A diet adapted to your dog is essential for his well-being. Many food allergies can affect dogs. Unfortunately, some can be serious if you let them take hold.
Dogs’ food allergies can be due to certain proteins contained in industrial kibbles and pâtés, but also in dog treats or household rations.
How to spot a food allergy in dogs, and how to remedy it?
What is a canine food allergy?
A canine food allergy is caused by your dog’s immune system. The latter overreacts to the proteins present in its diet.
Definition of food allergy in dogs
The definition of food allergy in dogs was established by the American Society for Allergies and Infectious Diseases during its congress in 1988. According to this definition, food allergy is an exaggerated immune reaction to one or more allergens, most often proteins, contained in its food.
Just like us, dogs can develop food allergies the first time they ingest a food to which they are sensitive. It is then necessary to find the allergen in question to quickly improve the state of health of your four-legged friend.
Difference between food allergy and food intolerance in dogs
Food intolerance is due to the ingestion of foods that should not have been given to your dog, such as chocolate or onion for example. It can also be caused by food poisoning after eating a meal outside your home. With food intolerance, symptoms develop within hours and usually go away within days.
On the other hand, when it comes to a food allergy, the symptoms appear gradually and are more insidious. It may take a few weeks or a few months before you notice it. The allergy is then installed, and the food in question must be excluded from the diet of your dog.
What are the symptoms of a canine food allergy?
Canine food allergy can manifest itself in different ways, both in the puppy and in the dog. The most frequent symptoms are then:
- Weight loss,
- Itching, etc.
If your dog has a food allergy, his immune system will consider certain foods to be foreign bodies. As a result, your dog will react by creating mucus and releasing certain skin irritants.
In the most serious cases, the inflammation is so important that your dog will no longer be able to digest his food and will develop kidney failure at the same time. Fortunately, you can take action beforehand, as a serious allergic reaction is accompanied by warning signs such as:
- Intense itching,
- Breathing difficulties,
- Loss of appetite.
When these symptoms appear, it is very important to act quickly.
What foods are involved in dog food allergy?
Dog food allergies are much more common than those in humans, but they are usually not as serious and can be easily controlled.
Soy protein allergies are much more common in puppies. Certain genetically modified plants such as corn or rapeseed also increase the risk of having a food allergy.
Casein and lactoferrin (milk protein) are common allergens in 50% of dogs. Pregnant females can be affected by a more serious form of this allergy called lactose hypersensitivity syndrome.
There is a difference between wheat allergies and wheat intolerances. Dogs with wheat intolerance are affected by fructosamine, a residual protein in the wheat grain, so they will exhibit symptoms similar to those of older people with arthritis.
In contrast, an allergy to wheat, and particularly to gluten, can suffer from chronic intestinal inflammation over the years. We then speak of celiac disease, or even disease of the small intestine of the dog.
It has recently been discovered that certain proteins in fish caught at sea are responsible for food allergies in dogs. In some cases, these allergies can cause a violent and extremely serious reaction.
Even though meat is the staple diet for dogs, it can cause food allergies. The following are in particular in question:
- Chicken meat, and more particularly egg white and the peptides present in chicken meat,
- Beef, due to the urea found in raw meat or even cooked at low temperatures,
- Canned meat, due to additives such as egg white, corn, soy, etc.,
- Raw, frozen meats or even cold cuts.
This list is not exhaustive, there are still a multitude of food allergens. Sometimes the symptoms even appear without being able to identify the cause …
How to treat food allergy in dogs?
If the allergy is recent and you notice it quickly without your dog experiencing severe symptoms, you can start by eliminating all the treats you give him, and stick to just one brand of food.
If your dog is still showing signs of allergies after a few weeks, then you will know that it is from his kibble or any other diet. Keep the label of the composition of its food, the offending food is there!
You can then consult your veterinarian with confidence. The latter can carry out various tests if he judges the allergy to be serious, such as blood, skin or respiratory tests. But most often, a strict diet will be chosen so that your dog no longer develops allergic signs due to his diet.
The avoidance diet in dogs
If you are unsure which protein is causing your dog, the first treatment considered is often dietary restriction. This is referred to as an exclusionary regime.
It allows you to test the sensitivity to a food by gradually eliminating it step by step. Then, the food is replaced at regular intervals to determine if it causes a food allergy and in what form.
The hypoallergenic diet in dogs
The hypoallergenic diet consists of giving the dog only animal protein and raw grains, which you should choose from lean meats (chicken, turkey, rabbit) and fish (salmon, trout, herring).
They are most often successful and advised in cases of atopic dermatitis. The hypoallergenic diet excludes soy derivatives, artificial ingredients and preservatives.
A dog that is sensitive to certain foods does not heal. To date, there is no desensitization treatment. If the food in question is identified, it will suffice to ban it for life from your dog’s menus. Otherwise, a strict and adapted diet will be enough for your companion to have happy days!