Just like humans, dogs can have allergies. These allergies can include food-related allergies and environmental allergens. In this article, we’re going to focus on dog food allergies. What makes food allergies in dogs more difficult to manage is that our pups have no way of telling us when the bad ingredients in dog food are upsetting them.
We created a helpful guide to identifying dog food allergy symptoms along with suggestions on finding the best diet for dogs with allergies and sensitivities.
First, let’s understand the difference between dog food allergy symptoms and symptoms of a dog food intolerance
Studies show that 10% of all dog allergies are food allergies. What many people may assume is a dog food allergy, may actually be a dog with food intolerance to something within the dog’s diet. However, there are a few ways to identify and help your dog with allergies. We’ll cover both in this post.
It’s important to know the difference between a dog food allergy symptom and symptoms of a dog food sensitivity. Allergy = immune response. Sensitivity or intolerance = gradual adverse reaction.
True dog food allergy symptoms are the result of an immune response, which can include skin conditions (hives, facial swelling, itchiness), gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and/or diarrhea), or a combination of both. In rare cases (just like in humans) a severe dog food allergy reaction can result in anaphylaxis. (For example a human with a peanut allergy).
Food sensitivities or intolerances differ from true dog food allergies in that they don’t evoke an immune response. A dog food intolerance is a gradual reaction to a certain ingredient in your dog’s food that doesn’t agree with their system, for example to beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, or milk. (This about it like gluten or dairy intolerance in people).
Although not a true immune reaction, dog food sensitivity symptoms are very uncomfortable and can not only make your pup unhappy but can also deteriorate their overall health and wellbeing.
Dog food allergy and dog food intolerance symptoms to watch for
Be aware of these symptoms when assessing your dog for a dog food allergy or sensitivity:
- (The most common reaction) itchy, irritated skin that appears most often near the ears, paws, bum, or stomach
- Hives (itchy red bumps) – be careful, with long-haired dogs this dog food allergy symptom can be hard to spot
- A swelling reaction including swelling in a dog’s eyelids or earflaps
- Inflammatory reactions such as:
- Red, brown, or bronze nail beds as a sign of inflammatory response
- Bronzing around mouth
- GI issues such as gas, vomiting, and diarrhea
Watch for these dog food sensitivity (or intolerance) symptoms:
- Gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea
- Dermatologic signs like itchy skin, poor skin, and coat - that irritating nonstop scratching!
- Chronic ear or foot infections (watch for these as they’re most often indicative of an intolerance or food sensitivity vs. an allergic reaction to food)
- More subtle changes including hyperactivity, weight loss, lack of energy, and even aggression (a pup not feeling good = an unhappy pup)
When assessing your dog, make sure to work with your vet to hone in on exactly what may be causing symptoms of dog food allergy or intolerance.
Keep in mind that it is possible, and actually quite common, for your dog to suddenly develop an allergy to something he or she has been eating throughout their life. The reason is that they have to be “sensitized”, meaning being exposed for a period of time. When eating small bits they may not show any reaction, but the build-up of eating the triggering food over their lifetime can cumulate into an allergic reaction.
The most common dog food allergens
The most common food allergens for dogs are proteins, especially those from dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy or gluten. When a pet consumes a food they may be sensitive, allergic, or intolerant to, their antibodies react with the antigens and dog food allergy symptoms occur.
Dogs can be allergic (or sensitive) to nearly any food ingredient, including meat products. However, similar to wheat, there are some meats that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction for dogs than others, such as beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and rabbit.
Note regarding lamb as a commonly hypoallergenic protein source: Lamb is actually one of the most hypoallergenic meats, often a great option for a dog with sensitivities. This is because it isn’t exposed to wheat or dairy products, common allergic triggers, during growth.
On the flipside, most cows and chickens consume a diet of wheat and dairy products to promote quick growth and maturity. If choosing beef or chicken, look for organic as these meat sources can be hypoallergenic if they weren’t fed wheat or dairy products, as is common within organic farming.
The good news: if you find your dog is allergic to chicken, it doesn’t mean that they're allergic to all meats. A quick switch over to turkey, lamb, fish or other protein can be a great allergy-free solution for your dog.
It’s also important to mention that if your dog is experiencing dog food allergy symptoms and you think it’s the meat in the food you’re currently feeding them, this may not be the case. Many ‘trendy’ dog foods contain low-quality meat products and by-products packed with chemicals, toxins, preservatives, growth hormones, etc. When feeding clean ingredients of the highest-quality, you naturally avoid toxins, preservatives, and fillers that may cause an adverse reaction.
Many studies have found that the actual ingredient list on commercial pet food doesn’t always match the back label. In some studies, the researchers did DNA analysis on the pet food to identify the ingredients actually present in the food. They found that many big-brand pet foods have not reported certain ingredients and proteins in their diets.
So, it may not be the meat that they’re allergic to, but rather, the quality of meat they’re eating.
Use our free online feeding guide to see the best homemade style dog food solutions for your pooch >
If your dog is experiencing dog food allergy symptoms, it may not be the type of meat, it’s the quality. Many dog foods contain low-quality meat products and by-products packed with chemicals, toxins, preservatives, growth hormones, etc
Just like you, your furry companion may also be lactose intolerant. This often leads to diarrhea, gas, or vomiting; all lactose intolerance symptoms with dogs will appear as digestive issues.
If your dog is experiencing a dairy intolerance, this type of dog food allergy often appears on the skin. So, if your dog has been scratching more often, licking their feet, or rubbing their rear on the carpet for relief, they could be experiencing a dairy intolerance or allergy.
For humans dealing with a dairy allergy, the quick fix is to switch to soy. However, this is not necessarily a plausible option for dogs with allergies as soy in dog foods have shown to cause may health issues. Dog food allergies is one of the issues, but soy can lead to liver disease in dogs, thyroid, and reductive and growth problems, according to some studies. So, if you’ve been feeding your pooch some soy, it’s time to switch over to homemade dog food.
Some dog’s immune systems overreact to the large content of protein in egg yolks. As a result, dog food allergy symptoms present themselves when they consume eggs. This can be difficult to determine, especially if your pooch can handle other types of protein. Fortunately, eggs are fairly easy to eliminate from your dog’s diet if this ingredient is causing allergies.
Kafka’s fresh dog food recipes contain crushed eggshells, which pack in up to 800 milligrams of calcium and 27 vital nutrient elements while avoiding the risk of immune reaction to yolk protein content.
Grains can be a hit or miss for dogs. Some can handle them like a champ and others will experience dog food allergy symptoms. It isn’t that carbohydrates are bad for dogs, but some have a harder time digesting them than others.
There are many grain-free dog foods on the market due to the increase in observer food allergies (and intolerances) to this grain. If you are looking for a grain-free diet, most raw and fresh natural dog food diets are free from grains, as they’re a common filler in kibble and canned food.
I think my dog has a food allergy or intolerance, now what can I do?
Confirmed your pup has dog food allergy symptoms? An elimination diet is used to identify exactly what the offending ingredient is–for both allergic reactions and intolerances.
Here’s the process:
- The elimination diet challenge (12 weeks recommended)
- Reintroduce foods to identify offenders
Step 1: The Dog food allergy elimination diet
According to veterinary advice, the most accurate method of diagnosing a dog food allergy is to remove all potential allergens for (most sources recommend) 12 weeks. This is called an elimination trial.
The Elimination diet and elimination diet dog food recipes that come vet-recommended
This new elimination diet must not contain any ingredients that the pet has eaten in the past (as anything eaten in the past can be a potential trigger). During the trial, all other foods and supplements need to be avoided. Yes, this includes treats, vitamins, and preventatives like heartworm supplements.
Preservatives and additives can cause reactions and dog food allergy symptoms to appear, making elimination diets those consisting of real and whole ingredients.
It’s suggested the new diet should be introduced gradually over a 5- to 7-day period as some animals may develop GI problems if their diet is changed too abruptly.
Here are some hypoallergenic dog food elimination diet recommendations consisting of hypoallergenic foods for dogs:
Step 2: Reintroduction following the elimination trial
Once your dog’s food allergy symptoms are reduced or eliminated at the 12-week mark, it’s time to start reintroducing.
The purpose of this is to identify which ingredient causes the reaction, so you can carefully avoid within your dog’s diet moving forward.
Here’s how you do it:
- Slowly reintroduce 1 food at a time, we’d recommend one every 3 days as dog food allergy symptoms (and symptoms of intolerance) are not always immediately following consumption
- Carefully watch your dog for symptoms
- When you notice a trigger, note the food as a don’t feed!
- Be aware that dogs can be allergic or sensitive to more than one ingredient, so to fully complete the reintroduction phase, each food should be reintroduced
When your dog’s food allergy symptoms are reduced or eliminated after the elimination diet, it’s time to start reintroducing to determine which foods caused the reaction or sensitivity.
Talk to your vet about a dog food allergy test
This is where working with your vet comes back around as being really important. If the dog food allergy symptoms are moderate to severe, blood tests may give an indication of food allergies, on a shorter timeline. These ‘serum IgE tests’ are an option to discuss with your vet.
Kick the preservatives and switch to a (real!) natural dog food diet–hypoallergenic and free from preservatives and additives
Avoid dog food allergy triggers and feed them the best dog food for allergies consisting of ingredients you know and trust.
In 1988 The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) received reports of health issues that pet owners and some veterinarians thought could be linked to ethoxyquin in pet foods, such as allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure, behavior problems, and cancer. Ethoxyquin is a chemical antioxidant used to preserve some spices and used as a pesticide and a rubber preservative– YUCK!.
Following studies done by the ethoxyquin manufacturer that showed dose-dependent effects on liver enzymes and pigment, the CVM asked the pet food industry to voluntarily lower the maximum level of ethoxyquin in dog foods from 150 ppm (parts per million) to 75 ppm. This all goes back to trust with labeling, as it’s been seen labels are not always accurately representing the additives contained.
What’s a fail-safe method of a hypoallergenic dog food diet? Finding the best dog food for allergies involves finding a diet you know exactly what’s inside.
Fresh, natural dog food is perfect for elimination and hypoallergenic dog food diets
Eliminate dog food allergies along with the symptoms and risks that come with them by feeding the best food for dogs with allergies–delicious, homemade, natural dog food. Feeding homemade food ensures you have complete control over the quality of the ingredients, and which ingredients are used.
Learn more with our ultimate guide to homecooked dog food
Fresh, healthy, natural dog food can be just as easy to feed as kibble. Kafka’s homecooked-style fresh pet food recipes are made with real food, and DELIVERED to your door.
Homecooked dog food can be another time-consuming part of your routine, and often a stretch to add into most people’s lifestyle.
At Kafka’s Organic, we’re dedicated to making fresh, healthy, natural dog food accessible. Our natural dog food recipes are made with real food that’s ALWAYS free of preservatives and additives. We make gently cooked pet meals customized to your pooch based on their weight, age, and body condition score.
Interested in learning more about dog food nutrition?Learn more about what makes fresh pet food delivery a smart, simple choice to feeding a hypoallergenic diet: https://kafkasorganic.com/pages/hypoallergenic-food-for-dogs-and-cats
About Kafka’s Organic
Kafka’s Organic is a Vancouver-based pet meal delivery service making fresh, natural pet food convenient and accessible. Kafka’s recipes are made with whole ingredients without any preservatives, additives, or fillers, making them a great hypoallergenic dog food. Shop fresh dog meals today to fuel your furry companion with healthy, delicious fresh food!