Around 5-10% of dogs are thought to suffer from some form of food allergy or intolerance. The former usually to something that they commonly eat, the latter to new foods.
The most common allergies are to wheat and surprisingly beef, with other allergens including pork, chicken, dairy, eggs, maize, soya and fish.
It can be difficult to recognize food intolerance in a pet, obviously they can’t tell us how they feel and symptoms are often attributed to minor ailments such as eczema, dermatitis or vomiting. Allergy tests carried out by vets can aid diagnosis, but can be costly.
Symptoms of Food Intolerances
If your pet commonly exhibits any of the following symptoms regularly, you should consult your vet:
• chronic vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea
• failure to gain weight or weight loss
• poor or dull coat
• General lethargy
• Itchy skin, eczema, red, inflamed skin, loss of hair
Once the vet has ruled out common causes of irritation or diarrhoea such as fleas, dermatitis, hay fever, infections or parasites, they will try to pinpoint the main culprit as most food-allergic dogs are hypersensitive to only one or two ingredients. This will be done by an exclusion diet which involves putting the dog on a specialist diet and allowing the dog to eat nothing else. If the symptoms disappear, this indicates that the dog may well have a food allergy. The ordinary food is then reinstated and if symptoms reappear, this confirms that the diet was causing them. The exclusion diet will then be used again but introducing different ingredients until the culprits are found.
Treating Food Allergies
Unfortunately, once identified it can be tricky to treat food allergies as currently pet food manufacturers in the UK are currently not obliged to name actual ingredients and some pet food labels use general terms such as ‘meat by-products’ and ‘cereal or animal derivatives’. You can either feed your dog a homemade diet or luckily there are a few dog food makes (http://www.swellpets.co.uk/dog/dog-food-698.html) makes that are designed with food intolerances in mind.
Brands such as Arden Grange (http://www.swellpets.co.uk/dog/dog-food-698/arden-grange-dog-food-929.html) which contains no beef, dairy, soya, wheat Gluten, artificial colours, artificial preservatives or artificial flavours, James Wellbeloved and Nature Diet are all hypo-allergenic foods designed to be eaten by the most sensitive of dogs and can be obtained from larger pet supply stores.
With a little bit of time your dog will be back to the healthy, happy dog he deserves to be. •