It is alleged that about half of American dogs have some sort of allergy issues. Of this overwhelming number of dogs suffering from allergies, is estimated that 10 to 20% of all dog allergies are in fact food-related.
Warning sign of Dog Food Allergies
Adverse reactions to food ingredients can manifest by skin conditions, respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), neurological or blood reactions. Yet for dogs, the skin and GI tract seems to be the two systems most commonly affected. It's no wonder that many dogs that suffer from skin ailments will also have some sort of GI disease as well.
A food allergy has some common symptoms so it is important to recognize and look for certain conditions in your dog if you suspect a food allergy: itchy skin (this is the most common), excessive scratching, increased bowel movements, chewing and licking of the same area of the body (such as the paw or base of tail), and hair loss. In the most extreme cases of ear infections, chronic vomiting, and hot spots can also develop.
Most allergies that are directly related to dog food usually start when the dog is between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. This may also explain why many pet parents will make the switch to a raw food diet when their pet reaches 5 or 6 years of age.
Food That Cause Allergies
While switching your pet to a raw food diet certainly will improve your pet's overall health, decrease the added stress on the digestive system, and strengthen the immune system, there are certain foods that are more likely to cause allergies than others. The following list of ingredients is the most probable cause of food allergies in dogs:
You'll notice that the foods listed above are in almost all dog foods. And while 90% of our nation's dogs are able to tolerate these ingredients, it's the remaining 10% that can't handle these foods and will suffer from severe allergic conditions. These pet owners will be the ones desperately searching for relief for their companion animal. Yet unless you take the time to source and make your own homemade food for your dog, you will undoubtedly have a very hard time finding many dog food products that do not contain these 9 ingredients.
It's also important to note that since most commercial dry dog foods contain similar ingredients, merely switching between brands usually has little effect on the actual disease.
However, we have found great success in recommending a switch to a raw food diet. The difference is that the food is fed raw, not cooked. This is the way your dog was designed to eat. Raw foods put far less stress on your pet's digestive system, which allows the body to use its energy to natural fight the allergens that are attacking it.
It is for this reason that a large percentage of the new raw food feeders that we speak with are simply struggling to find a way to reduce the negative effects of feeding their pet a heat-processed food. These pet parents have found that the continuous, long-term ingestion of heat-treated dry food has been shown to trigger the majority of allergy symptoms in their pets.
How to identify A Food Allergy
One of the most effective ways to pinpoint the source of the allergic reaction is with an elimination diet. The goal here is to avoid the specific allergen that is aggravating the animal. You must find the specific protein source that is causing the problem. It is important to find a hypoallergenic test diet that contains a very limited number of ingredients and that has not been previously fed to the dog. Ask your veterinarian for advice on the best bland diet to start with. Other things to eliminate are treats, chew toys, rawhides, etc. - basically anything else that your dog can get his paws and mouth on.
Once your dog is stabilized and has not had a negative reaction to the bland food diet, you can start to reintroduce other protein choices gradually. Be sure to watch your pet's allergy condition carefully. When your dog reacts negatively to a newly introduced protein, you can specifically isolate the culprit and remove it from your pet's diet to avoid further allergic reactions.