Is your four legged family member scratching, biting, or licking at its paws uncontrollably?
Are the little red bumps that have sprouted on its stomach, legs, or back causing obvious discomfort and itching?
Are you worried about what’s provoking these painful rashes, raw patches, or bite-like red spots all over your dog?
The simple answer is: Your dog might have food allergies.
Just like humans, dogs are prone to allergies. Unlike people, though, your pup can’t tell you what’s causing it discomfort or pain. The only answer is for you to be vigilant and thorough in recognizing your dog’s symptoms, and to make the necessary changes that will enable him or her to live a comfortable, symptom-free life.
Aside from itchy rashes and red spots, food sensitivities can be recognized in a number of other ways.
Does your dog experience any of the following symptoms on a regular basis?
-Constant scratching and shaking of the head
-Chronic ear infections
-Frequent diarrhea or gas
-Licking of the feet
-Red spots or skin inflammation
-Coughing or “hacking”
If you can answer yes to one or more of the symptoms listed above, there’s a chance your dog might have a food allergy or intolerance; it’s time to consult your vet for a proper diagnosis.
If a food sensitivity seems likely, your dog might be prescribed medication for temporary relief or allergy shots for a more long term solution. Rest assured, though, even if your dog does suffer from any of these problems, there are other at-home steps to take that will relieve their discomfort and get their health back on track.
Here’s where to start:
Try a New Dog Food
If your vet does diagnose your dog with a food related sensitivity, the first step to take is switching their food.
Dogs are commonly allergic to foods like:
-Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck)
-Corn & Wheat
To find out which food your dog is reacting to, try implementing an elimination diet.
To do that, remove every single food your dog currently eats and replace it with a food source they’ve never come into contact with before. Like humans, dogs can also develop allergies over long periods of time, so even if your dog has eaten chicken products with no issues throughout its entire life, you’ll still want to eliminate them.
Good food sources to try during the elimination diet stage are things like buffalo, salmon, sweet potatoes, or even kangaroo. While these might sound a little strange, by feeding your dog something they’ve absolutely never come into contact with, you’ll be able to more quickly and surely figure out which specific food is ailing them.
After you’ve switched your dog to a new food, wait for all symptoms to disappear. Once they do, you’ll know your dog isn’t reacting to the food they’re currently eating, and you can start re-introducing more common foods, one at a time.
Reactions to food usually show themselves within a few days to weeks of consumption, so this process will take time. To get your dog’s health back on the right track, though, it’s well worth it.
Once you know which foods your dog is sensitive or allergic to, you can choose to either buy processed food or make your own. If you’ve decided to feed your dog something like venison or kangaroo, for example, feeding your dog a homemade diet might be easier.
Raw Diet Pros and Cons
Feeding your dog homemade meals, or a raw diet, comes with its benefits and drawbacks.
-You’ll know exactly what goes into your dog’s food and won’t have to translate words off the back of dog food packaging.
-You’ll be able to use ingredients that might otherwise be hard to find in processed dog food.
-You can eliminate all processed ingredients and preservatives from your dog’s diet.
-Feeding your dog a raw diet can be both time consuming and expensive.
-Dogs have different nutrient requirements than humans, and it’s easy to leave an important element out if you’re not following strict guidelines from a pet dietician.
The best decision for you and your dog will depend on your lifestyle and preferences. Whichever route you choose, make sure your dog’s food only contains ingredients that have been cleared through the elimination diet phase.
What About Treats?
Dogs with food allergies and sensitivities often miss out on the fun stuff like treats and bones. There’s nothing worse than feeding one pup a tasty treat while the other sits by and watches. The good news is, dogs with food sensitivities can enjoy the tastier things in life right alongside their four legged friends.
There are three great options when it comes to snacking outside of regular meal times:
- Feed your dog cut up fruit, vegetables, or even meat for small snacks or treats. Of course, make sure each food is safe for dogs and has passed the elimination diet test. If you’re sure the chosen food is in the clear, though, bite size pieces make excellent treats. Fruits like grapes are a no-go for canines, but apple slices without the seeds can be a perfectly healthy snack. Fully cooked shrimp or other dried meats are also great choices.
- Buy all natural dog treats. If cooking and preparing snacks for your dog is too time consuming or you’d just prefer the convenience and safety of knowing someone else has handled the hard part for you, opt for pre-made, all natural dog treats. Companies like Safe Bones Co make tasty and healthy treats with no preservatives, which are wonderful on-the-go options your dog will love. You won’t find ingredients like corn meal or chicken by-products with companies like this, so you can rest assured your dog’s health will be in good hands.
- Prepare home-made treats. Sure, you can feed your dog whole foods like apple or shrimp, but where’s the fun in that? There are hundreds of excellent dog treat recipes for all the avid bakers out there. Try this list for homemade dog treat recipe ideas; make sure to swap out any ingredients your dog might react to.
For a crowd favorite, try preparing a batch of homemade jerky treats for your dog.
-2 to 3 pounds of meat (use a meat that’s safe for your dog)
-¼ to ½ tsp of soy sauce
-1 tbsp of creamy peanut butter (optional)
Follow these steps for tasty jerky treats:
- Freeze the meat for 1 to 2 hours. Make sure it’s still thaw enough to slice.
- Preheat your oven to 150 degrees after the meat is frozen. You can also use a dehydrator, but an oven will work if you don’t have one.
- Slice the almost-frozen meat as thinly as you can without letting it fall apart.
- Place the meat slices in mixing bowl and add soy sauce and the optional peanut butter.
- Mix the ingredients together and let them sit for 5 minutes.
- Place the meat evenly spaced out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, making sure none of the slices overlap (if you’re using a dehydrator, follow the directions for your machine).
- Leave the meat in the oven for 2-4 hours, flipping once throughout. The total cooking/drying time will depend on the season and humidity, and the level of doneness you prefer.
- Remove the jerky, let it cool completely, and store it in a cool, dry place.
Author bio: Kristen Youngs writes for pet blogs like https://safebones.co and spends much of her time hanging out with her own pup or traveling the world.