Food allergies are a common reason for itching and scratching in dogs. Other symptoms include hair loss, hot spots, and skin and ear infections, especially yeast-based. Determining the cause of a dog's allergies can be a frustrating process of elimination.
Allergens in Dog Foods
The most common causes of food allergies in dogs are meats such as beef, chicken and lamb; diary products and eggs; and grains such as corn, wheat or soy.
Commercial Grain-Free Foods
Many dogs experience allergy relief when fed a food without grains. Switching to a grain-free food might be all that is needed to solve food allergy problems.
Commercial Low-Allergen Foods
Low-allergen foods are developed to avoid triggering an allergic reaction. Some contain hydrolyzed proteins and carbohydrates, broken down into small molecular sizes. Others contain novel ingredients, such as venison and millet or duck and sweet potato.
Some owners choose to prepare their own dog food so they have control over what ingredients the dog eats. Home-prepared diets do require research to ensure that all nutritional needs are met.
An elimination diet is the most precise way to determine the cause of food allergies in dogs. A novel protein and carbohydrate are fed to the dog for 12 weeks, after which one new food is added every two weeks. Any added food that causes symptoms is assumed to be an allergen and removed from the diet.