Food allergies in dogs are quite rare, in fact they account for less than 10% of the allergy cases referred to veterinarians. Unlike other allergies such as atopic dermatitis, food allergies are non-seasonal and are a cause of severe itching in dogs.
The itching that is suffered with a food allergy is much more severe and intense than that encountered with allergic dermatitis. You also find that treatment with conventional anti-inflammatory or doses of corticosteroids is ineffective.
The difficult factor with dog food allergies is that it is very difficult to diagnose. You usually only turn to the possibility that the dog is suffering from a food allergy after you have exhausted all other possibilities.
Food allergies can result in lesions on the dog's skin and when severe itching is one of the symptoms it will often turn out that the dog's hypersensitivity is the cause. Making the diagnosis even more difficult is the fact that secondary infections of the skin or in the ears can be exhibited because of the food allergy.
The symptoms can extend beyond itchiness with the reactions ranging from gastrointestinal problems to seizures or can even change the behaviour of your dog.
In most cases it turns out that the pet has been eating the diet for a long time, months or years, before the allergic reaction develops. The hypersensitivity reaction will have occurred to one or more ingredients in the dog's food.
There is no cure for a food allergy instead the way to treat it is to figure out what food is causing the problem and then remove it from the diet. In many cases this is easier said than done.
As a beginning point take the dog completely off the regular diet and feed it something it has never been exposed to before. Allergies build up over time and the dog won't be allergic to something it has never eaten before. You should see a dramatic improvement in the dog's health after a short time on the elimination diet.
When conducting an elimination diet with your dog, the best test diet is a homemade diet because you will be able to control exactly what you are feeding your dog. Commercial dog foods will contain a broad mix of different products and you won't be certain that your dog hasn't been exposed to one ingredient or another.
For the test diet to give you results that you can be certain of, it must be conducted over at least a month and preferably two. It will involve adding and removing different ingredients as you try to pinpoint exactly what it is that is causing the allergic reaction.
The other possible result from conducting an elimination diet is that the dog shows no improvement at all. If this is the case then at least you have eliminated the possibility that the dog is suffering from a food allergy.
Although there is no cure for your dog's food allergy, you will have to treat the secondary complaints such as the lesions or rashes caused by the incessant scratching. When the allergen has been removed from the dog's diet it will be possible to get effective results from conventional medical treatments.
The hardest part in treating a food allergy in dogs is correctly diagnosing the allergy in the first place. When it has been confirmed that your dog is allergic to something in the food it is eating you are well on the way to finding a way to make the dog more comfortable.