What is a veterinary feeding trial?
Veterinarians often prescribe feeding trials, or elimination diets, if it’s suspected that your dog has allergies.
The idea is to eliminate all food allergens temporarily by feeding a very limited diet for six to twelve weeks. During that time, one protein and one carbohydrate—something the dog has never been fed—is given. There are no treats or supplements. It is strongly recommended that the owner keep a food journal to record any changes.
Elimination diets for dogs can last up to 12 weeks. It can take as long as nine weeks for a dog to respond to allergens being withdrawn from his diet. Allowing this length of time means owners and veterinarians have ample chance to observe any improvement in a dog’s health.
It also permits the time necessary to reintroduce foods that you have identified as being potential allergens. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 10 days for your dog to respond to these offending foods.
Food trial components include:
• One or two proteins coming from animal and vegetable sources. The level of protein in these foods should be no greater than 20 percent. These should be foods that your dog has not eaten before, and they should be easy to digest.
• If your dog is less than 10 months old, calcium supplements will be necessary. While fatty acids are necessary, avoid any which contain fish oil.
• While homemade diets are possible, poor management can lead to your dog becoming malnourished. Your veterinarian can recommend commercial elimination diet products to help avoid this problem.
The reintroduction/provocative food challenges
If your dog’s elimination diet has shown positive results, such as reduced itching or vomiting, you will be asked to reintroduce your dog’s old diet in a controlled manner. These so-called “provocative food challenges” aid you and your veterinarian in confirming food intolerances.
Dogs may have allergies to as many as five ingredients so many veterinarians suggest a complete reintroduction of the dog’s old diet to confirm allergies are to blame. Others recommend introducing one food item at a time. While this can pinpoint individual foods easily, some food allergies are heightened when combined.