Boston terriers are more susceptible than most other breeds to atopic dermatitis, a skin condition caused by allergy, according to Bio-Medical Services, a pet allergy testing lab. This condition can be caused by allergies to any of a variety of substances, including pollens, dust mites, household molds, and various foods and food additives. Meat proteins are among the most common causes of food allergies in dogs, but grains such as corn, and gluten, a protein derived from a variety of grains, also are frequent causes.
Boston terriers with any type of allergy, including food allergies, typically experience atopic dermatitis. This condition presents itself as red, itchy, flaking skin. You may first become aware of it when you see your terrier chewing or licking constantly in an attempt to get relief. Atopic dermatitis can lead to secondary skin infections and cause hair loss and thickening of the skin. All of this is very uncomfortable for your Boston terrier and requires treatment by a veterinarian, who will try to determine what causes your dog's symptoms.
Food Allergy Symptoms
Signs of food allergies in Boston terrier dogs include not only atopic dermatitis, but also frequent ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea and flatulence. Boston terriers have sensitive stomachs. A food allergy or intolerance can cause your dog to be gassy. According to Dog Channel, the top two causes of flatulence in Boston terriers are corn and soy, grains that are frequently found in commercial dry dog foods.
Any ingredient in a diet is a potential allergen, including the meat protein, the carbohydrates, and the wide variety of other ingredients. Both corn and wheat are among known potential causes of food allergies in Boston terriers, according to the Boston Terrier Rescue of East Tennessee. Because gluten is usually derived from these grains, it can also be the cause of food allergies. Sometimes gluten is also derived from rice or barley, but it is best to eliminate it from your dog's diet no matter what the source if you are concerned about food allergies. Neither ingredient is essential for your Boston terrier's nutritional needs, which include animal proteins, fats, fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals. For carbohydrates, whole grains like whole oats or brown rice can provide your dog with needed energy and fiber.
If you suspect your Boston terrier may have a food allergy, contact the breeder you purchased the dog from if possibile. According to Bio-Medical Services, if one of your dog's parents has an allergy to corn or gluten, your dog has a 30 percent chance of being allergic to these ingredients. The risk increases to 60 percent if both parents have this sensitivity. The breeder may be able to tell you whether your dog's parents have food allergies. This information may help you narrow down the potential causes of your Boston terrier's skin problems.
To begin treating food allergy symptoms in your Boston terrier, your veterinarian probably will recommend an elimination diet. A hypoallergenic food is substituted for your Boston terrier's usual fare. Most hypoallergenic diets are made for short-term use, but some are balanced for long-term maintenance. These diets don't contain corn, wheat or ingredients derived from them. Diets used for elimination testing typically contain a protein source your dog has not previously been exposed to, such as venison, rabbit, fish or duck, and one equally unfamiliar carbohydrate, such as potato or quinoa. If after eight to 12 weeks on the special diet your dog's skin has returned to normal or the gastrointestinal upset has ended, then food allergy was the probable cause of the symptoms.
Feeding the Allergic Dog
To determine what specific food causes allergic symptoms in your Boston terrier, ingredients now can be added back into the dog's diet one at a time until the dog's symptoms return. Once the causes are determined, those ingredients are permanently eliminated from your dog's diet. Study the ingredients list of all foods you give to your dog, including treats. If your Boston terrier is sensitive to gluten or corn, seek foods labelled "gluten free" or "corn free."
Boston terriers can suffer from a variety of allergies, including contact, inhalant and food allergies. Some dogs can experience several allergies simultaneously. When you start a food trial for your dog, you may also need to eliminate use of scented dog shampoos, laundry detergents, carpet shampoos or household cleaners in your dog's environment. Use a topical flea solution recommended by your veterinarian to prevent flea allergies.
Your veterinarian may perform a skin test to determine exactly what is causing the allergy or allergies; such testing is especially useful for dogs who react to multiple allergens.
To provide relief for your dog while you try to find the cause of the dog's allergies, bathe your Boston terrier in shampoos containing soothing ingredients such as oatmeal.
Similar in symptoms and treatment to food allergy or intolerance, celiac disease affects some Boston terriers. This condition is caused by an intolerance of any kind of gluten, regardless of source. This autoimmune condition affects the way your dog absorbs nutrients from foods containing gluten, because the body produces antibodies in reaction to the substance, according to VetInfo. Your dog can become malnourished from celiac disease, and then must be switched to a totally gluten-free diet, including all treats. Diagnosis through blood tests and a biopsy of your Boston terrier's intestine are needed to confirm such a condition.