Dog Food Allergies

Having a dog with allergies can be really frustrating, for both dog and loving owner.

The dog food or dog treats that you have been feeding could be the main reason why your pet has been constantly itching or vomiting. Ten percent of allergy cases in dogs are food allergies. However, owners continue to overlook this since allergies are usually linked to an environmental factor or what they call environmental allergy.

Food allergies can cause severe damage such as digestive and behavioral problems, as well as skin issues. Now, let us dig deeper to know more about dog food allergies - its signs and symptoms, and treatment.

What is a food allergy in dogs?

According to veterinarians, food allergies occur when an animal's immune system wrongly identifies a protein from food as an invader rather than a food item and leads to an immune response. The result of this allergic reaction can be itchy skin or ear, skin infections, vomiting, or diarrhea. However, there are also worst cases that can happen like gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Having said that, dog food allergies can only be diagnosed by veterinarians since this issue is commonly confused by having environmental allergies because of their similar symptoms. To effectively diagnose it, the veterinarian has to do a dietary elimination (elimination diet) trial wherein they have to feed your dog a diet purchased through a veterinarian or home-made that contains only a few ingredients that your dog has never fed before. 

This trial will go for weeks to a month and should be the only food or flavor that gets into your dog's mouth. If your dog's condition improves during the trial, then your dog has to go back to the old diet again to confirm a food allergy. Otherwise, the elimination diet has to be done again until it can identify a specific food ingredient that causes the problem. 

How can you tell if your dog is allergic to food? (Symptoms)

Here are the signs and symptoms that you should watch out for to see if your dog has a food allergy or not:

  • chronic ear inflammation or ear infections
  • chronic diarrhea to chronic gas
  • licking their feet
  • itchy rear end
  • sneezing
  • hot spots
  • skin rashes
  • scaly and/or oily skin
  • red eyes
  • eye discharge
  • hair loss
  • pigmented skin
  • secondary yeast or bacterial infections (aka pyoderma) of the skin or ears

There are also rare symptoms caused by food allergies in dogs like:

  • breathing issues
  • nasal discharge
  • weight loss due to severe diarrhea or vomiting
  • seizures
  • restlessness

What is the most common food allergy in dogs?

Protein found in meats, especially beef, is the number one common food allergens in dogs. Dairy products come in second. Furthermore, the BMC Veterinary Research conclude these food allergens in order:

1. Beef

A beef allergy happens when there is an overreaction of your dog's immune system to an unwelcome protein that is present in a particular diet. Bald patches, hives, obsessive licking, wheezing, vomiting are a few of the common symptoms of beef allergies in dogs. 

2. Dairy products

Lactose intolerance leads to allergies in dogs. Dogs with lactose intolerance are either having low levels or missing milk digesting enzyme lactase. Your dogs may enjoy licking on ice creams, milk, or cheese but it actually gives harm to them.  

3. Chicken

If your dog's digestive system does not completely break down the protein content in chicken, the enterocytes will immediately see them as intruders and attack the body. This is another case of being allergic to an excessive protein found in a particular diet. 

4. Wheat

Dogs are actually more allergic to meat than grains. However, wheat allergies or carbohydrate-containing food for dogs can start at any age, sometimes even after your dogs have been fed with the same diet. Gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats is usually cannot be tolerated by your pet's digestive system.

5. Soy

Soy usually contains pesticides sprayed on the crops. When absorbed, that is when it will get into your dog's system, and worse, it can cause damage to the endocrine system causing problems for thyroid function. Some studies have also shown that eating soy can cause various health issues beyond allergy, including reproductive and growth problems, and liver disease.

6. Lamb

Contrary to what has been usually practiced, lamb can also cause food allergy to your dogs because of its novel protein content that your dog's system might not be familiar with it. Venison, rabbit, duck, kangaroo, or ostrich is a better substitute for lamb, chicken, and beef since these ingredients are never exposed to novel protein. 

7. Corn

The number one reason why corn is not recommended for dogs is because of its difficulty in digesting. Corn and other grains are only digestible depending on how they are processed. Unless they are refined to a meal or flour and then cooked, it will never be easy to digest for dogs. Also, canned corn for dogs typically contains a high amount of sodium, which makes the dogs dehydrated and put them at risk for salt poisoning.

8. Brewers Rice

The brewer's rice is a common carbohydrate source that has ow quality ingredients. And take note, it is not even composed of pure white rice. It is actually a leftover after the white rice has been processed. it contains few nutrients and a whole lot of fillers to serve as quick energy food for your dogs.

9. Cellulose

This is another food additive that is being sourced from plant or wood fibers. While fiber is very beneficial for digestion, cellulose goes the other way around. It is an emulsifier, anti-caking agent, and a cheap binder used to resemble fats. this ingredient is commonly found in every pet's food, fast foods, processed meat, and more.

10. Meat Meal

Meat is healthy for your dog but it is totally different when your pet food or commercial dog foods have an unlabeled meat or meat meal or bone meal in it. These kinds of foods have the worst protein source in processed meat. These are always leftovers, with no guaranteed standard of quality.

What is the best dog food allergy treatment?

To solve any health issues, especially food allergy with your dog, the very first and wisest thing you can do is to go to the veterinarian. You work with a medical professional to make sure that it is well taken care of. Most probably, the veterinarian would do an elimination diet to correspond to the allergic reaction. This trial would prevent the immune response from continuing to be triggered. 

Another thing is to do a hypoallergenic diet, which for sure your dog's vet would also suggest. Hypoallergenic foods are made with hydrolyzed proteins, which are already broken down into pieces that are small enough that IgA won't bind and trigger an immune response.  

And while your dog is on a special diet, make sure to never feed any commercial dog foods, cookies, treats. human foods, rawhides, and more. If you do not know what exactly caused the allergy, do not give anything that can trigger it. Once you have got her on a special diet that does not show any allergic reactions, then you can start to reintroduce another hypoallergenic food. If your dog reacts, you would know exactly what food causes the problem.

When it comes to food allergy, you are not trying to find the common offenders but you actually have to eliminate all potential allergens hence, the elimination diet. 

What is the best dog food for dogs with allergies? (Hypoallergenic dog foods)

Here are the hypoallergenic dog foods that you can buy:

1. Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Sensitive Stomach & Skin Recipes


The Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food is formulated for optimal digestive and skin health for your dog. This product is developed by more than 220 veterinarians, technicians, food scientists, and Ph.D. nutritionists to meet your dog's needs. The ingredients were also made sure to have essential nutrients to ensure your pet gets the stringent, precise formulation that it needs.

This dry dog food is packed with vitamin E and Omega-6 fatty acids to help your dog achieve healthy skin and coat. This is also a good source of prebiotic fiber to support a balanced gut microbiome, as well as it is highly digestible for easier absorption and stool pick-up. Moreover, this is the number 1 veterinarian-recommended dog food. 

2. Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach, High Protein Adult Dry Dog Food & Wet Dog Food


Does your dog have a sensitive system? Purina's Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach dog food (available in dry and wet) will help nourish your dog system with gentle nutrition to help him get stronger. This is made with real salmon as the first ingredient is fortified with live probiotics for digestive and immune health. Furthermore, it is made available in specialized formulas for adults, small breeds, large breeds, and puppies, and an option without chicken or egg.

This highly digestible dog food features high-quality ingredients that are carefully selected for a specific nutritional or functional purpose. It also has easily digestible oatmeal in every serving sensitive digestive system, while natural prebiotic fiber nourishes specific intestinal bacteria for digestive health. This product made sure that it has no common allergens such as soy, wheat, corn, and poultry by-product meal.

3. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gentle Snackers Canine Dog Treats

ASIN: B0016A590Y

This gentle snacker from Purina is formulated for dogs with food sensitivities and GI tracts. This is a great option for dogs who are going on a special diet that limits treats. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gentle Snackers canine treats offer a highly-digestible solution. Based on the science behind Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Canine Formula, these crunchy treats can be safely given to dogs with food sensitivities and/or sensitive gastrointestinal tracts.

This easily-digested dog treat can be feed to all breed sizes. Though it is expensive, it is still worth every dollar because it is veterinarian-recommended and made with hypoallergenic ingredients such as Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Copper Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin, and more.

Julia is an animal volunteer and a Vet Tech she helps us with research and product evaluation. She also have worked in technical roles that help her sift through the marketing smoke screen. She is passionate about all animals and often helps out at shelters.