Dogs are treated as beloved members of the family, and as such, you want to be able to provide the best quality food that will help maintain their good health and vitality. Whether you feed your pooch commercially prepared dog food, cook meals for them from scratch, or give them raw meat, you have to know how this food could be affecting your dog’s health, especially since allergies to pet food have become more common.
Food allergies cause up to 20% of all cases of scratching and itching in dogs because their allergies are particularly evident in the form of skin irritations. Aside from that, allergies can also cause skin redness, loss of fur, recurrent skin and ear infections, diarrhea, vomiting, or gassiness.
Is there such a thing as hypoallergenic dog food?
Unfortunately, no single type of meat, or brand or variant of commercial dog food, can be classified as hypoallergenic since different dogs will have different reactions to a wide range of dog food ingredients.
However, there are ingredients that have been found to be common allergens for dogs, and these include the following:
Grains and carbohydrates, in particular, are slowly becoming recognized as ingredients that should not be present in dog food because they can cause insulin resistance and inflammation, which can aggravate yeast infections and skin diseases that affect an overwhelming number of dogs across the globe. When dogs are fed starchy foods, yeast—a naturally occurring fungus in dogs’ natural body flora—will proliferate throughout the hair follicles, because starches are complex carbohydrates that turn into sugar, and yeast thrives on sugar.
Dry dog food, specifically, cannot be processed without grains since the carbohydrates or starch help produce more kibble (and there won’t be as much meat needed, so the dog food becomes less expensive to manufacture per calorie than fat or protein) and they help prolong shelf life.
So how should you choose what to feed your pet?
Each dog is different, so you have to be careful about studying what foods cause negative reactions in your pet and which ones appear to improve their health, appearance and energy.
Most vets will prescribe an elimination diet in order to identify the specific proteins or other food ingredients that could be triggering allergic reactions. The idea is to feed the dog a simplified diet for some weeks; often, this involves using novel proteins—meats that are not commonly available to dogs, such as rabbit, venison, quail, ostrich, kangaroo, goat, duck, bison, etc., as compared to beef, chicken and lamb.
Your dog’s simplified diet should include a novel protein and a carb, such as rabbit and potato, to replace a dog’s long-time diet of beef and rice, for example. If allergies continue to be observed, both the protein and carb must be changed until reduced allergic reactions and inflammatory conditions are seen.
Once a diet has been found to lessen or eliminate allergy symptoms in your dog, it’s best to stick to the diet until their natural efficacy wears off, since the dog will eventually develop reactions over time. It’s important to rotate ingredients until a new hypoallergenic diet is found.
The key is to monitor your pet’s diet and to understand his or her specific reactions to food. Finding nutritious, healthful food that is free of grains, soy, and additives that could harm health and aggravate allergies is highly essential in ensuring that your dog lives a healthy, wholesome life.