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Will Changing My Dog's Food Stop Their Itching?

It can be really frustrating when a dog develops some sort of skin problem that keeps them itching and scratching till they rub themselves raw. Although food can be the trigger for certain allergies, it does not necessarily mean this is the case with your pooch. In short, changing their diet might not solve the problem even if you buy dog food that claims to help "improve" coat and skin quality and which is hypoallergenic.

Food is Not Always the Trigger

It would be wrong to think that food is responsible for the majority of skin disorders seen in dogs and other pets. On top of this, commercially produced dog food that claims to be specifically formulated to improve skin disorders as well as promote healthier coats and skin are not as effective as they were once thought to be.

Main Cause of Skin Conditions in Dogs

Studies carried out in the States have shown the main cause of skin conditions and disorders in dogs is mainly caused by parasites and in particular fleas are often the culprits. Coming in a close second is environmental proteins which could include the following:

  • Grass, plant and tree pollens
  • Mite dust
  • Microorganisms
  • Insects
  • Fungal spores

Food comes in last as a cause for skin diseases and disorders seen in dogs with the studies showing that it is responsible for around 8% to 12% of cases, although vets put the figure closer to 25%. However, the figure is a lot lower than first thought.


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Cutaneous Adverse Reactions to Food Explained

Owners often think their dogs are suffering from some sort of skin disorder because they have developed CARF. However, this is not the case at all with many nutritionists blaming all the incorrect information found on the internet for the confusion. On top of this, it is much easier and cheaper to swap dog foods than it is to have a pet thoroughly examined by a veterinary dermatologist to establish what is really wrong. The trouble is that identifying which type of food is the trigger takes time and is often not very reliable. Owners also believe that vets are not clued up enough on a dog’s nutritional needs to make a correct evaluation.

The Study's Findings

The study was carried out by veterinary nutritionists at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, Massachusetts and they found that many of the claims made by pet food manufacturers could not be substantiated.  In fact, researchers found that many of the pet foods claiming to promote healthier skin and coat conditions contained ingredients that were known to be the triggers of many skin disorders seen in dogs and which were typically caused by CARFs. Vets have found the foods that tend to be the triggers include the following:

  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Egg
  • Chicken

Some of the most common ingredients used in many of the commercially dog foods that claim to promote healthier skin and coats consist of protein sources from eggs and chicken. On top of this the food was "bulked out" with other things like potato, oats and rice providing a source of carbohydrates. Many of the big brands also place a lot of emphasis on the fact their formulas do not contain any corn, but in actual fact it has never been proven to be a trigger for any sort of skin disorder seen in dogs by veterinary nutritionist or dermatologists.

Other ingredients in dog food that claimed to be good for a dog's skin and coat, but which the researchers could not determine whether or not the formula contained the correct levels include the following:

  • Essential Fats - omega-3 and omega-6
  • Nutritional Calories - dogs need to eat the correct levels of calories to meet their daily nutrient needs. However, researchers found the levels in the dog food did not meet these

Conclusion

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from some sort of skin disorder, rather than simply change their diets to a hypoallergenic one, it is far wiser to take them along to the vet for a thorough examination. The vet may recommend your pet be seen by a veterinary dermatologist to determine exactly what is triggering their condition. There is a misconception that most skin disorders seen in dogs can be put down to being triggered by a food allergy, but in truth other reasons for the condition are more likely to blame. You may find the vet and the dermatologist recommend you feed your dog a home-made diet until a correct diagnosis can be made and once this has been established, they would recommend a treatment.


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