Perhaps your furry friend develops flatulence or diarrhoea when you start a new diet. Or, maybe their skin becomes itchy and red every time you offer fish. Could they have a food allergy? If so, what can be done?
What exactly is a food allergy?
While it is common for an owner to say that their dog is ‘allergic’ to grain or chicken, it is more likely that they have a sensitivity. True IGE-mediated food allergies (as experienced by an egg allergic child who can go into anaphylaxis from eating food containing eggs) are rare in dogs.
What isn’t a food allergy?
It’s important to emphasize that food allergies and sensitivities are sometimes over diagnosed by owners and vets alike. The only real way to know if a dog reacts to a food is to remove it completely from their diet. Even if all symptoms resolve, this alone does not prove an allergy. We have to challenge the immune system and reintroduce the food. If symptoms recur, we can be confident the food causes trouble and should be removed from the diet.
In reality, this is not always done. This is mainly because it is hard to convince an owner to feed a suspected allergen when their dog is finally symptom free.
Keep in mind that certain rich or inappropriate foods (like bacon or butter) are likely to cause digestive upset in all dogs.
Adverse Food Reactions
We use the term ‘adverse food reaction’ in the veterinary community. This refers to symptoms (such as loose stool) that are brought on by eating a certain food. Truthfully, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to food reactions and many dogs are though to be allergic or sensitive to a food when something else may be the culprit.
Symptoms can include itchy skin, diarrhoea, vomiting and chronic ear infections. Of course, these symptoms can have many other causes so we should not always presume an adverse food reaction is occurring.
Are some dogs more prone to adverse food reactions?