Q: What is a food trial?
My dog might have food allergies, and the veterinarian suggested something called a food trial. What is a food trial?
Food trials are designed to separate the “guilty” allergens from particular foods your dog can continue to eat. Food trials are a long-term (and sometimes inconclusive) process. Plea-bargaining is possible, but begging for table scraps is not allowed.
Food allergies account for only a fraction of the allergies suffered by dogs. Other causes of canine allergy include inhalants (pollen, mold spores), parasites (mites, fleas), and disorders of the immune system. And reasonably good tests exist for those conditions, which sometimes are relieved with desensitization treatment.
Not so with dogs’ food allergies. Your vet won’t nick the dogs skin with 20 different kinds of dog food, then give “beef shots” to desensitize the dog. The “guilty” food, if it can be discovered, has to be removed from the diet of the allergic dog.
A comprehensive food trial takes at least 12 weeks. Instead of the regular diet, your dog will dine on some meat protein he’s never had before — such as rabbit or venison. After 12 weeks — and if the itchy skin or other signs have diminished — you might be instructed to return to the original diet and see what happens. Or you might add back suspect foods (beef, dairy, chicken, soy protein) one by one, watching for a return of allergic reaction.
You (and the dog) must be absolutely scrupulous about what does in the bowl during the food trial. No treats of any kind, no table scraps, no tampering with the jury. Nothing but the prescribed “novel” protein for 12 long weeks.
Dogs can also suffer from a combination of food allergy and inhalant allergy. That would be trials and tribulations.
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