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Identifying and Treating Dog Food Allergies

Dog Food Allergies: Definition, Identification, Causes, and Treatment

Dog food allergies refer to adverse reactions when a dog's immune system overreacts to certain ingredients in their diet. Proteins typically trigger these reactions, although any food component potentially causes an allergic response. Dog food sensitivity or intolerance is generally non-immunological and manifests as gastrointestinal issues such as difficulty digesting certain substances.

Dogs allergic to a specific ingredient have their immune system mistakenly identify it as harmful and initiate a response. Dog allergies symptoms range from mild discomfort to severe reactions such as vomiting, diarrhea, or even anaphylaxis.

Different options exist to find the best allergy food for dogs. Options include Limited Ingredient Diets (LID), hypoallergenic formulas, grain-free options, natural and organic options, home-cooked meals, and allergen-free treats.

What is Dog Food Allergy?

Dog food allergy is a reaction that occurs when a dog's immune system misidentifies a particular food ingredient as harmful and triggers an inflammatory response. β€œCanine food allergy is a nonseasonal, pruritic skin disorder of dogs associated with the ingestion of a substance found in their diet,” according to the study by Paterson, S. titled β€œFood hypersensitivity in 20 dogs with skin and gastrointestinal signs,” 1995.

The most common symptoms of food allergies in dogs include itching, scratching, gastrointestinal upset, skin rashes, and ear infections. Dogs with food allergies exhibit symptoms like chewing on paws, constant licking, hair loss, and recurrent skin infections. Dog food allergies sometimes lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory issues such as coughing and wheezing.

How Does a Dog Develop Food Allergy?

Dogs develop food allergies when their immune system mistakenly identifies specific proteins in their diet as harmful invaders and mounts an immune response. β€œFood allergy in dogs is defined as "all immune-mediated reactions following food intake," involving skin and/or gastrointestinal disorders.” according to the study by Verlinden, A., Hesta, M., Millet, S., & Janssens, G. titled β€œFood Allergy in Dogs and Cats: A Review,” 2006.

The immune system’s role in developing food allergies in dogs is to react to specific proteins as harmful substances, leading to allergic symptoms. The immune system mistakenly responds aggressively by recognizing proteins as potential allergens, creating a cascade of reactions that result in allergic symptoms.Β 

Managing food sensitivities in dogs requires close attention to their diet, including switching to hypoallergenic foods that do not trigger immune responses. Consult a veterinarian to formulate a balanced and nutritious diet plan that provides relief and ensures the dog’s well-being.

What are the Most Common Dog Food Allergies?

The most common dog food allergies include reactions to chicken, beef, dairy products, wheat, soy, and eggs. Diagnose dog food allergies accurately, as β€œThe most common food allergens contributing to canine cutaneous adverse food reactions (CAFRs) are beef, dairy products, chicken, and wheat,” according to the study by Mueller, R., Olivry, T., & PrΓ©laud, P. titled β€œCritically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats,” 2016.

The most common dog food allergies are listed below.

  • Chicken: Chicken allergy in dogs manifests through symptoms like itching, skin inflammation, and digestive issues.Β 
  • Beef: Beef allergy in dogs often leads to gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Dairy: A dairy product allergy causes gas, bloating, and diarrhea in canines.Β 
  • Wheat: Wheat allergies result in ear infections, itchy paws, and digestive disturbances.Β 
  • Soy: Soy allergies in dogs commonly show as skin rashes, itching, and vomiting.Β 
  • Egg: Egg allergies trigger symptoms like hives, swelling, and respiratory distress.

1. Chicken

Chicken allergy in dogs is a condition in which a protein in chicken products triggers reactions in sensitive canines, leading to discomfort and health issues. Dog food sensitivity exhibits symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and breathing difficulties. Other symptoms include itching, digestive problems, and skin irritations.

Treating a dog’s chicken allergy involves avoiding all chicken-based products, including raw chicken, chicken treats, or commercial dog food with chicken as an ingredient. Opting for hypoallergenic food alternatives helps alleviate dogs' discomfort and improve their quality of life.Β 

Consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment if a dog is suspected of chicken allergy.

2. Beef

Beef allergy in dogs is a common food allergy. Dogs develop allergies to proteins found in beef, similar to chicken allergies. Some dogs are more sensitive to beef protein, triggering an immune response that manifests in various forms.Β 

Severe itching, redness, and hair loss are classic signs of a beef allergy, often accompanied by gastrointestinal distress such as vomiting or diarrhea.

Dogs with a beef allergy exhibit sensitivity to dairy products due to cross-reactivity between beef and milk proteins. Consumption of dairy items worsens symptoms in dogs allergic to beef.

Consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment if a dog is suspected to have a beef allergy. The veterinarian recommends an elimination diet or allergy testing to identify the specific allergen causing the reaction.Β 

Treatment involves switching to a hypoallergenic diet that avoids beef and other potential allergens. Medications to alleviate symptoms such as itching or inflammation are generally prescribed.

3. Dairy

Dairy allergies in dogs are relatively common food allergies. Dogs generally tolerate lactose to varying degrees, with some dogs developing an allergy or intolerance to dairy products. The reactions are typically triggered by cow's milk proteins that certain dogs are sensitive to, such as casein and whey.Β 

Common symptoms of dairy allergy include vomiting, diarrhea, itching, and inflammation. Pet owners must be vigilant and observe signs of distress after their dog consumes dairy products. Consult a veterinarian if a dairy allergy is suspected.

Treatment of dairy products includes grain-free alternatives or specialized hydrolyzed protein diets. Supplementing with probiotics helps support digestive health and reduce sensitivities.

4. Wheat

Wheat allergy in dogs is a relatively common food allergy. Dogs with sensitivities to wheat experience symptoms like itching, digestive issues, and skin problems manifesting as red and inflamed skin, frequent scratching, diarrhea, and, in severe cases, vomiting.


Managing a dog's wheat allergy involves switching to allergy-free food. A neutral option is a wheat-free diet of alternative grains like rice, oats, or barley. Consult a veterinarian when symptoms persist.

5. Soy

Soy allergy in dogs is less common than other food allergies. Soy is often used as a protein source in commercial dog foods, which dogs are exposed to regularly.

Soy is a dog allergen, leading to symptoms such as skin irritations, digestive disturbances, and respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.

A dog allergic to soy exhibits signs of discomfort that pet owners must be vigilant about. Respiratory problems like coughing or wheezing occur in severe cases. Identifying these symptoms and consulting a veterinarian is crucial in determining the dog's soy allergy, as early diagnosis prevents further complications.

6. Eggs

Egg allergy in dogs is less common than a chicken allergy. Some dogs react to eggs by showing symptoms like itching, digestive problems, and skin rashes upon consumption. Dogs exhibit signs of egg allergies due to the proteins in eggs, such as ovalbumin and ovomucoid, which stimulate an immune response.Β 

Common symptoms of egg allergies in dogs include itchiness, hives, swelling, diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Pet owners must closely observe their dog's reactions after consuming eggs to identify sensitivities. Consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and guidance on managing the egg sensitivities in the dog's diet, which is essential if an egg allergy is suspected.

Why is Beef the Most Common Food Allergy for Dogs?

Beef is the most common food allergy for dogs due to the proteins in beef that trigger immune responses, leading to allergic reactions. β€œSpontaneous beef allergy (BA) is common in dogs,” according to the study by Ohmori, K., Masuda K., Ohno, K., Sakaguchi M., & Tsujimoto, H. titled β€œBovine serum albumin is one of the common allergens in dogs with spontaneous beef allergy,” 2005.

Beef allergy in dogs is often linked to specific protein types such as albumin, globulin, and collagen found in beef. These beef proteins harm dogs with allergies when their immune system recognizes them as foreign invaders. The presence of beef allergy in dogs leads to the production of antibodies that cause allergic symptoms.

What Food is Best for Dogs with Allergies?

The best food for dogs with allergies is hypoallergenic options that won't trigger sensitivities. Hypoallergenic food options include a Limited Ingredient Diet (LID), novel proteins, grain-free options, hydrolyzed protein, and homemade diets. β€œElimination diets for dogs with food allergies include lamb, chicken, rabbit, horse meat, fish, and rice or potatoes,” according to the study by Wills, J., & Harvey, R. titled β€œDiagnosis and management of food allergy and intolerance in dogs and cats,” 1994.Β 

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Choose the right dog food and the best dry dog food for skin allergies to address any sensitivities or allergies, as diet plays a crucial role in managing their health and well-being.


Proteins are vital in a dog’s diet. Avoid dogs' most common food allergies, such as chicken or beef, which lead to allergic symptoms.

How to Identify if a Dog is Allergic to a Food?

To identify if a dog is allergic to a food, observe symptoms after the dog consumes the suspected allergen and consult a vet to perform diagnostic tests for confirmation.Β 

Veterinarians recommend elimination diets or allergy tests to pinpoint the allergen. An elimination diet involves removing potential allergens from a dog's diet and reintroducing them systematically to identify the specific food causing allergic reactions.

Allergy tests, such as blood tests or skin prick tests, are conducted to detect specific antibodies or proteins in a dog's system, indicating potential allergens causing allergic reactions.

β€œSerum and saliva tests could not be used to confirm or rule out adverse food reactions. Elimination diets are the reference standard in the diagnosis of adverse food reactions in dogs,” according to the study by Vovk, L., Watson, A., Dodds, W., Klinger, C., Classen, J., J., & Mueller, R., titled β€œTesting for food-specific antibodies in saliva and blood of food allergic and healthy dogs,” 2019.

How Long Before a Dog Shows Food Allergy Symptoms?

How long before a dog shows food allergy symptoms varies, depending on the individual dog's sensitivity, the allergen consumed, and the immune response triggered. Some dogs exhibit immediate allergy symptoms in dogs after consuming a specific allergen, while others develop reactions over a more extended period. The dog's overall health, age, and genetic predisposition influence how quickly symptoms manifest. β€œFood allergy symptoms in dogs can develop within 7 to 14 days of feeding, with improvement on an elimination diet suggesting food allergy,” according to the study by Wills, J., & Harvey, R. titled β€œDiagnosis and management of food allergy and intolerance in dogs and cats,” 1994.

The duration of allergy symptoms in dogs is affected by several factors, such as the type of protein, the dog's immune response, and the overall diet. Proteins are crucial in triggering the reactions, as certain proteins induce dog allergies. The immune system's response varies, with some dogs having heightened sensitivity to specific substances. The dog's overall diet impacts the severity and duration of symptoms of food allergies in dogs.

What is the Effective Method for Dog Allergies Treatment in Food?

The effective method for dog allergies treatment in food involves avoiding allergens, using medications, implementing immunotherapy, preparing homemade dog food, and exploring alternative protein sources.

β€œAvoiding the offending food component(s) is the main therapy for food allergies in dogs and cats,” according to the study by Verlinden, A., Hesta, M., Millet, S., & Janssens, G. titled β€œFood Allergy in Dogs and Cats: A Review,” 2006.

β€œShort-course prednisolone during the initial phase of an elimination diet trial can help control allergic pruritus and inflammation, potentially reducing the time for diagnosis of food allergy in dogs,” according to the study by Favrot, C., Bizikova, P., Fischer, N., Rostaher, A., & Olivry, T. titled β€œThe usefulness of short-course prednisolone during the initial phase of an elimination diet trial in dogs with food-induced atopic dermatitis,” 2019. The anti-inflammatory effects of CBD oil for dog allergies aid in soothing irritated skin and promoting healthier coat conditions.

β€œAllergen immunotherapy can be an effective treatment option for pet allergy, reducing allergic symptoms,” according to the study by Virtanen, T. titled β€œImmunotherapy for pet allergies,” 2018.