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How Do I Tell If My Dog Is Allergic To Their Food?

Written by Ella White


Doggo catching treat in the air

Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most important factors when it comes to giving furry companions the best life possible. But just like humans, dogs can also develop food allergies that can significantly impact their well-being. 

The prevalence of food allergies in dogs has been on the rise in recent years, making it even more crucial for pet owners to be aware of the signs and symptoms. In this article, we will look at the different types of food allergies and how to tell if your dog is allergic to their food. By understanding the signs and symptoms, we can provide our four-legged friends with the proper nutrition they need to live a healthy and happy life.

Understanding Food Allergies In Dogs

Food allergies in dogs, like in humans, are triggered by an abnormal immune response to certain food ingredients. When a dog's immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food or ingredient as harmful, it releases antibodies and histamines which lead to various allergic reactions. 

It's important to understand the difference between food allergies and food intolerances. Because while allergies involve the immune system, food intolerances are typically non-immune responses caused by different factors like enzyme deficiencies or gastrointestinal issues. 

Common food allergens for dogs include proteins like beef, chicken, and dairy products, as well as grains like wheat and corn. However, each dog's sensitivities can vary, so how each individual dog reacts to specific allergenic ingredients can differ widely.

Symptoms of Food Allergies in Dogs

Recognizing the symptoms of food allergies in dogs is vital for their health and well-being. Just like humans, dogs can exhibit various signs when they are allergic to their food. Understanding and identifying these symptoms is the best way for owners to intervene and seek the right care as quickly as possible.

Digestive Issues

Food allergies in dogs can present as a range of gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive gas/learn/dog-health/my-dog-farts-lots-causes-and-solutions-for-a-gassy-dog. While these symptoms can be caused by a range of digestive issues, they are also common signs that a dog may be allergic to their food. 

These symptoms can be acute, meaning they occur shortly after consuming the allergenic food, or they may become chronic if the allergen is regularly included in their diet. Chronic gastrointestinal issues like recurring diarrhea or inflammatory bowel disease can develop as a result of prolonged exposure to food allergens. For this reason, it’s essential to monitor and address these symptoms as soon as you notice them occurring. 

Skin Problems

Some food allergies in dogs can manifest through dermatological symptoms like itching, redness, rashes, and hot spots. If you notice your dog is excessively scratching, licking, or biting at themselves leading to skin irritation and discomfort, it could be due to a food allergy. 

Food allergies can also contribute to recurrent ear infections in dogs, that might present as an ear inflammation, itching, discharge, or a foul odor/learn/dog-health/why-is-my-dog-scratching-their-ear – all of which are indications that the ears might be affected by the allergy. 

Respiratory Symptoms

It might not seem like an obvious symptom of an allergic reaction, but respiratory issues can be a result of food allergies in dogs. Allergic reactions to certain food ingredients can lead to inflammation and irritation in the respiratory system which can cause coughing, sneezing, and wheezing, similar to human allergy sufferers. 

In some cases, these respiratory problems can resemble asthma-like symptoms like difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. It is important for dog owners to understand these symptoms as potential indicators of a food allergy, as breathing problems can cause distress and in some cases further harm to your dog if not treated quickly.

Behavioral Changes

Food allergies in dogs can also cause behavioral issues like restlessness, irritability, or aggression, due to the discomfort. Lethargy, less energy, and a change in their appetite, such as decreased interest in food or a sudden aversion to food, might also be indicative of an allergic reaction. These systemic symptoms are a result of their body's immune response, and addressing the underlying food allergy can help reduce these behavioral and systemic problems, which in turn will lead to improved overall well-being and a happier, more contented pup.

Identifying Food Allergies in Dogs

Identifying food allergies in dogs is essential for their health and quality of life. And while symptoms can vary, as a dog owner you need to be vigilant and observant of any changes in your dog's behavior, digestive system, skin, respiratory system, and overall well-being to help address allergies as soon as possible.

If your vet thinks that your dogs’ symptoms are a result of a food allergy, they may prescribe or recommend one of the following remedies. 

Veterinary Consultation

Whether or not your dog’s symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction to their food, it’s vital that you consult a vet and get a professional diagnosis. Vets have the expertise and knowledge to guide you through the diagnostic process, and run tests on their blood and skin to measure the presence of specific antibodies or allergic reactions to potential food allergens. 

These tests help pinpoint the specific triggers causing the allergic reactions, and allow for targeted dietary adjustments. Relying specifically on a veterinarian's expertise, and not at-home diagnostics, ensures that your dog will receive an accurate diagnosis and effective management of their food allergies.

Elimination Diet

Elimination diets play a crucial role in identifying food allergies in dogs, and in humans. The process involves removing potential allergens from their diet, and reintroducing them one by one to help identify the culprit. During this time, it is important to carefully monitor your dog's symptoms for any changes or improvements. And if you notice any getting better or worse as different foods are removed and reintroduced, you’ll have a clearer idea of what is causing the reaction and tailor their diet around these findings.

Food Trials

Reintroducing foods plays a crucial role in identifying the specific allergen that causes your dog’s food allergies. After you’ve eliminated potential allergens from their diet, you’ll need to gradually reintroduce individual food components one at a time. By carefully monitoring your pet’s symptoms during this trial period, you and your vet can identify any adverse reactions, and eventually pinpoint the specific allergen or allergens. 

Maintaining a detailed food diary during this process is vital, as it helps to track their response to each food. This also provides valuable information for your vet, so they can make accurate diagnoses, effective modifications to their diet, and improved management of their allergies in the long run.

How To Manage Your Dog’s Food Allergy

Just like you wouldn’t ignore a food allergy in a human, managing food allergies in dogs is essential to ensure their long-term health and well-being. Once an allergy is diagnosed, it becomes crucial to implement an effective management plan. 

Vets may recommend various strategies and approaches to successfully manage food allergies in individual dogs, including changes to their diet, specific ingredient selections, and alternative feeding options. Once you know how to properly manage their diet and minimize their exposure to allergens, your dog will be able to live a comfortable, symptom-free life.

Dietary Changes

When managing your dog's food allergies, selecting hypoallergenic or limited ingredient diets is one of the most obvious remedies that your vet is likely to suggest. Specialized diets are formulated with ingredients that are less likely to trigger allergic reactions, which makes them an excellent option for dogs with dietary sensitivities. 

Hypoallergenic diets often include novel protein and carbohydrate sources, which reduces the likelihood of triggering their allergic responses. Some pet owners also opt for homemade or raw food diets, which gives them complete control over the ingredients and potential allergens their dog is exposed to. However, it is important to consult with your vet or a veterinary nutritionist to make sure that these diets are nutritionally balanced, and meet the specific dietary needs of the dog.

Reading Labels and Ingredient Lists

Whether or not your dog has allergies, it’s still very important to be knowledgeable about potential allergens in commercial dog food/learn/dog-food/your-guide-to-understanding-dog-food-labels. Many processed dog foods contain ingredients that can cause allergic reactions in animals, beyond the normal food allergies caused by common ingredients like beef, chicken, wheat, and soy. 

Understanding the quality and sourcing of the ingredients in your chosen dog food is essential. Which is why Front of the Pack uses only high-quality, natural, whole food ingredients and never includes artificial additives, preservatives, and fillers. Our air-dried dog food undergoes rigorous quality control and testing, which helps to minimize the risk of allergic reactions and ensures that all dogs can have a nutritious and hypoallergenic diet – regardless of their individual needs.

Working With Your Vet 

Ongoing communication and follow-ups with your vet will help you manage the on-going impact of your dog’s food allergies. Regular check-ups mean your vet can monitor their progress and make any adjustments to the management plan as needed. In some cases, additional treatments or medications may be prescribed to help reduce symptoms and provide further relief. 

Vets can also provide valuable professional guidance on how to use antihistamines, topical treatments for skin issues, and medications for gastrointestinal discomfort that can help your dog deal with the uncomfortable or painful symptoms of their allergy.