Corn Allergy in Dogs

A corn allergy in dogs can sometimes frustrate their owners because the allergy can be time-consuming to diagnose and challenging to treat simply because corn is a common ingredient in many dog foods and treats. Let’s look at how a corn allergy develops, what its symptoms look like and what steps need to be taken to treat it successfully so you’ll know what to do if your dog develops this condition.

How a Canine Corn Allergy Develops

Although it may appear that your dog has become allergic to corn overnight, the symptoms he shows are actually caused by the accumulated affect of corn on his body for months or even years. A dog’s corn allergy is triggered by his immune system overreacting to the presence of corn in his body. He can safely eat the corn for years, but at the trigger point, corn goes from being a harmless food ingredient to a potential threat.

Your dog’s immune system reacts to the threat by producing a chemical called histamine to fight off the offending allergen. Histamine causes the physical signs of allergy to develop, including

  • Hives
  • Red, itchy skin
  • Swelling
  • Wheezing

In severe allergic reactions, histamine can cause a life-threatening condition called anaphylactic shock to develop. Dogs in anaphylactic shock have difficulty breathing because their airways are constricted by the histamine trying to fight allergens. Your dog could die from anaphylactic shock if he is not treated immediately, so it’s important to prevent allergic reactions from becoming severe.

Canine Corn Allergy Symptoms

Although canine corn allergy affects the dog’s whole body, his skin is usually the first place that symptoms show up. Symptoms can include

  • excessive scratching
  • face rubbing
  • hair loss
  • hives
  • hot spots
  • irritated skin
  • persistent ear infections

Diagnosing and Treating a Canine Corn Allergy

Diagnosing a corn allergy is a process of elimination by your veterinarian. After he or she eliminates other possible causes for your dog's symptoms, your dog will probably be placed on an exclusion trial diet for about 12 weeks. This diet will feature unusual protein and carbohydrate sources that are completely new to your dog. He will eat the diet as his only nutrition source, and your veterinarian will monitor his condition for signs of improvement.

If signs of improvement are seen after 12 weeks, your veterinarian will begin reintroducing ingredients from your dog’s old diet to try to create an allergic response. If your dog shows allergy symptoms after the reintroduction of an “old” ingredient, that ingredient is considered the allergen that sets off your dog’s allergy.

If corn is the suspected allergen, you will need to stop serving corn in any form to your dog to prevent further allergy attacks. However, this is sometimes easier said than done because corn is a common ingredient in some dog foods. You will need to read ingredient labels carefully and avoid those products that contain corn to ensure your pet’s continued good health.

In many cases, dog owners feed their pets the exclusion diet as the dog’s new main diet because the exclusion diet is familiar to the dog after the 12-week trial period, and it’s also been shown to not set off allergy attacks.