Is your pet exhibiting dog food allergy symptoms? Not only will the allergy symptoms make your pet miserable, but if left untreated an allergy could also impact your pet’s health and longevity. Dog food allergies can develop at any point in their life. Often, the most common trigger will be ingredients in their dog food. So, if your dog seems uncomfortable or ill after every meal, it may be time to take a closer look. Consider these tips for diagnosis, treatments for dog food allergy symptoms, and what it might mean for your pet’s diet.
How Common are Food Allergies in Dogs?
Food allergies are a common concern for pet owners, but truth is, dog food allergies are pretty rare. In fact, they only account for 10 percent of allergies seen in dogs. More commonly, dogs suffer from flea bite allergies and inhalant allergies. That is to say, if your dog starts showing allergy symptoms you might not want to immediately start making drastic changes to their diet. The signs and symptoms you are seeing may not be related to your pet’s diet. Instead you should check things out with your veterinarian. However, there are some common things to know and steps to take that will give you a better idea of your pet’s symptoms and the likelihood of them having allergies. First thing, get to know common breeds that suffer from allergies and the most common symptoms to look for.
Table of Contents
Breeds Prone to Food Allergies
- Cocker Spaniel
- Springer Spaniel
- German Shepherd
- Shar Pei
- Lhasa Apso
- Miniature Schnauzer
How the Digestive System Works
When the immune system and the digestive system interact together in the right way, then food allergies are prevented. A healthy dog will be able to break down amino acids and nutrients that pass through the GI tract. The digestive tract is a semi-permeable barrier that absorbs nutrients. Nutrients completely digested can pass through, but undigested substances cannot. Once nutrients pass the barrier they absorb into the bloodstream and from there the body does what it needs to with them. If undigested allergens do pass through the GI tract the immune system has a complex reaction and results in dog food allergy symptoms.
Most Common and Complete List of Dog Food Allergy Symptoms
Dog food allergies can strike at any age. They can develop to any protein or carbohydrate. This is why it can be difficult to pinpoint food allergies, because something they responded well to in the past could cause allergy symptoms in the future. Every time your dog eats the food the reaction becomes greater. This is why symptoms could develop over time and become more severe in the months to come. Then, in time, the constant symptoms of pet food allergies could lead to more serious illness or infection.
If your dog is suffering from a true food allergy the most common symptoms will be severe itching, skin breakouts, and hives. Other symptoms could include digestive issues. Often these symptoms will manifest in the form of constantly scratching, licking or biting their paws, and rubbing their face and ears on the couch or carpet. However, more concerning, are the symptoms that follow if your dog’s original food allergy symptoms are not addressed.
- Itching face, feet, trunk, limbs and anal area
- Excessive scratching or licking
- Ear infections
- Eye infections
- Bad odor
- Recurring skin infections
- Bald spots
- Hot spots
- Poor quality coat
Top Triggers of Dog Food Allergies
Unfortunately, the most common allergy triggers are also the most common ingredients in dog food. This is not simple coincidence. Also, sometimes it will not be the actual ingredients causing your dog’s allergies. It could be the contaminants, preservatives, or hormones in the food. That being said, there are some common culprits to look for when you worry about dog food allergies and symptoms. As an example, in a study of 278 cases of food allergies, the most clearly identified problem ingredient was beef. The second most common was dairy. Many people argue that dogs are typically allergic to carbohydrates like soy, wheat, corn, and other plant-based ingredients. This is not true. Though there are dogs who suffer allergies from these ingredients, more commonly these cause intolerance. The most common source of allergens is proteins.
Aside from monitoring dog food allergy symptoms, what can you do to determine if your pet has an actual food allergy? Diagnosis of food allergies in dogs is not easy. There are some skin and blood tests the vet can do, but they do not produce accurate results for food allergies. Usually the only way to diagnose the problem is through a food trial.
During a food trial your dog will only eat things containing novel protein and carbohydrate sources. They cannot have anything else. This exposure to things they have never had before will help determine the allergen source and cleanse the system. Most importantly, it will keep your pet from suffering common dog food allergy symptoms. For the novel diet to work it has to continue for at least eight weeks to determine the success or failure of the new diet. That is quite a commitment, but your pet is worth it. If they do have food allergies, this process will also help alleviate the symptoms.
How to Treat Dog Food Allergies
The last thing you want is a short term fix for dog food allergies and dangerous symptoms. Most veterinarians will not recommend anti-allergy drugs or antibiotics if your dog has an allergic condition associated with food. Instead they have to address the source of the problem and combat it from there. It is the only way your dog will not have a lifelong problem with food allergies. So, the only real treatment for dog food allergies and symptoms is through avoidance. It is the safest way to get relief for dog food allergy symptoms once you have identified the offending ingredients.
Many pet owners think all they have to do is change foods or change brands. This probably won’t be effective because the dog is likely to be allergic to a particular ingredient, not the whole food. Determining the source is the key.
Dog Food Trial
If your pet has been on the same food for months and years on end, it is probably time for a switch. If they are itching, there is a good chance your dog has developed an allergy to something in their daily diet. Pets need some diversity in their diet, just as humans do. To accomplish this you want to implement novel ingredients into your pet’s diet, specifically rotating the proteins. When introducing a novel or limited ingredient diet you want a single protein source and a single carbohydrate source. Some common, novel proteins include venison, ostrich, buffalo, or rabbit. These are supposed to be ingredients your dog has never eaten before. You may also want to try hypoallergenic dog foods or grain free dog food.
Once the dog food allergy symptoms are under control you can either keep them on the novel diet, or you can start an ingredient challenge. That means each week you add an ingredient into their food for two or three days to see how they respond. If the food allergy symptoms do not return then your ingredient is probably safe. Just continue picking one thing at a time and find out what other quality ingredients your pet can have. Then you can uses these safe ingredients in rotation to help prevent future allergies.
The best part of all this is that pet food manufacturers can help make the process a little easier. They understand the need for limited ingredient diets and have provided many dog owners with top quality food products to limit allergens.
I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.
We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.
On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.