Once your dog has been diagnosed with a food allergy, it's important he eats an allergy sensitive diet. Hypoallergenic foods are available in commercially manufactured formulas or as a canine nutritionist's homemade recipe. Only your dog's veterinarian can clinically diagnose a canine food allergy and will recommend a dietary plan suited to your dog's food sensitivity.
Is it Really a Canine Food Allergy?
A canine food allergy is an adverse reaction by your dog's immune system to an ingestible element in his diet. Food allergies are almost exclusively related to protein, but the symptoms vary depending on numerous factors. Common food allergy symptoms include red, itchy skin, chronic ear infections, excessive scratching, saliva staining, hair loss, anxious licking and diarrhea or vomiting. For a definitive food allergy diagnosis, your veterinarian needs to rule out other potential causes for your dog's anatomical reaction such as exposure to a toxic substance, food intolerance (which is different from a food allergy) or a drug or poison reaction. Veterinarians warn; food allergies are not necessarily associated with a change in your dog's diet. It is more commonly found that dogs develop allergies to foods they've eaten for an extended period.
Undergoing an Elimination Trial
Before your dog's vet can accurately diagnose a food allergy, they'll enlist your dog in a dietary test. This restricted food experiment is called an “elimination trial.” At this juncture of treatment, your veterinarian will instruct you to introduce a carbohydrate and protein only diet. Homemade hypoallergenic diet recipes are obtainable from a board certified veterinary nutritionist. A simpler approach is to acquire a commercially processed hypoallergenic food. Veterinarians and pet supply stores carry these therapeutic formulas with choices such as Hill’s Prescription z/d ultra, Nestlé Purina’s HA Diet and Royal Canin Hypoallergenic HP19. Do not offer your dog treats, flavored medications, human foods, or flavored toys or bones during the 12-week elimination trial.
Changing Your Dog's Diet
In order to conduct the elimination trial, your veterinarian will advise a gradual change from your dog’s normal food. On the first day, offer your dog a half portion of the elimination trial food to a half portion of his regular food. Gradually reduce his current food over the next three days, incorporating his new food. By the fifth day, he should be eating only the therapeutic food. Once the trial period is over, your vet is likely to put your dog on a hypoallergenic maintenance diet such as Hill’s Prescription d/d diet, Iams Skin and Coat Response KO, Iams Skin and Coat Response FP, Nestle Purina’s Limited Antigen formula and Royal Canin Diets. Hypoallergenic commercially prepared diets work for 80 percent of dogs with dog food allergies.
The Homemade Approach to Dog Food Allergies
Once a clinical determination for an allergy is made, your veterinarian may discuss an all-natural, homemade approach to your dog's food sensitivities. A hypoallergenic formulation with highly digestible proteins works against canine food allergies. Avoid foods with common allergenic ingredients such as beef or dairy proteins, wheat, egg, chicken or soy products. Dr. Tillman, at Organic Pet Digest, states that commercial hypoallergenic formulations simply incorporate an alternate protein source, which is what you can achieve with a homemade diet for your dog. She recommends trying either duck and rutabaga, rabbit and rice, or venison and potatoes homemade diet. These foods should be boiled and the meats lean. Keep your dog on the new mixture for 12 weeks, and once you've found a formula that works, begin incorporating vegetables, fruits, vitamin, and mineral sources. Introduce them one at a time in case your dog turns out to be allergic.
- Organic Pet Digest:Dog with Dog Food Allergy : Diagnosis & Natural Treatment
- ASPCA: Dog Allergies
- First Aid Companion For Dogs and Cats; Amy D. Shojai and Dr. Shane Bateman, D.V.M
- Natural Food Recipes for the Healthy Dog; Boyle, Carol - Certified Canine Nutritionist, New York: Howell Book House, c1997
- Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images