Does My Dog Have Food Allergies?
It’s like allergy season year-round 😩
Your dog LIVES for food — so what happens if he’s allergic to his dinner?
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, to find out all about dog food allergies and how you can help when your pup’s having a reaction.
Can dogs have food allergies?
Your dog can have food allergies just like you can. “1 to 2 percent of all dogs presenting to primary care veterinarians are diagnosed with food allergies,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo.
Food allergies happen when your dog’s immune system reacts to proteins in certain foods.
“The immune system will then target the skin, gastrointestinal system and other organs during the inflammatory response,” Dr. Burch said.
Your dog can develop a food allergy at pretty much any age, even if you’ve never changed his diet.
Common foods dogs are allergic to
Your dog can be allergic to virtually any food, but there are some that are particularly common.
According to a 2016 study, there are 11 foods that dogs are often allergic to:
Dog food allergy symptoms
Dog food allergy symptoms can include problems with your dog’s gastrointestinal system as well as his skin.
Skin symptoms include:
- Itching on the face, paws, belly and butt
- Fur loss around the eyes
- Recurring ear infections
- Secondary skin infections
Gastrointestinal symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
How to test a dog for food allergies
While there are blood, saliva and skin tests for dog allergies, vets believe these aren’t reliable when it comes to figuring out if your dog has food allergies.
“These tests can detect antibodies produced by the body but do not mean your dog has an allergy to the specific ingredient,” Dr. Burch said. “The presence of the antibody will only [indicate] your pet has eaten the component before.”
Instead, you’ll have to put your dog on an elimination diet (aka a food trial) to figure out what’s causing his allergic reactions. The way this works is by feeding your dog a limited-ingredient or hypoallergenic (aka hydrolyzed) diet for a couple months.
“Limited-ingredient dog food diets will only have one protein source and one carbohydrate source to minimize the ingredients your pet may have an immune response [to],” Dr. Burch said.
If you notice your dog’s symptoms going away during this trial, gradually reintroduce other ingredients back into his diet to see which one he reacts to. That’s how you’ll know which foods are triggering his allergies (and therefore which foods to keep out of his diet). It’s a long process but definitely the most effective way to identify your dog’s food allergy.
Best dog food for food allergies
The best dog food for food allergies contain either hydrolyzed protein or novel protein since they’re less likely to set off your pup’s allergies.
A novel protein is an atypical protein your dog probably hasn’t eaten before (dogs can only develop food allergies to foods they’ve eaten before). So instead of beef or chicken, a novel protein might be something like venison, duck or cricket.
A hydrolyzed protein is a more common protein but utilized in such a way that your dog can eat it without setting off his allergies. Manufacturers will use a process called hydrolysis to do this, which means they use water to break the proteins down into such small pieces that they don’t cause an immune response.
Treatment for your dog’s food allergies
Your dog’s food allergies can’t be cured. The best form of food allergy treatment in dogs is just to identify the food that causes a reaction through a food trial and then avoid feeding it to your pup.
While you can’t exactly treat the underlying food allergy, there are ways to reduce your dog’s symptoms from an allergic reaction.
“Along with diagnosing the underlying cause and treatment, your allergy dog will need supportive care to stop the itch, prevent irritation and treat any secondary bacterial infection,” Dr. Burch said.
Two popular prescription allergy medications are Cytopoint and Apoquel.
Cytopoint is an injection that works to reduce your pup’s itching. One injection can last four to six weeks.
Apoquel, on the other hand, is an oral tablet you’d give your dog daily for his allergy symptoms. It works by suppressing your pup’s immune system so he doesn’t have such a strong reaction to the things he’s allergic to.
Always make sure to consult your vet about finding the right allergy medicine for your dog, since every pup is different. You should also discuss the best way to perform a food trial so they can guide you through the process.
And now that you know all about food allergies in dogs, you’ll be able help get your pup on the perfect diet that won’t make him uncomfortable.