Food Allergies in Dogs

By Jodi Hartley


Frequent scratching, licking, ear infections, red-stained eyes and feet, vomiting and/or diarrhea are often signs that your dog is having an allergic reaction to something she’s eating. While it’s unfortunate that more and more dogs seem to be affected by food allergies, we are lucky that they are becoming more widely diagnosed and treated.


Is It a Food Allergy?

Just like humans, dogs can experience allergic reactions to food and environmental factors such as tree pollen, dust mites and even cats! So if your dog is having skin or digestive issues, it’s time to consult your veterinarian to determine exactly what is causing the reaction. An allergy skin test can be conducted to determine this, or if your veterinarian strongly suspects it is a food allergy, a food elimination diet will be discussed.


Food Elimination Diet

In a food elimination diet, your dog will be put on a diet typically with one novel protein such as fish or rabbit and one novel grain (or even grain-free) such as oatmeal or sweet potatoes. Dogs experiencing a food allergy are typically allergic to a protein, such as beef, chicken or lamb, and/or a grain, most commonly wheat or corn. While on the elimination diet, your dog can ONLY eat the prescribed food. This means no table food, treats, chews or flavored medicine for 6-12 weeks.

Positive Results

It takes several weeks for an allergen-inducing food to leave your dog’s system so it’s vital to the success of the elimination diet to strictly follow it at least six weeks. After six weeks, if your dog’s skin and digestive issues are clearing up, you know there was something she was eating that was causing the problem. With the guidance of your veterinarian, you may be able to begin adding in some additional limited ingredient foods, treats and medicines one at a time over several weeks. By slowly limiting what you start putting into your dog’s diet, you can more easily determine if a certain food or ingredient causes an adverse reaction.

No Results

If after six weeks your dog is still scratching, licking or having digestive issues, your veterinarian may suggest another limited ingredient food to try. Dogs can be allergic to several proteins and grains so it may take some time to find a pre-made food that your dog can tolerate. Your vet may even suggest a homemade diet. It sounds like a great deal of time and expense, and it is. However, not taking the time now to figure out the culprit(s) results in increased vet visits to treat hot spots, ear infections and digestive issues as well as your dog’s increased discomfort.

Preventing New Allergies

Once you find a diet that works for your dog, it’s best to stick with it. Be sure to avoid foods, treats and chews that include any form of the suspected allergens. It isn’t unusual though for dogs to develop allergies to something they’ve eaten without problem for years. If you begin noticing the symptoms of a food allergy developing, it’s time to visit the vet again to set up a new food trial. Fortunately for most dogs and their owners, a good variety of novel foods are available today.

Article References:

PetPlace: Food Allergy in Dogs.

Modern Dog Magazine: Food Allergies 101.

Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital: Canine Food Allergies. How Do I Know if My Dog Has Allergies?