While people are quite accustomed to taking great caution when it comes to food allergies in children, they often overlook this very common occurrence in their canine counterparts. Dogs, like humans, can be allergic to nearly any food ingredient. This article will outline some of the most common foods to which dogs develop allergies to.
What is a Food Allergy?
Before going through the most common food allergies in dogs, it is important to understand what it actually means to have a food allergy. In dogs as in humans, a food allergy develops when the body mistakes a food for a harmful substance. The dog’s immune system responds with antibodies which in turn results in a multitude of dangerous symptoms. It is extremely important to note that the more a dog is exposed to an allergen, the worse the reaction will become. This means that while your dog may have had only a minor reaction the first time they encountered a food, the next time they eat it the symptoms could be much more severe.
In addition, it is important to make a distinction between allergy and intolerance when discussing abnormal reactions to food intake. Intolerance affects your dog’s digestive system, while allergy affects the immune system. Your dog may have an intolerance to a specific food for a number of reasons, but this does not mean they are allergic. Furthermore, a food allergy in your dog may first appear as intolerance, only to later develop into what we recognize as an allergic reaction.
Now that we have established a basic understanding of food allergies, let’s take a look at some of the most common foods to act as allergens for dogs.
Meat Protein Allergies
Meat proteins are among the most common food allergies that dogs develop. Unfortunately, this is particularly problematic, because nearly all dog foods contain meat proteins. The most common meat allergies in dogs are:
To make matters more complicated, most dogs that are allergic to one food ingredient are also allergic to others. In addition, many dog foods contain combinations of these meat proteins, meaning that once you have identified an allergic reaction in your dog, a process of trial and elimination administered by your vet will follow to determine what the allergens are and what is safe for your canine companion to eat.
Other Common Food Allergies
Aside from meat proteins, these common food allergens may affect your dog:
Again, when you take into account the most common meat protein allergens as well as these common allergens, there are very few dog foods that won’t contain at least one of these ingredients. This isn’t to say that you should avoid these ingredients when shopping for food, but do be aware that if your dog develops a food allergy it is oftentimes a long and difficult process to find a diet that suits him.
Treating Food Allergies in Dogs
So, you’ve determined that your pup is suffering from a food allergy. What now? Well, the answer is as simple as you might think: keep your dog away from the offending allergen or food. The process of identifying the allergen, however, is not so simple.
When you take your dog into the vet with a food allergy, they will place your pet on an elimination diet. This diet generally begins with one or two ingredients, such as chicken and white rice. Slowly, single ingredients are added to the diet as “challenges” to check for allergic reaction. Once an allergen is identified, your vet will recommend a balanced diet for your canine that does not include the food group to which he’s allergic. For example, if you determine via the elimination diet that your dog is allergic to salmon, the vet will probably recommend a diet without any fish products, because the allergy will often extend to the entire food family.
Additionally, your vet may recommend that corticosteroids to reduce swelling and/or antihistamines to help with itching be administered while the elimination diet is revealing the allergens, as the process can sometimes take weeks and your dog may still be exhibiting symptoms. In addition to avoiding the identified allergen, your vet may prescribe omega-3 oils and probiotics to boost your dog’s immune system after the allergic reaction.