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Food Allergy In Dogs – Symptoms And Treatment

Food Allergy In Dogs

What Is Food Allergy In Dogs?

Dogs also suffer from food allergies just as humans do. Food allergy is one of the most common hypersensitivities or allergies are known to affect dogs. Dogs have different reasons for having unusual allergic reasons.

Unlike humans, pets won’t cough or sneeze greatly when they have food allergies. They bite, scratch, or lick themselves a lot.

Allergies are typically classified into four categories: Atopy, flea allergies, food allergies, and contact allergies. Food allergies can develop at any age in dogs. In most cases, dogs do not obtain food allergies until they are three years old or more. Allergy reactions in skin are often located around the groin, face, between the toes, or under the front legs.

Proteins are the most common food allergens in dogs, especially those from beef, dairy, soy, wheat gluten, and chicken eggs. Whenever an allergic pet consumes food containing these substances, the immune system overreacts and produces antibodies that react with the antigens, and symptoms occur. Food allergies typically manifest after extended exposure to one type, form, or brand of food as antibody production is required for an allergy to develop.

While a food allergy is the body’s immune system overreacting to a risk-free food, what it perceives as a threat, food intolerance is actually a digestive system response and it has no immune involvement. Food Intolerance is more likely to cause gastrointestinal irritation or problems in digestion and absorption. Lactose intolerance is one of the common types of food intolerance

Symptoms Of Food Allergy In Dogs

  • Red, Itchy, moist, or scabbed skin
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue
  • Pruritus (Scratching, Itching, Rubbing, Licking)
  • Hives
  • Paw biting
  • Bald patches
  • Obsessive licking
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Reddened patches or lesions on the skin
  • Scale formation on the skin, Patches of leathery skin
  • Chronic skin-picking (Excoriation or dermatillomania)
  • Sneezing/coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Treatment Options For Food Allergy In Dogs

  1. Initial diagnosis to rule out other causes of allergy will be done.
  2. Vets would access the history of the pet’s allergic symptoms and the sites of itching to ensure that they suit clinical manifestations of allergy.
  3. After a diagnosis has been made, an allergy test will be performed to find out which environmental allergens the dog is allergic to.
  4. If the possible cause is found to be food allergy via testing, veterinarians favor implementing a complete elimination diet.
  5. After a few weeks of the elimination diet, the food allergens will be revealed.
  6. Antibiotics - secondary skin infections.
  7. Corticosteroids and Immunosuppressive Agents - Cortisone (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone) and Cyclosporine (Atopica).
  8. Antihistamines - Chlortrimeton, Benadryl, Atarax, Clemastine, Claritin and Zyrtec.

Home Remedies For Food Allergy In Dogs

Avoidance of allergens causing foods immediately is often not practical, yet, strategies to combat food allergens may be attempted to prevent sources of allergens.

Supportive therapies can be done at home and can include topical medications, oral antihistamines, antibiotics, medicinal baths, and Topical lipid skin treatments.

Discuss with a veterinarian dermatologist for any home care specific to your dog’s situation.

How To Prevent Food Allergy In Dogs?

The best course of action is a avoidance of foods that cause allergy.

Affected Dog Breeds Of Food Allergy

German Shepherd, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, West Highland White Terrier, Basset Hound, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, Pekingese, Pug

Causes And Types For Food Allergy In Dogs

1. Causes:

Foods that are the most common causes of allergic reactions in dogs:

  • Beef-35%
  • Dairy Products-15%
  • Wheat-15%
  • Chicken-15%
  • Soy-5%
  • Lamb-5%
  • Fish-5%
  • Egg-5%
  • Corn-5%
  • Pork-5%

2. Types:

Acute vs chronic

Food allergies are always a chronic condition, however, when the symptoms of a Food allergy last for a short duration, it is called acute Food allergic reaction.

3. Morbidity:

Food allergic reaction takes place in two phases-

The early response (EAR):

  • This is also called a type I immediate hypersensitivity reaction.
  • This depends on IgE receptors binding through cell-surface expressed high-affinity receptors with tissue circulating basophils and mast cells.
  • There will be amplified vascular permeability with edema, vasodilation, and delicate change in the function of affected organs (airway mucus secretion, bronchoconstriction, vomiting, diarrhea, and urticaria).
  • Reactions can be localized or systemic.

The late response (LAR):

  • Typically after consuming food, this phase develops after 1–5 h and peaks 5–10 h.
  • The early-phase reaction that is clinically manifested precedes this phase and fully resolves in 2–3 days.
  • TH2 cells, lymphocytes, adhesive molecules, eosinophils, and neuropeptides are engaged.

4. Mortality:

Death associated with a food allergy is extremely rare.

5. Diagnosis:

  • Skin prick tests
  • Allergen-specific IgE blood tests
  • Patch tests

6. Prognosis:

Food allergies cannot be cured permanently but they can be managed successfully. The symptoms can be relieved by OTC and prescription medications. Reducing contact with allergy triggers or completely avoiding them can help prevent allergic reactions. The recent immunotherapy may help reduce the severity of allergic reactions.

When To See A Vet For Food Allergy In Dogs?

Contact your vet right away, if you notice any of the following:

  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue
  • Pruritus (Scratching, Itching, Rubbing, Licking)
  • Itchy, runny eyes

Food Suggestions For Food Allergy In Dogs

Hypoallergenic diets

‘Diagnostic allergy testing’ is the quickest and best way to determine which foods your dog may or may not be allergic to.

Wheat, Dairy, and beef are responsible for 75% of food allergies in dogs. Avoid these items.

Novel protein sources used in this diet include venison, rabbit, lamb, duck, etc are not usually found in pet food.

Carbohydrate sources include sweet potatoes, potatoes, canned pumpkin, peas, yams, etc.

Hydrolyzed protein diets- protein source has been chemically reduced to small fragments.

Homemade Dog sample recipe for Itchy Skin


  • 2 kg ground turkey
  • 2 chopped sweet potatoes (chopped)
  • 2 chopped carrot
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Coconut oil (2 tbsp)

In a saucepan, Sauté the ground turkey in the coconut oil.

When the turkey is thoroughly cooked, add the chopped sweet potato, carrot, and water to the pot.

When it is completely cooked, simmer the recipe for about 20 minutes.

Finally, Stir in the frozen peas.

Once the recipe comes to room temperature, you can serve it to the dog.

Recommended serving size: 1 cup/25 pounds of body weight.

2 servings/day.

The remaining food can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.


Dogs are also susceptible to food allergies. Some are more likely to do so, due to their heredity, duration of exposure to pollen, and environment.

Controlling pet allergies and itching is frustrating and usually difficult for a pet parent but it’s even more so for the veterinarian. We cannot stress enough that allergies (especially food allergies) in pets are not curable, only controllable. Pet owners can treat the food allergy symptoms with medications and take steps to avoid the foods that trigger their dog’s allergy.

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