Dog's Itchy Skin
Relates to Food Allergies?
Dog's food allergies account for about 10% of all the allergies seen in dogs. It is the third most common cause after flea bite allergies and atopy (inhalant allergies) Food allergies generally account for 20% of the causes of itching and scratching in dogs.Yet food is the first to be blamed whenever a dog shows any sign of an allergic reaction (like itchy skin). And that begs the question, is it truly an allergy in the first place? Food Allergy — or Food Intolerance? Food allergies and food intolerances are two completely different issues.
The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those of most allergies seen in dogs and cats. The primary symptom is itchy skin affecting primarily the face, feet, ears, forelegs, armpits and the area around the anus. Symptoms may also include chronic or recurrent ear infections, hair loss, excessive scratching, hot spots, and skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after antibiotics are discontinued. There is evidence that dogs with food allergies may sometimes have an increased incidence of bowel movements. One study showed that non-allergic dogs have around 1.5 bowel movements per day where some dogs with food allergies may have 3 or more per day.
It is difficult to distinguish an animal suffering from food allergies from an animal suffering from atopy or other allergies based on physical signs. However, there are a few signs that increase the suspicion that food allergies may be present. One of these, is a dog with recurrent ear problems, particularly yeast infections. Another, is a very young dog with moderate or severe skin problems. A third tip off, is if a dog suffers from allergies year-round or if the symptoms begin in the winter. And the final clue, is a dog that has very itchy skin but does not respond to steroid treatment.
Blood Testing: There is no evidence that blood tests are accurate for the diagnosis of food allergies. Veterinary dermatologists insist that there is no merit in these tests whatsoever in the diagnosis of food allergies. The only way to accurately diagnose food allergies is with a food trial .
The treatment for food allergies is avoidance.Once the offending ingredients have been identified through a food trial, then they are eliminated from the diet. Short-term relief may be gained with fatty acids, antihistamines, and steroids, but elimination of the products from the diet is the only long-term solution.The owner of the animal has two choices. They can choose to feed the animal a special commercially prepared diet or a homemade diet.
If the owner chooses to feed the homemade diet, then they can periodically challenge the pet with new ingredients and determine which ingredients are causing the food allergy. For example, if the animal's symptoms subsided on a diet of rabbit and potatoes, then the owner could add beef to the diet for two weeks. If the animal showed no symptoms, then they could then add chicken for two weeks. If the animal began to show symptoms, then it could be assumed that chicken was one of the things the pet was allergic to. The chicken could be withdrawn and after the symptoms cleared up, a different ingredient could be added and so on until all of the offending ingredients were identified. A diet could then be formulated that was free of the offending food sources.
If homemade diets are used, it is essential that they be balanced, with correct amount of ingredients, vitamins, and minerals. Homemade diets for such long term use should be developed by a veterinary nutritionist.
A Final Word
This article is designed to help you make a more informed decision when choosing dog food. Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt consult a veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist for help