Dog Food Skin Allergies

Dog food skin allergies can be uncomfortable for your dog, causing him to itch and bite his skin, and leading to skin and ear infections. Changing your dog's diet can help you find a food that will reduce the allergies.

Causes of Food Allergies

Dogs can be allergic to a wide variety of dog food ingredients, including preservatives and food coloring that may not be easily identified. Dogs are most commonly allergic to protein or grain sources, which are the primary ingredients in many commercial dog foods.

Because dogs don't consume grains in the wild, many dogs are allergic to the commonly used grain sources such as wheat and corn. This can be easily fixed, since they have no nutritional value for your dog and are just used as cheap filler in commercial foods. Protein allergies are often easily determined because there is often only one protein source in each food. It's easy for owners to see which types of proteins their dogs can easily tolerate.

If your dog is allergic to something in his food, he will often suffer from recurring skin and ear infections, and will lick or chew on his skin, usually around his feet or on his sides toward the rear of his body. If your dog is often being treated for yeast or bacterial infections on his skin, either food or environmental allergies are probably the cause.

Treatment of Food Allergies

When a dog has recurring skin infections, your veterinarian may refer you to a canine dermatologist, who will begin to determine which allergies are causing your dog's illness. After eliminating parasitic allergies, the dermatologist will next try to discover any food allergies, which are easier to find than environmental allergies.

To determine food allergies, you must first place your dog on a novel protein and vegetable source, one which he hasn't been exposed to regularly. Since most pet foods contain turkey, chicken, beef or lamb, these proteins are rarely used in a food trial. Instead your dog will need a food made with a protein source such as venison, duck or rabbit, usually paired with potato. This food will contain few additional ingredients, particularly no grain, preservatives or dyes.

It will take several weeks for the allergens to be removed from your dog's body, so he will remain on his new food for a month or two. After the symptoms are reduced, you will slowly begin adding protein sources back into your dog's diet, until the culprit is discovered.

With each new ingredient, you will feed that food for at least a month before adding in another ingredient. If your dog is allergic to a preservative or grain not available in high quality or homemade diets, the symptoms may never appear again.

After the food trial, it's important to rotate protein sources if there are several to which your dog is not allergic. This will prevent future dog food skin allergies from developing, and help your pet enjoy a healthy variety in his diet.