Can dogs suddenly develop food intolerance? Expert Advice

What are the clinical signs of food allergies in dogs?

In the dog, the signs of a food allergy are usually itchy skin, paws, or ears or digestive disturbances such as vomiting or diarrhea. Other more subtle changes can also occur, including hyperactivity, weight loss, lack of energy, and even aggression.

Signs And Symptoms Of Food Allergies In Dogs

Like allergies in humans, there are many different signs and dog food allergy symptoms to watch out for. Signs and symptoms of food allergies in dogs might include:

  • Itchy skin. Itching is a common symptom of an underlying food allergy. Pets tend to itch their ears, lick their paws, scratch the sides and armpits, and scoot their rear end on the ground with food allergies. If your dog is scooting their rear end frequently, you may need to have your vet check their anal sacs because anal sac problems are also frequently associated with food allergies.
  • Skin and ear infections. Skin lesions as a result of itching are a common symptom, manifesting in up to 80% of canine food allergy cases.1 The chronic inflammation from the food allergy and the trauma to their skin from itching can lead to skin infections. Constant licking at the paws can also lead to secondary skin infections and overgrowth of yeast infections. Ear infections are also very commonly associated with food allergies and are sometimes the only sign of an underlying food allergy.
  • Hives. If your dog consumes something they are allergic to, you may notice hives begin to pop up. Hives can be red patches that are raised and cause itching and irritation. They may be visible if on your dog’s stomach, or if your dog has shorter hair. However, for dogs with longer hair, you may have to use a comb to part the fur and view them, or just feel through the fur for them. Your dog will likely bite and scratch at their hives, which can break the skin and lead to further complications, so it’s important to solve the problem quickly.
  • Gastrointestinal issues. In some cases, food allergies cause gastrointestinal issues in dogs. The most common signs are vomiting, diarrhea, excessive gas, or an upset stomach and nausea. If your dog has chronic gastrointestinal issues, this may be due to an allergen present in their food. Since many things can cause diarrhea in dogs, it will be important to work with your veterinarian to find the underlying cause, find out if it is related to a food allergy, and get a long-term solution.
  • Lethargy. If you notice your dog has less energy than normal or has shown sudden disinterest in their usual activities, a food allergy may be the problem. In fact, lethargy is among the most common signs of a gastrointestinal food allergy.2
  • Like all allergies, the only real solution is avoidance of the known allergen. Your vet can help you diagnose food allergies and come up with a treatment plan to prevent reactions from occurring in the future. If your dog is having a severe or life-threatening reaction, it is important to seek immediate veterinary care.

    Dutch’s network of affiliated vets are experts in diagnosing and treating allergies in dogs. You can start by making an appointment today and get your dog seen quickly with state-of-the-art veterinary telemedicine.

    The most common source of allergic reactions in dogs is food. In fact, many dogs are allergic to one or more proteins found in different food groups, usually beef or dairy products. In a study published through BMC Veterinary Research, scientists found that these food groups were the most common causes of allergic reactions in dogs1:

  • Beef-34%
  • Dairy Products-17%
  • Chicken-15%
  • Wheat-13%
  • Soy-6%
  • Lamb-5%
  • Corn-4%
  • Egg-4%
  • Pork-2%
  • Fish-2%
  • Rice-2%
  • Many dog foods contain beef and chicken, so it’s no wonder why so many dogs struggle with dog food allergy symptoms. Dogs may also have allergic reactions to their environments, such as allergies to pollen, dust, mites, fleas, ticks, parasites, bees, wasps, or other things they encounter while out and about. Figuring out exactly what is causing their allergic reaction can be tricky, so taking a systematic approach to diagnose what they are allergic to is important.

    How is a food allergy diagnosed?

    The best and most accurate method of diagnosing a food allergy is to feed a hypoallergenic diet for eight to twelve weeks as a food trial called an elimination trial. To be a true elimination trial for your dog, this special diet must not contain any ingredients that it has eaten in the past. It also requires that no other foods, treats, or supplements are fed during the trial period, including flavored vitamins and certain parasite preventives.

    If your dogs allergy symptoms resolve while on the food trial, the next step is to perform a food challenge by re-introducing your dogs old food. If your dogs symptoms resolve with the food trial AND return within one week of a food challenge, your dog has been definitively diagnosed with a food allergy.

    There are blood tests that may indicate whether the dog is allergic to specific foods. These are called serum IgE tests, and your veterinarian will discuss whether they would be of benefit in diagnosing your pets condition. There is some evidence suggesting that this blood testing is not as effective as food elimination trials.

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