If Spike is scratching away at his itchy skin, it could be due to a food allergy. While not especially common, food allergies do affect our canine companions. Rice is an ingredient found in many canine diets on the market, so your pooch may have developed an allergy to it.
A pooch develops a food allergy after eating a certain food, typically a protein, over a period of time. If his immune system starts to respond to the presence of that protein in his body once he digests it as an "invader," it can lead to the release of a chemical called hertamine. According to Modern Dog Magazine, this chemical results in all kinds of issues including itchy skin, vomiting, upset tummy or even skin infections. Only about 10 percent of allergies in pooches are caused by food, with the rest due to other triggers like inhalant or environmental allergies, according to WebMD.
Not So Novel Ingredients
Food allergy-specific diets used to contain rice, typically paired with lamb, for our canine friends because these ingredients weren't included in any canine diets on the market, making them new or "novel" ingredients. Unfortunately, many pet food manufacturers started to include these ingredients in their other products, making them inappropriate to treat a food allergy. Now commonplace in your pup's diet, ingredients like rice could be the cause of Spike's food allergy.
Is Rice a Protein?
While you might not consider rice as a possible culprit for your pooch's food allergies because it's a type of carbohydrate, think again. Rice is actually a protein-rich grain, containing eight amino acids. It is rated as a high-quality protein source with a biological value of 86 out of 100, nearly twice that of corn, according to American Rice. The protein content of rice makes it an excellent source of nutrition for most pups; for those suffering from food allergies, though, this makes it a potential allergen to his system. Alternate sources of carbohydrates like potatoes, yams or cassava provide much lower amounts of protein to your pooch, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The only way to determine if your pup is suffering from an allergy to rice and anything else is to put him on an elimination diet. This diet consists only of a novel protein and a carbohydrate. Your pooch must never have eaten either of these ingredients previously. Such diets include fish, venison or kangaroo and potato or duck and pea, according to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. While some food allergy diets do contain rice, they can only be fed to your pooch if he's never eaten rice before. If your pooch feels better after being on this diet, a food allergy is to blame.
Avoiding the Allergens
Some new hypoallergenic diets for pups actually contain only rice starch or corn starch, each of which contain less than 0.5 percent protein to avoid issues with food allergies, according to Purina. These diets also contain whole proteins that have been broken down or hydrolyzed into super small molecules that won't upset your pup's immune system. You can even feed some hydrolyzed protein diets to your pooch indefinitely in some cases. If his allergies aren't too bad, your vet will probably start to introduce ingredients back into your pup's diet to determine which ones are the allergens to avoid. For example, if reintroducing rice into the diet produces an allergic reaction, then you know that your dog is allergic to it.
- Modern Dog Magazine: Food Allergies 101
- WebMD: Caring for a Dog with Food Allergies
- University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign: College of Veterinary Medicine: Food Allergies: The Truth About Lamb and RiceMixes
- Natural Dog Health Remedies: Canine Food Allergies
- Veterinary Partner: Food Allergy Trials in Dogs
- Mar Vista Animal Medical Center: Food Allergies
- USA Emergency Supply: Rice -- All About Grains
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Nutrient Composition and Protein Quality of Rice Relative to Other Cereals
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.