Food Allergies and Our Furry Friends

Food Allergies and Our Furry Friends
By Morgan Nelson

Have you noticed your dog itching excessively or their coat getting duller? Frequent vomiting, diarrhea, or gas?Chronic or recurring skin and ear infections? While these problems may be common, they could be a sign that your dog is suffering from a food allergy or food sensitivity. By now you’ve probably met someone who feeds their dog a special diet. Everything from a grain free to a poultry free diet has been trending and buzzworthy. More and more people are starting to learn the signs and realize that many common dog symptoms can be cured by a simple diet swap. Common triggers include: wheat, beef, poultry, dairy, soy, potato, and fish.

While most people using a special diet will tell you their dog has a “food allergy” the truth is that allergies are much rarer, and their dog is most likely suffering from a food intolerance. The symptoms can be the same or similar but there are some key differences between a food allergy and a food sensitivity or intolerance. True food allergies involve an immunologic response that typically occurs immediately after ingestion of the “food antigen” and can often be more severe than an intolerance.

Allergies can manifest as a range of symptoms including: hives, facial swelling, vomiting, diarrhea and in rare severe cases anaphylaxis can occur. The best way to deal with food allergies is to work with your vet to determine the cause and cut the offending food out of your dog’s diet. Your vet can even prescribe an antihistamine to treat hives or facial swelling. Most likely the first thing your vet will do is rule out any other cause for the symptoms. Once this is done, they may suggest an allergy test which can test for not only food allergies but also things like flea allergy dermatitis. Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergy to flea saliva and can present very similar skin related issues to food allergies. Even if your dog doesn’t have a flea infestation just one bite from a flea can cause a reaction so it’s important to work with your vet and make sure the flea preventative you are using is the best option for your dog. However, keep in mind that it is not always possible to determine the cause of the allergy even with testing.

Food sensitivities, or in tolerances are the much more common cousin of food allergies. While they also involve the immune system attacking a “food antigen” the antibodies produced are slightly different. Because of this difference, sensitivities often take much longer to show symptoms so its possible your dog could be ingesting the offending ingredient for months of even years before showing symptoms. Common symptoms include gastrointestinal issues which often mimic irritable bowel syndrome such as chronic diarrhea, loose stool, gas, and stomach rumbling. Skin issues are also common and include unexplained itchiness and infections, especially of the ears or paws, and are often accompanied by yeast.

While food sensitivities may not seem as serious as allergies, as anaphylaxis is not a symptom, chronic inflammation resulting from the sensitivity could lead to much more serious issues such as auto-immune diseases and even cancers. It is important for your dog’s health, as well as their comfort, to work closely with your vet to find the best food for your furry friend.

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