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How Do You Know If Dog Is Allergic To Food

Signs Your Dog Has Food Allergies

How to find out if your dog is allergic or sensitive to his food (Colitis)

Having a dog with allergy issues can be incredibly frustrating for you and your dog. Signs of food allergies in dogs include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Recurring ear infections
  • And non-stop scratching at his ears, paws, face, and back that drive you crazy

Your vet may have prescribed a seasonal dose of Benadryl or Claritin, but the itching persists. Maybe feed more Omegas to moisturize his skin. You wait it out. Nothing helps, and you are at your wits end seasonal allergies really shouldnt last this long, should they?

Not only are allergies frustrating, but if you are exposing your dog to unaddressed allergens, just treating the symptoms might not be enough.

Allergies are immune system responses where your dogs body goes a little haywire in response to a trigger. And no matter what you do to treat them, if youre exposing your dog to allergens, the problems and discomfort continue.

Below are some common but little-known signs that your dog may be suffering from food allergies.

Food Allergies In Dogs

Allergies are an immune system response to a trigger. And no matter what you seem to do to treat the symptoms, if your dog continues to be exposed to the allergen, the problems and discomfort will continue.

Actual food allergies are not very common in dogs. About 10 percent of all allergy cases in dogs are due to a food allergy. Dogs also can suffer from food intolerance, which is not the same as a food allergy.

The Top 7 Most Common Food Allergens For Dogs

  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

When I was a practicing veterinary technician, I encountered many clients with questions about their pets potential allergies. Theyd be surprised to find out that dogs can develop allergies to certain ingredients even in premium foods. Increasingly, its easy to find pet foods made with high-quality ingredients and limited fillers. Yet our dogs can still be allergic or intolerant to a number of these ingredients.

First off, its important to know theres a big difference between a food intolerance and a true food allergy for dogs. A dog food intolerance is when a dog has difficulty digesting a certain ingredient, like dairy, whereas a food allergy triggers an immune response.

Jean Hofve, DVM explains in Whole Dog Journal that for most dogs, skin and gastrointestinal problems are not usually the result of a food allergy, but rather due to environmental allergies like pollen or grass. However, some dogs are truly food-allergic.

Read on to find out what that means, and how youll know if your dogs food is causing an allergic reaction.

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Most Common Dog Food Allergens

“Meat, dairy, and eggs are often thought to be the most common dog food allergens,” says Shmalberg. “Yet generally, it’s the protein part of those foods that tend to be problematic, rather than, say, the meat itself.” Keep in mind, veggies can contain protein, so they’re not automatically safe.

That same review BMC Veterinary Research identified some of the most frequently reported dog food allergens involved in adverse food reactions. Here’s a look, from most-reported to least-reported.

Top Dog Food Allergens

Dog Food Allergen

Shmalberg calls out two important caveats to keep in mind here.

  • Newer research is needed. Many of the studies out there, and those sourced in this review, are older, when dog foods were being made and processed differently than they are today. Allergies tend to change over time along with foods, and as new studies emerge, we may see different allergens rising to the top of the list.
  • The more common a food is, the more likely the allergy. “For an allergy to a food to develop, a dog needs to be exposed to that food,” says Shmalberg. “That may explain why the proteins most commonly found in dog food, like beef and chicken, fall higher on the list.”
  • More facts about dog food allergens that are helpful to know:

    How To Tell If Your Dog Is Allergic Or Food Sensitive

    Is Your Dog Allergic To Their Food? Here

    By Dr. Laura Duclos, Head of the Research and Development team at Puppo.

    Just like humans, dogs can experience allergic reactions signaling their immune system to release histamines. Environmental factors like pollen, grasses, mold, and fleas are all potential culprits.

    But so is the food your pup eats.

    Reactions to food account for about 10% of all allergies seen in dogs and include a wide range of symptoms. But dog food allergies arent the most common culprit behind your dogs symptomsfood intolerance is more likely at the root of their discomfort.

    In fact, true dog food allergies are rare, and in most cases, a diagnosed dog food allergy is actually a food sensitivity .

    Even though youre feeding your pup a healthy dog food, something in their diet is causing a reaction, and it may be a reaction that has developed over time. What may have been perfectly fine to eat a year ago may now cause a problem.

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    Chances Are Its Not A Food Allergy For Your Dog

    Getting at the real reason your dog is having all those symptoms.

    Your dogs skin is itching, perhaps to the point that he may even be licking his paws or chewing on his feet. Or he keeps vomiting or having diarrhea. It must be a food allergy, you think to yourself, so you put him on a special diet. But it doesnt work. Frustrated, you try other food combinations, finally bringing him to the veterinarian for help in figuring out which ingredient is causing the allergic reaction.

    Suspected food allergy is a common reason people come to the nutrition clinic at Tufts, says Cailin Heinze, VMD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at the Cummings School. By the time they get here, theyve often tried five, six, seven different diets. But if they all have different ingredients and the dog is not any better, its probably not a food allergy. Of those dogs whose owners think they may have a food allergy, perhaps only 10 percent or less actually do.

    Why do so many people believe their dogs are suffering from food allergies, besides the fact that the Internet is rife with articles and postings erroneously suggesting that food allergies in pets are quite common?

    People want to help their dog, and if the problem is food, thats easy to fix, Dr. Heinze says. You just remove the food from the diet. So to some extent its wishful thinking. Add to that the fact that they keep reading online that food allergies are common, and it really snowballs.

    Symptoms Of Grain Allergies In Dogs

    Symptoms of grain allergies can vary from dog to dog. Symptoms may include

    • Itchy skin
    • Inflamed, red paw pads
    • Gastrointestinal upset

    Grain allergies in dogs may develop immediately or may develop after years of being fed the same diet.


    There are a variety of grains that can be found in your dog’s food. Some of these grains include wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, and certain beans. “Gluten” is a term to describe the protein in some of these grains, but not all of them. A “gluten-free” diet and “grain-free” diet are two different things. “Gluten” covers only a few of the grains listed above, grain includes them all. If you believe your dog has a grain allergy, you will have to stick with the “grain-free” diets.

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    Food Allergy Testing For Dogs

    If you suspect your dog is suffering from a food allergy, the first thing to do is talk to your vet about how to pinpoint the allergen. There are commercial skin and blood allergy tests on the market, and your vet may recommend starting there. You can read about one owners experience of this testing here.

    However, theres no evidence yet to show that these tests are accurate, so the most thorough way to discover which foods your pet is allergic to is an elimination diet.

    The process goes like this, according to Dr. Susan Wynn, a veterinary nutritionist, in an interview with PetMD.

    What we do is take the dog off all the foods its eating and we put him on a food that hes never had before. Ive sent people out for alligator and yak. Once the dog has improved, we start reintroducing the old foods that we think caused the problems in the first place. If he has a reaction, which usually takes a few days to a few weeks, then we know he has a food allergy.

    How To Identify What Food Your Dog Is Reacting To

    Explaining Dog Food Allergies and Diet Trial

    Luckily, diagnosing food allergies and sensitivities is a straightforward process involving feeding your pup a limited-ingredient dietwhich includes no treats or table scraps. By reintroducing ingredients, one at a time, you can watch for a reaction and pinpoint the allergen. The process usually takes 6-8 weeks but could take as long as 12 weeks for the symptoms to resolve.

    Two common approaches to the elimination trial:

    1. Hydrolyzed protein diet provides a non-allergenic as possible nutrition

    2. Novel ingredient diet uses proteins like venison, rabbit, or duck instead of beef or chicken

    Before beginning an elimination trial , its important that all other potential problems have been ruled out. Atopy, flea bite allergies, intestinal parasite hypersensitivities, sarcoptic mange, and yeast or bacterial infections can all cause symptoms similar to food allergies and food sensitivity.

    Its important to note: if your dogs reaction coincided with switching their food, they might be reacting to a sudden change as opposed to an ingredient. Whether youre feeding puppies, adult dogs, or senior, always introduce your dog to a new diet slowly to allow their gastrointestinal system the time it needs to adjust.

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    How To Feed A Dog With Food Allergies

    Once youve determined the offending items in your dogs diet, the next step is avoiding them as much as possible. You can use prescription food from your veterinarian, make your own food from scratch, or you can try a limited ingredient diet. A roundup of quality limited-ingredient foods for dogs with allergies can be found here.

    You can also keep a look out for dog food using hydrolyzed proteins, which is a fancy way of saying that the protein is broken down molecularly so theres nothing left of the potential allergen.

    Diets For Dog Food Allergies

    Here are a couple of different approaches to treating food allergies in dogs.

    This approach involves feeding proteins that your dog has likely never been exposed to in an effort to avoid an allergic reaction. Rabbit, venison, and other novel ingredients are used in place of more common protein sources. Allergy-friendly foods must be completely free of your dogs triggers.

    Hydrolyzed Proteins

    Rather than changing which proteins are used, hydrolyzed protein prescription diets break proteins down so that the immune system no longer recognizes them as a threat.

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    Other Things That Cause Digestive Troubles

    Is there some kind of food that just doesnt agree with you? The same thing can happen with your dog or cat. Maybe its eating something that has too much fat, for instance.

    Vets call this food intolerance. The difference between this and a food allergy is that food intolerance doesnt involve the immune system.

    To figure out if this is whats wrong with your pet, youll have to follow the same trial-and-error process as you would for a food allergy, described above.

    Diarrhea and vomiting can also come from:

    • A virus
    • An infection
    • A parasite
    • A condition in your pets digestive system. One example is pancreatitis, which is inflammation in the pancreas, the organ that makes chemicals that digest food.
    • An obstruction. This is when something is stuck in the stomach or intestines.

    To figure out whats wrong with your dog or cat, your vet may need to:

    • Consider your pet’s age, past illnesses, other animals it has been around, and other information about its health
    • Do a physical exam
    • Do lab tests on its blood or stool samples
    • Do X-rays or an ultrasound
    • Do a biopsy or other tests on samples of its fluids or tissues

    After your vet figures out whats wrong, your dog or cat may need:

    • Medicine that kills germs or parasites
    • Drugs to help with diarrhea or vomiting
    • Fluids to replace what it has lost because of diarrhea
    • Surgery

    What Is Food Allergy

    Do you know how to figure out what your dog is allergic to ...

    Most people know someone who is allergic to certain foods, such as strawberries or nuts.

    “Food allergy is one of the five most common allergies or hypersensitivities known to affect dogs.”

    Food allergy is one of the most common allergies or hypersensitivities known to affect dogs. In a pet with an allergy, the immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to substances that it would normally tolerate. In an allergic reaction to a food, antibodies are produced against some part of the food, usually a protein or complex carbohydrate. Since antibody production is required for an allergy to develop, food allergies usually manifest after prolonged exposure to one brand, type, or form of food.

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    Common Food Allergies In Dogs

    What is a food allergy then? To put it simply, its a more intense sensitivity that involves an immune system response. The big difference between food intolerance in dogs and food allergies in dogs is the involvement of the immune system.

    The good news, for your pet, is that few dogs actually experience food allergies. Instead, when you notice an adverse reaction to dog food or a particular ingredient, its most often an intolerance. That said, food allergies are more dangerous to your pet because they do involve the immune system. Just like with people, severe food allergies can result in anaphylaxis and other potentially harmful symptoms.

    While dog food allergies are rather rare, they absolutely occur and can require a lot from both you and your pet. You have to be diligent about the food you give your dog, accepting treats from others, and preventing kitchen mishaps that could result in your dog accidentally consuming the ingredient thats causing him trouble!

    Here are some of the most common food allergies in dogs:

    • Beef

    The Gut And Immune System Together Prevent Food Allergies

    IgA cells are a type of immune cell secreted in the intestine. Some of the IgA will float freely in the contents of the intestine while other IgA attaches to the wall of the intestine to prevent whole protein from coming in contact with the enterocytes. Just like volleyball players they bounce whole proteins back into the contents of the intestine for more digestion. The more effective protein digestion in the stomach and intestine is, the smaller the proteins are when they come in contact with the IgA. Small proteins and single amino acids do not get bound to the IgA and are allowed to pass by the IgA and be absorbed into the body as nutrients.

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    Lentil Plus For Cats And Oat & Soy For Dogs

    Dr. Richard and Susan Hubble Pitcairn have been singing the gospel of holistic health for pets for more than three decades. The husband-and-wife duo have long been the go-to specialists for chemical-free nutrition and natural healing for pets.

    More than 500,000 copies of Dr. Pitcairns Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats have been sold since its original publication. In the fourth edition of the book, the couple discuss the advantages of a plant-based diet, offering tips and recipes for complete meat-free eating for both dogs and cats.

  • Mix in the remaining ingredients except the oil. Then, add the oil and mix again.
  • 3Top with condiments, such as pumpkin puree, baby food squash, corn pureed with nori, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, dulse flakes, Green Mush from Compassion Circle, or tamari.
  • What Are Grain Allergies

    Food Allergies In Dogs: Holistic Answers

    While “grain-free” dog food has become a fad in recent years, some dogs actually require this diet due to a grain allergy. Grains are found in an abundance in many dog foods and treats and chews, making them tricky to avoid. Allergies to grains can develop immediately or after years of constant exposure.

    The most common symptoms seen with grain allergies include itchy, red skin, chronic ear infections, and discoloration of the feet from the pet licking them so much. If your dog is diagnosed with a grain allergy, luckily the treatment and recovery process is very straight forward. You will need to remove any foods, treat, or flavored medications that contain grain from your dog’s diet. Once this is done, your dog’s symptoms should subside. However, some dogs will have allergies to other things such as other foods, pollen and dust mites.

    Grains are in many of the human foods and dog foods manufactured today. Some dogs are sensitive or allergic to grains causing a number of health-related issues. If you believe your dog has a grain allergy, discuss it with your veterinarian.

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    Dog Food Sensitivity Vs Allergy: Whats The Difference

    Uh oh, Fido got into something he shouldnt have and now hes experiencing digestive upset. What next? Or, maybe you switched diets and it is definitely not agreeing with him…how do you proceed? It can be tricky to navigate the world of dog food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerance. And thats exactly why were discussing the difference between the terms, and offering suggestions about how to support your pet when he seems to have had an adverse reaction to an ingredient.

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