Stolley Park
Veterinary Hospital

3020 W. Stolley Park Road  Grand Island, Nebraska  68801  
Phone:  308-384-6272   Fax:  308-384-0984

December Newsletter

Food Allergies

Have you noticed that your dog is scratching a lot these days?  Have you thought to yourself, how can she possibly have fleas in December?  If she was itchy all summer and you thought it was seasonal allergies, have you found yourself wondering what could possibly be pollinating now when there’s 6 feet of snow on the ground?

If your dog still has itchy flaky oily stinky skin and it’s Christmas, you might turn your thoughts from seasonal allergies to another, more year round skin problem:  Food Allergies. 

Allergies to food are not usually associated with the brand of food, but the ingredients.  The most common culprit is the protein source, which in over the counter foods is either chicken or beef.  Also on the suspect list is the carbohydrate source, usually corn.  A food allergy can develop even when your dog has been eating the same food for many years, because the nature of an allergy requires multiple exposures to the allergen.

If you and your veterinarian suspect a food allergy, the first step in diagnosing it is a Diet Trial.  A diet trial involves changing your dog’s food to a complete new and specific food.  Remember, it isn’t the brand, so switching from Eukanuba to Beneful is not enough of a diet trial.  To conduct a true diet trial, we must find what we call a “novel protein” and “novel carbohydrate” source, or alternatively something called a hydrolyzed protein.

A novel protein is one the body has not been exposed to before.  Most commonly seen novel proteins are duck, venison, and egg.  Novel carbohydrates may include sweet potatoes or rice.  A hydrolyzed protein is often chicken based, but the protein is produced to a molecular size that is too small for the body to recognize as an allergen.

Manufactured hypoallergenic pet foods are not inexpensive, but if your dog suffers from a food allergy, it can save you money in the long run.  Medication for skin allergy and infection adds up in the course of a year, so correcting the underlying problem would be very beneficial for not only your pet's comfort, but for your budget as well.

A diet trial involves two very important rules.  #1 It takes several weeks to decide whether the new diet is working.  Give your pet at least 90 days before giving up on your new food choice.  #2 Your pet can not eat anything else except the diet.  No table food, no treats, NOTHING.  If you give her anything else, the trial will not be accurate, and your money will be wasted. Eventually new treats can be introduced, but any recurrence of signs and that diet item has to be discontinued.

In addition to faithfully following the two cardinal rules of a diet trial, it is also important to remember that a dog with food allergies can also have seasonal allergies.  If your dog is itchy all year long but seems worse during spring and fall, she probably has a combination allergy.  In those cases, it is advantageous to perform a diet trial during the winter months to make an accurate diagnosis.  It is also very important to continue the hypoallergenic diet during the allergy seasons, because managing seasonal allergy symptoms will be much easier.

So this December is a perfect time to call Stolley Park Veterinary Hospital and make an appointment to discuss the possibility of your dog having food allergies.  We can start that diet trial right away and get your family started on an itch-free new year.