Dogs tend to gobble up most food items placed in front of them, including certain types of human food that are not the least bit dog-friendly. You might be aware of food items that are toxic to dogs, but did you know that dogs can have food allergies too? If you notice your beloved canine displaying unusual behavior, such as biting its feet, rubbing its face or ears on furniture, scratching itself non-stop, or showing increased signs of aggression, then your dog could be suffering from a food allergy. Fortunately, you can address these food allergies by making changes to your dog's diet.
Common triggers of food allergies in dogs
A healthy diet can lead to a happy dog, but what constitutes as "a healthy diet" may vary from dog to dog. Even commercial dog foods can contain common food allergens. Normally, these allergens would be harmless substances, but your dog's immune system might treat them as harmful irritants and respond accordingly. This is what triggers an allergic reaction. Here are some of the most common food allergens in dog food.
Proteins. It might surprise you to know that dogs can be allergic to certain proteins, such as chicken, beef, and eggs. Beef and poultry might not always be the best choice for your dog's diet. If this is the case, it is important that your dog still gets enough protein in other ways.
Dairy. Milk and other dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, require significant amounts of the enzyme lactase to digest. Dogs don't have large enough quantities of lactase in their digestive systems, which makes it difficult for them to break down dairy products.
Genetically modified foods. If it isn't good for you, then chances are it probably isn't good for your dog either. Some genetically modified foods you'll want to avoid feeding your dog include soy, alfalfa, zucchini, yellow squash, canola, beets, and papaya.
Recommended dietary changes
Your vet might treat your dog's food allergies with antihistamines or other similar medications, but these only alleviate the symptoms of the allergies, rather than tackle their underlying cause. A complete change in your dog's diet might be the best solution to address this. If your dog does not react well to conventional dog food brands, then perhaps you should ditch those commercially processed dog foods and make your own dog food mix.
Home-cooked stew. You can use human-grade ingredients to make a home-cooked stew that follows a basic formula of 30 percent protein, 30 percent vegetables, 20 percent carbohydrates, and 20 percent fats. This should make a well-balanced diet that minimizes your dog's exposure to food allergens. You can then add a teaspoonful of sunflower, fish, or olive oil for every 20 lbs. of your dog's body weight.
Food elimination diet. A food elimination diet removes the common triggers listed above from your dog's diet. This requires switching to a food that features a novel protein source. Some recommended hypoallergenic meat protein sources include bison, kangaroo, pheasant, emu, alligator, and yak. Your dog must stick to this diet for at least 12 weeks. Once your dog's allergy symptoms subside within the one-week period, you can then reintroduce new foods, with one new food item per week. This will allow you to rule out any suspected allergens since you will be able to observe how your dog responds to each new food.
Hydrolyzed protein diet. With a hydrolyzed protein diet, the carbohydrate and protein molecules should be broken down into such small quantities that they won't trigger any allergic reactions in your dog.