Contents of Article
What is food intolerance in dogs?
Food allergies have been on the rise in dogs as the variety of available food products, treats and supplements also expands. Recognizing a food allergy in your dog can mean the difference between misery and happiness!
Food allergies and intolerances are often used interchangeably, however their meanings are slightly different. Intolerances refer to ingredients that a dog may have trouble digesting, or may cause internal issues such as stomach ache, vomiting or diarrhea when attempting to eat it. Food allergies, on the other hand, are ingredients that cause an actual immune-related allergic reaction. This may range from small rashes or itchy bumps appearing on the skin to full-blow swelling and difficulty breathing called anaphylaxis. While food intolerances can be problematic for you and your dog, food allergies are much more serious and should be addressed immediately.
Ingredient issues have a large range of causes and cause may vary from breed to breed or even dog to dog. Some dog breeds such as Boxers can even have a genetic background of IBD or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a condition that makes the ability to digest certain proteins impossible leading to inflammation and widespread irritation of the digestive system. These medical conditions often cause serious issues in dogs until they are addressed and treated by switching foods or adding supplements to the diet.
Can I prevent food allergies in my dog?
Food allergies are usually not found until your dog has an actual reaction to the ingredient he or she may have an intolerance or allergy to. If you noticed your dog has been itching, having chronic diarrhea without resolution, or just doesn’t seem to appear healthy and happy, looking to the ingredients on his foods and even treats can help determine if a food allergy may be to blame. If the ingredient can be found and eliminated from the diet, then problems associated with food allergies can be prevented.
What should I do if I suspect my dog is allergic to something?
If you suspect your dog may have a problem with an ingredient in food or treats, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with a local vet. Ruling out other more serious health conditions is the first step to make sure it is an ingredient and not an illness causing problems. Your vet can also work with you through food trials or diet changes to carefully monitor and “sniff out” the problem food.
The most common ingredients that cause problems in dogs tend to be grain products such as corn, soy and wheat ingredients. There is a lot of controversy as to why this may be the case, ranging from experts who feel that dogs still need a primal diet like their ancestors had, to others wondering if recent changes in how we grow our food is to blame. Whatever the cause, if your dog has an allergy to a certain grain, switching to a less allergenic grain source such as rice or oats, or even choosing a non-grain carbohydrate such as sweet potatoes or peas may provide relief.
Proteins are often secondary in food related issues, and usually caused due to a genetic or internal condition causing the allergy. With IBD, certain proteins become hard to digest, or the body actually begins to mount an immune response to them. Switching to an alternate protein source that is not commonly used such as duck, venison or even buffalo may help. In dogs with severe issues, your vet may also recommend switching to a veterinary prescription diet that utilizes hydrolyzed proteins. These foods take the protein source and provide them in an already broken down format, bypassing the body’s recognition and attack on protein sources.
Natural remedies for food allergies in dogs
A dog can be allergic to almost any ingredient in a product, so knowing what your dog eats is key to helping provide relief and prevent a response to the problem food. Natural supplements and remedies can also help by giving the body an outside boost to break down problematic foods. Adding in probiotic supplements through a prescription from your vet or by adding in natural plain yogurt may help minor digestive issues by providing good bacteria that break down the food. Digestive enzymes added to the diet may also help if your dog has a condition where digesting certain ingredients is difficult, or if the body tends to mount an immune response to an ingredient. Working with your vet or holistic vet is key to finding the right balance of food and supplement to provide relief.