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DOG / nutrition

Allergies & Your Dog’s Food: When It’s Time to Switch Foods


Your dog’s food should be a source of enjoyment and nutrition, not bellyaches and itching. If you’ve noticed your playful pup hasn’t been feeling quite up to snuff, the culprit could be a dog food sensitivity. As a pet parent, you want your furry best friend to feel their best so they can live their best life. If you’ve noticed changes in your pet’s behaviour regarding excessive itching or restroom habits, a dog food allergy could be to blame. The good news is that if it is determined that your dog does have an allergy to their food, simply switching to a new dog food for food sensitivities could get rid of their symptoms and help them get back to living their best life! 


How Do I Know If My Dog Is Allergic to Their Food?


It can be tricky to pinpoint what is causing your pup’s discomfort. Because the symptoms of a dog food allergy such as itching, diarrhea, vomiting are not necessarily unique, a dog food allergy could be easily overlooked as the root cause of the symptoms your pup is displaying. The most common signs and symptoms of a true dog food allergy are:


  • Itchy Skin
  • Diarrhea


There are also a few more subtle changes you should be on the lookout for, such as:


  • Sneezing
  • Itchy Or Infected Ears
  • Runny/Itchy Eyes
  • Constant Licking
  • Hyperactivity
  • Weight Loss
  • Lack Of Energy


If your dog is having one or more of these symptoms, they could be caused by an allergic reaction to their dog food. However, some of these symptoms could be signs of other conditions, so you should make an appointment with your vet for a proper diagnosis to be sure.


In dogs with food allergies, their immune system produces antibodies against part of their food. Believe it or not, feeding your pup their favorite food for a prolonged amount of time could be the direct cause of their body’s allergic reaction. Long-term and repeated exposure to the same brand, type, or form of food can cause your dog’s body to produce antibodies against the foreign substances in their food, and therefore contribute to the development of an allergy. 


Allergy Vs Intolerance


There is a difference between a true food allergy and a food intolerance. One obvious factor that distinguishes the two is that a food intolerance usually happens on the initial exposure to a particular food or ingredient. In contrast, a food allergy generally requires multiple exposures over a period of time before any sort of sign or symptom is seen. Determining whether your dog has a true food allergy or an intolerance to a certain food has to do with whether or not their immune system is involved. 


Common Culprits of Dog Food Allergies


A study completed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the most common allergens that cause adverse food reactions in dogs include:


  • Beef
  • Dairy Products
  • Chicken
  • Wheat
  • Lamb 


If mealtime for your pup typically includes one or more of these ingredients, it could be time to make a change. However, these are not the only ingredients that can produce an allergy. Though proteins are the most common cause, additives and other ingredients and substances found in your dog’s food could also be the responsible party.


If you suspect your dog may suffer from dog food allergies, getting a veterinarian involved is always a good idea. Your vet will help you rule out any other possible conditions that could be causing their symptoms and can provide a proper, accurate diagnosis. If your dog has a severe allergic reaction (such as anaphylactic shock), get them to an emergency veterinarian immediately.


How Are Dog Food Allergies Treated?


The first step to treating your canine companion’s food allergy is to identify the offending ingredient. Once you’ve found the culprit, your vet will probably recommend that you change your dog’s food in order to eliminate that substance from their diet for a period of time (usually 8-10 weeks). Depending on your dog’s individual needs, your vet may suggest that you try a specific dog food for allergies. A wide range of specialized dog food diets are available, such as limited-ingredient, vet-authorized or grain-free dog food to alleviate their symptoms and discomfort.


How Do I Transition My Dog To A New Food?


Avoid changing your dog’s food all at once. An abrupt change from their regular food to dog food for allergies can cause adverse reactions including gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea. Instead, aim for a gradual transition by adding in a little bit of the new food at a time. Try to incorporate 25% of the new diet for the first two days and be on the lookout for any reactions or symptoms. If you don’t notice any reactions, then mix 50% of the new food with the old for days 3-5. On day 5, you can transition to 75% new food, and then finally on day 7, you should be feeding them 100% of their new dog food for allergies. 


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Information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure your pet and is not a substitute for veterinary care provided by a licensed veterinarian. For any medical or health-related advice concerning the care and treatment of your pet, contact your veterinarian.