Allergic (atopic) dermatitis is the most typical skin condition observed in many veterinary facilities. This syndrome causes itching following exposure to environmental allergens (often airborne ones) (foreign proteins which induce allergies.) True food allergies in dogs are rather uncommon. Pets may have food intolerances, which are allergic reactions to non-nutrients in the diet (such additives), however it can be difficult to determine how common these reactions are. While giving your pet the healthiest, most natural, and holistic food you can is advised, dietary therapy is not a cornerstone in the treatment of itching dogs.

With a little adjustment, diets designed for animals with digestive difficulties may be helpful for animals with skin conditions. These customized meals are used to diagnose and manage food allergies in addition to monitoring any improvements in pets that suffer from skin conditions like atopic dermatitis. Remember that feeding your itching dogs the diet used to test and treat food allergies may result in improvement even if they don’t have a real food allergy.

A food trial is a specific, scientific approach to testing for food allergy. This can be done using either a homemade diet or a commercial diet that has been designed specifically for food trials. All other food sources, such as treats, snacks, table scraps, and flavored medications, must be removed during the trial. Your pet should be eating the trial diet exclusively for at least 8 weeks, although 12 weeks is currently recommended, because initial improvement may not be seen until week 8. After 8 weeks, it is usually safe to slowly introduce other foods back into the diet in a controlled manner. If you are unsure how to do this, please speak with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist. If your pet has a food allergy, once the allergenic ingredients are removed, symptoms should resolve. If your pet does not improve, then food allergies are likely not the cause of the skin problems. The food trial may not be successful in some cases, and a food allergy may still be present. In this case, the skin symptoms may not respond to the trial diet because your pet may have an allergy to one or more of the ingredients in the trial diet.

When testing for food allergies, a hypoallergenic diet must be used. The most common varieties of hypoallergenic diets are hydrolyzed protein diets, where the protein has been broken down into smaller units that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Other diets may use novel proteins, such as venison or rabbit that are not commonly used in pet foods. After food allergies have been ruled out, a novel protein or hydrolyzed protein diet may be used to treat pets with food allergies and atopic dermatitis. A diet may be used for several months to years, or for the lifetime of the pet, depending on the severity of the food allergies. A diet may be used as a sole therapy or as a component of a more comprehensive plan to control allergies and skin disease. If a diet is used in combination with other therapies, it may be necessary to feed the diet for a longer period of time to see clinical improvement.

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