Pet Food Allergies

Dogs like humans can be allergic to numerous dog food ingredients showing symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, excessive itching, recurring ear infections, and even skin inflammation.

The most common food ingredients that dogs are allergic to include lamb, beef, chicken, eggs, dairy, fish, soy, corn, and wheat, all common ingredients found in commercial pet food.

You’ll also need to consider if your pet food has coloring, artificial flavoring or preservatives, or any other ingredients that could be triggering off the food allergy.

Dog food allergies can affect your dog at any age, yet there are certain breeds that may be prone to food allergies like the Labrador and Retriever. By now, you’re probably wondering if your dog may be suffering from a dog food allergy. So here’s the take with pet food allergies!

Pet Food Allergies

The American Kennel Club(AKC) says that “True food allergies are much less frequent than food sensitivities. Food allergies reflect a more immediate immunological response. A classic example of a food allergy is anaphylactic shock seen after ingestion of peanuts or after being stung by bees: as soon as the person or animal comes in contact with the allergen, their airway closes and they can’t breathe. This response is rapid. The antigen triggers an immediate and sometimes life-threatening reaction due to hypotension and shock,” via AKC.

The AKC goes on to explain that there are less severe reactions from a pet food allergy where dogs will have dermatological symptoms which may be seen together with gastrointestinal issues like acute diarrhea or vomiting. They also explain that food allergies are very different from food sensitivities in that they often don’t involve an immune response.

If you feel that your furry best friend may be suffering from a pet food allergy, consult with your veterinarian. Over time, excessive itching and inflamed hot spots tend to get worse if not treated. So how can you tell if your dog has a pet food allergy?

If you’re feeding a high-quality dog food and avoiding by-products, soy, artificial colors, preservatives, flavors, and even rendered fats, you’re on the right track! You’re probably also avoiding grain-free pet food because of the recent FDA announcement about dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). But no so fast! It’s best to consult with your veterinarian before doing so because a grain-free dog food formula may have numerous health benefits for dogs that are prone to dog food allergies.

Yes, you know the drill! You’ve seen pet food recalls escalate over the years, but how do you feed the right dog food to avoid allergic reactions or sensitivities? Keep in mind that both are different, and have different symptoms.

In this blog, we’re going to help you to explore common pet food allergies or sensitivities to help avoid painful inflammation and GI issues that occur in dogs with pet food allergies. After all, there’s nothing worse than hot spots, ear infections, and excessive itching!


A 2017 study from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and of the Medical University of Vienna, explains that animals and people both have similar symptoms of food allergies, and say that the adverse reactions mostly affect the skin. Nonetheless, they go on to add that “Asthma or severe shock reactions have rarely been observed in animals.

There are even overlaps among the triggers of immune response to certain foods and ingredients. Pets may suffer from both lactose intolerance and outright milk protein allergies. Some mammals are also liable to allergic reactions from certain proteins in wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, eggs and meat,” via Science Daily.

The study explains that there is still plenty of research needed for allergies in dogs, and recommend the elimination diet for dogs with food allergies which necessitates the removal of all proteins from the diet. “During this period of diagnosis, the animal will be fed homemade food or diet food prescribed by a veterinarian. Only then, and if there have not been any dangerous allergic reactions before, can ‘normal’ food be gradually reintroduced,” advises nutrition scientist Pali-Schöll, one of the researchers via Science Daily.

Common Ingredients That Trigger Dog Food Allergies

As a pet parent, you can avoid many health disorders by paying attention to what your dog consumes. You’ll need to research what’s in that easy-to feed commercial dog kibble or commercial can.

A dog that is exposed constantly to whatever he may be allergic to may be prone to recurring skin disorders, as well as other persistent health issues like diarrhea, gassiness, and excessive itching.

 The American Veterinary Association (AVMA) explains that food allergies can result in pruritus in dogs together with fleas and skin infections. They add that around 40% of pet foods that were tested contained different proteins from what was on the ingredient list.

Allergy Testing

New research from Tufts explains that dog food allergies, also known as adverse food reactions (AFR), is pretty uncommon in pets, and is also difficult for vets to rule out.

Tufts adds something pretty interesting, and says that “Between 20-30% of the healthy dogs had a strong positive reaction to one or more foods, depending on the type of the test. Another 53% of healthy dogs had weak positive reactions on the saliva test. In fact, there were more positive saliva reactions in healthy dogs than in allergic dogs! Overall, the number of dogs with positive reactions on the tests was not different between healthy and food allergic dogs. Only 1 of the positive blood tests corresponded to a known allergy in one of the allergic dogs,” via Tufts.

Saliva and Blood Tests for Food Allergies

Tufts also ran a second test with the same saliva and blood tests with 30 healthy dogs. This test concluded that “Between 60-100% of dogs tested positive for one or more foods on each test. Two dogs tested positive for all antigens on one of the blood tests, while a different dog tested positive for all antigens on the saliva test. Keep in mind that these are healthy dogs with no evidence of allergies,” via Tufts.

Tufts concluded that saliva and blood tests are not 100% reliable, and should not be used to distinguish dog food allergies. “Saliva and blood tests for food allergies in dogs do not reliably distinguish between healthy and allergic dogs and should not be used for diagnosis of food allergy! “

This is because it could result in a false alert for common foods as allergens. Tufts says that diet elimination is the best way to go.

With that said, let’s take a look at how we can avoid allergies and sensitivities by avoiding the most common pet food ingredients that dogs may be allergic to, and also upgrading a dog’s diet, so that your dog only consumes a balanced and healthy dog food formula. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, he or she may be suffering from a dog food allergy.

Symptoms of Dog Food Allergies

Common allergy symptoms in dogs show up as skin sensitivities with itching, scabbing, infection, and hair loss. These can be pretty serious, so you’re going to have to find out more about the underlying causes. As usual, you’ll need to consult with your vet at the first signs of a dog food allergy. Here’s the take with dog food allergies.

 Certain Breeds Predisposed

All dog breeds can develop a food allergy at any time, with the most common age that dogs are affected being between 1-3 years of age. Your dog may develop recurring ear infections from food allergies. Here are some dog breeds that tend to be more prone to food allergies:

. Shih Tzu

. Labrador Retriever

. Golden Retriever

. West Highland Terrier

. Lhasa Apso

. Scottish Terrier

. Dalmatian

. Wirehaired Fox Terrier

 Limited-Ingredient Diet (LID)

If your furry best friend suffers from ongoing diarrhea, occasional vomiting, chronic ear infections, GI issues, and even gassiness, you may be dealing with a food allergy. That said, when you first notice symptoms, consult with your veterinarian for advice.

Just like humans, a dog’s health is linked to what he eats. Food sensitivity dermatitis is easy to spot, and by removing certain dog food ingredients, and opting for a limited-ingredient diet (LID), with your veterinarian’s help, you’ll be able to determine the cause of an allergy or sensitivity. It may take time, but it’s worth it in the long run!

A high-quality dog food may reduce the incidence of a dog food allergy, but your dog may still be allergic to a particular main ingredient(s) like a protein.

Research shows that as many as 10% of dogs suffer from dog food allergies. The first step is to see whether your dog has common symptoms. These may include the following:

. Chronic ear infections

. Excessive itching

. Chronic diarrhea

. Bloating

. Gassiness

. Excessive itchiness

. Licking and scratching of paws, head, and ears

Allergies to dog food are an immune system response to a certain ingredient(s) in the dog food that in turn causes the symptom. If you notice any of these common food allergy symptoms, you’ll need to consult with your veterinarian to find out more about the possible allergen.

Choosing a Hypoallergenic Dog Food

Opting for a veterinarian formulated dog food that’s made especially for dogs that suffer from food allergies and sensitivities is pretty common today. This type of diet carries a minimal amount of ingredients that don’t include dairy, chicken, soy or grain.

These are great diets because they’re loaded with extra vitamins, supplements, and also offer prebiotics and probiotics combined with fatty acids to optimize skin health. If you feel that your furry best friend may be suffering from a food related allergy, reach out to your veterinarian to discuss dietary options.

This is important because food allergies are different with each dog, so you’ll have to work together with your vet to pinpoint the exact ingredient(s) that he or she should be avoiding.

It may take a while to find out more about the dog food ingredient(s) responsible for the allergy. Allergy testing may not be as reliable as feeding a limited food diet until the itching or other symptoms subside. Here’s the take on elimination diets.

Food Elimination Diets

We often look at these with dread because it’s hard work following any elimination diet. There’s nothing nicer than spoiling your dog with tidbits from the dinner table, but you’re going to have to forego that as well.

All food elimination diets entail only novel food ingredients be fed. This applies to treats and tidbits like cheese, yogurt, chicken, and even ground beef. Elimination diets usually run up to 3-months.

Your vet will let you know if a food allergy exists after previously fed ingredients like chicken are once again added to your dog’s diet. If your dog shows signs of a food allergy again, then that specific food is the cause of his food allergy.

The Most Common Dog Food Allergens

At first glance, when you’re first suspecting a food allergy, it may seem that everything you’re feeding is fine. Yet, the most common food allergens are the foods that you feed everyday like chicken, beef, corn, wheat, eggs, milk, and even soy.

Additionally, you’ll also need to consider food coloring, preservatives, artificial colors, propylene glycol, and rendered meat and chicken meals that may also be causing havoc to your dog.

By-products can be found even in high-quality dog food formulas. You’ll need to stay away from cheap, commercial dog food formulas that often contain lots of food coloring.

Good pet food that is made from high-quality ingredients will taste good, and will not need any artificial additives like flavoring or coloring.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD is often the result of a food allergy or sensitivity. What happens is that proteins (antigens) in your dog’s diet can cause an immune response, that in turn results in intestinal inflammation or IBD.

By feeding your furry best friend a healthy diet with real food ingredients, you can try to avoid IBD. Keep in mind that diagnosing IBD takes time, but your veterinarian will help with some guidelines.

Omega Fatty Acids

We all understand the benefits of omega’s which are beneficial for your dog as well. Omega’s have anti-inflammatory properties, and are extremely beneficial for all skin conditions. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish meal, fish oil, vegetable oil, and salmon. You can add a good quality fish oil to your dog’s food to ensure that they’re getting enough DHA and omega-3’s EPA.

As for omega-6 fatty acids, they’re more abundant in most foods, and can be found in chicken fat, corn oil, soybean oil, as well as beef. When shopping for a good fish oil for your dog, look for a brand that independently tests for heavy metals and contaminants.

What Proteins to Feed?

With the most common dog food proteins being chicken, beef, and duck, you can discuss options like novel proteins including game meat, ostrich, and even goat’s milk. Elk is a superior protein that is low in fat, and has a high source of vitamin B12. It also offers vitamin B6, phosphorus, niacin, zinc, iron, riboflavin, and thiamin.

Although novel or exotic proteins like kangaroo and elk may seem hard to find, they’re available in certain dog food brands as a first ingredient. Exotic and wild proteins make for great alternative proteins. It’s important to keep in mind that different proteins yield different amounts of amino acids.

Treats for Dogs with Allergies

If you’re looking for hypoallergenic protein alternatives, there are even cricket protein treats for dogs that have allergies. Crickets are high in protein, and also low fat. In turn, they’re great for obese dogs that have food sensitivities. This most likely sounds unappetizing, but may work for dogs with a common protein source allergy to beef and chicken.

Feeding Human Grade Whole Foods

If you’re worried about endless skin allergies, hot spots and hair loss, then read on. By making sure that you understand dog food and all the ingredients, you’ll be helping your furry best friend. It may seem like a difficult thing to do, but there are certain ingredients in dog food that make up for the most common allergens.

When you begin removing these ingredients, you’ll have a good chance of helping your dog improve. Adding uncooked whole foods also offers numerous health benefits says Dr. Richard Pitcairn.

“Commercial pet foods don’t contain some things we wish they did: adequate quantities and qualities of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, as well as the more intangible qualities unique to live, fresh foods,” says veterinarian Dr. Richard Pitcairn.

“Secondly, they contain other things we wish they didn’t: slaughterhouse wastes, toxic products from spoiled foodstuffs, non-nutritive fillers, heavy metal contaminants, sugar, pesticides and herbicides, drug residues, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives and bacteria and fungi contaminants. All processed pet foods…are missing something that seems to me to be the most important ‘nutrient’ of all. This key ingredient is practically ignored by nutritional scientists, but we can sense when it’s there. It is a quality found only in freshly grown, uncooked whole foods: life energy,” via Animal Wellness.

Grain-Free Dog Food

Yup! Many of us are still purchasing grain-free dog food formulas as many pet parents believe that it’s a healthier alternative for their pets. Dogs today face numerous health issues, maybe more so than in the past, and a high-quality grain-free dog food may be beneficial for dogs with grain related allergies. Reach out to your veterinarian to discuss the possible advantages of a grain-free diet today, and inquire as to DCM.

Dog Food Ingredients

Dry dog food has remained popular among pet parents. The key is to choosing a high-quality dog food that avoids harmful ingredients like by-product meals, additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors.

You’ll need to read through the ingredient list, and take special consideration of the first five ingredients listed.  Purina explains that dogs can develop an allergy even after years of eating the same ingredient, and recommend a special hypoallergenic dog food formula.

When feeding a dry dog food diet, opt for whole named meats as the first ingredient, with natural vitamins and minerals, fruits and veggies. Oatmeal, salmon, sweet potato, quinoa, blueberries are good examples of good ingredients. Consider low carb, high protein diets that are free of antibiotics, rendered meats, and that offer human grade ingredients sourced from the US or Canada.

The same applies to wet food, although convenient, canned dog food may also contain ingredients that your dog may be allergic to. Frozen, freeze –dried, and raw pet foods are other alternatives to feeding. These have become highly popular because of the large selections of varying protein sources. They also feature numerous veggies and fruits in their formulas like broccoli, carrots, squash, cranberries and more.

If you feel that your furry best friend may be suffering from a food allergy, consult with your veterinarian. A hypoallergenic dog food formula may be the solution.

Although dog food allergies are not usually life threatening, they will affect your dog’s well-being, and quality of life. So, if your furry best friend has recurrent ear infections, or suffers from excessive itching and hot spots, consult with your veterinarian to rule out a dog food allergy.


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