Symptoms of Canine Food Allergies

Canine food allergies are a side effect of an over-active immune system. Substances that, in some dogs, produce no reaction at all can, in an allergic dog, produces sneezing, skin problems, ear infections and gastrointestinal upset.

The most common sources of dog food allergies are suspect ingredients in commercial pet food.

A Dog Can Get Allergies From Food with Common Ingredients

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Eggs
  • Dairy

Normally, dogs not allergic to all of these ingredients, rather they show a reaction to only one or two.

Symptoms of Intolerance to a Canine Food Ingredient

The primary symptom of a dog food allergy is intense, continuous itching. Your dog may scratch his face and muzzle with his paws or rub against the furniture or rugs. Sometimes there will be hair loss around the eyes or cheeks.

Tip: Make sure your dog is eating out of a stainless steel or ceramic bowl. Some dogs are allergic to the plastic in food bowls, and what appears to be a food allergy is simply contact dermatitis. Keep the bowl clean, too.

Other typical itchy spots include the feet, forelegs, armpits and tail base, although a food allergy can make your dog itchy almost anywhere. Lesions-sometimes called "hot spots" may appear on the legs as a result of licking.

Ear Infections from Food Allergies

Recurrent, yeast-based ear infections are a sign of food allergies. Ear infections will cause intense itching, swelling and "yeasty" smelling ears. These types of ear infections respond to antibiotics but often recur after the course is finished.

Sneezing, Coughing and Watery Eyes

Food allergies can mimic the symptoms of hay fever in dogs, causing wheezing, coughing, sneezing and watery eyes. Of course, these symptoms can, in fact, be symptoms of a hay fever allergy--if these symptoms appear to be seasonal, they likely are.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Food intolerance is different than a food allergy. Food intolerance does not cause skin or respiratory symptoms. Food intolerance causes gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, gas and vomiting which occur shortly after consuming the offending food.

Elimination Diet for an Allergy-Free Recipe

To accurately determine what your dog is allergic to, you will need to restrict her food intake. Your veterinarian can prescribe a specially formulated food for this purpose. Prescription feeds are designed for limited term feeding. Your dog will not stay on these foods.

After a period of at least twelve weeks, individual foods are slowly added back into your dog's diet. If symptoms recur, you've found your allergen.

An alternative to the elimination diet is a switch to a limited ingredient, alternative protein diet. There are several commercial brands now available that have very limited ingredient lists; these dog food allergy recipes are designed to be hypoallergenic and are formulated for lifetime use. If you switch to one of these brands and your dog's allergy or intolerance symptoms improve, your dog can stay of these formulas.

Dog food allergies and intolerances afflict at least ten percent of all dogs. If your dog is suffering from unexplained skin problems and recurrent gastrointestinal upset, it could be an easily treatable food allergy.