Your dog is itchy or has digestive upset such as diarrhea and you are wondering if it could be from an allergy. How to recognize a food allergy, how to know which food your dog is allergic to and especially how to treat it?
Food allergy or intolerance?
The term “allergy” is often misused: not putting up with food does not necessarily mean that you are allergic!
It is important to clarify what exactly an allergy is: it is an exacerbated reaction of the immune system, that is to say the body’s defenses, vis-à-vis an agent outside the body, called an “allergen”.
Food allergies are caused by sensitization to allergens ingested from the dog’s diet. The allergens most often involved are meats, especially beef, dairy products, chicken, eggs, corn or even soy. There are other foods that are allergenic in addition to those mentioned, and a dog can be allergic to more than one food at a time.
Food allergy can start at any age.
It is important to distinguish between food allergy and food intolerance. The main difference lies in the “immunological” nature of the reaction: food intolerance does not involve any immune mechanism.
Food intolerance appears when there is a mismatch between the quantity or quality of the food on the one hand, and the digestive capacities of the animal on the other. This may be due to too much ingestion, transient digestive insufficiency in the animal, too sudden a food transition, or even poor digestibility of the food.
Food intolerance mainly causes digestive disorders.
Symptoms of food allergy
The disorders induced during food hypersensitivity are mainly skin disorders : itching mainly but also pimples, plaques as well as all the disorders resulting from pruritus.
Digestive disorders are rather due to food intolerance: diarrhea, gas, increased number of daily stools, sometimes vomiting.
Food allergy is only involved in 1% of skin conditions in dogs. The diagnosis is long and difficult. To find the allergen responsible for an allergy in a dog, you have to proceed in a specific order.
The most difficult: finding the responsible allergen!
After eliminating all other causes of allergies (fleas, other parasites, or contact with materials), the veterinarian will then turn to a food allergy.
He will then set up an exclusion regime. This consists of feeding the dog with food that he has never ingested before. It will therefore be necessary to try to remember what your dog may have eaten throughout his life to find a source of protein (fish, turkey, egg, duck) and a source of carbohydrates (potatoes, tapioca) that he does not have. has never had the opportunity to eat before.
This predatory diet should be done for at least two months (but sometimes it takes longer) to see if it improves the dog’s condition.
If this is the case, we then gradually reintroduce, one by one, foods likely to be responsible for allergic phenomena, in order to see if the symptoms reappear and thus find the responsible food. This is called the provocation test.
How to treat food allergy?
It is also possible to give the dog a so-called “hypoallergenic” food right away. These foods are made from protein and carbohydrate sources that dogs are not used to eating (and which are rarely responsible for allergic phenomena) or from protein hydrolysates (broken up proteins).
These foods allow an easier implementation of the management of food allergy while ensuring an optimal nutritional balance.
In case of a food allergy, it is important not to give treats or table scraps because these foods can trigger allergic manifestations.