Does Your Dog Have Food Allergies?

People aren't the only ones who can develop allergies to certain foods.

When your dog is on a special diet, don't feed him any other foods, including treats, unless recommended by your veterinarian. Amy [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

Just as we can develop food allergies, so can man's best friend.

Food allergies occur when a dog's immune system mistakenly treats a specific protein as harmful and responds with antibodies that trigger a series of symptoms. Proteins are present not only in meats, but also in grains and vegetables, so any commercial dog food could cause an allergic reaction.

While dogs can be allergic nearly any ingredient, there are certain foods that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction. These include the following:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Egg
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Dairy
When a dog has an allergic reaction to a food, symptoms can vary, but they can include any of the following:
  • Itchy skin and scratching, especially in the ears and rear end
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen paws
  • Constant licking

Dogs can develop food allergies at any stage of life, and while they can occur in any breed, they're especially common in setters, terriers, retrievers and flat-faced breeds such as pugs and bulldogs, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

What to do if you suspect your dog has food allergies

If you think your dog may be reacting to a food, visit your veterinarian. He or she may be able to determine the source of your dog's allergic reaction, but if not, he or she will likely recommend blood or skin tests or suggest an elimination diet.

Elimination diets isolate which food your dog is allergic to by feeding him a protein and carbohydrate source that he's never eaten before. Common foods used in such a diet include sweet potatoes, ground turkey, kangaroo, oatmeal, venison or potato.

If your dog doesn't react to the new foods, you can then begin adding different ingredients back into his diet until you notice your pet having an allergic reaction.

Once you've identified the offending food or foods, you and your veterinarian can then design a diet that's free of any triggers.

Your vet may also recommend that your dog eat a hypoallergenic diet. Hypoallergenic foods typically have fewer ingredients and feature novel proteins like bison, fish, kangaroo or pheasant.

Ingredients like lamb and rice were once considered hypoallergenic because they were rarely used in most commercial dog foods; however, many dogs have now developed allergies to these foods.

While your dog is on any special diet, it's important not to give him any treats or rawhides unless your veterinarian says it's OK.

If your dog is still having allergic reactions after changing his diet, he may be allergic to something else in his environment such as pollen or a medication and your veterinarian will likely recommend further testing.

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our dogs, the better we can support and protect their wellbeing. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.