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Most Common Food Allergies in Dogs

Updated on August 31, 2017

Know the Signs of Dog Food Allergies

Food Allergies in Pets are Very Common

Food allergies are very common in dogs. Dogs can also be intolerant to certain foods. Food intolerance is diffferent from food allergies. Food allergies usually cause itchiness, and other allergic reactions. Food intolerance causes intestinal disturbances such as diarrhea, and vomiting,

A food allergy affects the dog’s immune system. Most often the allergy is caused by a protein particle that causes the reaction in the animal. Most food allergies present themselves as skin problems and/or gastrointestinal upsets. Some dogs can have chronic otitis (ear infections)
ast body’s immune system. It is usually always a protein particle in the food that is responsible for reactions.

Approximately 10% of all canine allergies are related to food, and could be the reason your dog scratches and itches themselves. Most food allergies are genetic. The more exposure a dog gets to the trigger of the allergen, the more likely the allergy will flair up. The most common food allergies include dairy, beef, wheat, chicken, egg, lamb, pork, soy, fish and rabbit, not necessarily in this order. Many dogs can be allergic to more than one food type. Dogs can become allergic due to many factors. The first being heredity, the environment, exposure to antibiotics which can cause intestingal changes inside their gut.

Dogs and Allergies

How Do You Know if Your Dog Has a Pet Food Allergy?

How do you know if your dog has a food allergy? Some symptoms include chronic recurrent ear inflammations, itchiness, skin problems, stomach problems, gas, itchy rear, licking their feet, yeast infections. Itchy skin on their feet, face, ears,and legs is a very common symptom of food allergies. If you notice hair loss, hot spots, skin infections that respond to antibiotics but come back after the antibiotics are stopped. Some breeds can show more of a predisposition to allergies than others. German Shepards, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, and Cocker Spaniels tend to have more food allergies than some of the other breeds. Food allergies affect females and males, whether they are neutered or not, and can show up anywhere between 5 months old and 12 years old. Inhalant allergies and flea bites are the only more common allergic reactions in pets.

Symptoms of a pet allergy:

  • itchy skin
  • bald patche
  • rashes
  • red patches

Very often the food you feed your pet is filled with processed proteins, fillers, and unnatural colorings. The immune system of the dog, may attack these ingredients ingested as a foreign substance. The more a dog is exposed to these products, the more likely they could develop an allergy.

How to tell if your pet could have a food allergy:

  • Is your pet’s itchiness year round, not related to a seasonal issue
  • no or little respone to cortisone to treat the skin ailments
  • there is a pattern with the ay the lesions are distributed (common for food allergy)
  • there were no skin problems before the age of four or five

Food allergies are best to be determined by using an elimination diet. This is done by completely changing the dog’s diet. Stop the food you are currently feeding your dog, and give them a food they have never had before. Your veterinarian can guide you as to the proper way to conduct this elimination diet.

Different Ingredients in Dog Food Can Cause Allergies

Elimination Diet

In order to achieve success with an elimination diet:

  • Feed the special food exclusively, with absolutely no other treats, foods, or flavorings allowed.
  • Let everyone know your dog is on a special diet, so they don’t accidentally give them something off their diet.
  • Any treats given should be made of the same ingredients in this special diet
  • All pets in the household need to be given the same food

Is Hypoallergenic Food Really Good

Hypoallergenic Pet Foods Can Be a Misleading Label

Some over the counter commercially sold food for dogs claim they are hypoallergenic or good for sensitive skin. Many of these products can be misleading to the consumer. Pet food companies are not required to list every ingredient that is in the food, as long as the ingredients meet the guaranteed analysis, one produ ct can be substituted for another. Some of these ingredients not listed could be the cause of the food allergy.

Your veterinarian is the best one to select the appropriate food to conduct an allergy test. Usually they will select a prescription diet, a low antigen diet, or a homemade diet. Prescription diets work well because the formulation never changes since they are created to treat medical conditions in the pet. The protein source is always the same, unlike commercially sold pet food. Prescription diets are only sold through veterinarians.

The protein(s) in a diet that can be responsible for food allergy signs are called antigens. Low antigen diets are also prescription diets. In these diets, the protein has been causeformulated (hydrolyzed) to be so small that it will not stimulate the immune system. The primary aim of a hydrolyzed protein diet is to disrupt the proteins within the diet sufficiently to remove existing allergens

Some of the current examples of these diets made by specific pet food companies are listed below.
Hill’s Diets:
Prescription diets:
D/D canned/dry- salmon & potato/rice
D/D canned/dry- duck & potato/rice
D/D canned/dry-venison &potato/rice
D/D dry – egg & rice
D/D canned-lamb & rice

Low Antigen diets:
Z/D Ultra Allergen Free dry and canned-hydrolyzed chicken and refined starch
Z/D Low Antigen –dry and canned-hydrolyzed chicken and single source carbohydrate (potato)

Purina Diets:
Low Antigen diets:
LA Limited Antigen dry-salmon and rice
HA hypoallergenic dry-hydrolyzed soy

Iams Diets:
Prescription diets:
Response FP dry and canned-fish and potato
Response KO dry-kangaroo, canola meal, and oat flour
Royal Canin:
Low Antigen diet:
Hypoallergenic HP 19 dry-hydrolyzed soy and rice

Prescription diets: (IVD)
Potato and Duck dry and canned-duck protein and potato (also has light formula)
Potato and Rabbit dry and canned- rabbit protein and potato
Potato and Venison dry and canned- venison protein and potato (has large breed formula-dry)
Potato and Whitefish dry and canned-whitefish protein and potato

While the food allergy test is going on, make sure you stay disciplined to the instructions your veterinarian gives you. It is a good idea to have frequent phone conversations or visits with the veterinarian so they can monitor your dog’s progress. Make sure you ask plenty of questions.

Dogs and the Right Food

Food Allergy and the Food Allergy Test

Although it is fairly simple for a veterinarian to determine that your dog had a food allergy, it is important that other issues are eliminated, and to make sure there are not other underlying health issues. There are some sensitivies that can mirror a food allergy such as flea bite allergies, parasites, inhalant allergies, sarcoptic mange, yeast and bacterial infections, and thyroid problems. When all the other causes are ruled out and treated, then you and your veterinarian can work on eliminating and correcting the food allergies.

A good way to go about working on the food allergy is to do food trials and elimination diet. A food trial involves feeding an animal a new, never before eaten food for 12 weeks. This food should be a protein and a carbohydrate like venison and rice. Food that says it has limited antigen or hydrolyzed protein may be a good choice during this 12 week period. Make sure your pet gets no treats, no rawhides, no biscuits, pig ears, or any flavored medication, no plastic toys, no cow hooves,or flavored toothpaste. Make sure your dog doesn’t have access to the cat litter or allow your dog to roam where they can eat something you are not aware of. Keep a journal to note if your dog ate something not on the special diet.

If there is no change after the 12 week period, and a food allergy is suspected, another food trial variation may be tried.

How to Figure Out What is Causing Your Dog's Allergy

It Takes Detective Work to Determine a Food Allergy in Your Dog

If the dog improves during the 12 week period, the dog is put back on their regular food to confirm that the food allergy is from something in the original food. Then put them back on the restricted diet and reintroduce ingredient by ingredient in 2 week intervals. It takes some detective work to figure out which are the culprit ingredients, but it is important to know, what can offset your dog.
Food trials are the best way to determine food allergies. Blood tests are not believed to be an accurate way to diagnose food allergies. Skin testing works well for dog’s with inhalant allergies.

Once a food allergy is determined, the course of treatment involves avoidance. Short term relief can sometimes be helped with fatty acids. steroids, antihistamines. Eliminating the food that is causing the allergy is the best long term solution for your pet.

Detective Work Will Help You Determine a Food Allergy

Common Sources of Food Allergies in Dogs

80% of food allergies in dogs are caused by meat, dairy, wheat and fish, In addition, there are other foods that are responsible for the allergic reactions you see your dog suffering with

  • Meat is a very common cause of food allergies an Mainly beef and chicken are the offending ingredients.

  • Dairy Products can be caused by the lactose in the foods which can cause an allergic reaction or lactose intolerence.

  • Wheat Products are plentiful in commercial pet foods.

  • Fish may be another source that can trigger an allergy

  • Soy Products are also very common causes of allergies in dogs

  • Eggs can be another cause of allergies.

  • Fruits such as apricots, and plums are other possible allergens
  • Vegetables and corn can be a source of food allergy too.
  • Fillers in dog food, the preservatives, and colorants can also be a cause of allergies.

It takes a while to build up an allergy to food, so allergic reactions are rarely seen before a dog is younger than 3 years old.

Important Things to Remember About Dog Food Allergies

Important points to remember:

  • food allergies are not seasonal - the discomfort will be all year long

  • food allergies can occur in dogs of all ages, but usually not puppies

  • a dog will not have a reaction

  • the first time they are exposed to the ingredient

  • small red bumps, raised patches of skin, rash around back of the legs, the undersideir body, the ears, and the feet , licking their face, rubbing can be signs of a food allergy that affects the skin.

  • some dogs will have gastrointestinal disturbances such as vomiting, frequent bowel movements, and diarrhea

a special diet that takes approximately 12 weeks, with limited ingredients is the best test to determine if this is a food allergy.

Recognize the Symptoms of Food Allergies

It is important to recognize the symptoms of food allergies. Once you suspect a food allergy, it is best to get your dog on food that will alleviate the symptoms and provide a healthy, quality diet that your dog can enjoy forever.

© 2012 toknowinfo


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Voted up! Very detailed information. Food allergies in humans can be very frustrating well how much more for our pets.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi RW, Thanks for forwarding my hub. What we put into ourselves and our pets has a lot to do with how we and they feel. Glad you stopped by and I hope this helps your friend.

    • rwelton profile image


      7 years ago from Sacramento CA

      Well done! I have a friend that spends a ton of money on her beloved pooch - half of it at the vet. I will forward this hub to her. I'm sure it contains solutions for her.



    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Haha. Pets aren't as scary as they seem, but I am glad you enjoy looking at them.

    • beingwell profile image


      7 years ago from Bangkok

      Shared this one.

      I don't have pets. Frankly, they scare me. haha!! I just love looking at them and seeing them play with their owners.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Audrey, You are so right about what we feed our dogs. We need to be more than vigilant to help keep them allergy free. Natural Balance is a good choice. In addition to food allergies, our dogs can have stomach sensitivities to certain foods. My goldens retreivers have never done well with lamb and so I make sure to stay away from anything with those ingredients. Dogs like people, when they have one allergy, can be prone to having other allergies, so it is no surprise that Griffin would be allergic to something like bath products.

      But Griffin, as are all your pups, is in great hands with you taking care of him, so if there is anyone that can figure out what is affecting him, it is you. As always, I always enjoy when you stop by.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      7 years ago from Washington

      Hi Rhonda - great subject - my Griffin - the long hair OF COURSE has horrible allergies. His turn into a gastrointestinal "issue" so we have to be super careful with foods. He is currently on a fish and sweet potato I think from Natural Balance -it is a LID - limited ingredient diet and it finally agrees with him!

      It is interesting though how many people don't think about the treats that they give them...they take all the time to provide them with an allergy-free diet and then give them treats that have all the ingredients they are avoiding in THEM. We make sure our dogs get hardly any treats whatsoever unless it is the same as their kibble - and we use kibble for training. Every once in a while, I'll splurge and give them something "special" if I've checked out the ingredients and then only give it out for performance/training when they are not responding to the usual methods.

      Great points you make though - and that is the deal - if they're allergic, they're always going to be allergic. Griffin is even allergic to some bath products and of all things - razors. He had a horrid reaction to the razor they used on his feet and a little in his groin area. Never again~ Once you figure it out though, it's pretty easy to just avoid what you know doesn't work for them.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Tom, Thanks for your kind comments. I am glad you learned something from this article. Maybe you will be able to pass this info to someone else who needs it. As always, I am so happy when you stop by.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Amy, Aww, I am so sorry to hear about your Scottie. I lost my golden retriever, my Bonnie, this past December, so I feel for you. I had a Scottish Terrier growing up, but he didn't have any food allergies. It sounds like you really went through a lot with him. I am glad you at least found out what was the source of the problem and got it under control. Thanks for sharing your story, because I am sure there are other people who are going through a similar thing. If we create more awareness, we can help our dogs live a healthier and happy life and that is what it is all about. It is nice to see you again. Thanks for stopping by.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Seeker,

      It was very fortunate that you met that miner years ago. He knew what he was talking about, and seems to have given you wisdom that helped your dog be more comfortable. Thanks for sharing your story, it was very interesting.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Patty, You are so right when it comes to looking at ingredients in pet food. There is so much stuff that is no good for our pets. In fact, better quality food usually means the dogs will go to the bathroom less, because it is more nutritious and better metabolized through their system. Thanks for sharing your story and reminding us all that it isn't that hard and doesn't have to be that expensive to feed our dogs a more natural diet.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Kristy, Thanks for your comments and up votes. It is true that a lot of people don't realize their pets can have allergies to food. And many may not recognize that it comes out in the form of skin rashes. Thanks for stopping by. It is always nice to have you stop by.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend, great well written and in depth hub with lots of valuable and important information . I did have a dog the had food allergies and i wish i had all this great information. Well done !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Comprehensive article on a condition that creates severe health issues for effected canines. My Scottish Terrier, who sadly, recently died from bladder cancer, was afflicted with severe skin allergies from food. The vet told me that certain breeds, typically Scotties and Cairn terriers, had the highest incidence of severe dermatitis from allergic skin disease. The first indication began early in his life with itching, red splotches on his stomach that ended in a staph infection, requiring antibiotics and a steroid injection. Eventually, with the IVD duck and potato diet, he improved, but still had enough problems I had to keep him on Atopica (immunosuppressent). This drug, reserved for the most severe allergic skin disease, made a pronounced improvement in his comfort and life. The first Rx cost me $145 for a month's supply. I was able to acquire it through PetMeds without shipping costs and with the advantage of their price matching, at $50/month. There was no other viable options in the matter, as the resulting staph infections with an outbreak, made him an extremely sick pup. Thank you for your informative, well-put together article on an important topic regarding pet care,

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      A very interesting hub!

      I remember many years ago, way back in the 1970s - before we all knew what crap was put into dog food - my first dog had a terrible time with itchy skin. Luckily his coat was not affected. But he was on steroids, cream and special shampoo for ages to get his skin condition cleared up. It was an old miner that I met on a walk with my dog, who told me to dump all the cans of dog food in the house and feed my dog on good chicken and rice for a few days - now this was before all this scientific stuff came out! He also recommend a good dry dog food for my dog. From that day my dog never had another problem with his skin and I'm so grateful to that old miner! Interesting although my first dog was a cross-breed, he did have a lot of labrador in him and I noticed that this was one of the breeds listed that are predisposed to allergies.

      Great hub and very interesting + voted up!

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest

      Great reminder that animals are very much like humans and; unfortunately, can also suffer from the same ailments.

      Being aware of your pet's behavior and reading the labels of food are two key elements for maintaining a pet's good health. Many of the brand names (Iams Proactive Mature Adult is mainly cornmeal & by-products, Science Diet Healthy Mobility for large breed dogs is the same: whole grain corn, whole grain wheat, chicken-by-product meal, soybean meal, animal fat) contain more grain than anything else!

      One of my pets was allergic to any food with a preservative. So, I cooked chicken and added supplements. It's not that hard and animals really thrive on the more natural diet. During the process, I was referred to the prescription Science Diet formulas. I bought into it for a very short while. I found a brand at Walmart (since been discontinued) which was 1/3 of the price and took it to my vet to show her it actually had more natural ingredients than the Hill's. She was amazed! So, a little research is a great investment for your pocketbook and your pet's health.

      Thanks for raising awareness to animal allergies!

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      This is a great hub! A lot of people don't think that animals can have food allergies, but it's more common than you'd realise! Voted up :)


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