Allergies and Intolerances can manifest themselves in dogs of any age. Some may have them as a puppy and grow out of them, others may need the allergies/intolerances managed for the rest of their lives. Others can develop an allergy/intolerance in later life.
Allergies are different to intolerances. Allergies generally involve the characteristic symptoms of itching and skin problems. Intolerances, on the other hand, generally involve upset tummies, digestive problems and Diarrhoea. An easier way of understanding Intolerances would be to equate it to a person who gets an upset tummy from eating spicy food.
We recommend that if your dog is suffering from allergies or an upset tummy that you seek veterinary advice.
The common offenders
Certain ingredients have been shown to be more likely to cause an allergy than others. Studies indicate that beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish, corn, soy and wheat are recurring offenders. The irony is that they are some of the most common ingredients in dog foods.
How do I know if my dog has an allergy/intolerance?
Allergies can be discovered through blood testing via the Vet although there are some that argue that testing can often be inconclusive. Most Vets and Nutrionists agree that conducting an elimination diet is the one sure way to truly establish what foods are causing an allergy or intolerance.
Elimination/Exclusion Diets - The Prep
Before undertaking an elimination diet you need to commit to doing this properly otherwise it is difficult to truly understand what items in your dogs diet are causing the problems.
We do also recommend that if your dog is suffering from allergies or an upset tummy that you seek veterinary advice before deciding to commence with an Elimination Diet.
To successfully conduct an elimination diet we recommend the following:
- Don't introduce any generic treats or chews of any sort (for treats use the diet they are being feed)
- Don't administer any flavoured medication or supplements which could impact on the success of the trial
- Don't use toothpaste for brushing teeth
- Don't use flavoured toys (we recently heard of a case where the dog in question was allergic to certain rubbers and the rubber balls she used were causing a reaction)
- If you have a more than one dog feed your other pets the same food or if this is not possible feed them separately to ensure there is no cross over of food.
- Watch out for poo eating (whether it be from litter boxes or outside) and scavenging. If your dog is a regular poo eater/scavenger you may wish to consider lead walks or a muzzle during the diet period. You may not even realise your dog has this sort of problem if they are off lead and out of sight often on walks so be vigilant!
- Keep a journal of the trial/s conducted diets and of any mishaps that may have happened during the diet period. This may seem rather anal but if your dog does have serious issues and you really want to get to the bottom of things this can be extremely helpful.
Elimination/Exclusion Diets - Getting started
When you start the elimination diet the purpose is to trial a new source of protein and carbohydrate for at least 12 weeks (ideally one your dog has never tried before). Often potato is introduced as the carbohydrate base instead of rice.
Sometimes you can select a bought in diet but often it is easier to make up the food yourself as then you can guarantee the food source and limit it to the two ingredients rather than having multiple ingredients to eliminate.
If your dog has an instant very bad reaction to the food then we would recommend moving them off the food and trying something else but if not then do persevere for the full 12 weeks as often an intolerance/ allergy may not manifest itself in the first few weeks.
If you do not have the time or facilities to cook up your own food for your dog then we recommend that you opt for a food which has very transparent ingredients as the less ingredients, the easier it will be to identify allergens.
Avoid foods which list ingredients such as generic "cereals" or "meat and animal derivatives" as it will be almost impossible to determine what is causing the problem for your dog. These types of foods vary from batch to batch in their ingredient content so one batch may be fine for your dog and the next not.
If you need further help or assistance we would recommend you seek advice from your vet in the first instance but we are also more than happy to help with any information we can regarding introducing an Elimination Diet.
We hope you find this article useful but if you have any comments or feedback we are, of course, always open to your suggestions.
Copyright Note - We are happy for these articles to be shared but would ask that these are credited to us as it has taken us a long time to pull together all this information and research and it is our own wording so we would be upset to see this being reproduced without the appropriate credit.