Allergies in Dogs (cont.)

Can Dogs Be Allergic to Food?

Yes, but it often takes some detective work to find out what substance is causing the allergic reaction. Dogs with a food allergy will commonly have itchy skin, breathing difficulties or gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting, and an elimination diet will most probably be used to determine what food he is allergic to. If your dog is specifically allergic to chicken, for example, you should avoid feeding him any products containing chicken protein or fat.

Please note that food allergies may show up in dogs at any age.

What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Allergies?

Visit your veterinarian. After taking a complete history and conducting a physical examination, he or she may be able to determine the source of your dog's allergic reaction. If not, your vet will most probably recommend skin or blood tests, or a special elimination diet, to find out what's causing the allergic reaction.

How Are Dog Allergies Diagnosed?

If your dog's itchy, red or irritated skin persists beyond initial treatment by a veterinarian, allergy testing, most often performed by a veterinary dermatologist, is likely warranted. The diagnostic test of choice is an intradermal skin test similar to the one performed on humans.

The only way to diagnose a food allergy is to feed your dog a prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet exclusively for 12 weeks. The importance of not feeding your dog anything but the diet cannot be emphasized enough-that means no treats, table food or flavored medication. This diet will be free of potential allergy-causing ingredients and will ideally have ingredients your dog has never been exposed to. He'll remain on the diet until his symptoms go away, at which time you'll begin to reintroduce old foods to see which ones might be causing the allergic reaction.

Please note, many dogs diagnosed with a food allergy will require home-cooked meals-but this must be done in conjunction with your veterinarian, as it requires careful food balancing.