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Does My Dog Have Food Allergies?

Allergies in dogs has become an all too frequent malady. While they can become allergic to most anything, just like us, there are some things you can do to help your pet avoid food allergies.

Ian Billingshurst, veterinary author of “Give Your Dog A Bone” advises “balance, over time, through variety”.

It’s important to remember that whether it’s a chihuahua or an irish wolfhound, ALL dogs still have the same dentition and digestive systems as wolves. Dogs are carvivores! The vast majority of their diet should be meat and bone. Let me repeat this all to often ignored fact….Dogs Are Carnivores!! They need meat!! While they WILL eat just about anything, the scientific term for this is “obligate omnivore”, that simply means if they can’t get the meat and bone they prefer and should have, they will eat whatever they can to survive. Barely surviving, however, is not a great plan. You could survive on pop tarts and candy, but you don’t have to be a dietician to know that is not a good idea. I repeat, dogs are carnivores. They need meat. They also, like us, need variety.

It is a common fallacy, all to often perpetuated by vets, who are typically taught nutrition in college by a representative of Purina or Hill’s, the makers of science diet, that you should find one food and stick to it for the life of the dog. WRONG!!! If you want to CAUSE an allergy, expose the body to something again and again until the immune system finally screams “ENOUGH”, in the form of an allergy.

While you should gradually introduce a new food, over a week or so, it is important to constantly change the protein source. There are hundreds of brands of food with top quality ingredients these days. If this bag was based on chicken, make the next one fish, the following one lamb, etc. There are also protein sources that are things we wouldn’t find in the grocery store, like venison, rabbit, duck etc. Like the wolf, the dog should get something different on a regular basis.

The quality of the food is also crucial. Just like the old dog food commercial used to say “meat costs more than cereal”. If the food says chicken, then that should be the FIRST ingredient listed. Remember, the ingredients are listed in the order of concentration. You will never see a pack of wolves grazing in a field of corn or wheat. While some dogs do fine with these added fillers, they will never be as healthy as if their food was based on meat, poultry or fish. You will notice that many of the top shelf foods even brag that there is NO grain. Soy and wheat should also be avoided as these are common allergens for dogs. If the ingredient says “meat” it can be any source of “meat” including road kill. yes, you read that right. “Meat” and “Animal” ingredients typically come from rendering plants. They can be any animal in any degree of decay or disease. Any food with these words should be avoided. If it says chicken, it has to be chicken. The government doesn’t care what we feed our dogs, only that the labels be honest.

Spend the extra money on top quality dog food with real meat, fish or poultry as the FIRST ingredient. Rotate the source of protein on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to feed healthy table scraps…..no cooked bones, skin or fat, please, just what is left on your plate. Don’t be afraid to feed eggs, canned fish and yogurt. Just remember that when adding anything extra do their meal, decrease the amount of kibble so as not to over-feed.

If your pet is already suffering from allergies, rather than continued shots of prednisone and itching meds, which only treat symptoms, not the actual problem, try a food allergy diet. Select a completely unique protein source food. Something they have never had before, like venison, duck or salmon. It will take at least two months to get all the other stuff out of their system and for this to be of any value whatsoever.

It is CRITICAL that they take nothing by mouth but THIS food and water. If they eat even a tiny corner of your toast and happen to be suffering from a wheat allergy, you will be back at square one for another two months. If after two months on this food, you see improvement in their skin and itching, you have your answer. If not, try another protein source. It does take time and committment but you will spend far less money on quality food than you are spending at the vet to constantly treat the symptoms and will be rewarded with a healthier, happier member of your family.