Wednesday 15 August 2007

Food Allergies in Dogs

My dog once started scratching himself uncontrollably. I had been up to date as to his grooming and I am convinced this problem is not caused by a parasite. The third most common type of allergies in dogs is food allergies. I am guilty of sharing my food with him, or rather letting him finish my leftovers. A visit to the veterinarian enlightened me that I should not fully blame myself. There are indeed components in dog's food that may cause allergic reactions. Meats, dairy products and some type of grains are the most common ingredients that can trigger this unwanted discomfort. Other people claim that the coloring and preservatives in the dog food is the one to blame, but studies have proved them false. There are valid health concerns over the presence of these elements in dog food, but food allergies is not one of them. I was reprimanded though since it’s a known fact that many dog breeds, like the greyhound, are extremely sensitive even to the most common type of food. Tuna, cheese and sausages easily brings allergies to most dogs. Humans do not eat dog food, let dogs eat dog food.

Though scratching is the most visible symptom, other behavior that are otherwise misconstrued as one’s dog’s newly acquired habit could actually be signs of food allergies. These symptoms are coughing, increased bowel movement from 1.5/day to 3+/day, vomiting, sneezing, hair loss, eye and nose discharge, breathing problems, itching around the anus and loss of appetite. A recurring ear infection despite antiobiotic treatment is also a major indication. Apparently this set of symptom can similarly be caused by other types of allergies. It is therefore crucial to rule out the other problems first before the dog can be properly diagnosed for food allergies.

It's a daunting task to investigate the source of these allergies with the myriad of food in the dog's menu. Since the dog is allergic to one specific allergen existing in one of it's food, it is necessary to analyze and pinpoint that lone culprit. This can only be done through elimination. And elimination is a task that only those with extra time and energy can afford. It requires preparation and cooking of special foods that are not usually found in the dog's day to day menu. A meal of rice mixed with some exotic meat such as venison may be served. Then, gradual introduction of the regular food the dog usually eats such that the offending agent can be detected and be appropriately kept at bay. A shortcut to this exhaustive elimination diet is to give the dog a different brand of dog food, the one which he hasn’t tasted before. But almost always they just vary in taste but not in ingredients, and that therefore just prolongs the agony. My love for my best friend is put to test as I help him find ways to overcome this problem.

It can be very frustrating that dog food allergies are rarely solved by any medicinal intake. It cannot be solved overnight and a lot of patience and thoughtfulness is required in the proper monitoring of quality food intake. I can say prevention is still a lot less burdensome. And leftovers are a welcome treat as long as they’re safe, but I guess I’ll stick to safer home made dog foods.