Mitu Paul
Allergies in dogs are always expressed through skin and felt through an itch, says Dr Adam Patterson, Clinical Assistant Professor and Chief of Dermatology at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Small Animal Clinic. So, if your pet has recurrent diarrhoea, itchy skin, rough coat, persistent ear or anal glands issues, you are probably looking at adverse food reaction (AFR). Let’s find out about food allergies, their causes and hypoallergenic diets. –by Mitu Paul
The term ‘allergy’ and ‘hypersensitivity’ describe an immunologic reaction to food allergens which then present themselves in form of rashes, hot spots, non-seasonal itch, vomiting, diarrhoea, or excessive gassiness. Dogs with food allergies are typically allergic to proteins, which come from animal or plant-based ingredients of the diet.
The causes of food allergies
Symptoms of food allergies often begin when dogs are young (before one year of age), but may develop at any given time in their life span. However, development of food allergies in dogs takes time. Main cause of food allergy to a dog could be due to the pet has been eating offending ingredients for quite a long time before developing the symptoms. Diary & wheat remain to be the major source for such dietary allergies.
The common symptoms
Allergic dogs will show they are itchy by scratching, biting, chewing or licking at their skin. These conditions can lead to red, irritated areas which are prone to bacterial infections. Bacterial skin infections in dogs appear red, inflamed, which may result in scaly skin, scabs and painful lesions. Other symptoms also include swelling and redness in the mouth and throat, which in turn make your dog difficult to breathe and swallow food.
Elimination is the way
If your vet detects food allergy in your dog, he may recommend an elimination diet to isolate allergen in the pet’s food. This means to give a diet which does not include any ingredient of the previous food. In this period, pet treats should also be avoided. Vets suggest keeping your dog on the elimination diet for up to three months to see if the clinical signs of the food allergy disappear.
The goodness of hypoallergenic diets
‘Hypo’ means low/reduced/below normal, so, when it comes to the term ‘hypoallergenic’ on pet food it means that the food is less likely to cause allergic reaction, because it contains little or no common ingredients or allergens that pets can react to. A hypoallergenic diet is usually free from dairy and wheat. Any hypoallergenic diet should be fed for 4-6 weeks minimum to see initial response and continued thereafter. Protein sources such as salmon, turkey, tuna, venison are termed as hypoallergenic protein source. Fresh fruits and veggies and corrected dosage of pre-biotic herbs and antioxidants add goodness in hypoallergenic diets.
Choose the best
In discussion with your vet you can choose a hypoallergenic diet for your pet. Some options being turkey and salmon for young pups of all breeds from the first month of life until 18 months of age, salmon and chicken & duck meal for all adult breeds. A good diet always plays a vital role, longevity for your furry pooch is dependent on three aspects in which diet and environmental interactions are the most major pillars. And don’t leave hygiene behind. For a pet parent, the wellbeing and wellness of their pet is Most Vital!
(Mitu Paul is Brand Head at Dibaq PetCare India, Mumbai)