How Strict Do You Have to Be on a Dog Food Trial?

by Chris Miksen
    Table scraps are off the menu during your pup's food trial.

    Table scraps are off the menu during your pup's food trial.

    John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images

    If dogs could talk, they would go on for hours about how awesome dinner time is, unless of course they end up with lesions, hot spots, nasal discharge and extreme itching afterward. When your vet puts your pup on a food trial for a food allergy, you can forget about all the snacks and normal dog food your little guy used to eat. It's hypoallergenic time all the time, unless your vet goes another route.

    There probably won't be another point in your dog's life in which you have to put him on such a strict diet like the one he's on with a food trial. He may only be able to eat certain foods as he ages and medical conditions crop up, but he can only eat one type of food with a food trial, and that's the hypoallergenic food he was likely prescribed. He can't have tiny pieces of chicken, cheese or anything aside from his hypoallergenic food. The goal of the food trial is to relieve all symptoms of his food allergies so you can pinpoint what types of food he's allergic to. If you sneak him in a piece of chicken or beef, his allergic reaction can come back in full force. If your pup takes a chewable tablet to prevent heartworms, WebMD advises switching that out for a different form of the medicine while on a food trial.

    A food trial tends to come with a few problems when you're training your pup. Most dogs don't respond too well when given their regular dog food as a reward, so for those canines who are highly motivated by treats, training can be a hassle. And while you can't toss your little guy's favorite snacks in his mouth, you can stick with the hypoallergenic theme and give him hypoallergenic treats. The treats, like the food, are typically prescription-based, so you'll need to visit your vet. Don't be fooled by treats that claim to be made of simple or all-natural ingredients -- you have to go with the hypoallergenic kind if your pup's on hypoallergenic food.

    After your pup's on the hypoallergenic food for about 8 to 12 weeks -- your vet should decide the exact time frame -- you can begin introducing one ingredient at a time into your pup's diet. At this point, you're still on a food trial and you still have to remain very strict about what's going into your little guy's belly. Keep him on hypoallergenic treats for now, and remember to introduce only one ingredient at a time. A grain-free food with fish as the source of protein is fine, but food with grain and fish is not.

    While hypoallergenic diets are common, not all vets prescribe hypoallergenic food. Some may want you to cook certain foods that your pup has never had and aren't commonly associated with food allergies, such as salmon, or switch him to a food with ingredients he's never been exposed to. In this case, never feed him treats except those that have identical ingredients to the food you're giving him.

    Your dog probably licks his lips for cat litter and filet mignon alike, and it's hard keeping him from taking a bite out of something aside from his dog food. Scarfing down a piece of popcorn or the occasional scrap that slides off your plate during dinner probably won't cause him any harm. But if he sneaks an entire bowl of cat food or your neighbors feed him treats he's not allowed, that's a problem. Keep a lid on your trash, feed your other pets up high or in separate rooms and tell anyone who gives your pup treats that he's treat-free for a while, or give them a small bag of snacks he's allowed to have.

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    About the Author

    Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.

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