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Do you think your dog has a food allergy? Try an elimination diet!

Your dog probably has a food allergy, and your vet advises an elimination diet. 'A what?' An elimination diet. An elimination diet is necessary to investigate whether a dog is actually allergic to a certain type of food. Yet what is an elimination diet, and what do you need to think about? You'll read all about it in this blog.

Food allergy in dogs

Food allergy in dogs

More and more dogs are allergic to something. Often to something in the environment (atopy), but we also see allergies in food occur more in a wide variety of products (allergens). Most dogs with food allergies are allergic to specific proteins in food. These can be common animal proteins, such as beef, chicken and lamb. However, we also increasingly see vegetable proteins and milk, such as proteins in wheat, soy, corn, potatoes and lactose.

As allergy symptoms are often the same – primarily itching on specific body spots – it is essential to know if your dog’s food could be the cause. To figure this out, an elimination diet is required.

What is an elimination diet?

An elimination diet is – as the name implies – a diet. You will examine whether the food affects your dog’s allergy. In an elimination diet, your dog is given a particular food type with ingredients unfamiliar to your dog for 6-8 weeks. If food plays a role, you should start to see the itching symptoms diminish over this period.

Sometimes the skin undoubtedly becomes inflamed due to the allergy. This inflammation often causes itching and is not immediately gone when you start an elimination diet for your dog. It can take quite some time before you see the symptoms diminish, as the skin often needs to heal somewhat before you see improvement.

Dogs can also be allergic to several things, i.e., something in the food and the environment. Even then, drawing a conclusion from the elimination diet can be more challenging. It is wise to make an appointment with your vet before starting the diet. Together, you can then properly assess the current situation and complaints. After the diet, you can schedule a check-up appointment to evaluate the effect and discuss a follow-up treatment.

How does an elimination diet work?

During an elimination diet, you give your dog food based on ingredients that are new to your dog. Therefore, you must know or try to find out what your dog has already eaten in its life.

There are two ways to give an elimination diet:

  • You can cook for your dog
  • You can provide a diet food based on highly reduced (hydrolysed) proteins

Cooking for your dog

If you cook for your dog yourself, you will put together a meal based on a protein source unknown to your dog with a carbohydrate source. As a source of protein, you can choose, for example, horsemeat, ostrich, duck, venison or rabbit. You can choose boiled white rice, potato or (white) pasta as a carbohydrate source.

This is not a complete meal in terms of composition, but okay to give for 6-8 weeks. If you continue to cook for your dog, it will be necessary to provide an additional supplement to complete the meal, such as TROVET Balance.

Royal Canin Anallergenic as a hydrolysed diet for your dog

As it is often not easy to cook for your dog, a ready-made diet food based on highly hydrolysed proteins is usually chosen. An example of such a food is Royal Canin Anallergenic. The advantage of diet food is that it is complete food. If the results are promising, you can often continue giving this for a more extended period.

Hill’s z/d Dog as a hydrolysed diet

Also, Hill’s z/d Dog is food with a highly hydrolysed protein source. This helps prevent an overactive immune system response to the food.

Don’t give your dog any snacks!

It is imperative during the elimination phase that your dog is not given other things to eat. So, no sweets, biscuits or chews. Don’t give leftovers from your own meals. Also, give only water to drink.

How is the effect of the elimination diet assessed?

To assess the effect of the diet, it is important to carefully map out the symptoms beforehand and attach a severity value to them. So, for example, give it an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 for the severity of the itching. It is also smart to indicate the places on your dog’s body where itching occurs and whether there is redness, wounds, baldness, etc. If necessary, take photos of the spots.

This seems like a lot of work, and it might be. However, if you have a good idea of the symptoms prior to the diet, you can best assess the effect of the diet. Usually, after 6-8 weeks, you simply forget what it was like. You don’t remember whether the itching is more or less now than before the test.

Your dog probably has a food allergy if the itching has lessened over the weeks. Usually, the skin and coat won’t be completely healed in this period. This often takes longer.

To diagnose food allergy with certainty, you should put your dog back on the old food to see if the symptoms return. After all, it is possible that the itching was reduced for some other reason and that this coincides with the elimination diet period. Does the itching return when your dog consumes their old food? Then the diagnosis of food allergy has been made.

How do you proceed after the elimination diet?

Does your dog turn out to have a food allergy? Then you need to start looking for food suitable for your dog. There are blood tests available that can help you choose the right protein source. These will show which proteins your dog has antibodies against. You should avoid these proteins in the food as much as possible. Fortunately, many hypoallergenic dog foods are on the market, such as Vetality Hypoallergenic Dog Wet, so you will almost always succeed in finding suitable food for your dog.

Did the symptoms not lessen during the elimination diet, or didn’t return when your dog consumed their old food? In that case, your dog probably does not have a food allergy or possibly a food allergy combined with an allergy to something else. Other diagnostic steps can be taken to find the cause of the skin complaints.

Do you still have questions about food allergies and the elimination diet? Please contact us via

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