Like us, dogs can have allergies too, but usually to things like flea bites and atopy, which means inhalant allergies. After that come food allergies, something many of us may be familiar with. However, there is an important distinction to be made between food allergies and food intolerance's. It's like how someone can be lactose intolerant, versus allergic to peanuts.
That's fine, but how do you tell the difference? Well, you're looking for an allergic reaction. The typical symptoms you'd see would be itching and skin issues. You may see recurring or chronic ear infections, hair loss, and infections on the surface of the skin. Recurring yeast infections may be another symptom. Sometimes, dogs with food allergies will defecate twice as much, or more than usual, which is normally around 1-2 times a day. With intolerances, you'd be seeing diarrhea, vomiting, that sort of thing.
As with humans, certain things are known to more commonly cause allergic reaction (with us, you're looking at nuts etc.). With dogs, some typical foods might include dairy, eggs, poultry, beef, soy and soy protein, and sometimes even corn. These products are commonly found in dog food products, which can make it difficult to identify and isolate the trigger of the allergy.
While preservatives and artificial products can be found in dog food, and many people would be quick to blame them as the source for allergies, they are not. There are some steps that can be taken at home to try and narrow down whether your dog actually has a food allergy. Since the symptoms are similar to yeast, bacterial and other types of infections (including those from flea bites), you have to try and rule all of those out as possible causes.
You can try giving your dog food that s / he hasn't had before, usually a mixture of a protein and a carbohydrate. Some options might include rabbit, duck or venison for the protein, and rice, potato or rutabagas for the carbohydrate. You can try other options as well, but the main thing is that it must be a strict diet – the dog can consume nothing else for a set period of time – 8 to 12 weeks would be ideal, because research has shown that some dogs respond to new diets after 3 weeks. No treats, even.
If you start to notice an improvement in the dog, try giving the dog the old food again. This will confirm that your results are valid and not just the placebo effect. If you don't notice any difference, you can try switching to a different protein-carbohydrate combination again, but give it a minimum of 8 weeks before you do.
It's best that the new diet administered be prepared at home, rather than store-bought, because the store-bought variety may contain corn and other things that may be the cause of the allergy itself. There is a lamb and rice variety of dog food on the market targeted towards allergies, but it's not recommended. It is quite a lot of work to prepare the food yourself, but most dog owners would agree that their dog is worth it!
by Loy Bond