Dry Dog Food Allergies

Dry dog food allergies are some of the most common causes of food-based allergies in dogs. Some animal care experts also estimate that food allergies are the third leading cause of all canine allergies. A number of ingredients found in many brands of commercially processed dry dog food have been associated with allergies. Some of the most frequent irritants include such widely used carbohydrates sources as corn, wheat and potatoes.

Proteins like beef, dairy, poultry, soy and lamb have also been linked with dry dog food allergies. Other additives like yeasts, colorings and flavorings may also trigger allergic reactions in dogs with certain dietary sensitivities. Understanding the possible causes and symptoms of dry dog food allergies as well as options for diagnosis and treatment may help take some of the challenging guesswork out of caring for a dog with this problem.

What Causes Dry Food Allergies in Dogs?

Allergic reactions in people, dogs and other animals occur when the immune system reacts to the presence of an antigen, or foreign substance. Even if the substance is generally harmless, as in the case of most of the sources of dry dog food allergies, the immune system of a hypersensitive animal will attempt to combat the perceived threat through a series of chemical reactions. This process can result in a host unpleasant symptoms, including skin, eye and respiratory irritations.

Although the exact reasons why certain food-based allergies affect specific dogs are sometimes unclear, hypersensitivities have been found in  animals of a wide variety of ages, breeds and locations. Some animal nutrition experts believe the ingredients and processes used to make many commercially available dog foods have contributed to a increase in canine dry food allergies. Weakened immune systems, gastrointestinal problems and oversensitivity to vaccinations are also listed as possible contributors to allergic reactions to dry food.

Symptoms of Dry Food Allergies

There are a number of symptoms reported in connection with dry dog food allergies. Among the most common are those affecting the skin, including:

  • Itchy, flaky, irritated skin (particularly around the face, ears, legs, armpits, feet and anal region)
  • Dull, dry coat
  • Compulsive scratching, biting or rubbing of an irritated area
  • Ear or skin infections
  • Hot spots on the skin
  • Hair loss

Dry Food Allergy Diagnosis and Treatments

Diagnosing dry food allergies is sometimes challenging due to the similarities between reactions caused by food allergies and other skin conditions and infections. To confirm specific food hypersensitivities, a veterinarian may recommend placing a dog on a strict elimination diet or food trial for around 90 days. This process typically involves feeding an animal a diet free of the ingredients found in his dry food. A veterinarian may also suggest a certain canned prescription food, or a specific homemade diet using only a few select protein and carbohydrate sources. In order to help accurately identify the source of the allergies, owners are often advised to also avoid feeding their dogs any treats, chews or flavored medications during the testing period.

A veterinarian or animal nutrition expert will likely recommend a treatment option based on the results of the food trial. Most often, this involves feeding a dog a specific hypoallergenic diet that is free of the suspected allergens. There are a growing number of prescription and non-prescription brands that specialize in food for dogs with dietary sensitivities. Some of the most common varieties include brands offered by Breeder's Choice, Canidae, Hill's, Natura and Wellness.