When people get allergies, they tend to sneeze, wheeze, cry, and sniffle. When dogs get allergies, they tend to scratch, bite, roll on the carpet or in the grass, and to lick themselves sore. Cod liver oil for dogs can be just the thing you need to make your dog's diet truly allergy-free.
Dog Food Ingredients that Can Cause Allergies
When dogs have allergies, it is usually to a specific ingredient in their food. The most common offending foods for dogs are, in increasing order of severity, food preservatives, food dyes, yeast, beef, eggs, wheat, cornmeal, soy, milk, and horse meat.
Sometimes removing just one of these ingredients from your dog's diet is enough to heal the allergy and stop the scratching, biting, rolling, and licking. But how can you know which ingredient to remove?
Canine Allergy Diagnosis
One way to find out what ingredient in your dog's diet is causing allergies is to have your vet send a blood sample to a company called Bio-Medical Services. Their lab uses a method called ELISA to identify food allergies in the same way that labs can use blood tests for allergies in people. The service then creates a list of acceptable food ingredients and matches the list to one of 2,500 custom blended dog chows available for weekly delivery to your home.
Cost of testing is about US $1,000. Daily cost of the hypoallergenic dog food is US $3 to $10. Your vet's charges for a basic exam and the blood draw, plus sending a frozen blood sample to the testing lab will probably be about US $500 more. Many families love their pet but can't spend this month on allergy testing, even for the human members of the family. Fortunately, there are two other ways.
A Doggie Elimination Diet
Another way to pinpoint the culprit behind your pet's allergies is to do an elimination diet. In an elimination diet, the first thing to do is to make sure your dog's problem is not really fleas. This means using a flea shampoo (preferably an organic flea shampoo made with neem, which helps soothe inflammation on dog's skin) for a week before starting the diet.
And then, when you are sure the problem is not fleas, you take your pet off regular dog food and give just a mixture of two ingredients at a time, one protein, and one starch. Chicken and rice are usually hypollaergenic. You might give your dog cooked chicken and cooked rice for a few days, and then add egg. If there is a reaction, then you know the problem is egg.
Then you go through the list of ingredients, adding a test item, stopping it and going back to the basic chicken and rice for a few days, and then going back to commercial dog food for a week at a time. Why use the commercial dog food? Usually dogs do not get adequate nutrition from a single protein source and a single starch for more than few days. Variety is important to your dog's diet.
You repeat this process for however long it takes to find the one food ingredient that causes your dog's allergies, and then you avoid feeding that food ever again. If you want to use a commercial dog food, then you might try hypoallergenic dog foods such as Natural Life, Nature's Recipe, and Sensible Life. Natural Life makes a lamb-and-rice dog chow called Lamaderm. Nature's Recipe offers several dog food mixes, including a vegan blend, all made without colorings or preservatives.
Taking care of allergies usually also takes care of dry skin and many eye problems. It's also a good move for pets that have joint problems. But what if you just can't afford hypoallergenic dog food?
Norwegian Cod Liver Oil as a Budget Alternative
Often dogs do better if they just get additional anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids in their diets, and there is no better source than natural Norwegian cod liver oil. You could puncture a soft gel of cod liver oil and add it directly to your pet's food, but it's a lot easier to use a product like Nordic Naturals Pet Liver Oil.
Norwegian products are usually better because Norwegian companies have a lot more experience in distilling cod liver oil. They catch their cod in cold waters and store them in cool and sanitary conditions before processing. And just as Norwegian cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin A and vitamin D for people, it is a great source of vitamins for dogs and cats.
How much cod liver oil for dogs? Use 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) for every 20 pounds (9 kilos) of body weight, up to 3/4 teaspoon (2-3 ml) a day. The side effect of overdosing may be diarrhea, so always start with the lowest possible dosage and increase gradually over several days.