Some itchy dogs ( and cats) have allergies to the food they eat. Food allergies and food intolerances are among the most difficult problems to diagnose as there is no concrete test that will pinpoint the offending food. Frequently trial and error with exclusion diets and adding foods one at a time is needed to find the right diet.
Food intolerances are different from food allergies. Food intolerances do not elicit an allergic response but instead are more likely to cause chronic vomiting or diarrhea. True food allergies cause an allergic reaction and may cause itching and scratching. These allergies tend to be resistant to most conventional treatment such as cortisone and antihistamines.
The most common symptoms of food allergies and intolerances are:
- Itchy skin
- Itchy feet and paws (which usually leads to biting and chewing at the paws)
- Dry skin
- Flaky skin
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes and hives
- Recurrent ear infections (in particular, yeast infections)
- Recurrent skin infections and hot spots
- Chronic vomiting
- Chronic diarrhea
- Frequent bowel movements
Animals frequently develop allergies to a food or substance they have been eating for a long time. This frustrates many owners who can not figure out why their pet has developed symptoms there has been no diet change.
So what should you do if you suspect a food allergy? First stop feeding multiple ingredient processed food. Chose a food with one protein, one carbohydrate source and one vegetable. Homemade is ideal as you can control the ingredients. Select ingredients that your pet has not eaten before. Here is an example. An elimination diet could be one that has rabbit, quinoa and sweet potato if your pet has not eaten these before. If you do not want to feed homemade you could use a limited antigen commercial diet , raw, frozen, canned or dry. Hydrolyzed diets also fit in this category.
Beef, chicken, eggs, dairy, wheat, corn, and soy are the most common allergens that affect dogs and cats so avoid these. To your elimination diet add digestive enzymes, probiotics and Omega 3 fatty acids. Remember this is not a balanced diet to continue forever but a starting point to eliminate the allergy.