Food allergies account for about 10% of all the allergies seen in dogs and it is the third most common cause after flea bite allergies and atopy (inhalant allergies). With the advent of lamb and rice diets, many people feel that they are preventing or treating food allergies. The entire process of a dog being sensitized to a particular agent in food, and the complicated antibody response that occurs in the intestinal tract of the dog with food allergies, are not very well understood.
Despite the lack of understanding of the actual disease process, there are many things that we do know including the symptoms, how to diagnose food allergies, and also how to treat them.
Food allergies affect both dogs, and less so, cats. They can show up as early as five months and as late as 12 years of age, though the vast majority of cases occur between 2 and 6 years. Many dogs with food allergies also have concurrent inhalant or contact allergies.
The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those of most allergies seen in dogs. The primary symptom is itchy skin. Symptoms may also include chronic or recurrent ear infections, hair loss, excessive scratching, hot spots, and skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after antibiotics are discontinued. There is evidence that dogs with food allergies may sometimes have an increased incidence of bowel movements. One study showed that non-allergic dogs have around 1.5 bowel movements per day where some dogs with food allergies may have 3 or more per day.
In order to determine a food allergy, a food trial consists of feeding your pet a novel food source for 12 weeks. A novel food source would be a protein that your pet had never eaten before. An example would be GO! Sensitivity and Shine™ Salmon or Duck. Regardless of the diet used, it must be the only thing the dog eats for 12 weeks. This means no treats; absolutely nothing but the special food and water.
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