Food allergies are common in dogs and have a wide range of symptoms: chronic ear problems, diarrhea, gas and itchy feet or tail. To choose the right diet for your dog, you must first determine the allergen. Fortunately, there are many options available to you if you are trying to remedy your dog's food allergies. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian for the best course of action.
Determining the Allergen
The most common culprits when diagnosing a food allergy are protein, eggs, dairy and grains. Dogs can often have more than one allergen or become allergic to something that he has eaten for years, complicating the process.
To determine the source of the problem, veterinarians typically recommend an elimination diet, during which they put your dog on a protein such as rabbit or venison and carbohydrate such as yams or potatoes he has never had. All other food sources, such as treats, are eliminated from the diet. Once the symptoms have disappeared, you may begin adding foods back into your dog's diet. If the symptoms return, the allergen has been discovered.
Prescription or Specialty Diets
Many dog food brands now offer novel protein and carbohydrate sources for dogs with allergens. But the main consideration is what works for your dog. If she's allergic to chicken only, there are many high quality kibble or wet dog food brands available. If she is allergic to grain, you may have to select a more premium brand that advertises grain-free. Many veterinarians offer prescription diets that don't have any traces of common allergens found in many over-the-counter dog foods. However, these diets may be more expensive than over-the-counter diets, which can often be almost as high quality.
Homemade and Raw Diets
Many owners opt to go to a homemade or raw diet when their dogs are diagnosed with food allergies. Be sure to do plenty of research on these options as an unbalanced home-cooked diet can cause health problems. These diets need to be handled the same way, beginning with a novel protein and carbohydrate and then slowly adding other ingredients. The advantage of these diets is that you control exactly which ingredients go in your dog's food. However, they are often more expensive and time-consuming. Consult your veterinarian before switching to one of these diets.