Food Allergies in Dogs

What You Need to Know

If you’ve noticed that your dog is having an adverse reaction to their food, it’s possible that they may be suffering from food allergies. These can range from mild to severe and can cause a wide variety of symptoms, making it important for pet owners or even for people who are planning to become a registered breeder to recognize the signs so they can take steps to provide their dog with the best care possible. 

Although it’s possible for any kind of pet to suffer from food allergies, dogs are particularly prone to them. In fact, food allergies account for 10 to 15% of all the allergic reactions that dogs experience. In this article, we’ll discuss the various signs of food allergies in dogs and the steps you should take if you suspect your dog has an allergic reaction.

What Is a Food Allergy?

Just like humans, dogs can experience an allergic reaction when exposed to certain substances or food ingredients. When a dog is allergic to a particular food, their body produces antibodies that create an immune response when they eat the allergen. These antibodies trigger histamines which cause inflammation and a wide range of symptoms including itchy skin, hives, vomiting, diarrhoea and respiratory problems. 


While any food item can cause an allergic reaction in some dogs, there are certain foods that tend to be more common triggers than others. The most common culprits include beef, dairy products, chicken eggs, corn gluten meal, wheat gluten meal and soy protein isolate. Other possible allergens include lamb, pork, fish proteins (such as herring), and specific additives like artificial colours or flavours. 


Determining the exact food allergen responsible for your dog’s allergy can be difficult since many of the symptoms mimic other health issues such as parasites or skin infections. It can also take time to pinpoint the exact ingredient causing the problem since several different foods may need to be eliminated from your dog’s diet before you find the one causing the reaction.

What Are Some Common Signs of Food Allergies in Dogs?

The most common sign of a food allergy in dogs is itching and scratching, often seemingly without any cause. This is usually accompanied by redness or bald patches on their skin, which may become inflamed or irritated if left untreated. Dogs may also lick their feet excessively, as well as shake their head or rub their face against furniture. These behaviours could be indicative of an allergy, but could also point to another underlying issue such as fleas or mites.


Another sign of a food allergy may include increased gas production and frequent bowel movements. If your dog is having more than two loose stools per day then it’s likely they have some type of sensitivity towards something they’ve been eating. In more extreme cases, vomiting and diarrhoea are possible symptoms that should not be ignored as these can lead to severe dehydration if left untreated.


A food allergy can also cause changes in behaviour such as lethargy and lack of energy, which could be due to discomfort from the digestive issues mentioned above. Dogs may also display nervousness or anxiety when near certain foods, which could signify a sensitivity towards certain ingredients in their diet. 

How Do You Diagnose a Food Allergy?

The first step in diagnosing a food allergy in a dog is to consult your vet and give them a complete medical history of your dog. The more detail you can provide, the better. This will help the veterinarian determine if there are any other conditions that could be causing or contributing to the symptoms. It is also helpful to note any changes in diet or environment that may have happened before symptoms began.


Once the medical history has been taken, your vet may suggest an elimination trial diet, which consists of feeding your pet one protein source and one carbohydrate source for several weeks while monitoring their reaction. During this period, all other foods should be avoided as they may cause further irritations or allergies. If symptoms improve during this time, then your vet may suggest reintroducing individual ingredients one at a time so that you can identify the root cause of the allergic reaction. 


Other diagnostic tests such as skin testing and blood testing can also be used to identify allergies, although these are not always reliable. Skin testing involves pricking your pet with tiny amounts of various allergens and then watching closely for reactions such as itching or swelling at the injection site. Blood testing measures levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody produced when allergic reactions occur. While these tests can help confirm an allergy diagnosis, they do not necessarily identify specific triggers because multiple allergens can produce similar results. 


If you suspect that your pet has developed an allergy due to environmental factors rather than food sources, then airborne allergen testing may also be recommended. This test measures IgE levels in response to exposure to various airborne allergens like dust mites, pollen and mould spores. 


In addition to diagnostic tests for identifying allergies, it is important to keep track of any signs or symptoms that occur after eating certain foods or being exposed to certain allergens so that you can make informed decisions about what items should be avoided in the future. A detailed diary or logbook outlining when each symptom occurred and what foods were eaten can help identify patterns that might indicate an allergic reaction. 


With proper management, dogs with food allergies don’t have to suffer – there are numerous approaches to find out what your dog is allergic to, and with the wealth of food options available it’s entirely possible to avoid certain foods. 


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