Dog Foods for Shih Tzus with Allergies
Animals, like humans, can be allergic to certain materials and food. They can also develop allergies over time. Just because they haven’t had an allergic reaction to something in the past doesn’t mean they won’t become allergic to it in the future.
It is therefore important to pay close attention to your little pup’s behavior and demeanor to detect potential health issues.
How to Tell If Your Shih Tzu Has Food Allergies
There are a lot of allergens that can trigger an allergic response in your Shih Tzu. Common examples include food allergens in the form of additives, certain types of protein, and gluten, as well as environmental allergens such as seasonal pollen and weeds.
An easy way to detect food allergies in your Shih Tzu is to watch out for the following symptoms:
- Scratching and itching
- Flaky skin
- Ear infection or inflammation
- Excessive gas, vomiting and diarrhea
- Asthma-like symptoms (sneezing, coughing)
A common sign of a food allergy is severe scratching and itching that results in the skin becoming red, sore, and flaky. The skin discomfort often occurs around the pup’s face, legs, paws, and anal area, which is horribly uncomfortable.
For a definitive diagnosis, it’s best to bring your furry one to your local veterinarian for medical advice.
Common Causes of Food Allergies in Shih Tzus
It is not uncommon for Shih Tzus to be allergic to specific proteins in their food, which can be plant or animal-based. The most common types of food allergies in dogs are attributed to beef, chicken, dairy, corn, and wheat, the last of which is commonly found in commercial pet food.
How to Treat Your Shih Tzu’s Food Allergies
The only way to prevent future allergic reactions is to determine the specific cause of your Shih Tzu’s food allergy and to ensure that your fur baby never eats it again. But that’s easier said than done!
First, you need to change its diet to a homemade or carefully supervised diet (as prescribed by your veterinarian) for at least 8 to 12 weeks. The transition has to be done gradually too, or your little pup might experience digestive problems due to the drastic change in its food.
During this time, your Shih Tzu should be kept away from all other foods. This includes treats, vitamins, chewable medication, table scraps. He or she will have to stay on the new diet until the allergic symptoms are completely gone.
Once your pup has stopped being allergic, you can gradually reintroduce different foods to its diet and keep an eye out for any reactions. When you’ve managed to identify the cause of its allergies, you will have to ensure that your Shih Tzu stays away from foods that contain any form or by-product of that specific protein or ingredient.
Dog Foods for Shih Tzus with Allergies – Homemade Dog Food
Dr. Larsen and Dr. Bartges, board-certified veterinary nutritionists and diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, caution that while “cooking for your dog offers benefits such as diet management, appeasing picky eaters, and bond-building”, “common home cooking mistakes include using unsafe ingredients and not preparing balanced meals.” (source: American Kennel Club)
To ensure that you’re using the right recipes for homemade dog food, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for professional advice rather than following generic recipes from unverified online sources, which may do more harm than good.
Dr. Larsen and Dr. Bartges also recommend consulting Balance IT®, a site run by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, to create individualized recipes. The site formulates every recipe to the specific pet’s nutritional needs, which involves evaluating approximately 40 important nutrients in every recipe generated.
However, if you do not have the time to prepare home-cooked meals for your pup, here are some alternative types of dog foods to help you determine the source of your pet’s allergies.
Limited Ingredient Dog Foods
Limited ingredient dog foods contain fewer ingredients, as indicated by its name, allowing you to identify the cause of your Shih Tzu’s food allergy. It’s perfect for dogs with food sensitivities while still providing them with the needed nutrients in the right proportions.
Cathleen Enright, CEO of the Pet Food Institute in Washington D.C., explains that “Limited dog food ingredients will only have one protein source instead of many. As an example, the food might only contain chicken, which means it won’t have beans, lamb or steak in it. There are also types of food that will have one carbohydrate or fat source.”
Putting your Shih Tzu on a diet of limited ingredient dog food allows you to rotate its diet and expose it to a variety of ingredients in a healthy way to identify what’s causing those allergic reactions.
This kind of dog food can include uncommon sources of protein such as duck, lamb, and even sweet potatoes, which offers them a varied diet in a safe and controlled way.
Hypoallergenic Dog Food
Hypoallergenic dog food has been specifically designed for dogs with special dietary requirements. Typically made using wholesome and nutritious ingredients, hypoallergenic dog food doesn’t contain any chemicals, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives commonly found in commercial dog food.
They contain natural sources of protein found in the wild as well as ingredients to help alleviate allergic symptoms, such as Vitamins A and E, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and novel carbohydrates. Hypoallergenic food can also reduce other health problems in dogs such as obesity, arthritis, blocked anal glands, and even periodontal disease.
It is relatively common for Shih Tzus to have food allergies. While it can be quite a straightforward process to determine the cause of its allergies, for a definitive diagnosis and prescribed treatment plan, it’s best to bring your furry one to your local veterinarian for professional medical advice.