Hypoallergenic dog food and elimination diets are indicated if a dietary allergy (i.e., an immune-mediated hypersensitivity to a dietary component) or intolerance (i.e., a non-immune-mediated problem) is suspected, respectively. Both type of diets will henceforth be referred to as hypoallergenic dog food.
These diets may be composed of the same ingredients found in bland diets; however, they must be formulated so that the dog is fed food that it either has not eaten before (and hence could not be responsible for causing allergy or intolerance) or that is very unlikely to provoke allergy or intolerance (e.g., potatoes). Commercial elimination diets are available; however, it may be best to first try a homemade one if the owners are willing to prepare it.
Hypoallergenic dog food diets must be used for at least 6-8 weeks before their efficacy can accurately be determined. It is critical that no other foods or treats be give to the dog during this time; this include pills, toys, and medications with flavoring. If the signs resolve during this time, hypoallergenic dog food should be continued for at least 4 to 6 more weeks to ensure that it is the diet that is responsible and not a spontaneous fluctuation of the disease. If hypoallergenic dog food seems effective, a more convenient commercial diet may then be substituted for the homemade one. If the homemade diet is to be continued, appropriate vitamins, minerals and fatty acids should be added to balance it.
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