Eliminating Food Allergies

Food sensitivities and allergies have become one of the most common pet ailments that we see when owners are looking to switch their dog to a raw diet. My childhood dog suffered from severe food sensitivities before we learned about feeding a raw diet. For him, a raw diet worked miracles and he lived well into his golden years with a healthy skin and coat. The best thing about a raw diet is that most prepared meals already eliminate many of the ingredients found in processed diets. Artificial supplements, colours, flavours, and preservatives are not found in any of our raw diets. They also don’t contain any grains, corn, or soy products. With a limited ingredient diet, we are already on the right path towards healthier, happier, allergy-free dogs.

Henry has suffered with food sensitivities. Through an elimination diet, we have discovered that he doesn’t do well on chicken, turkey, or beef.

We’re here to help you navigate the difficult task of figuring out your dog’s allergies. Once you’ve made the decision to feed a species appropriate diet, we need to evaluate the dog as a whole. Does the dog have any known sensitivities? In our experience, chicken and beef are generally the most common protein sources that dogs react to. For this reason, we typically recommend starting with either turkey or pork. Our goal is to eliminate as many potential allergens as possible. To do this, we select diets with as few ingredients as possible. The more basic the diet, the more likely we are to successfully eliminate possible allergens.

A proper elimination diet requires 12 weeks of strict dietary restrictions. 12 weeks is the amount of time that it takes for the skin to regenerate and for potential allergens to leave the body. This means that if you are doing an elimination diet with turkey, you need to feed single ingredient turkey treats. Make sure everyone that your dog comes into contact with is on board. Your dog shouldn’t be getting any cheese, bread crusts, popcorn, pizza, etc. If your dog consumes anything, no matter how big or small, the 12 weeks process starts again. I like to use the example of my dog, Tazz, to explain just how strict you need to be. Tazz had food sensitivities that were well managed with a raw diet. One day we were going through the Timmies drive thru and they offered him a timbit. I didn’t think too much of it and allowed him to have the special treat. For the next 10-12 weeks, Tazz suffered from itchy skin and chewed his paws until they were bleeding every day. I was shocked to see how much a single treat impacted him.

Once you have finished the 12 weeks on a single protein source, we evaluate how your dog did. Have there been improvements? If the dog is no longer showing signs of allergies or discomfort, we start introducing new protein sources. Typically we will offer one new protein source at a time and keep them on that for 1-2 weeks to see if it causes a reaction.

The first photo shows Henry’s paw 10 weeks into a rabbit elimination diet. You can see the staining on his nails is starting to grow out. The second photo shows Henry’s paws several months later eating only foods that he can tolerate.

There are a few reasons why an elimination diet is unsuccessful at ruling out potential allergens. The first is that the dog is sensitive to the protein source we have selected. If you are not seeing improvements following a 12-week elimination diet, we may recommend another 12 weeks on a more novel protein source, such as rabbit or kangaroo. The second reason for an unsuccessful elimination trial is that the dog has been given or has unknowingly eaten something it shouldn’t have. This is a common problem when the dog lives in a home with toddlers or other animals. For some families, eliminating every possible food source is extremely difficult. Lastly, some pet’s sensitivities are caused by environmental allergens and have nothing to do with food. Sometimes these reactions are a simple fix, such as an allergy to feather bedding or a chemical cleaning product. If your pet’s allergies are a seasonal issue, you are likely dealing with an outside environmental allergen. These types of reactions are almost impossible to control and many pet owners seek veterinary advice to provide medical or homeopathic relief for their dogs.

To learn more about elimination diets and how they may help your dog, visit us in store.