Food Allergies in Dogs

understanding triggers and solutions


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Food Allergies in Dogs: Understanding Triggers & Solutions

Just like humans, our dogs can develop food allergies, even to food they’ve been eating for months or years. And just like humans, dog food allergy symptoms can range from irritating to life-threatening. 

It’s important to know what symptoms to watch for and understand how dog food allergies are diagnosed and managed. From elimination diets to hypoallergenic dog foods, your dog’s allergies can be managed to keep them happy and healthy.

Dog Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance vs Food Sensitivity

There’s more to food reactions than just allergies. Dog food allergies, food intolerance, and food sensitivity are all adverse reactions to a specific trigger, but they differ in how symptoms present and in the underlying causes.

  • A dog food allergy is an immune system response to a trigger, usually a protein. The dog’s immune system produces antibodies targeted to an ingredient that is typically tolerated but is now seen as a threat.
  • Dog food intolerance is a reaction typically limited to the digestive system. Intolerance differs from allergies as it doesn’t involve the immune system.
  • Dog food sensitivities include any reaction that is not specifically an allergy or intolerance. Food sensitivity symptoms are typically similar, but milder than allergy or intolerance symptoms.
dog wrapped in blanket

Most Common Food Allergies in Dogs

Proteins are the most common food allergens in dogs. Regrettably, these proteins are also some of the most common ingredients in dog food formulations:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Corn

While these are the most common allergens, it’s possible that any human or dog food ingredient can be a potential problem. From fruits and vegetables to grains and even additives and preservatives. Any ingredient can potentially cause an allergic reaction.

What Are The Signs Of Allergic Reactions To Food In Dogs?

Dog food allergy symptoms can vary greatly in both severity and presentation, but can include:

  • Excessive scratching: Itchy skin is one of the most common symptoms of a food allergy in dogs. If you notice your dog scratching, biting, or licking at their skin, paws, or ears they may be struggling with an allergic reaction.
  • Skin rashes: These include hives, or red, inflamed skin.
  • Digestive problems: Your dog may have diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive gas after eating an allergy trigger.
  • Ear infections: Inflammation in your dog’s ears from allergies can lead to chronic ear infections.

Food allergies can easily progress rather than just go away. If you think your dog might have a food allergy, take them to your trusted veterinarian for an evaluation and testing.


Dog Food Allergy Testing & Other Diagnosis Methods

Your veterinarian can help determine the best diagnostic method for your dog’s unique reactions. Various allergy testing options are available to diagnose a food allergy or other adverse food reactions.

Dog Food Elimination Diet:

An elimination diet involves feeding your dog a special diet that contains a novel protein or carbohydrate source that the dog has not been exposed to before. This diet is fed exclusively for a monitored period of time. If the dog’s symptoms improve while on the special diet, it suggests that the dog has a food allergy or sensitivity.

Blood Test:

A blood test can be performed to measure the levels of specific antibodies in the dog’s blood. Elevated levels of certain antibodies to certain foods can suggest a food allergy in your dog.

cute Dachshund puppy with possible allergy

Skin Test:

A skin test involves injecting small amounts of allergens under the dog’s skin and monitoring them for any sort of reaction, similar to human allergen skin tests.

Limited Ingredient Dog Food Trial:

A food trial involves feeding the dog a special diet containing a single source of protein and carbohydrates for 8 to 12 weeks. This diet must be fed exclusively. If symptoms improve during the trial, it suggests that the dog has a food allergy or intolerance.

Endoscopy or Biopsy:

In some cases, more invasive procedures may be recommended. Your vet may request to perform an endoscopy (using a tiny camera to examine the dog’s digestive tract) or a biopsy (removing a small tissue sample from their digestive tract for testing) to diagnose a dog’s food intolerance.

Hypoallergenic Dog Food Options

Your vet may recommend hypoallergenic dog food to help mitigate your dog’s allergies. These foods are specifically created for dogs with food allergies, intentionally excluding common allergens.

  • Grain-free dog food excludes all grains and replaces them with alternative carbohydrate sources.
  • Novel protein dog food uses an uncommon protein source like venison, duck, or fish.
  • Limited ingredient dog food is nutritionally balanced food with an intentionally limited number of ingredients.

Not all dogs with food allergies will benefit from hypoallergenic dog food if their allergen is an additive or preservative. An elimination diet or food trial may be needed to accurately identify your dog’s specific allergen. Your veterinarian will guide you in navigating the right choices for your dog’s needs.

dog sitting next to his bowl of food without corn, wheat or soy

Preventative Care for Dogs With Food Allergies

While you can’t completely protect a dog from developing allergies, you can take preventative measures. The first step is vigilance in everything your dog eats. Start with feeding your dog high-quality, grain-free food like Ultra Balance Adult Meat & Rice Dog Food or Ultra Balance Meat & Rice Puppy Food to set them up for success. 

By determining what foods trigger an allergic reaction you can work more efficiently with your veterinarian to properly diagnose and treat your dog’s condition.

Once your dog’s trigger ingredients are known, avoid them in every way possible. Be cautious with new treats and human foods as well. Carefully read the food labels of anything you may be tempted to share with your dog.

While regular vet check-ups are vital for all pets, dogs with food allergies should be regularly monitored by their primary veterinarian to make adjustments to their diet or treatment plan as needed. They can also provide guidance on preventative care measures specific to your dog’s known allergens.

By taking these preventative care measures, you can help keep your canine companion healthy and happy.

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