If you are reading this article, you are probably pulling your hair out right about now trying to figure out what to do about your dog’s food allergies. One of my labs has food allergies, so I know what you are going through. It was a nightmare for my lab and I, but I learned along the way and I’d like to share what I learned.
The best way to tell if your dog has food allergies is to use a ”process of elimination diet”. What this means is, you basically will be feeding your dog a very strict diet consisting of very specific ingredients. One bite of a food that your dog is allergic to, will trigger a reaction. Unfortunately, this means treats too. Too many times, people change the diet and continue to give their dogs treats. Treats are filled with all kinds of nasty stuff for an allergy dog. It would be a good idea to tell the mailman, trash men and any neighbors to please not feed your dog treats because he has food allergies. I have a few ideas about treats that I will explain later in the article.
The very first thing you should do is read all the ingredients that are in the dog food you are feeding. Often times, a chicken dog food has chicken fat in it and amazingly most lamb dog foods have chicken fat in them too. Even some fish dog foods have chicken fat. So if your dog is allergic to chicken and you switch to a lamb or fish food with chicken fat in it, he is still going to have the same reaction.
After reading the ingredients, the next step is to look for a food that has completely different ingredients then what you are feeding your dog. You might try going with a grain free dog food just to knock out all the grains at once. If you go grain free, remember to do a slow transition so your dog’s stools stay good. Not all dogs have a problem with grains, but they can be the source of allergies in dogs.
The next step is to change the meat and remember not to forget what kind of fat your old food had in it. If your dog is now eating a food with rice in it, then buy a food with potatoes in it instead. When you introduce a new food to your dog, he may not like it. I personally, would take it back to the store for a refund and try something else that your dog does like. My one lab is picky and if I bring a new food in home and he doesn’t like it, I take it back for a refund.
Also, during the food transition, it would be a good idea to watch your dogs stools. If they get loose, back up a little on the new food for a day or two til they firm up. A little side note…if your dog’s stool does not firm up, take the food back for a refund. Most pet shops have no problem giving a refund if your dog does not tolerate the food.
I know most dogs love treats and I find it hard to not give my allergy dog treats. So, if I am feeding a lamb food, I buy treats that are 100% real lamb with no other ingredients in them. The cost might be higher but in the long run, a vet trip is worse. You could always buy meat from the store and bake it or dehydrate it for your dog. I’m sure your dog would love it! The key here is to feed the exact same meat for a treat that you are feeding in your dog’s food. With an allergy dog, the least amount of different ingredients, the better.
If you find a food that works and your dog’s allergies subside, you can start introducing new food. The best way to do this is to introduce one ingredient at a time to your dog. You should feed that same ingredient for two weeks. If your dog does not start chewing, licking, etc. in that time, you can rule out that food as an allergen.
Just a note, chicken, beef, potatoes, grains and beans are potential allergens for dogs. I really don’t like to pinpoint any specific food because it really depends on your dogs system. Fish seems to be a pretty safe bet as long as you pay attention to the rest of the ingredients in the food. If you do go with a fish food, please make sure the manufacturer doesn’t buy fish meal preserved with ethoxyquin. There are much safer fish meal preservatives that can be used.