Your dog’s diet is probably not the cause
At Skinner’s, our nutrition advice team gets many questions on allergies and it’s easy to see why. If you’re asking yourself questions such as ‘why is my dog so itchy but has no fleas?’ or ‘my dog has an upset stomach, what can I do?, it’s understandable you might wonder if the food you are feeding your dog is causing the issue and if an allergy is to blame.
Such reactions take many forms – from skin problems, scratching and anal gland irritation through to changes in behaviour and digestive issues.
But these symptoms can have many causes and are not always related to diet. In fact, scientific evidence suggests that diet is responsible for less than 10% of skin issues and that adverse reactions to diet are responsible for just 10-20% of all allergic responses in dogs.
This means that changing your dog’s diet might be useful, but it is no guarantee of a cure or even any improvement.
What exactly is an allergy?
Allergy (or hypersensitivity) is the term used when your dog’s own immune system triggers an adverse physiological response to a food or ingredient they have eaten. If your dog has a reaction but the immune system is not involved, this is known as an intolerance.
True allergies or hypersensitivities to specific ingredients are rare, but can be extremely dangerous and need correct diagnosis and dietary management.
Intolerances to foods or specific ingredients are potentially less dangerous but are more common and the symptoms of an intolerance can be distressing for both dog and owner. An intolerance can be temporary and short-lived – perhaps because of a gastrointestinal infection – or longer lasting.
When thinking about the best food for a dog with itchy skin or the right food for a dog with an upset stomach, it’s worth noting some ingredients shown to cause more adverse reactions in dogs, whether true allergies or intolerances. The most common are soya, dairy, beef and other animal-derived proteins. Grain and plant-based ingredients, such as wheat and maize, appear to be less likely to provoke adverse reactions than once thought.
If your dog shows what you think is an adverse reaction to food or specific ingredients, it is important to get veterinary advice to ensure a correct diagnosis before making changes to your dog’s diet that might prolong the issue or make things worse.
What signs should I be looking for?
If you’ve begun looking for dog food for dogs with allergies it’s likely your dog is showing signs of discomfort. A dog displaying an adverse reaction to a food or an ingredient can show several different symptoms. The most serious is swelling of the face and mouth. This is often a true allergy and can be life threatening in extreme cases, so get veterinary advice immediately.
Other signs and symptoms can include skin issues, excessive scratching, ear issues, vomiting, colitis, diarrhoea or other indicators of digestive discomfort.
What else could be the cause of my dog’s allergic reaction?
In the case of a diagnosed allergy, hypersensitivity or intolerance, changing your dog’s diet to eliminate the food itself or a specific ingredient can be helpful. Feeding the best food for sensitive skin or the best food for a sensitive stomach and gas, might well be the right way to go. But before rushing in, there are some other points worth checking first…
- Eliminate ectoparasites and other environmental issues that can cause skin problems, such as fleas or ticks.
- Rule out other skin, ear or gastrointestinal infections first. There is no point in altering your dog’s diet if, in fact, they have a fungal, bacterial or other infection causing the itchiness or other symptoms.
- Allergy tests might be useful, but only after other potential causes have been ruled out. Also, many such tests are not fully effective at identifying true dietary sensitivities.
- The genes of some breeds and breed-crosses make them more likely to experience skin problems, digestive issues or other conditions that might benefit from nutritional support. If you are at all concerned, seek veterinary advice.
- Some skin conditions can be the result of too much of certain vitamins, particularly vitamin A. If you’re feeding your dog a complete food, there is no need to supplement it with additional vitamins and minerals. The Skinner’s Field & Trial range is carefully formulated to mean no additional supplementation is needed.
- Food poisoning is a common cause of gastrointestinal upset in dogs. Particularly dangerous for dogs are chocolate, raisins, grapes, onions, or other substances such as painkillers (Ibuprofen is especially dangerous). If you suspect your dog has ingested something that has made them ill or might have the potential to make them ill, get veterinary advice immediately.
- If all other causes have been eliminated, a dietary change might be worth trying. This is best done by changing your dog’s diet by eliminating one by one ingredients that might potentially be causing a sensitivity or intolerance. Consider, though, absolutely everything your dog eats, not just their usual food. That includes all treats and extras.
Skinner’s dog foods are specially formulated
The Skinner’s Field & Trial range includes diets that are free from specific ingredients that might be linked to sensitivities and therefore are amongst the best food for itchy skin or sensitive stomachs. Our complete diets are also rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) that are linked to skin and coat health. If you’re looking for the best working dog food for a sensitive Spaniel, Labrador or any other breed, our foods, including dog food with salmon are designed to offer everything your dog could need.