The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that four out of every one hundred children have a food allergy. Just as in humans, the other furry, four-legged family members can have food allergies as well. They are much less common than flea and environmental allergies, but dogs can have them. The most common food allergens in dogs are proteins such as chicken and beef, as well as dairy products. Clinical signs of a food allergy usually start in a young puppy less than one year of age. Each animal can have different clinical signs, which can sometimes make a diagnosis difficult. Many animals suffer with itchy skin, ear problems, and recurrent skin infections. But not all animals with these symptoms necessarily have a food allergy.
The only way to make a diagnosis of food allergies is with a food trial. A food trial means the animal is fed only one special diet for 8-10 weeks. If your dog accidentally gets into the garbage or sneaks a piece of meat off your dinner table, you must start the trial over again. Just one slip up can be a problem, which is why food allergies are difficult to diagnose. The diets used for suspected food-allergic dogs are not your average dog food. The trick is the animal can never have been previously exposed to the diet. Common diets for food allergic patients are rabbit and potato, fish and potato, and even kangaroo. While some owners succeed in only feeding the specified diet, they often forget that even something as simple as giving their pet a monthly heartworm pill can compromise the trial if these products are flavored with meat.
Your veterinarian cannot do a blood test to see if animals are allergic to certain foods like they can in humans. The only tool the dermatologists have if they suspect a food-allergic dog is the food trial. In addition to food allergies, pets can have an environmental allergy, which may be seasonal, most commonly in the spring, summer, and fall, or non-seasonal since they can also be allergic to house mites.