Just as humans allergies can show up as a sneeze or rash, your dog's allergies can manifest as itchiness -- or even ear infections. In fact, if your dog's allergic to his food, it can cause him to scratch himself constantly, even with no obvious parasite problem.
Dog allergies rarely get solved with medicine, so the best we can do for our four-footed friends is focus on prevention. Providing the right type of food is essential to stopping your dog's scratching habit.
Many people like to share their food with their dogs or let them help "clean up" the kitchen after a meal. Little do they know, their dogs just may not be able to take the tasty food we love so much, and some breeds (like the greyhound) are extremely sensitive. Even common foods like cheese, beef sausage and tuna may cause allergic reactions in some dogs. So it's best to let dogs enjoy dog food and not human food, even though they clearly adore and want what we're eating!
Narrowing Down the Problem
To determine the exact ingredients your dog is allergic to, try an elimination diet. Although powerful, it also requires patience. In fact, the elimination diet can call for eliminating specific food for up to 12 weeks before you'll notice the effects. And if you still haven't found the right (and wrong) ingredients, you'll have to repeat the process all over again.
So is there an alternative to the lengthy elimination diet? Yes -- give your dog a brand or type of food he's never eaten before. But simply changing to a new brand of dog food might not be enough to eliminate his food allergies, since many brands contain similar ingredients. Instead, study the existing ingredients your dog is eating to determine which types of protein source he hasn't been exposed to. Then, hunt for a dog food that doesn't contain any of the ingredients you saw listed. For example, there are many brands of dog food that contains unusual protein sources such as rabbit or venison -- great for testing allergic reactions to other, more common proteins.
Perhaps the best way for you to get control of dog's allergies is to whip up your own dog food. That way, you'll know exactly what he's getting and what he isn't -- something that's extremely hard to tell from reading the back of a dog food bag. Making your own food is especially helpful in elimination diets. To start, combine a portion of rice with baby food and lamb -- so long as your dog isn't already eating lamb and possibly displaying a reaction to it.
Dog food allergies are a special condition that can be frustrating and take patience to solve. Since allergic reactions don't disappear overnight, you'll need lots of time and thoughtfulness to help your dog overcome this problem -- but his goofy smile and those scratch-free days ahead will probably make it all worth it.
About the author:
Blake Kritzberg is proprietor of Poodle-oo: Fashion for Toy Dogs. Stop by for toy dog couture and home decor, free toy dog postcards and the Toy Dog Blog.
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