Having a dog with food allergies can be tricky, especially if you’ve never dealt with it. Many of the signs of an allergic reaction to food in dogs don’t match what happens to a person--in dogs, the symptoms are far more subtle and long-lasting.
How do you catch these allergies? And more importantly, how can you prevent them from happening further? There are many ways to battle such issues with your pet, all of them relatively simple.
You may be thinking that you can’t afford to feed your dog stomach-sensitive food or that it’s difficult to make food for your pet. Well, we’re here to tell you that accommodating your pet’s food allergies is easier than you may think and much easier than reading your pet’s horoscope!
How to Identify That Your Dog May Have an Allergy
When dogs have allergic reactions to food, it’s not as simple to diagnose compared to those that occur in humans. Symptoms in humans are more visible and pronounced than those of our furry friends.
Your dog may be having an allergic reaction if you see any of the following symptoms:
- Itchy skin: Your furry friend might be having an unwanted reaction to food if they’re stopping to scratch more often than usual.
- Digestive disturbances: Yep, you guessed it. If they’re throwing up or having undesirable side effects, then they probably aren’t mixing well with the food they’re eating.
- Hyperactivity: Is your senior dog running around again like a puppy unexpectedly? It could be an allergy.
- Lack of energy: Maybe your pup is more lethargic and docile than usual. Food allergies can affect a dog’s energy level in the opposite direction of hyperactivity.
- Mood changes: The food your dog eats can alter its mood, even making it aggressive at times. Sometimes a mood change will occur with physical symptoms of allergies.
- Weight loss: Fluctuating weight or continued weight loss can be a sure sign that your dog may be reacting to a new food.
These are all indications that your dog might not be having the best reaction to their food. But what’s the solution?
What is my dog allergic to?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this question, but there are ways to narrow it down. The first step to this is an elimination trial.
What Can Dogs be Allergic To?
Most often, our furry friends are allergic to specific proteins. This makes the determination hard to nail down since protein is essential in their diets and constitutes a large portion of quality pet foods. Proteins, however, do not just limit allergies to meats! The protein in eggs, dairy, wheat, and even soy can cause a reaction.
In addition to proteins, we have to be aware that dogs have much more sensitive stomachs than we do. As a result, they can be allergic to almost anything, and each dog is different, making pinning down a specific source hard to do.
The elimination trial will consist of feeding your pet hypoallergenic food for a few weeks to begin identifying any foods that may be causing the allergy issues. Though cost-effective foods are on the market these days, making hypoallergenic dog food is the safest possible route because it allows for complete control over ingredients.
First, check the food that your pet is reacting to, and identify the protein. When dogs have stomach issues, move them to a bland diet consisting of a single protein and grain. Cook chicken and rice with no seasoning, shred the chicken and blend it.
After your dog has been fed this diet for a few weeks, you can begin to reintroduce other food. However, the tricky part is making sure that the recipe you’re testing is different from the one they reacted to. It’s also important to remember that the reintroduction of food should be done gradually, one ingredient at a time, to ensure that the variables are limited if another upset stomach occurs.
The last note to make here is that, while we may not like it, it’s crucial to limit their treats during this time, too. Wild One offers a healthful assortment of simple, clean dog supplements that you can substitute for regular treats during this trial period. They’re clean, which means that the ingredients are all-natural and promote wellness in areas that can react strongly to your dog’s allergies, like their skin and gut!
If all else fails, and your pet is still suffering from stomach problems, it’s possible to get your dog tested by a veterinarian to identify harmful foods. However, this is rare if you follow the steps to the elimination trial closely and monitor your dog’s reactions. If you’re having problems after you think you’ve tried everything, it’s probably time to make an appointment.
Diets to Consider
Not all hypoallergenic foods are equal. Your dog’s diet should be tailored to meet its specific needs based on age, breed, and activity level. The following diets can help lessen symptoms for some of the most common ailments occurring in dogs.
Grain Free Food
Though dogs can’t technically get celiac disease as humans can, they can be susceptible to gluten allergies. Dogs with gluten allergies shouldn’t eat food made with grains. When you switch your dog to a grain-free diet, closely monitor them. If your dog is not gluten sensitive, a grain-free diet could do more harm than good. Additionally, a lot of grain-free dog foods contain good vegetables for your pup, like pumpkin.
Specific Meat Food
Dogs’ stomachs can have issues digesting specific proteins, like beef or lamb. Many foods on the market are protein-specific, which guarantees the food is made from only certain meats. Often, when a dog has issues with grazing meats, like beef, you can find similarly priced food that is only poultry or seafood-based! There are even foods that make it a point to exclude chicken eggs, as it can also be a source of irritation for some dogs.
Filler Free Food
In the days of old, dog food was almost always made with “fillers.” These fillers add no nutritional value to the animal’s food and only provide the sensation of being full. It’s best to avoid these foods and treats, as they do nothing for your pet. Luckily, most pet food companies have started to shy away from these fillers, but it’s best to check the label when you’re making a purchase. Ingredients to stay away from are corn, seed hulls, and animal by-products, to name just a few. Remember to read your labels! It’s just as crucial for your pet’s food as it is your own.
Sometimes it’s just far healthier--and fun--to make food for your pooch on your own. There are plenty of recipes online for dogs with sensitive stomachs, and they are all relatively easy to make on your own. You may want to consider this option if you try the Elimination Trial route when identifying your furry friend’s needs. You can start simple, with just protein and rice, and as you want to branch out and find what your dog prefers, you can add safe-to-eat fruits and vegetables to the food. Remember, your dog’s palette can change just like yours, so switch it up now and then!
So Many Options
While the number of options on the market may seem a little overwhelming, it is comforting to know that no matter the issue your pet may be facing, you’ll be able to find a solution. When it comes to pet nutrition and allergies, be patient.
One of the best things to keep in mind is that, like with food and treats meant for people, the smaller the number of ingredients, the better, especially if you can pronounce all of them! Simple nutrition is better when ingredients are accessible and without unnecessary additives. Find your next dog food, and keep your pup happy and healthy!