Dog Food Allergy Symptoms

The clinical signs of dog food allergy look like signs of other types of allergies in dogs. With careful testing and effective management of the clinical signs, the food allergy can usually be resolved.

Canine food allergies are the third most common allergy in dogs, behind flea allergy and inhalant allergy (atopy). They can develop at any time in a dog’s life, although they are most common between the ages of 2 and 6 years.

Food allergies can develop after a dog has eaten the same diet for years. The most common causes of food allergy are ingredients normally found in commercial pet foods, such as corn, soy, wheat, beef, chicken, eggs or milk.

What Are the Signs of Canine Food Allergy?

The most common clinical sign of food allergy in dogs is non-seasonal itching. Your dog will scratch his face, ears, armpits, front legs and rear end. He will rub against the furniture or floor in an attempt to make the itching stop, and he may begin to lose hair around his eyes or across his cheeks. He may also chew at his paws or at the base of his tail.

Your dog's skin may also smell bad, and he may be prone to skin infections that never quite clear up, even with antibiotic treatment. He may also break out in hot spots, which are lesions that appear on your dog's body in response to the licking and biting he uses to try to make his skin stop itching.

Another common sign of food allergy in dogs is ongoing yeast infections in the ears. These infections cause intense itching and swelling, and your dog's ears may smell yeasty. They seem to clear up with antibiotics, but they are difficult to cure completely.

Other clinical signs that could indicate a food allergy in your dog include diarrhea, excessive bowel movements, breathing problems, eye infections or behavorial issues. Some medical conditions, including sarcoptic mange, seborrhea, yeast infections and flea hypersensitivity, may resemble canine food allergies. Your veterinarian will have to test your pet to eliminate these conditions as the source of his clinical signs.

How Is Canine Food Allergy Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will prescribe a special diet to help diagnose your dog’s food allergy over the course of several months. This diet will contain a protein source your dog has never eaten before. Over time, ingredients from your dog’s previous diet will be introduced to his new diet to try to recreate the allergic reaction. If your dog reacts to an ingredient in the new diet, his food allergy is confirmed.

Treating Canine Food Allergy

Canine food allergies are most often treated by changing the dog’s diet to eliminate the problem ingredients. A new approach to treating canine food allergy involves feeding a hydrolyzed protein diet that contains specially formulated proteins that are too small to cause an allergic reaction in sensitive pets.