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Dog Food for Allergies: How To Diagnose and Treat Symptoms With Diet

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Pet owners do everything in their power to ensure their furry friends are happy and healthy. But many pet parents don’t realize that, just like humans, fur babies can develop allergies. Dog food allergies can also be difficult to diagnose.

If you think your pup is suffering from dog food allergies, we’re here to help. This guide will show you everything you need to know about food allergies. We’ll review which symptoms to watch for and how dog food allergies are diagnosed. Then, we’ll highlight the best dog food for allergies.

Symptoms of Dog Food Allergies

Dog food for allergies: A dog licks his paws

Dogs with food allergies display a wide range of symptoms. They may scratch their paws and ears or develop hives and sneezing. These symptoms typically occur when eating or just after finishing a meal.

Here are the main warning signs of doggy food allergies: 

  • Itchy skin, especially on the ears, paws, and rear end
  • Excessive scratching that can lead to areas and hot spots of skin problems and skin infections
  • Hives or a rash
  • Sneezing
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Tummy problems including diarrhea, gas, and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Swelling around the eyes, mouth, and nose

The Most Common Food Allergies in Dogs

Dog food for allergies: A dog sits in front of bowls of different dog foods

The main triggers of an allergic reaction in dogs typically stem from protein sources. The top contributors include chicken, beef, and dairy. Other dog food allergens include wheat, lamb, egg, soy, pork, and fish. 

Oftentimes, dogs will have more than one allergy trigger. That’s why it’s particularly important to pay attention to what might cause your dog’s allergies. By identifying which ingredients your pup is allergic to, you can craft a dog diet that doesn’t cause a reaction.

Most dog food allergies have a basis in genetics, but some allergies can be exacerbated by environmental factors. Smoking or living in an area with high pollution may increase the risk of all types of dog allergies. Researchers are still discovering what causes the immune system to overreact to normal stimuli. 

All dog breeds can develop allergies to certain foods. However, some dog breeds tend to experience food allergies at higher rates. These breeds include retrievers, Wheaten terriers, shepherds, cocker spaniels, and dachshunds.

How To Identify Dog Food Allergies

Dog food for allergies: A vet feeds a dog a bowl of food

Food allergies are different from food intolerances. A food intolerance or food sensitivity typically triggers reactions in only the digestive system. This occurs because the digestive tract is unable to properly break down food. Food intolerance can be caused by enzyme deficiencies or a sensitivity to food additives such as preservatives and colors.

A food allergy triggers an immune response that affects multiple organs or systems in a dog’s body. In this case, your dog’s immune system identifies a certain food source as an invader and responds by producing antibodies that create an allergic reaction. In contrast to food intolerance, food allergies can be life-threatening in dogs.

The best way to determine if your pup has a food allergy is to take him or her to a licensed veterinarian (DVM). The veterinarian can run a series of allergy tests, including skin tests and blood tests, to determine what is triggering your dog’s reaction. These tests can rule out seasonal allergies, skin allergies, and other contributors to your dog’s symptoms.

If the vet suspects your furry friend is suffering from food allergies, he or she may recommend an elimination diet or limited ingredient diet. Read on to learn more about these options for eliminating food allergies that result from your dog’s diet.

The Best Dog Food for Allergies

Dog food for allergies: A pug mom and puppy stand in front of dog food bowls

Patience is key when it comes to finding the best dog food for your pup’s allergies. You may need to try several different dog foods in order to discover what works best for your fur friend. You’ll also need to pay close attention to symptoms to determine whether a new food helps or makes the situation worse. Here are some food options to treat food allergies in dogs.

Elimination Diet

If your dog suffers from food allergies, it can be hard to know what’s causing the problem. That’s where an elimination diet — also known as a food trial — comes in. Your vet will help you identify specific foods or food groups that may be causing the problem — often animal protein sources or dairy items. 

You’ll temporarily eliminate these foods from your dog’s diet and monitor any changes in symptoms. For example, if you suspect your pup is allergic to beef, you’ll eliminate all beef from your dog’s daily diet. If his or her allergy symptoms disappear, you’ll know beef was the culprit. 

In most cases, your dog must follow the elimination diet for at least two months. After that, you can start to reintroduce other food items to see what triggers an allergic response.

Limited Ingredient Food Diet

If the vet suspects your dog is allergic to multiple ingredients, they may recommend a limited ingredient food diet (LID). However, it’s important to note that there is no such thing as hypoallergenic dog food. That’s because dogs can be allergic to a wide range of items. Additionally, one formula may work for one dog and be ineffective for another dog.

Instead, use a limited ingredient dog food. A limited ingredient diet helps to avoid common food allergens by using ingredients that are generally tolerated by most dogs. This includes easily digestible carbohydrate sources such as sweet potatoes, flaxseed, and beet pulp as well as alternative protein sources such as venison and kangaroo. 

The vast majority of limited ingredient diets are grain-free. However, recent research shows grain-free diets may contribute to heart problems in otherwise healthy dogs. To be on the safe side, look for limited ingredient dog food that features whole-grain ingredients that don’t contain wheat, which may also trigger allergies. You can find limited ingredient formulas from Blue Buffalo, Purina, and Canidae.

Hydrolyzed Protein Diet

Protein is an essential component for your dog’s health. After eating, a dog’s digestive system breaks the protein into amino acids, the building blocks of most cells. When a dog is allergic to a protein source, he or she is unable to digest and process it properly. This can lead to health problems including poor digestion and nutrition deficiencies.

A hydrolyzed protein kibble is made with small pieces of protein that don’t trigger an immune response. That’s because the protein undergoes hydrolysis — a process where water is used to disrupt chemical bonds, breaking molecules down into smaller pieces. This can help your pup digest common allergens like proteins that may have caused problems.

In addition to hydrolyzed protein, you can also look for dog food with novel protein sources. These include ingredients like fish high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as bison, pheasant, and venison. These animal proteins are less likely to cause an immune response than traditional proteins such as beef and chicken.

Whole Foods

Your dog food and dog treats should be made from whole food ingredients. This means you should look for pet foods that contain chicken or lamb rather than chicken meal or lamb meal. Avoid by-product meals, as it is a ground, dried blend of different protein parts, including bone and undeveloped eggs. Additionally, you should look for dog foods that contain brown rice rather than rice starch and whole chickpeas rather than pea protein.

If you’re not sure which ingredients to look for, talk to your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist. They can help you understand which ingredients are the best for your pup’s health and won’t trigger an allergic reaction.

Treat Your Pup to a Delicious Snack

Dog food for allergies: A dog sits while a hand holds a bowl of food above its head

If you suspect your dog suffers from food allergies, a dog food for allergies can help to eliminate symptoms. Start by visiting your veterinarian. With their advice, you can then get your dog on an elimination diet. For best results, use limited ingredient dog foods, foods with hydrolyzed proteins, and formulas made with whole food ingredients.

When it’s time to reward your furry friend with a healthy treat, Pet Honesty is here to help. We offer a wide range of dog treats made from all-natural ingredients that help to support joint health, improve digestion, and address allergy symptoms. 

Our allergy relief chews contain ingredients such as bovine colostrum that may help to support digestion and boost immune function. If your pup’s food allergies cause ear infections and other ear discomfort, try our OTIC Ear Cleanser. This product helps to clean your pup’s ears and reduce the itching and irritation that can increase scratching. 

Our NutraProbiotic food topper can be added to adult dry dog food or wet food to support digestion. Alternatively, you can reward your furry friend with probiotic chews to support healthy digestive processes. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our products, which help keep your pup healthy by using natural and whole-food ingredients.