Food allergies continue to grow as a concern for dog owners today. The pet food industry has responded to consumer concerns, offering a range of proteins from alternative domestics, like lamb and turkey, to exotic wild sources, like kangaroo and rabbit. There now are options if your dog suffers from allergies to chicken, beef or egg.
Like people, dogs can become allergic to just about anything. Food allergies may develop to commonly used ingredients, like chicken, beef or eggs, but other ingredients also can cause issues. Allergies arise when the immune system mistakes an everyday substance for a potential pathogen. Because of this, dogs often present with allergy symptoms later in life. Symptoms of food-related allergies include itchy skin, sores or hair loss; gastric upset, such as diarrhea or vomiting; yeast infections, particularly in ears and skin folds; and breathing difficulty. If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, speak to your veterinarian to rule out more serious conditions before changing food. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.
If a dog is diagnosed with food allergies, an elimination diet is the first step. This home-cooked diet frequently consists of a single protein and a single starch. For example, a dog may eat boiled turkey and rice for a determined, minimum time frame. If an elimination diet is going to be used, vitamin supplementation often is recommended to prevent the dog from becoming deficient. When considering an elimination diet for your dog, it is crucial that you work with a veterinarian or nutrition consultant to ensure your dog's long-term health.
Selecting Commercial Foods
If your dog is allergic to chicken, beef or egg, read the ingredient panel thoroughly. These protein sources may be listed specifically or they may be included as a fat. Avoid ingredients derived from these proteins as well, such as chicken fat or egg product. Also avoid foods that have nonspecific proteins or fats, such as animal fat, meat or liver, as they often are sourced from a combination of chicken and beef. Instead, look for foods that list their ingredients clearly with labels, such as turkey liver, lamb or cod liver oil.
Thanks to the evolution of the dog food industry, it is easy to avoid foods with chicken or beef. If your dog is allergic to chicken, try foods with whitefish, rabbit or duck. Beef alternatives include venison, bison and wild boar. Many "hypoallergenic" dog foods contain lamb, but be careful as lamb is a rich, fatty protein that may aggravate beef allergies. Avoiding eggs may be more difficult, but foods are available that do not contain egg. Many dehydrated or raw diets provide great options for dogs struggling with food allergies. Finally, a home made diet may be considered for ultimate control of ingredients. Be sure to work with a nutrition consultant so you can provide a complete, balanced diet for your dog.
Shelly Volsche has worked as a professional dog behavior consultant, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and a diploma in canine nutrition. She has written for "The Chronicle of the Dog" and Lucky Dog Magazine and is currently pursuing her PhD in anthropology with a focus on pet parents.