A feeding trial has two phases and the first phase where your dog is on an elimination diet, may be repeated. Since you're here, you probably have already established your dog is showing allergic symptoms. Perhaps you know it is because of something in the dog food you are feeding him or perhaps you don't know yet. To find out a feeding trial will help.
This can be a very lengthy process and it requires discipline to stick to it. But it's all for a good cause, so you can do it! It's for your furry friend's health. Your dog depends on you taking all the right steps and making all the right decisions. He doesn't do the shopping and he can only eat what you choose. If your dog is indeed doing the shopping then please contact me as I want to learn how you managed that!
Feed an elimination diet (also known as hypo allergenic diet) for 12 weeks and make sure this is the only food your dog eats, so no table scraps or treats either (except for water of course). Also no vitamins, protein flavored toothpaste, chewing toys or flavored medications (replace the latter by equally effective non-flavored variants).
A typical elimination diet consists of a novel source of protein and one type of carbohydrate. Choose a protein your dog is unlikely to have eaten before.
Since lamb used to be relatively new on the market, this was often chosen for a hypoallergenic protein. So this choice has nothing to do with lamb itself being hypo allergenic, it's just that your dog's immune system hasn't "seen" it before.
But nowadays lamb and rice is not that exotic anymore. Hopefully you have a good memory or kept a food log of the dog foods, snacks and all other things your pet has been eating as the choice in hypoallergenic dog food must be made based on previous exposure of your dog to various foodstuffs.
If lamb & rice will fit, then choose that, as it is readily available. Alternatively, you can choose rather exotic combinations like rabbit and potato, kangaroo and oats or duck and potato. You can make it yourself or make a choice from the commercially available hypoallergenic dog food brands. In this case you need to know how to read and interpret dog food labels.
A hypoallergenic dog food consists of only one source of protein and one starch.
In addition, the proteins can by hydrolyzed. In this case the proteins are broken down into very small molecules that can't be recognized by the immune system as allergens. Hydrolyzed proteins rarely induce hypersensitivity reactions in the body.
In 26% of dog food allergic dogs the symptoms disappear by 3 weeks. Feed the hypoallergenic dog food for at least 6 weeks. By 12 weeks the majority of cases respond, so that's why the time limit is set to 12 weeks. First the gastro intestinal symptoms (like diarrhea) will disappear. Skin issues take longer to recover from, about 6 to 9 weeks before you notice any progress.
When the allergy symptoms have not disappeared in 12 weeks, then the allergen your dog is reacting to is still in his food (or in his surroundings). Change dog food again and carefully compare ingredients lists to make an educated guess. Don't do this alone but consult your veterinarian.
Your vet can support you as serological dog allergy tests exist which can pinpoint the responsible food ingredient or environmental substance. It may save you a few iteration cycles with a different elimination diet each time. However, the diagnosis is still made via feeding trials so immunological testing can only give you a head start at this but no final conclusion. During this period it is wise to keep a food diary to record what your dog is eating in which period together with the results of the routine 10 step dog health check list.
When the allergy symptoms indeed have diminished or completely disappeared then you and your dog are ready to leave the elimination diet phase and progress into phase II. Phase II deals with the provocative food challenge test.
Examples of elimination diets (also known als hypoallergenic diets, sensitivity control diets or low antigen diets) will follow elsewhere on Best-Dog-Food-Guide. Some elimination diets use tapioca as carbohydrate source.
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The "Confidential Dog Food Report" is an e-book written by Andrew Lewis. Now for those of you who know him, you know that he doesn't think highly of commercial dog food. In fact he likes homemade dog food diets. But commercial dog food is not always bad of course.
You just need to find the best food for YOUR pet. Andrew has listed the top 9 dog food brands that are just better-than-good, which is a good starting place for you. After all homecooking can be nice on occasion, but commercial dog food is very convenient. Just find the right one!