What springs to mind when you hear the words: “food allergy”? Most likely, playground memories of school friends who couldn’t eat peanuts, or all of the gluten-free food we now see filling the shelves at the supermarket.
It’s easy to forget however that man’s best friend can also suffer from food allergies. Whether he’s a poodle or a German shepherd, your dog could one day start showing worrying signs of behaviour, and the cause of this might be something you hadn’t thought about before.
What exactly are food allergies in dogs?
You might be surprised to hear that up to 10 per cent of dog allergies are caused by food. If you’ve ever noticed your pooch itching more than usual, it could be his diet! Up to 20 per cent of itching in dogs is caused by food allergies. Of course, you should make sure he is free of fleas and has no inhalant allergies, but once you’ve ruled this out, it’s time to look in the cupboard.
We all want the best for our dog, so it can be saddening to hear that the food we are feeding them can have serious side effects such as vomiting and diarrhoea. But before we start – let’s clear up some jargon.
What’s the difference between a dog food allergy and intolerance?
We throw these terms around all the time when we’re talking about what we have for dinner, but it’s a more serious issue for your dog! If you ever need to visit the vet, you’ll want to be sure about exactly what the problem is. An allergy is your dog’s way of responding to something it doesn’t like – its immune system will fight back. This can release chemicals such as histamine (think anti-histamine – itching!) which can cause scratching and other skin problems.
An intolerance, on the other hand, happens as a result of an immediate reaction in your dog’s tummy. Just like when we eat something that doesn’t agree with us, your dog may experience vomiting or diarrhoea. We all love our pets so this is something we want to avoid at all costs.
Who are the main culprits in my pet’s food allergies?
Often, dogs can be sensitive to the same ingredients as humans. Next time you’re shopping for dog food, keep an eye on the label – look out for pork, beef, wheat, eggs, dairy products and soya. You can see that all of these ingredients contain protein. Naturally, this is a key part of your dog’s diet, but some proteins can be more harmful to sensitive dogs than others. If your current dog food brand has too high a concentration of any one of these, it could ring alarm bells.
Similarly, sometimes it can be the meat itself your dog is eating, for example he may be more sensitive to lamb, duck or turkey.
What should I do if I suspect my dog has a food allergy/intolerance?
Look out for warning signs such as increased itching, or if he has sudden bouts of vomiting or diarrhoea, which can suggest a food intolerance. You should always visit your vet to confirm your suspicions – after all, your dog is a family member, and you would always advise them to visit a doctor!
After diagnosis, start making small changes to your dog’s diet. Avoid products with synthetic colours, flavours or preservatives, as these can lead to hyperactivity as well as other signs of discomfort.
Your dog food should contain good, wholesome ingredients that your loyal companion will love. You should also avoid any dog food products which contain pork or beef, as well as known triggers such as wheat, eggs, dairy products and soya. Trial different proteins such as duck, fish, turkey or lamb, to make sure it isn’t the type of meat itself which is causing the problem. A good dog food will only ever contain one type of protein.
How will I know when my dog is well again?
After a few weeks’ trialling, you dog should start to see improvements. If the symptoms persist, make sure you re-visit your vet. A healthy dog will have:
- A shiny coat
- Healthy, itch-free skin
- Firm stools
- Ideal weight
- Higher energy levels
A simple dietary change could be all your dog needs to be back to his normal self, so if you love your pet as much as we do, you’ll be sure to make the right choice.
This blog post on food allergies was written for a digital marketing agency on behalf of their pet food client.
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