Food Intolerances and allergies in dogs

It is estimated that around 10% of allergies found in dogs are down to the food they eat. And of these about 20% are responsible for persistent scratching and itching. Even though the exact process of allergies is not fully understood,  a genetic inheritance is one factor. Plus exposure to whatever it is they become allergic to and they become sensitised to a particular ingredient. It can be the case that a dog who eats the same food for many years could develop a sensitivity to something in the food and become allergic to it.

What's the difference between allergies and intolerances in dogs?

It's not uncommon for people to talk about intolerance and allergies as if they are one and the same. But there is a significant difference between the two. With an allergy, it is an autoimmune response to something whether it be food or a flea bite or something else non-food related, such as pollen or grass. There are recognised symptoms such as persistent itching and scratching and other skin problems. If your dog is intolerant to a particular ingredient they are most likely to suffer an upset stomach or diarrhoea, although this can also be symptomatic of an allergy.

Are there any typical foods that can cause allergies in dogs?

Some of the most common problem ingredients include beef, dairy, eggs, soya and wheat alongside any artificial flavourings and preservatives, which is why you won't find any of these in any of our recipes. However, any dog can be sensitised to a particular ingredient over time, which is why sometimes a dog will display allergy symptoms, despite eating the same food for many years.

Do some dog breeds suffer more allergy problems than others?

Anecdotally, from our own experiences, German Shepherds, some retrievers and cocker spaniels seem more prone. Allergy problems can show up as early as five to six months or as late as old age. And many dogs can be allergic to more than one food ingredient.

How do I know what's causing the problem?

The only true way to determine what's causing the problem is through an elimination diet, typically of 12 weeks duration. The best method is to introduce a unique single source protein/carbohydrate for the elimination period. Fortunately, Nutrix offers a range of foods that can assist in this, especially our grain-free dog food range. If, after the 12 weeks, the symptoms have reduced or eliminated, place your dog back on the original food to see if the symptoms flare up once again. This would confirm that the original food is the culprit. If the new food produced no change in the allergy symptoms, then a new diet must be tried. It can be a long and stressful process to determine the cause of the allergy. Blood testing is generally not considered successful in testing for food allergies but can be very helpful in testing for environmental allergies.

Treating an allergy problem

The only treatment for food allergies is to avoid the offending ingredient. Nutrix offer a range of single source protein recipes that are free from the common ingredients that cause allergies. If you find one or more diets that your dog can tolerate, then it is worth rotating them in order avoid the potential for sensitivity to a particular ingredient to happen again.

Many of our recipes also contain probiotics which help maintain healthy gut bacteria.

Will my dog be allergic for life?

Not necessarily. As with humans, dogs can lose the allergy to something over time, especially younger dogs. It is possible to re-test simply by introducing those ingredients that cause the allergy problems in the first place.


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Photo: Jeff Ro