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Caring for a Dog with Food Allergies

WebMD reveals the signs, symptoms, and triggers for food allergies in dogs.
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There’s specific testing to rule out other problems as well. For instance, you might take a sample of discharge from the ears to see if there's a problem there, or do skin testing for environmental allergies. Blood testing is not an accurate test for any allergy.

Q: Will changing my dog’s diet trigger a food allergy?

A: If the dog has been sensitized to something in that diet it could. There’s no way of knowing if your dog has been sensitized to an ingredient, though.

Q: Can my dog suddenly develop a food allergy to something that he’s eaten for years with no problems? Will this keep happening?

A: That’s common in food-allergic dogs. They have to be sensitized; they have to have been exposed for some period of time. So, in general, they’re not going to react really dramatically the first time they eat it but a dog that has eaten a food for years could suddenly become allergic to that food.

If an elimination diet improves the pet’s clinical signs and the owner is able to find two to three diets the dog can tolerate, I recommend rotating through them every two to three months. The whole point is to keep them stable for a period of months to years so you can eventually do their challenge testing to identify what the dog is really allergic to. If you’re really lucky, then you can go back to a more normal diet and not these expensive, exotic diets.

And if they’re young enough, food allergies sometimes do resolve themselves.

Q: How do I treat a dog with food allergies?

A: You can try to cover up the signs, but if you’ve got a disease that’s caused by what you put in your mouth every day, the best treatment is to stop putting that in your mouth every day. I use herbs all the time, and I do think they can help, but not as much as avoiding what’s causing the problem.

Q: Should I cook for my dog, rather than buy her food? What about a raw diet, will that help?

A: The upside of a cooked diet is you know exactly what’s going in it and you can control that. The disadvantage is it’s more trouble and, unfortunately, most people won’t do it right. They will leave off supplements, they won’t follow instructions, and they’ll end up giving their dog or cat an unbalanced diet.

There’s nothing magical about raw diets. Some dogs do very well on them and some dogs do not do very well on them. The protein structure might be different from that in a cooked or processed diet and that does make a difference for some dogs. But it’s not common enough that we need to tell everybody they should try a raw diet.

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