Dog Food Intolerance

Dog food intolerance may affect up to 50 percent of pet dogs, but it’s probably less well-recognized than food allergies, which affect 10 to 12 percent of pet dogs. If your dog suffers from stomach problems within an hour of eating a meal, he may need to be evaluated for this condition in which he is unable to digest certain ingredients in his food.

Signs of Dog Food Intolerance

Food intolerance is a sudden reaction by your dog’s body to something he’s eaten. Intolerances can result from your pet being unable to properly digest fats or chemical additives, like preservatives or artificial colors in his food. It passes rather quickly. At the next meal, however, the intolerance reoccurs, and the situation will repeat itself until your dog’s diet is changed.

Clinical signs of food intolerance in your dog are primarily found in his digestive system. They include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Flatulence
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration, if left untreated

Over time, if your dog’s digestive problems don’t allow him to process nutrients correctly from his food, he may begin to suffer other clinical signs, including hair loss and itchy skin. These signs, which are also found in dogs with food allergies, are caused by a dietary deficiency due to your pet being unable to absorb vital nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, from the food he eats.

Differences between Food Intolerance and Food Allergy

While food intolerance and food allergy are both overreactions by your dog’s body to ingredients in his diet, they differ in their scope and intensity. Food intolerances tend to be somewhat focused in their effect on your dog’s body, and the signs of the intolerance disappear once the problem food has passed through your dog’s system.

Dogs with food allergies, on the other hand, show clinical signs that seem to affect a larger portion of their body. Food-allergic dogs have itchy skin all over their bodies, or they may break out in rashes or hives. These widespread reactions are indications that your dog may have a food allergy.

Treatment for Dog Food Intolerance

Although the clinical signs differ somewhat, the treatment for both food allergy and food intolerance is similar: remove the item that causes a reaction from your dog’s diet. Your veterinarian will probably recommend an exclusion diet that offers your pet protein and carbohydrate sources he has never eaten before. He will have to eat the exclusion diet, and nothing else, for several weeks so your veterinarian can monitor his condition.

If your dog’s signs of food intolerance disappear on the new diet, you have eliminated the food item that he cannot tolerate. Your veterinarian can make additional dietary recommendations, or you can opt to feed the exclusion diet to your dog as his new regular diet.