What are Cheese Allergies?
Pruritus is usually the first sign of an allergy in canines. Often mistaken as an irritating bug bite or reaction to environmental influences, cheese allergies in dogs can be overlooked. Dairy products, including cheese, are known to be top allergens found in the canine diet. Though pets typically tolerate milk and cheese well, many dogs can develop an allergy to it.
Age does not discriminate when it comes to allergies. It is known that airborne allergies such as dust will develop at an early age but allergies to food can develop at any time in a dog’s life, with senior dogs most prone to food allergies and intolerances. Any time an older dog is experiencing pruritus (extreme itching and scratching), the possibility of dietary allergies should be investigated. In addition, with younger pets, the presence of an allergen is highly likely with uncontrollable itching. The step-by-step process of diagnosing and treating an allergy to cheese or other dairy products will need to be led by a qualified veterinarian.
Canine allergies to dairy, foods, medications, latex, and other products can cause an inflammation that results in symptoms like itching, hair loss, and dermatitis. Canines of all ages and breeds can have allergies to cheese which may lead to discomfort that results due to the symptoms.
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Symptoms of Cheese Allergies in Dogs
Do not ignore the following symptoms in your dog, no matter how benign the manifestation may be. Unusual behavior, toileting changes, and signs of intestinal distress should always be evaluated by a veterinarian without delay in case there is an underlying disease course in progress, and to limit your pet’s discomfort and stress level.
- Constipation (often seen with an intolerance)
- Frequent bowel movements
- Skin infections
- Ear infections
- Itchy skin
- Excessive scratching and licking
- Red skin
- Dry skin
- Hot spots
- Bald patches
- Rarely, seizures, bronchial infection, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will occur
It should also be noted that dogs can be fed a food like cheese or yogurt for weeks to months before symptoms of allergy become obvious.
Cheese and dairy product allergies are one of the most common types seen in dogs, the others being beef and wheat. Breeds that are thought to have a predisposition to allergies are:
- Labrador Retrievers
- West Highland White and Wheaten Terriers
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Shar Peis
- German Shepherds
- Springer and Cocker Spaniels
Causes of Cheese Allergies in Dogs
- Allergies commonly develop in young puppies and older dogs
- Reactions to foods can be an intolerance (for example, dairy allergy versus lactose intolerance)
- Airborne allergies are seen more often with canines
- Underlying diseases may complicate an allergy diagnosis
- Itching is often present in the groin, underarms, face and anal areas
Diagnosis of Cheese Allergies in Dogs
The diagnostic process for determining a food allergy is a step-by-step process. The veterinarian will want to do a health evaluation, starting with a history of your dog’s travel history, activity level, dietary likes and dislikes, and bowel and urinary habits. It will be helpful to the veterinary team if you are able to provide details as to recent illnesses as well. Let the veterinarian know what signs of discomfort prompted you to make the veterinary appointment.
Tests to investigate concurrent illnesses or diseases will be ordered. These diagnostic tools are the complete blood count, serum chemistry analysis, electrolyte panel, fecal analysis, and urinalysis. If your pet has alopecia, hot spots, or hives the veterinarian may do a skin scraping to be checked under the microscope for parasites, yeast, fungus, and bacteria.
Some pets may have ear infections and skin infections caused by allergies. Due to this possibility, the veterinarian will check your pet’s ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and skin to evaluate the extent of the infections. If your dog is experiencing severe gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain and diarrhea, the veterinarian may recommend additional testing in case inflammation needs to be addressed.
Treatment of Cheese Allergies in Dogs
Determining the reason for the vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, and alopecia can be an extensive process. Skin tests or blood tests do not exist for canine dairy allergies. An elimination trial which involves removing cheese from the diet may take a period of up to three months. A key factor in a successful elimination trial is the strict adherence by all family members. All sources of food, treats, supplements, and medications must be checked to be sure they do not contain cheese or other dairy additives.
Allergy studies show that improvement in the skin and general health of your dog will be evident after four to six weeks. However, elimination trials may be continued, at the discretion of your veterinarian, for a period of at least eight to twelve weeks in order to reach a definitive determination of the potential allergy. If the veterinarian feels confident that cheese is the culprit, she may do further testing to differentiate between an allergy to the cheese or an intolerance to lactose. Some pets who have a lactose intolerance can still have items like cottage cheese and certain yogurts in their food regimen because they contain a lower per gram lactose content. If your dog has concurrent issues like hotspots or secondary bacterial infection, medications will be prescribed at this time which will soon give relief to your canine companion’s distress.
Recovery of Cheese Allergies in Dogs
Once the allergen is eliminated from your dog’s diet, recovery should be imminent. Care on your part to read all ingredients and avoid products containing cheese (or even cheese flavors) when purchasing food items for your pet will be necessary. If there is any doubt as to whether a food item contains dairy items, do not make the purchase. Always feed your dog quality food. If you are unsure of a suitable food, your veterinarian will be able to make a recommendation. Changes in your pet’s demeanor or a return of skin irritation or scratching should be evaluated by your veterinarian in a follow-up appointment.
Cheese Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog has coughing fits almost every time she eats Velveeta cheese. She makes this awful hacking noise all night after having a bit of cheese. Does that mean that she might be allergic or is something else causing it? She's a small mutt that is about 9 years old btw!
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Just started giving my lab pieces of rope proven cheese,he now has an eye allergy ? Ear infection, and is licking his forearms above the pads,now had bald spots...do you think he might be allergic to cheese
Some dogs, like humans, may have sensitivity to cheese; if you noticed a direct link between giving the cheese and these symptoms, stop giving Red the cheese and try to stop him from licking himself as further problems may occur due to excessive licking (lick granuloma). Bathe the forelimb areas where he is licking and get an ear cleaning solution from your pet shop or Veterinarian to start management of the ear infection. If you have any concerns, visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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