Food allergy In Dogs and Performing Elimination trials.
This is a big one and something I am incredibly passionate about getting right the first time!
So, let us talk about why and how to perform a food elimination trial. Plus let’s bust a few myths along the way.
Well, What Is A Food Elimination Trial?
A food trial involves, placing your dog on a novel protein diet, for a minimum of 6-8 weeks.
A food elimination trial is considered the gold standard method, for diagnosing food allergies, in a dog globally.
Other methods are available, but less reliable and if it were my dog, I would only use the gold standard method.
Any other method used, will be less accurate than performing a food elimination trial. So Let’s do this right the first time.
Why Would You Perform A Food Trial On Your Dog?
Food elimination diet trials are used to determine if a dog has a food allergy.
So what does a food allergy look like in a dog?
Food allergies can present themselves in several different ways. Common symptoms include anal gland problems, gastro issues and regular upset tummy episodes from a young age.
Also common is skin issue like ear infections, itchy irritated feet, skin rashes, and irritated skin around the bum and mouth.
Common Myths About Food Allergies
Food allergies in dogs are less common than environmental allergies.
A dog is more likely to be allergic to something in its environment like pollen or dust mites than it is its food.
Food allergies in dogs are most commonly caused by a meat protein source! Currently Beef is the number 1 food allergen globally.
Grain allergies in dogs are uncommon.
Unfortunately, the human fad of ‘grain-free eating’ means a lot of owners waste time and money trying grain-free dog diets before performing a proper food trial.
How To perform A Food Elimination Trial.
To perform an elimination diet trial on a dog they need to be placed onto a novel protein diet for at least 8 weeks. This needs to be strictly monitored and controlled. It’s best to talk to your vet before starting and keep good communication with them throughout the trial.
What Is A Novel Protein Diet?
A “novel” protein just means a “new” protein a dog hasn’t eaten before.
Normal doggy diets often contain multiple protein sources. Also cross contamination between different foods is common in manufacturing processes. Therefore it is impossible to use these diets for an elimination trial.
It needs to be known that the diet is a novel protein for the dog. Otherwise, time can be wasted or false results determined.
Worse case is that a food allergy goes undiagnosed because it is assumed the diet did not make a difference to the symptoms.
It is considered we have no novel protein sources. With multiple protein sources being mixed in diets, dogs being exposed to wild meats and roadkill commonly. Placing them on a single ‘uncommon’ protein. Is not 100% guaranteed. This can lead to the mentioned above comments about wasted time and failed results.
So What Diet Is Recommended To Perform A Food Trial With?
Talking to a vet about the right diet in a country or area is advised before starting or attempting a food elimination diet trial.
In my experience, we successfully use what’s known as hydrolyzed diets. Royal Canin has done amazing work creating Annallergenic and Hypoallergenic therapeutic diets.
Annallergenic is considered the gold standard globally for a food elimination trial.
I have included a link to a more detailed video on the diet.
Anallergenic – How it’s made! Video: https://youtu.be/z13QamO44yg
Keep your pet strictly on the diet chosen.
This can’t be emphasized more! It is very easy to fail a trial. The owner must be 100% committed to the diet trial and understand fully what they are trying to achieve. Owner compliance is of the utmost importance.
Why? because if exposed to a protein source before the 8 weeks is up, it is impossible to determine if the dog is reacting to that protein source or others still left in the dog’s system. Or none at all. Meaning the trial needs to be re-started from the beginning. This can be incredibly frustrating for everyone involved.
Before starting a food trial make sure the dog owners are aware and committed. It only takes a very small amount of bread, cheese, meat, milk, and other dog treats or foods to ruin the trial.
A food trial is temporary, Once an allergy or non-allergy is confirmed then the dog’s diet can vary again. Either back to previous if no food allergy was found or if an allergy was confirmed a less restricted version only avoiding that protein source.
What Happens When The 6-8 Weeks Of Novel Protein Diet Is Completed
My favorite part the challenge!!
It is time to find out if the dog has a food allergy.
There are typically two ways to do this that I know of but again check with you’re vet and what they recommend.
1. A food holiday – this means giving your pet everything they haven’t had during the food trial and seeing if they have a reaction. It’s a very quick way to determine if food is their issue.
The downside of a food holiday challenge is if the dog has a reaction, it is not known exactly which protein source caused it. The reaction then needs to be re-controlled with the novel protein diet and individual testing will be required.
2. Trial individual food allergens/Protein gradually. To then determine what exactly caused the flare.
In this method, one by one different protein sources/types is trialed over 2 week periods. If the dog has a reaction then an allergy is confirmed to that protein source.
If no allergen is found, then food allergy has been ruled.
Ear disease/flares are considered skin disease they are under the ‘Skin Umbrella’ and are a common flare from food allergies
If your pet has suffered from ongoing skin/gastro issues, talk to your vet about performing a food elimination trial.
Food elimination trials are used for diagnosing food allergies in pets.
They require a novel protein diet for 6-8 weeks
You Must then challenge the diet to confirm food allergy in your pet.
Remember to always involve your vet when considering a food elimination trial.
As always thanks for reading = )
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What is the most common food allergy in dogs?
How can you tell if your dog is allergic to food?
Performing a true food elimination trial is the gold standard way to tell if your dog has a food allergy.
What do you feed a dog with food allergies?
Once you know what your dog is allergic to you then just avoid those protein sources your dog is allergic to.
How long does it take for food allergies to go away in dogs?
It can take 3 weeks for a flare to settle and sometimes up to 8-12 weeks for symptoms to clear completely.
Does grain free dog food help with allergies?
Your dog is more likely to be allergic to a meat protein source or even the environment than grains.
A novel protein diet must be used to determine if a dog has a food allergy.