The past ten years have seen a significant increase in the rate of dog allergies among pets. As humans have become more aware of food allergies and the impact on their own health, veterinarian researchers have been encouraged to explore dog food allergies and environmental allergies.
Many pet parents are surprised to learn that their dog can develop allergies to specific ingredients—even those found in top-shelf foods. Some dog owners might even wonder: “How can I recognize which foods my dog may be allergic to?”
It is important to distinguish the difference between food intolerance and food allergies. Just as with humans, some ingredients may cause a digestive upset—which can be a sign of either a food sensitivity or food allergy. However, if a dog is suffering from a true allergy, they will likely have a more dramatic response, which is triggered by their immune system.
Food allergies often manifest as skin problems or inflammation.
What Is a Dog Food Allergy?
Pets may experience a dog food allergy when their immune system misidentifies a food ingredient as a threat. The immune system develops defensive antibodies that react to the ingredient. The resulting symptoms may include:
- Changes in skin pigmentation
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Ear infections
- Excessive sneezing
- Hot spots which may trigger aggressive scratching
- Itchy paws, which a dog may lick excessively
- Patchy hair loss
- Red eyes
- Runny eyes or nose
Visible skin rashes or scaly skin
What Are Some Common Food Allergies in Dogs?
While every dog is unique, there are some prevalent food allergies among pets. Though some dogs inherit food allergies, many pets develop allergies over time.
Feeding a dog the same food for years can increase the likelihood of developing a food allergy. Rotating protein ingredients weekly or monthly can help lower the risk of a dog developing an allergy to one particular ingredient. Common food allergies in dogs include the ones below.
Chicken and Eggs
Chicken is a common allergen among dogs. Less frequently, a dog may become sensitive or allergic to the protein in egg yolks. Not all dogs who are allergic to chicken are allergic to egg yolks and vice versa.
Protein is a common food allergen among dogs. Beef, in particular, is one of the most frequent allergens among pets. This may be in part to the over-prevalence and popularity of beef in dog foods—try switching up a pet’s food to minimize their chances of developing an allergy to beef.
Like humans, many dogs struggle to digest lactose. While this may be the result of intolerance rather than an allergy, it is often challenging for pet parents to tell the difference.
Lactose intolerance commonly causes digestive upset. A dairy allergy can result in the same effect, but the gastrointestinal symptoms—like vomiting and diarrhea—are often accompanied by skin irritation or itchiness.
Lamb is a far less common allergen, most likely because it is a more infrequent ingredient in dog food. While many consider it as an alternative to beef or chicken for food-allergic dogs, lamb can still be a source of allergies as well.
Soy is a harsh ingredient that is linked to several health issues—such as liver disease, thyroid disease, and growth problems. As such, soy should be avoided when choosing food for a pet.
While many pet parents are wary of grain, dogs are far more likely to develop a food allergy to proteins. However, it is important to note some pets do develop allergies to wheat and grains. Wheat allergies often manifest as digestive or skin inflammation.
How Can You Determine If Your Dog Is Food-Allergic?
If a pet parent is worried that their dog may be suffering from the effects of a food allergy, they can start by switching foods and being mindful of the dog’s physical reaction. If the dog does not show immediate improvement, they should always consult with a vet. A vet may recommend testing or an elimination diet to help determine what ingredients a pet might be allergic to.
How Do You Feed a Food-Allergic Dog?
When a pet parent is able to determine which ingredients are causing an allergic reaction in their dog, they should immediately remove the ingredient from the animal’s diet.
The vet may recommend prescription food, a raw food diet, a homemade diet, or a limited ingredient diet. As a pet parent introduces pets to the new food, they should remain vigilant to any adverse reactions—a dog might be allergic to more than one ingredient.
Ultimately, determining the perfect diet for a dog requires time and patience, but the results are worth the effort. A dog’s quality of life will vastly improve when they are free from the effects of dog allergies.