Just like humans can experience food intolerance from time-to-time, so can our canine companions. Individuals often experience food intolerance to ingredients like gluten, dairy, spicy food, or nuts and when they eat these products, they often feel pretty rotten and experience a myriad of digestive issues. When our dogs eat foods that they are intolerant to, they will show similar reactions and might experience nausea, gas, lethargy, or an upset stomach.
A healthy diet is essential for your pup’s overall well-being. Ensuring that they eat nutrient-dense foods that their bodies respond well to is paramount to having a healthy dog. If you notice that your dog is responding badly to certain foods or having a lot of digestive issues, you need to determine whether they have an allergy or intolerance and take appropriate action to rectify the problem.
Keeping a dog on a diet that they are intolerant to is a sure way to make them feel miserable and unwell! But before you know if your dog is suffering from food intolerance, or something more severe, you need to know what exactly food intolerance is and how it differs from an allergic reaction.
So What Are The Differences Between And Food Allergy And Food Intolerance?
The words allergy and intolerance are often used interchangeably. However, they both refer to different things.
An allergy is characterized by food proteins that trigger certain responses by the immune system. The cells in the body respond by releasing histamines, and these compounds lead to responses such as itching or swelling. When your pup is dealing with an allergy, their bodies cannot handle the ingredient that they are ingesting and in severe cases, allergies can lead to extreme symptoms such as an inability to breath, and even death.
Food Intolerance, on the other hand, is a lot less severe and is usually characterized by digestive issues such as diarrhea, gas, and nausea. Food intolerance is less serious than an allergy, but it can still cause some uncomfortable symptoms.
Some of the most common dog food intolerance culprits tend to be dairy, meat, and eggs and it is usually the protein elements in these foods that cause problems.
However, your pup might also be responding to certain food colorants, additives, and spices that are found in certain dog foods and human foods and thus, determining the culprit of their intolerance can sometimes feel like a daunting task. If you feel anxious that your pup has an intolerance it is a good idea to take them for a check-up to rule out any more pressing medical issues.
Signs and Symptoms of Food Intolerance
When your pup is experiencing food intolerance they will most likely experience a number of digestive issues. While these issues can be caused by a bacterial infection or a disease, they can also be a sure sign that something is not agreeing with your dog. Some of the telltale signs that your dog is experiencing food intolerance are:
- Gas or flatulence
- Bloated stomach
- Weight loss
- Lost appetite
- Poor body condition
- Dull coat
- Chronic ear problems
- Sneezing, wheezing, or coughing
- Constant scratching and itching
NB: These symptoms could indicate a more serious medical condition. Always consult your vet if your pup is experiencing any of these for a few days.
What Can You Do
If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to take them to a vet for a checkup to rule out any serious medical conditions and to keep them hydrated. Diarrhea and vomiting can be dangerous for dogs since they lose important fluids and electrolytes. In serious cases, they might need to go on a drip to ensure that fluids can be administered intravenously so that they don’t experience extreme dehydration.
Your vet will usually run blood tests and take a urine sample, or do an ultrasound to rule out possible diseases that are causing these digestive problems. If your pup gets all the all-clear from their vet, it’s likely that they are dealing with food intolerance.
If you suspect you are dealing with food intolerance, you need to start figuring out what foods to eliminate. A good place to start is with an elimination diet.
An elimination diet is a great way to figure out what foods are causing problems for your dog. The basic idea with this kind of diet is that you start with very simple and plain foods and slowly integrate more ingredients to their diet so that you can determine what is causing the problems.
Every couple of days you simply add a new ingredient (and only one) to their diet and monitor if it causes any problems. If you notice that problems are occurring (vomiting, diarrhea, gas etc) you remove that food and monitor if the symptoms subside. If the symptoms subside when that particular ingredient is removed then that is causing the intolerance.
You might want to start with something basic like vet quality pellets or chicken and slowly work your way up to include vegetables, other meats, and eggs.
It’s important to only add one ingredient at a time because adding too many at once will confuse the results and hinder your ability to determine what is causing the intolerance. Only add them every 3-4 days to ensure that your pup has had enough time to digest them properly and that old ingredients have had enough time to leave their system.
Remember a healthy diet should be balanced and include as many fresh ingredients as possible. It is important to avoid additives and chemicals where possible, as these can cause harm to your pup. Ideally, you want to be feeding them a vet approved diet, home cooked (with veterinary guidance), or raw (with guidance).
If you feel like your pooch is dealing with an allergic reaction to their food and they are constantly scratching and just generally unhappy, you might want to think about putting them onto a hypoallergenic diet. Whether you purchase a specialized vet approved diet or make your food, you will still have to gradually introduce new foods into their diet to ensure that they are not experiencing allergies or intolerance.
Unfortunately, some pups are just more prone to digestive issues than others, and if your pup experiences food intolerance, it’s going to be a bit of a journey until you find out what foods to avoid.
If you opt for a hypoallergenic diet from your vet be sure to ask them important questions such as:
- How often should I feed my dog?
- What treats can I include in their diet?
- What home cooked foods safe for my dog?
Once You Have Determined The Intolerance
Once you have determined what foods are not agreeing with your pup, it’s important to stick to a diet that works for them. If this means making your food, or only buying a particular vet approved brand that doesn’t cause stomach upset, then it’s worth it to make sure you’re always stocked up on their favorite foods. It can also be a good idea to include a probiotic and digestive enzyme into your dog’s diet to enhance their gut health and promote good bacteria.
Probiotics usually come in capsule, powder, or liquid form and are an amazing way to restore balance in your pup’s gut. A healthy gut with strengthening your dog’s immune system and help them to feel at their optimum. A digestive enzyme is also a great way to boost gut health and help them to get the best from their food.
Dog food intolerances can be annoying and uncomfortable, however with enough dedication and care you can determine what is causing the upset and rectify the problem quickly.