Dog Allergies: Food


Symptoms for food allergies are less common as compared to other dog allergies such as canine atopy (hereditary predisposition towards developing a certain hypersensitivity). Food allergy is dictated by a dog’s genetic make up; the immune system of some dogs may respond vigorously to specific ingredients of food. Beef, chicken, dairy products, wheat and soy are some examples of common ingredients which are potentially allergenic in some dogs. Some breeds are more susceptible than others. Dog food allergy symptoms can include itching (pruritus), along with rashes and alopecia (hair loss) on the skin. Conditions may worsen if lesions on the skin develop into dermatitis (Inflammation of the skin). Symptomatic treatment for severe signs is highly recommended along with "Diet Trials and Elimination".

General Symptoms:

Canine food allergy symptoms are not much different from those of other allergies, especially common atopy (hypersensitivity) or seasonal allergies. Integumentary (skin) symptoms like pruritus (itching) or irritation may be noticed, which makes the dog restless. For relief, they may rub against hard objects, which can cause self–injury. Along with pruritus, other symptoms are alopecia (hair loss), small sized red colored bumps and rashes on the skin.

Skin of the ear, neck, legs and head are more commonly affected. Untreated skin rashes and severe cases may develop into a secondary stage (problem caused or triggered by another problem), involving bacterial infection. Bacterial dermatitis, in which pus may accumulate at the lesions is hard to cure.

Restlessness and anorexia (loss of appetite) are two main general signs associated with food allergy, which are correlated (occur together).

Symptomatic Differentiation of Food Allergies:

Atopy, mange and other skin problems must be differentiated from canine food allergy symptoms. Even though it is hard to differentiate, if symptoms are present year round, and become more severe over time, these signs should be acknowledged as canine food allergy symptoms.

Skin scrapings should be examined for flea infestation and the possibility of mange. The presence of allergy symptoms in specific seasons, particularly in spring or summer, may be due to seasonal allergies as pollen.

Canine food allergy symptoms must also be differentiated from food intolerance; this may be done by identifying additional symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea; which represent food intolerance, but not canine food allergies.

Some breeds of dogs like Labradors, Spaniels and Terriers are more susceptible to canine food allergies, because of their genetic make up which includes a relatively hypersensitive immune system.


Specific ingredients; which cause food allergies in dogs, should preferably be identified and eliminated through a “Dietary Trial Therapy”. This works by paring the diet back to a single novel protein and carbohydrate.  After ten weeks, if symptoms subside, then additional foods can be added until dog food allergy symptoms return.  Whatever was the last food added, should be permanently eliminated from the diet, since is was the cause of the allergic symptoms.  A diet such as Hill's Prescription Diet d/d is typical of the types of commercial products recommended.

Also remove anything that is chewed from your dog's diet such as a treat.  If your dog takes any chewable medications such as a heartworm preventative, ask your veterinarian if that needs to be discontinued as well.

Symptomatic treatment must be initiated, only after a thorough assessment of the canine food allergy symptoms. Mild cases of skin problems usually resolve, if trial therapies are continued for at least three months. In severe cases, the topical application of some steroids can help, but varied results have been noticed in different dogs.

In case of dermatitis, topical antibiotics like neomycin are effective; which are available in the form of ointments and powder, applied after a rinse or bath with a cleansing agent. Topical antibiotics should only be administered after a sensitivity test is conducted to see if your dog will be sensitive to the medication.

A homeopathic product could help with any skin itch and skin symptoms such as Allergy Itch Ease.  It could also help ease symptoms such as rash. irritated skin patches and eczema.