Nowadays, many dogs suffer from so-called food intolerances. Find out here whether it really is an allergy or an intolerance and what you can do about it.
Allergy or intolerance?
In the case of intolerance, the body’s own immune system is not involved. In most cases, there are not enough enzymes available that are responsible for absorbing the substances in the body. Often, the body only reacts when a certain amount is consumed and can process small amounts of the incompatible substance. In this case, no sensitisation phase is needed, a defence reaction can already occur at the first contact.
With an allergy, on the other hand, there is an immunological reaction, the body (over)reacts to a foreign substance that is actually harmless (such as a food) and forms IgE antibodies. It takes several contacts with the allergen to classify it as “dangerous”. After that, even the smallest amounts of the substance are enough to cause an allergic reaction.
What might they not tolerate?
In principle, the body can develop an allergy or intolerance to anything. They often react to common types of meat such as chicken, pork or beef, as well as cereals, soy or dairy products. But the frequently used binders, fillers and flavour enhancers (especially in dry food) can also cause problems. Basically, all components of a feed can trigger intolerances.
What symptoms can occur?
- Reddened skin, dermatitis, loss of coat
- Itching (often paws, ears and anus)
- Digestive problems, flatulence, diarrhoea
- Vomiting, salivation, belching (heartburn)
- Weight loss, loss of appetite, listlessness
- Anaphylactic shock
When do allergies occur in dogs?
Basically, every dog, regardless of age, is susceptible to food intolerances. Even older dogs, some of which have been eating the allergen in their food for several years without any problems, are not spared from food intolerances. Intolerances in dogs occur as a reaction of the body to protein molecules that are perceived as foreign and thus as “intruders”. However, an allergic reaction to a certain food does not usually occur immediately, but only after some time.
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Exclusion diet for dogs – procedure
This special form of diet offers the possibility to find out which foods your dog does not tolerate by means of an exclusion procedure. The three basic pillars of an exclusion diet for dogs are: Discipline, patience and perseverance!
Step 1 – Discipline is key! Feed your dog only one source of protein and one source of carbohydrates for at least eight weeks. Your dog should never have eaten these before.
IMPORTANT: Do not give him anything else! Even treats must be adapted to the diet! Small amounts of a different substance are enough to cause a reaction again and you will have to start the diet all over again.
Step 2 – Patience! The first conclusions can be drawn after six weeks at the earliest. First, the diarrhoea and digestive problems should improve. After that, the itching and skin problems should subside.
Step 3 – Provocation! If your dog is now symptom-free, feed the suspected allergen for a few days. If your dog reacts with the same symptoms as before the diet, the allergy is confirmed.
Step 4 – Done! Now choose a high-quality food that does not contain the allergen.
Which food for an exclusion diet?
Ostrich, alligator or kangaroo meat is often recommended. Unfortunately, such meats often come from far away. An alternative can be insect food. Because insects are an unknown source of protein for many dogs, they are particularly suitable for an exclusion diet.
Sweet potato, pumpkin or millet can be used as a carbohydrate source. These are foods that are rarely processed in common feeds. If your dog has a giardia infestation, for example, you can do without carbohydrates for a certain period of time.
The best thing to do is to ask the manufacturer of your current food exactly which ingredients have been processed in order to be able to avoid them.
More and more dogs suffer from intolerances and allergies. With an exclusion diet, you can find out which food is suitable for your pet and what you should better not feed.