Dog Food Intolerance Elimination Diet Menu

If your dog is showing symptoms of a food allergy, your veterinarian may recommend an elimination diet to determine whether his problem is caused by a true allergy or a food intolerance. Food intolerances are more common (affecting up to 50 percent of pet dogs), but food allergies are more well-known to dog owners.

Let’s look at how an elimination diet can help your veterinarian determine the difference between food allergy and food intolerance and find out what steps should be taken to restore your dog’s health.

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Initially, symptoms of a canine food allergy and canine food intolerance seem very similar, but they have some significant differences. Food allergies tend to show their symptoms on your pet’s skin, and they develop over a long period of time. Food allergy symptoms stay on the dog’s skin until his diet is changed. Food intolerances, on the other hand, show their symptoms in your dog’s digestive system and have a much more immediate effect. Food intolerance symptoms typically show themselves within an hour of your dog eating the food to which he is intolerant, but they usually disappear as soon as the offending food is out of your dog’s system.

What a Food Intolerance Looks Like

The primary symptom of a food intolerance is a problem with your dog’s digestive system, such as gas, stomach upset, diarrhea or vomiting. If the food intolerance is untreated, it can also lead to dehydration because your dog’s body is unable to retain fluids it needs to function properly. Untreated food intolerance can also cause hair loss and itchy skin because the dog’s body cannot receive nutrients it needs from the food your pet eats. Hair loss and itchy skin are also hallmarks of a food allergy, which may be why some owners become confused by the symptoms.

How an Elimination Diet Helps Determine a Food Intolerance

If your veterinarian suspects your dog has a food intolerance, he or she will first conduct a physical examination to eliminate other possible causes for your dog’s symptoms. After other possible causes are eliminated, your dog will probably be placed on an exclusion diet that features sources of protein and carbohydrates that are completely new to your dog. Possible protein sources include fish, rabbit or venison, and possible carbohydrate sources include rice, potato or sweet potato.

Your dog will eat this diet as his sole source of  nutrition for 12 weeks, and then ingredients from his former diet will re-introduced in an attempt to recreate the symptoms of the intolerance. Once those symptoms recur, the ingredient that created the reaction is the cause of your dog’s food intolerance.

What to Do After Your Dog Is Diagnosed with a Food Intolerance

The easiest way to resolve a food intolerance in your dog is to remove the offending food from his diet once the problem ingredient is identified. In most cases, dog owners choose to change their food-intolerant dog’s diet to the exclusion diet because it’s nutritionally complete and the dog is accustomed to it after consuming it exclusively during the 12-week test period.