Pets experience allergies to pollen, flea bites and even food. With a food allergy, the immune system reacts adversely to one or several ingredients in the diet. Some pets become hypersensitive when they develop an abnormally intense reaction to certain ingredients.
The most common food allergens for dogs are beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy and milk. Contrary to what many people think, a food allergy isn't a reaction to a new ingredient in the diet but, as with other types of allergies, a reaction to ingredients the pet's immune system recognizes. Allergic reactions in pets can result in an uncontrollable itch on one part of the body or all over. Food-allergic pets tend to scratch intensely at their ears, eyes, feet and belly or groin area or it may cause vomiting or diarrhea.
Risk Factors and Detection
There are no known risk factors for food allergy. However, food allergies affect about 10% of dogs. Unlike other types of allergies, food allergies don't target a specific breed or gender.
If your pet's symptoms persist throughout the year, regardless of season, and other treatments are not helping, your veterinarian may suspect a food allergy. Detecting a food allergy in your pet is relatively simple, but it requires time and discipline. Unfortunately, there is no reliable diagnostic test for food allergies other than a strictly controlled elimination diet. An elimination diet consists of low protein foods that contain as few ingredients as possible and none of the ingredients previously fed to your dog. Your veterinarian can assist you with establishing this diet along with the necessary guidelines to follow.
Prevention and Treatment
Once you identify an allergen, eliminate that ingredient from your pet's diet entirely or continue feeding the new diet. In addition, if your pet has additional allergies, such as to fleas, diagnosis of a food allergy can be complicated.