits

  • Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images

About the Author

Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.

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