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Is Your Dog Allergic to Certain Food?

Food Allergies and Dogs

By Team PetCareRx. July 31, 2011 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM

    Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

    Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

Is Your Dog Allergic to Certain Food?

Dogs can have food allergies just like people can, with sometimes serious consequences. Learn how to recognize and treat a dog food allergies.

Are you wondering if your dog is allergic to some foods? If your pet is having trouble keeping food down, or experiencing diarrhea, food allergies may be to blame.

Food allergies, or intolerance to particular elements in dog foods, is the third most common cause of allergies for dogs. Food allergies affect all breeds, both genders, and can even suddenly show up years into a dog’s life.

Signs of Food Allergy or Intolerance

It could be that your dog has food intolerance rather than a food allergy. Food allergies usually show signs of itching and skin problems, sometimes along with diarrhea. It might cause chronic skin infections that recur after antibiotic treatment or diarrhea that keeps coming back. Conversely, food intolerance is often seen as vomiting or diarrhea without the skin issues. However, there can be exceptions to this rule, so it's always best to bring your veterinarian into the conversation.

Typically, the most common causes of food allergy or intolerance are the most common ingredients in dog foods—beef, dairy, soy, and wheat, among others.

Treatment for Food Allergy

Your veterinarian will rule out other possible causes of any skin problems, such as parasites or fleas. Once other potential causes are ruled out, you can look at your dog’s diet. If you suspect food allergies, keep a list of what your dog eats, bring the can or dried food bag to your veterinarian for his or her review, and don’t feed your dog any table food.

Your veterinarian may recommend a special dog food formula made for dogs with food allergies or to help rule out the offending food. Most of these allergy-specific formulas have limited ingredients and include protein sources from lamb, rabbit, venison, or duck. Sometimes a homemade diet is recommended, starting with basic protein sources. To pinpoint to cause of the allergy, it's sometimes recommended to gradually add other sources until food allergy signs are seen again. This helps you determine what food is causing your dog’s allergy so you can avoid feeding it to them. It also allows you to see what foods don’t cause allergies so you can use these ingredients to ensure your dog's diet still gets all the essential nutrients they need. Be sure to work closely with your veterinarian during this process.

Some homeopathic veterinarians feel that dogs can react to the additives and preservatives in commercial dog foods. If this is the case for your dog, you might try feeding a more natural brand of dog food that doesn’t contain preservatives or color additives.

Moving Forward

Once you determine the cause of your pet’s food allergy or intolerance, you must ensure that they never eat it again. Much like a child with a peanut allergy, your dog’s food allergy isn’t going to go away. Your diligence in keeping their diet free of the offending allergen will keep them healthy and comfortable.

More on Feeding Your Dog

The Proper Nutrition for Feeding a Puppy
What Do I Feed My Adult Dog?
Your Dog Food Questions Answered

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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