What can I do to help my dog with food allergies?

Your dog can develop food allergies, just like humans can. Here, our Ajax and Pickering vets explain what symptoms and signs might indicate a food allergy and what your best diet options are to help your pet.

Understanding Your Dog's Food Allergies

Food allergies or hypersensitivities can lead to unpleasantness for you and your dog. As a pet owner, it's important to understand what possible symptoms can look like and what to do if your dog is suffering from allergies.

What signs should I watch out for?

Unlike a human's reaction to, say, a shellfish allergy, a dog's food allergies are generally expressed as out-of-season itching. Common symptoms include red skin or rashes, particularly on the ears and feet. In some cases, allergies may cause a dog to develop gassiness, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Most commonly, these signs will appear before the dog's first birthday, but a food allergy can develop at any point in your pet's life.

How is a food allergy diagnosed?

Getting a proper diagnosis for food allergies can be a lengthy process and involves an 'elimination' food trial using hypoallergenic dog foods. Your dog should be fed the new food exclusively for at least 8-10 weeks — sometimes longer for breeds like Cocker Spaniels or Labrador Retrievers.

After symptoms improve, you'll need to switch back to the original diet to confirm the diagnosis. If accurate, the original symptoms should reappear within two weeks.

What diet options are available?

These days, there are many different options in the market, both over-the-counter and from your vet. Here are some of the most popular types of diet foods available:

Limited Ingredient Dog Food

These foods address the presence of allergens by reducing to just one protein source, such as beef, lamb, or chicken. Sometimes, these are also reduced to a single carbohydrate source and some are even grain-free.

Novel Ingredient Dog Food

A novel ingredient in dog food is one that scraps common proteins that can cause your pet's allergies to flare up — beef, chicken, etc. — and replaces them with duck, salmon, or other less-common proteins that are new to your dog's system. Many limited ingredient foods will often use novel carbohydrates, leading to combinations like venison and potato.

Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food
A hydrolyzed protein dog food is one in which the protein in the food is broken down into pieces which are so small that the immune system doesn’t react to them. 

What's the right one for my pet?

Ultimately, your dog's best diet option is going to be specific to his or her allergy and needs. Your veterinarian is going to be able to correctly diagnose if your dog's symptoms are indeed a result of an allergy and make the best recommendations for your pet's health, including prescription dog food if need be.

If you think your dog might have a food allergy, contact one of our Pickering and Ajax veterinarians today to book an appointment.