Since most dogs are happy to eat almost anything, many pet parents might be surprised to learn that dogs can become allergic to their food, even if they are only fed premium foods. While it’s certainly become easier to find high-quality pet foods made with limited fillers and nutritious ingredients, this does not mean that your dog won’t develop an allergy or intolerance to some of these ingredients.
Firstly, it’s important to differentiate food allergies and food intolerances in dogs. Food intolerance is when dogs have difficulty digesting certain ingredients, while food allergies trigger an immune response. The good news is that if your dog is displaying any allergy symptoms such as skin rashes and gut issues, these tend to be more likely due to environmental allergies such as grass or pollen rather than food allergies. However, some dogs are truly allergic to certain foods.
Why Do Allergies Occur?
A food allergy occurs when a particular ingredient in their food triggers an immune response. This can often be a protein source, but grains can also be common allergy triggers in dogs. When this happens, your dog’s body will produce defensive antibodies to fight the ‘invasion’. Allergies are immunological reactions to food components, and the symptoms of a food allergy typically include itchy paws, sneezing, itchy skin, skin infections caused by excessive scratching, scaly or oily skin, leathery skin texture, eye discharge, red eyes, vomiting, diarrhea, pigmented skin, ear infections, and hair loss.
Read on to learn more about the common causes of food allergies in dogs.
Proteins are quite common food allergies in dogs and feeding your dog a single food for years will increase their risk of developing an intolerance or allergy. Since beef is a key element of many pet foods, this is likely to be a reason why it’s one of the most common food allergens. The best thing to do to help your dog avoid developing an allergy to beef or another protein is to feed them a diet that is rich and varied with a range of protein sources.
Coming in second is wheat, which is often found in commercial dog foods that tend to be quite carb-heavy. While it tends to be more common for dogs to develop allergies to proteins like beef than wheat, some dogs do have an allergic reaction to wheat, and many dogs are intolerant to grain and wheat-containing products since they do not produce enough of the enzyme needed to break it down. If your dog has developed an allergic reaction or intolerance to wheat, switching to a grain-free dog food that is higher in proteins and healthy fats can help. Bella and Duke offer a range of tasty, nutritious grain-free foods ideal for dogs with wheat allergies. Find out more about the benefits of switching to their grain-free dog food here: https://www.bellaandduke.com/guide/why-choose-grain-free-dog-food/.
Like many humans, some dogs will have a problem with digesting lactose. However, this tends to be an intolerance rather than a food allergy. Lactose intolerance can lead to a range of problems like vomiting, diarrhoea and gas. However, the tricky part is that a dairy allergy can also lead to similar symptoms, so it can be difficult to work out whether your dog is truly allergic to dairy or is suffering from lactose intolerance. However, one easy way that you can usually determine between the two is that dairy allergies will often also manifest as skin itching or similar conditions, while lactose intolerance will only produce digestive symptoms.
While chicken in a common protein found in a lot of dog foods, some dogs can develop an allergy to it. The same rules apply here as they do with beef; it is an allergy that is usually caused when a dog eats the same food for a long time. Since chicken is another popular ingredient found in many popular dog food brands, it is possible for a dog who eats a lot of it to eventually become allergic. As with beef, it’s important to feed your dog a wide variety of different protein sources to help reduce their risk of developing allergies.
Some dogs are allergic to eggs, and an egg allergy means that your dog’s immune system is overreacting to the proteins that are present in the egg yolk. Fortunately, eggs are one food source that are quite easy to avoid as they are not very common in a lot of dog foods. And if you are giving your dog a raw food diet, leaving out eggs is not difficult. Be sure to check the labels on anything that you feed your dog if they have an allergy to eggs.
Many commercial dog foods were commonly made with beef or chicken, so lamb was considered to be a good alternative option for dogs who became allergic to the other proteins. However, lamb can also be a possible cause of a food allergy in dogs, and similar to chicken and beef it tends to be more prevalent in dogs that eat a lot of it. If your dog is allergic to lamb, you could try other meats like venison.
There have been some studies that have shown that eating soy can not only cause allergies in dogs, but can also lead to various health problems beyond allergies including growth problems, reproductive issues, liver disease and thyroid problems.
Are Some Breeds More Prone to Food Allergies?
When it comes to food allergies, much like many dog health conditions, some breeds tend to be more likely to develop them compared to others. German shepherds, pugs, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, bulldogs, shitzhus, Yorkshire terriers, golden retrievers and West Highland terriers tend to be more prone to food allergies compared to other breeds, although it’s important to bear in mind that every dog is different and your dog’s breed alone should not be the main factor in determining whether or not they are at higher risk of developing an allergy.
Testing Your Dog for Food Allergies:
If you suspect that your dog might be dealing with a food allergy, the first thing to do is speak to your vet, who can help you pinpoint the allergen. Your vet might recommend conducting a skin or blood allergy test, but the most effective way to determine what your dog is reacting to is to put him on an elimination diet. This is done by taking the dog off all the foods that she is used to eating and starting her on one that she has never eaten before. Once the symptoms have improved, the old foods that are suspected to have caused the symptoms are reintroduced to see if there is a reaction. If the dog has a reaction, this makes it easy to figure out which food he is allergic to.
Food allergies are thankfully not as common as other allergies in dogs, but if your dog is displaying some of the common symptoms, it might be time to think about changing their diet. The best thing to do is avoid the offending food as much as possible.