Diagnosing Food Allergies in Dogs

There are several signs and symptoms of food allergies in dogs and several ways to diagnose a food allergy. The first step involves learning what symptoms might indicate a potential food allergy and then painstakingly eliminating foods one by one without changing any other habits in your dog's care.

Ruling out Food Intolerance

There is a distinct difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. A food intolerance will result in vomiting or diarrhea. If a dog is allergic to a food, the reaction will show up in the skin, indicating that the reaction is systemic. A food intolerance in a dog would be similar to a person who gets an upset stomach or loose stools after eating spicy or fried foods. A food allergy results in a more serious reaction affecting various systems in the body.

Common Signs of a Possible Food Allergy

There are several red flags to watch out for in your dog. If you're dog seems prone to constant skin problems, he may have a food allergy. A skin problem would manifest as redness and/or bumps in the skin. A dog with problematic skin scratches and bites at his skin more than a healthy dog. You may also notice patches of hair loss, flaking, or patches of fur that stays wet from the dog's excessive licking and biting. The best places on the dog's body to check for skin problems include the ears, face, feet, armpits and areas around the genitals or anus. Some dogs with food allergies also have increased bowel movements-i.e. more than 2 a day.

Common Allergenic Foods

A dog can become allergic to anything but several foods seem to cause dog food allergies more than others. The most common allergenic foods include soy, corn, wheat, chicken, lamb, fish, beef and dairy products. The allergic response tends to occur due to the amount of exposure. This is why a varied diet that includes venison, buffalo, vegetables and fruits as well as other forms of protein is so important.

Determining the Specific Food Allergy

There are 2 ways to diagnose a food allergy. One is to systematically remove one food from the diet and see if the symptoms abate. The other is to try one new food in the diet and see if that helps. The complication comes because several factors can cause allergic symptoms. During a food experiment, it's important to keep other factors in the dog's life as similar as possible in order to determine the food culprit itself.

The other option is to make a combination of changes based on veterinary advice and the advice of others who have had success and see if the dog improves. If he does, you can stick to that regime as long as it works. You won't really know the specific causes of the allergy, though, so if symptoms return, you'll have to start the experiment all over again.