Wheat Allergies in Dogs

Although it’s a food allergy, wheat allergies in dogs usually show themselves as a canine skin condition. A wheat allergy can develop at any point in a dog’s life, but it is most likely to develop when the dog is between 1 and 3 years of age.

Canine Food Allergies

Food allergies affect about 10 percent of dogs in America, and they are the third most-common canine allergy, after flea allergies and atopic allergies (inhaled allergies that cause skin problems).

If your dog has a food allergy, his immune system will, at some point, react to an ingredient in his food as if it were something harmful. At that point, your dog’s immune system will begin creating a chemical called histamine to fight off the newly identified allergen. Histamine is what causes signs of an allergic reaction, such as breathing difficulties, hives or reddened skin.

Common ingredients in dog food, including wheat, may become allergens if your dog has a food allergy.

Other potential allergens include:

  • meat
  • fish
  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • soy
  • corn

Although chemicals such as preservatives have been considered allergens in the past, additional research is needed to confirm this fact.

Signs of a Canine Wheat Allergy

A wheat-allergic dog may show a variety of clinical signs in response to his allergy, including:

  • itching
  • head shaking
  • face rubbing
  • sneezing
  • wheezing
  • digestive signs, such as vomiting, flatulence or diarrhea

In most cases, the digestive signs are less common than the skin-related conditions.

Diagnosing a Canine Wheat Allergy

A variety of tests can help your veterinarian determine the cause of your dog’s allergic signs. Blood and skin tests can help eliminate environmental causes of your pet’s allergy, and an exclusion diet can help narrow down the potential food allergy culprits.

The exclusion diet will give your dog a unique source of both protein and carbohydrates that he will eat for at least 12 weeks. The exclusion diet should be the only thing your dog eats during this time—it should not be supplemented with treats, flavored medications, rawhide treats or anything else that could add ingredients to the diet and possibly affect the outcome of the test.

During the exclusion diet, your veterinarian will monitor your dog’s skin condition and any other allergic signs he displays. If the signs clear up on the exclusion diet, a food allergy is the likely cause of your dog’s problems. To test this theory, your veterinarian will begin re-introducing ingredients into the exclusion diet from your dog’s former diet. If an ingredient triggers an allergic reaction, it is the likely cause of your dog’s food allergy.

Treating a Canine Wheat Allergy

Treatment for a wheat allergy (or any other canine food allergy) seems pretty straightforward: Stop feeding wheat to your dog. However, this may be easier said than done without some careful label reading on your part when you’re shopping for food for your dog.

In many cases, dog owners choose to continue feeding the exclusion diet to their dogs as the dogs’ new diet. Discuss this option with your veterinarian to see if it’s workable for your dog, but keep in mind that there’s a slight chance your dog could develop an allergy to even the exclusion diet over time.