Wheat Allergy in Dogs

Canine wheat allergy is one cause of food allergies in dogs. Food allergies account for about 10 percent of all canine allergy problems, and wheat is frequently targeted as a cause of the allergic reaction.

Signs of a Wheat Allergy

The typical food-allergic dog is at least two years old and has a year-round problem with itchy red skin and a dull coat. He will scratch at or rub his face frequently, chew his paws and legs regularly and scratch his belly. He may also display some or all of the following signs:

  • Anal itching
  • Breathing problems
  • Behavior changes
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Chronic skin infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Gas
  • Head shaking
  • Seizures
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting

When a dog begins to show signs of a food allergy, his owner may not immediately assume the dog's food is to blame. Remember that a dog can develop an allergy to food at any point in his life. He just has to have eaten enough of the allergy-causing ingredient to trigger a reaction.

How to Determine if Wheat Is Causing the Allergy

Veterinarians use a dietary process of elimination to diagnose food allergy in dogs. When your dog visits the vet to begin the process, the doctor will place him on an exclusion diet that will help eliminate potential allergens.

The exclusion diet will feature a unique source of protein and carbohydrates, such as fish and potato, duck and peas, egg and rice or lamb and rice. These will be foods your dog has never eaten before to give your veterinarian a clearer idea of what is causing the allergic reaction.

Your dog will eat the exclusion diet for 10 to 12 weeks, and then he will be reevaluated. Your veterinarian may have him eat his old diet for a week or so to see if his allergic signs return. If he is still showing signs of a food allergy when he resumes his original diet, an ingredient in that diet is what causes his allergic reaction. Once testing concludes, many dog owners feed their pets the exclusion diet as the dog's regular diet.

What to Do to Help Your Dog

To help determine the cause of your dog's allergy, you must stick to the exclusion diet exclusively for the time prescribed by your veterinarian. Don't supplement the diet with any treats or table scraps, and don't give your pet any flavored medications or rawhide chew toys, because these additions may delay the diagnosis and lengthen the time it takes to determine the cause of your dog's problem.

If your dog is diagnosed with a wheat allergy, you must carefully read pet food labels and not buy those items that contain wheat.

When It's Not an Allergy

Some dogs that show signs of a food allergy may actually have what's called a food intolerance. Dogs with food intolerances develop digestive problems, such as gas, diarrhea or vomiting within an hour of eating the problem food. Dietary changes solve the problem, which can cause hair loss and excessive itching from your dog.