Don't Blame That Itching on Fleas: Hypoallergenic Dog Food Might Help
Since you're a loving dog owner, you're likely on the lookout for even the tiniest sign that your pet's life is not as comfortable as you can possibly make it. So when doggie starts scratching at his tummy or biting at his back, you may immediately whisk him or her to the vet for a flea dip. You'll also and use flea bombs all over the house in an attempt to have a flea-free environment for doggie's return.
But what if you've done all of that, and within thirty minutes of returning home, the scratching and biting begins all over again?
If your dog shows signs of allergies, and you are totally certain it is not from inhalants in the environment, fleas in his coat or other health problems, your dog might suffer from food allergies. Before changing to a hypoallergenic dog food, there are a few things to consider.
As an example, if, your dog has been eating one particular food or a favorite snack for several months or even years, he or she might have developed an allergy to one of the ingredients in the that food.
Your dog can go for months or even years consuming the same food with no problem, but after a period of time his or her immune system might be accumulating enough antibodies to eventually result in an allergic reaction. If your dog has an adverse reaction to a food the first time he or she eats it, this is a food intolerance created by a toxin in the food (and there are, unfortunately, many more of them than you’d like to think) but it’s not an allergic reaction.
Although it’s natural to think that if your dog has a food allergy, he or she will exhibit indigestion like nausea or diarrhea, almost all canine food allergies bring about severely itching skin, and dogs with food allergies usually chew constantly at their legs and paws. If your dog has intestinal distress after a meal, you are almost certainly looking at food intolerance and not an allergy.
The problem in diagnosing food allergies in canines is that most dogs who are allergic will suffer from more than one allergy at a time. So even if you were to try to diagnose your dog’s food allergy by changing his or her diet, and your dog began exhibiting the itching skin of a flea allergy, you might mistakenly think the modification in diet was not effective in curing the food allergy.
Uncovering the Source of the Allergy
The only way to find out if the change in diet has been effective is to rule out all other possible causes for your dog’s symptoms, and put your pet on what is known as an "elimination trial" diet. You will feed your dog a diet which contains a single protein and a single carbohydrate which you have never fed before, and water, for a period of 2 & 3 months. Because a food allergy might take months or years to emerge, your dog will not be allergic to the new foods and will not likely become allergic to them in that short amount of time.
Your vet may either advise a commercial food which will suit the purposes of your elimination trial diet, or may advise that you prepare your dog’s food at home. While your dog is on the elimination diet, you’ll have to be disciplined enough to avoid feeding treats or table scraps, and put away the chew toys. If there are other dogs around, keep your pet away from their droppings. Some dogs will nibble on other dogs’ waste, and even that will be enough to invalidate your elimination trial diet.
If your dog’s symptoms are seriously improved after two or three months on the elimination trial diet, you’ll be certain that a food allergy was causing them. If they haven’t improved, or have worsened, you’ll have to look elsewhere for their cause, but you can let your pet return to the old way of eating.
One caution: if you decide to create your dog’s elimination trial diet yourself, it won’t be fortified with the essential vitamins, trace minerals, and fatty acids needed to sustain your pet’s health. Therefore you’ll have to get supplements and add them to the food before feeding your pet.
Nothing is as terrible to you, a loving dog owner, as watching your cherished companion suffer needlessly. If your puppy is constantly itching and biting, and you are reasonably certain that fleas are not the culprit, talk to your vet about what you can do to determine if a food allergy is the culprit!
After you have confirmed that food allergies are responsible for your dog's biting and itching, your vet might propose trying a hypoallergenic dog food.
Sharda Baker has published several dog ebook and audios, including the internet best selling "Complete Guide to Your Dog's Nutrition" which covers many things including hypoallergenic dog food.