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Food Allergies in Dogs: What You Should Know

Updated on August 21, 2014
These are not my Chihuahuas. They are stunt Chihuahuas
These are not my Chihuahuas. They are stunt Chihuahuas

My Wonderful Dogs

About a year ago, I decided to switch pet food brands for my two little Chihuahuas because they seemed to be growing bored with their pet food. Both of them immediately took to the pet food and seemed to love it. There were no problems with digestion and at each feeding, they were very excited to get a scoop dropped into their bowls.

This one isn't mine either.
This one isn't mine either.

Changes in their Skin

Within the last few months, I noticed that the skin on their bellies were becoming quite irritated by something. Both had red spots. One dog had a dark red spot that was the circumference of a tangerine in his lower torso area (do dogs have torsos?) and the other had red skin that was stretched over the length of his torso area. The dog with the wider area of skin irritation could not stop scratching. He would scratch with his nails, slide across the grass on his belly and in more recent days, he had taken to writhing on his back.

Initially, I could not quite put my finger on it. I had not changed their food since last year. I had purchased new pet beds however, they were the "usual" pet beds that I always purchased.

I took the Chihuahua with the lesser skin irritation on his belly to see the Vet for his regular exam where she informed me that he was suffering from an allergy. That got me to thinking again. What could be causing an allergy in not one but both of my pets?

The Online Search for Information

I decided to do a bit of research online about pet food allergies, researching the brand my two Chihuahuas were currently eating and was horrified by the postings of other pet owners. Several reported similar changes in their pets' skin and coats who consumed the same brand of dog food as my pet.

Some owners even contributed the death of their pets to the dog food. Of course, upon reading about all of these things combined, I made an immediate change in their dog food. Of course it is not recommended that you make "harsh" switches in food but that you should blend and/or slowly phase out the old food but who would continue to feed their pet poison?

Risks for Food Allergies in Dogs

Upon completing my cursory online search for information, I decided to conduct a more serious search and review a few journal articles. I wanted to share some of the information I gathered about food allergies in dogs.

Although it hasn't been confirmed statistically, did you know that certain breeds have been reported to have a greater risk for suffering food allergies? They include:

  • Boxers
  • Cocker
  • Springer Spaniels
  • Collies
  • Dalmatians
  • German Shephards
  • Lhasa Apsos
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Retrievers
  • Shar-Peis
  • Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers
  • Dachshund
  • West Highland White Terriers

Another risk factor introduced included genetics.

Dog Food Allergy Symptoms

Here are a few symptoms to look for if you suspect your pet is suffering from a pet food allergy:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight Loss
  • Itching/Scratching
  • Redness
  • Biting the irritated area
  • Licking the irritated area
  • Constant Ear Infections

Research has shown that food allergies are non-seasonal and may happen suddenly after months or years of consuming a specific diet (i.e. dog food) containing the ingredients that trigger a response. In dogs, itching is the most common symptom and occurs in various levels of intensity but is always present.

Food Allergies have characteristics that are similar to other skin disorders seen in dogs such as "hot spots" that are the result of self-inflicted injury by the dog responding to pain or itching, folliculitis (infection in the hair follicle), papules (bumps) on the skin or hyperpigmentation (darker skin).

Treatment of Dog Food Allergies

Diagnosing food allergies are a bit challenging as it can take months for an allergy to appear. It takes months to years for these ingredients to line the intestines and as a result for dogs to eventually develop an allergy.

70% of dog food allergies are said to be related to the following ingredients: beef, wheat or dairy. Nonetheless, there are a few keys to treatment.

First, removal of the allergen is most important. This may require a change in dog food. In my case, I decided to change my pets back to a previous brand. However, the literature indicates that a relapse is possible, particularly if the dog becomes allergic to another ingredient of their dog food.

Medication treatments may include steroids and antihistamines for inflammation.

The change in dog food seems to have immensely helped both of my pets. They are more playful and thankfully, the degree of itching and skin irritation has dropped off considerably.

© 2014 Mahogany Speaks


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