It comes as no surprise that just as humans can carry allergies to a variety of different things, so can our much-loved pooches. Like humans, dogs can develop an allergy when their body’s immune system mistakenly identifies something as harmful- also known as an ‘allergen’. Whenever they come into contact with this allergen their immune system is stimulated to release certain chemicals (eg. Histamine), which lead to allergy symptoms. In dogs the most common symptom is irritated skin and itching, but symptoms can also include respiratory or gastrointestinal problems eg. Vomiting or diarrhoea. Dogs itch either by licking or chewing the skin or scratching with their feet. Areas often affected are their ears, face, feet, belly, and armpits. Allergic dogs may also suffer from secondary bacterial or yeast skin infections, which may cause hair loss, scabs or crusts on the skin.
The most common allergens found in the environment include dust mites, fleas, moulds and pollens from grasses, flowers, weeds and trees. Less obvious allergens could be cigarette smoke, perfumes, cleaning products, fabrics, plastics, and even feathers. Evidently, like us humans, our pets can have (or develop at any age) food allergies or food intolerances to certain ingredients, particularly to proteins (eg. beef, dairy, chicken, and egg). Fortunately, however, diagnosing and managing food allergies are possible – the hard part is figuring out exactly what an individual dog is allergic to.
It is far better to get to the root of the problem rather then jumping straight to medicating. If you suspect your doggy has an allergy or is showing any symptoms, then going to your vet should be your first port of call. After an examination and/or testing, if your vet suspects a food allergy, then your dog will most likely have to undergo a food elimination trial. This process entails putting your dog on a specially formulated diet for 8-12weeks eliminating all potential allergens. If the symptoms clear away, this is a tell tale sign that it’s something in their diet they’re allergic to. After this trial, reintroduce the foods they were eating originally to see if they symptoms reappear to confirm your suspicions. If a specific protein is the culprit, then have no fear- there is a plethora of specially formulated foods available that offer alternative sources of protein.
An important reminder is that canines need diversity in their diets, and are omnivores like us humans, meeting nutriment requirements through eating a combination of plant material and a variety of meat. Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet is vital to its overall health and well-being. Essential nutrients are fat, carbohydrates, protein (dogs require approximately 18-25%), vitamins, minerals and water.