Warning Signs of Canine Allergies

October 21, 2013

Dogs with allergies present numerous challenges.  First, you need to determine the source of the allergy.  Like humans, canines can suffer from airborne or other environmental allergies, as well as sensitivities to various foods.  It isn’t easy to figure out the exact cause.

A dog with allergies to pet food

My Harlequin Great Dane suffered from all kinds of allergy problems in her 14+ years, but by far the worst was caused by food.  She underwent the battery of allergy tests, endured twice weekly injections to build up immunity to various grasses, trees, and pollens.  But it was never enough.  My poor girl lived on Prednisone tables for over a year before I decided on my own to switch her diet.

Back then, I knew nothing about pet food and the dangers it can pose to pets.  Neither did my vet.  Switching from the Purina food recommended by Ginny’s breeder to another brand’s Lamb & Rice food made a sudden and dramatic improvement in Ginny’s skin and fur.  Within two weeks, she was looking and feeling much better, and I was able to begin weaning her off of the Prednisone and antibiotics.

Back in the early 1980’s, no one knew that there were ingredients in pet food that could cause negative reactions in dogs and cats.  But now, we know better, and there is no reason for an animal to be fed bad food.

Which leads me to respond to this question:  Is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic pet food?

There are companies that manufacture high-end pet food that claim their products are “allergen-free” or “hypoallergenic.”  This claim bothers me, because they cannot be certain that a particular food will work for every single dog.  What causes problems for one animal may not bother another.  And what is being called an allergy could be some other issue entirely.

Before you decide that your pet is allergic to anything, discuss it with your veterinarian.  If the two of you decide that food could be the culprit, look for pet food that doesn’t contain the following:

  • Artificial colors
  • Artificial flavors
  • Chemical preservatives
  • Corn in any form
  • Other grains (wheat, oats, barley, etc.)
  • Chicken, Beef, or Lamb

As a rule, there is nothing wrong with chicken, beef or lamb, but they are known to cause problems for some animals. To get to the cause of your pet’s allergies, feed him a “novel” protein.  This means choose one the dog has never eaten before, such as salmon, or turkey or venison.

Choose a grain-free food to go along with that novel protein.

My Weimaraner, whose food sensitivities or allergies cause horrible skin rashes and loss of fur, now eats Natural Balance® Grain-Free Salmon & Potato.  This food works well for him, but we know that he may eventually develop problems with it, as he has done in the past with other choices.  When he does, we’ll try something else.

If your dog does display food sensitivities and you want to switch his food, expect to pay a bit more.  Those novel proteins do come at a price.  Or you could choose to make his food yourself.  If you go that route, seek expert help so you don’t deprive him of necessary vitamins or nutrients.

There are several companies that declare their foods to be hypoallergenic.  They are definitely good, healthy pet foods, but not every animal will react positively.  If your dog is allergic to chicken, I don’t think it will be able to eat a so-called hypoallergenic food containing chicken – at least not for long.

Talk to your veterinarian, consider your pet’s reactions and needs and choose accordingly.  You can find healthy pet foods that fit the suggestions listed above.

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