“Lifestyle diseases” are becoming more and more common, and not just among us humans. Our dogs are also affected by them. One example of which is food allergies. We still don’t know exactly why our four-legged friends develop food allergies. Most often it tends to be due to genetic predisposition. Various environmental influences or an imbalance in the gastrointestinal tract during puppyhood can also cause allergies later on in life.
Although food allergies are most often discovered in puppies and young dogs, they occur completely independently of age or breed. In principle, they are easy to treat, but difficult to diagnose. Patience, accuracy and awareness will help you and your dog get back to a relaxed daily routine as soon as possible.
Food allergy and food intolerance look identical to the layman at first glance. And that’s not too far off, because the symptoms are practically the same. However, two biologically different processes are at work here. With allergies, the immune system reacts to what is actually a completely harmless substance in food, and treats it like a pathogen that needs to be destroyed. With intolerances, the organism simply lacks an enzyme needed to utilise a specific substance.
When it comes to the amount of the unwelcome substance, it is important to distinguish between allergy and intolerance. While a small dose can often be absorbed by the body when it comes to intolerances; even a tiny portion of the trigger can cause a violent allergic reaction in an allergy.
What a dog is allergic or intolerant to is, of course, as individual as the animals themselves. In principle, our four-legged friends can develop an allergy or intolerance to any ingredient. Sometimes it is a certain protein that is not tolerated. In other cases, the reaction is triggered by lactose or soy. Incorrectly stored dried food can attract parasites or fungal spores, which can also be fatal.
Cereals are cited as a common trigger in numerous studies. This is one of the reasons why we at DOG'S LOVE opt for grain-free dog food.
Diagnosing a dog food allergy is not easy. For one thing, other triggers and causes can also underlie the symptoms. For another, there is often a delay between the immune system reaction to the "unwanted" substance and first contact. This means that the allergic reaction may not occur for the first time until days to weeks after ingestion. In the case of intolerance, the body usually reacts within the first few hours of first contact.
First, your trusted vet will check whether an infection, parasites or another physical ailment may be responsible for the symptoms. The next step is to find the exact ingredient or ingredients in the food that the dog is allergic to.
A blood test is an option, but unfortunately it can only determine whether an allergic reaction has occurred, but not exactly which substance triggered it. The best way to find the culprit is the elimination diet. The dog is provided with food containing only one source of protein and one source of carbohydrate for a period of at least eight weeks. It is important that your four-legged friend has never been fed these before.
If no new reaction occurs after at least (!) eight weeks, then it is assumed that the new food sources are tolerated. Now you can slowly add individual ingredients back into the food to perform a provocation test. If the dog experiences another allergic reaction, you will have found the trigger.
If you know exactly what your pet is allergic to, make sure that family and friends are also informed so that your dog isn't fed any "wrong" treats. When buying medicine and dental care products, pay attention to the ingredients. Any amount, no matter how small, is harmful. If, after the elimination diet, you decide to prepare the food yourself from now on, get comprehensive advice to ensure that the diet is healthy and balanced for your pet.
At DOG'S LOVE, for example, our Hypo Horse or Hypo Duck wet food products contain rare proteins that are usually very well tolerated by allergy sufferers. The same applies to insect dog food and our specially developed Insect Pur feed, with black soldier fly protein. We aim to make even your nutritionally sensitive four-legged friends happy and satisfied.