Food intolerances can affect many people in many different ways and the list of causes is endless. It's no different for our furry friends, and food intolerances in dogs can often go undiagnosed.
Food intolerance can be defined by its uncomfortable physical effects, it can also mean that a particular food may not be digested as easily as others. Unlike food allergies, the immune system is not involved.
What is the difference between a food allergy and intolerance?
People may be aware that there is a difference between intolerance to a food and an allergy. However, this difference is not often discussed and many people cannot distinguish between the two. Before establishing which your dog is suffering from, it is essential to understand the differences.
Food intolerance is where food cannot be digested properly, while a food allergy is an immune system response.
‘What difference does this make?', you might ask. Well, symptoms often appear later in cases of food intolerance and are rarely life-threatening.
Small amounts of a certain food may be tolerated with food intolerance, where food allergies are often more serious and sensitive to the trigger food.
What are the symptoms of food intolerance in dogs?
When dogs are intolerant to a certain food, they present extremely similar symptoms as we would do! Here is what you should look out for:
- Vomiting/diarrhea – if you notice that your dog has soft stools or is vomiting after they eat their food, they are likely intolerant to something you are feeding them. This is a common symptom, as they are unable to digest it correctly.
- Bloating and abdominal pain – If you notice that your dog's belly is swollen and bloated, this is a very revealing sign that your dog may be suffering from food intolerance. Although your furry friend may not be able to tell you about their stomach ache, they might seem sulky and not themselves.
Unlike a food allergy, which can lead to anaphylaxis, food intolerance in dogs will not likely need urgent medical treatment. However, if intolerance is suspected, it's always best to seek medical advice.
As many common dog foods have multiple ingredients, it can be hard to pin down what food is not agreeing with your dog. A good way to tackle this issue is with single protein raw dog food, which can be purchased from brands such as Bella and Duke (here: https://www.bellaandduke.com/shop/raw-dog-food/).
If this is not an option, exclusion diets can be beneficial. This involves removing a particular food from your dog's diet for two to six weeks and noting any changes in symptoms. If symptoms have gone away, the trigger food is likely to be the one that has been omitted.
You may be able to feed your dog this food again at some point after this period, as tolerance can sometimes be developed. However, as food intolerances vary significantly between different dogs, this may not always be the case.
When to contact your vet
If symptoms worsen, or you believe that your dog is experiencing something more serious, you should see your vet.
Although food intolerances are unlikely to be life-threatening, it is better to be safe than sorry.