Dog food allergies are not that uncommon. Most people will have a friend who is allergic to a food item, like strawberries, nuts, dairy in-between other food items.
But did you know that dogs suffer from food allergies too?
I have a beautiful small-sized dog named Dora, and she likes to help herself with sweets. My family knows that chocolate is not suitable for a dog. We try to hide it, but on occasion, Dora has found and eaten a small piece. The next day Dora had red spots on her body, and they were itchy. That was my first experience with dog food allergies and dog allergies in general.
In this article, I share my findings from talking to our family vet and the team of specialists.
What is a dog food allergy?
Like people, dogs can have food allergies.
Food allergy is one of the most common allergies or hypersensitivities that are 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 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. (1)
What foods can cause dog food allergy?
Dogs are mainly allergic to the protein in food rather than carbs.
Most common foods that cause an allergic reaction:
- Meats include: pork, rabbit, beef, chicken, fish, lamb
- Eggs and Dairy products
- Corn, Soy, Wheat, Rice
What are the symptoms of dog food allergies?
Most dogs do not develop symptoms right away. It can take around two years of a dog to eat a particular food (allergen) only after developing an allergic reaction in the body.
Like in humans, food allergies can range from itchy and irritation to dangerous.
Primary symptoms of food allergies for a dog:
- Itchy skin- face, feet, ears, forelegs, armpits, rear end
- Digestive issues: nausea, vomiting, chronic gas, chronic diarrhoea (non-seasonal)
- Skin rash, skin infections, hives
- Chronic ear inflammation
- Chronic ear infection
- Paw biting
- Obsessive licking
- Poor coat quality
- Fur loss
- Runny eyes
- Young, but skin problems
Initially, your dog may be just irritated by the symptoms. But the more exposure it has to the allergen, the more severe or life-threatening its reactions could become.
Is there a cure?
Your local vet will offer a few options to see if your dog has a food allergy.
- Elimination diet:
- Prescription therapeutic
- Home prepared
6-8 weeks, plus water, which can be a real challenge for you and your dog
- A RAST test, or radioallergosorbent test: is a blood test that can be used to determine whether a dog is allergic to certain antigens. This test is often performed as part of the workup for atopy (a skin manifestation of inhalant allergy) in dogs.) (2)
The downfall of elimination and a home-prepared diet is that your dog might not like it.
You can start by increasingly mixing the new food with old food until the old one is gone.
Home prepared is the best opinion, but it takes time and effort to make.
For inspirational ideas and how to start, see the raw diet for dogs article (insert link)
When starting an elimination diet, make sure that all treats and supplements are checked for antigens. As mostly it is a protein your dog will be allergic to, use vegetarian-based supplements.
It is essential to have regular checks with a vet, to have up-to-date vaccinations and worm treatments. The symptoms are similar to allergy and fleas.
It can take time to find which food item your dog is allergic to. So keep going until your dog’s health has improved.
Some foods are dangerous and might cause an adverse reaction to dogs. See 18 Ingredients to avoid in dog food and reasons to be cautious about them for more information.