The old saying ‘you are what you eat’, doesn’t just apply to humans. The type of dog food that your dog eats will determine how healthy they are, how much energy they have, and even how shiny their coat is. A good-quality dog food will give your dog all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, but sometimes even the best dog food on the market is not the right dog food for your dog.
Dogs can suffer from food intolerances just like we can. Many people have an adverse reaction when they eat dairy, spicy foods, or gluten, making eating the food uncomfortable. When your dog has a food intolerance, they will show similar signs of intolerance. To make sure your dog stays healthy going forwards, it is important to address their dietary problems, and find the right food to fit their individual needs.
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What Is the Difference Between Intolerance and Allergies?
Many people use the terms ‘allergy’ and ‘intolerance’, interchangeably, but they are actually very different. Dogs can have food allergies, where their body cannot handle the ingestion of certain foods. An allergy can become apparent when your dog starts inching, they have skin problems, or their immune system is affected.
An intolerance affects a dog in a different way, but it can be easy to mistake the signs if you’re unsure. A dog with a dog food intolerance with likely have digestive problems, they may diarrhoea and they could vomit after eating. You may also notice a lack of appetite, accompanying weight loss, or gas. To deal with a dog food intolerance, you need to be able to easily identify the symptoms of the intolerance, so you can find out what is causing the problem.
Try a New Diet
Dog food intolerances are most effectively dealt with by changing diets, in a similar way to how we make adjustments to our diet when a food type doesn’t sit right with us. This can obviously be a bit harder, as the dog can’t easily tell you how they are feeling, until the symptoms occur.
The most difficult part however, is choosing which new diet to test your dog with. Some people choose to change brand, with others go for a raw food diet or hypoallergenic dog food. Both a raw food diet and hypoallergenic diet severely reduce or eliminate the use of additives, which can cause of dog food intolerances and adverse reactions.
Raw Food Diet
A raw food diet combines bones, meat, vegetables, fruits, and in some cases, supplements for vitamins and minerals. This is highly favored by many as it takes the dog back to a similar diet to what it would eat naturally. Nothing is processed, and it can also be introduced in an elimination-style way.
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Elimination diets are a common way to treat allergies in dogs. The dog is fed off a new protein and carbohydrate for a period of a few weeks to a few months. With a raw food diet, you have complete control over what your dog eats, but it also needs to be very carefully monitored – you don’t want your dog to be deficient in any nutrients.
Hypoallergenic Dog Foods
Hypoallergenic dog foods are created to avoid the ingredients that are most commonly associated with allergic reactions in dogs. They generally come in three main types; those with limited ingredients, those that are prescribed by a vet, and those with novel ingredients.
Novel ingredient dog food is the same concept as an elimination diet, only giving your dog food that they have not been exposed to before. You may find yourself feeding your dog a strange mix of ingredients on this diet – with some brands including pheasant and even kangaroo meat.
With the limited diet, there are less ingredients, making it much simpler to identify which ingredient your dog may be intolerant to. There are many types and brands of hypoallergenic dog food to choose from, including:
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet
- Pinnacle Grain Free Dog Food
- Autarky Hypoallergenic Dog Food
- Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food
You may also want to read our review of the best hypoallergenic dog food for some of the top brands at the moment.
What Do I Need to Know When Changing Dog Food?
On top of avoiding those ingredients that are most associated with intolerance, it is important to introduce new food slowly, gradually adding more new food and removing old food from your dog’s diet. A sudden change in food could cause further digestive problems, especially when the diet is very different.
It’s also important to focus on the new food, avoid any treats, and try not to give your dog any human food for about 6 weeks as they become accustomed to their new food. If your dog shows further signs of problems even on a very limited diet, then consulting a vet is highly advised.