Is there anything I can do to keep my puppy from developing food allergies?
Dogs usually develop food allergies at two years and older, but even 6-month-old puppies can develop them.
There are some breeds, such as West Highland White Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers, Golden Retrievers, and Shar Pei dogs that are a little more allergy-prone so it should be something for which you are on the lookout.
Although there is some research going on as to what creates food allergies in puppies, your best bet is to become as educated as possible.
This means first knowing exactly what an allergy is.
Simply, it is an over-reaction of the immune system. Antibodies are specialized cells of the immune system that protect the body from foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. If these cells become over-protective, they can misinterpret harmless substances like proteins in your dog’s food, and attack. The heightened response to these substances, called allergens, results in the allergy symptoms your dog suffers.
Some foods are common allergens; often, it’s a protein like beef, milk, corn, wheat, or eggs that are often included as protein ingredients in commercial pet foods; dogs, though, can react to any protein in the food, as long as they’ve been sensitized to it. Making things even more complicated, not every ingredient is clearly listed on the pet food label, and there’s often a practice called “splitting”– “fragments” from one ingredient on the label to hide a large amount of a low-value ingredient, making them appear far down on the ingredient list. Add them up, though, and it results in a whopping amount of one ingredient; corn seems to be the most prevalent when it comes to “splitting”—and corn is a known allergen.
Besides protein, dogs are often allergic to wheat and food coloring as well—so you might consider rotating her diet every 6 months or so (gradual changes, please, so as not to create GI upset). By rotating, you won’t give her the opportunity to develop sensitivity.
Remember, however, that allergies can be triggered by many factors, including something in the environment. So if you think your puppy will develop allergies, there are other things you can do: Use natural cleaners, change air filters, keep her out of carpeted rooms (because they can be allergic to dust mites), wash her bed frequently and wipe off her paws during high-pollen count seasons.