Dietary Protein Intolerance in Dogs

Dietary Protein Intolerance in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Dietary Protein Intolerance?

Dietary protein intolerance in dogs is a common ailment in dogs of any breed, any age, and of either sex. This type of intolerance is characterized by the dog’s system to inadequately break down proteins, thus causing the dog to become ill. The dog’s immune system also views protein as a threat, and begins to attack the specific proteins. Even though protein is something a dog needs, there are other ways for dogs to get nutrients if they suffer from a dietary protein intolerance. 

Dogs are considered omnivores; however, protein helps them remain healthy and strong. Amino acids are in protein and help with cell production. Protein is essential for fighting disease, keeping shiny coats, and maintaining energy. If dogs have a problem with digesting protein, they will have specific symptoms.

Dietary protein intolerance in dogs is characterized by dogs having a reaction to any foods that contain protein. The reaction can build-up over time, and can be mild to severe.

Symptoms of Dietary Protein Intolerance in Dogs

Protein intolerance in dogs has a variety of symptoms, which are similar to symptoms of other allergies, namely food allergies. Symptoms include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Itchy skin
  • Irritated skin
  • Bumps or hives on skin
  • Bald spots
  • Agitation
  • Swollen throat
  • Swollen tongue


Dogs can develop allergies to many different types of foods, including foods that are high in protein. The symptoms will be very similar. Other food allergies can include:

  • Dairy allergies
  • Wheat allergies
  • Gluten sensitivity
  • Corn allergies
  • Soy intolerance

Causes of Dietary Protein Intolerance in Dogs

There are several different causes of protein intolerance in dogs. In some dogs, it may be related to a predisposition to the condition or genetics. Causes include:

  • Overly sensitive immune-response to proteins
  • Immune system views the proteins as a threat and attacks the proteins
  • Heredity
  • Gastrointestinal abnormalities and digestive issues

Diagnosis of Dietary Protein Intolerance in Dogs

If your dog is exhibiting signs of allergies, contact your veterinarian. Once you arrive at your appointment, the doctor will ask questions about his symptoms and when they began. He will also want to know about his environment, lifestyle, and diet.

Your veterinarian may then perform laboratory tests, namely blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. This will show the veterinarian how your dog’s organs are functioning and will tell him any information he needs to know concerning any underlying illnesses, if any. Upon looking at your dog’s coat and other symptoms, and listening to you describe the symptoms, your veterinarian may suspect that your dog has allergies or an intolerance to a specific type of food. 

He may then choose to do a skin test or other type of allergy test on your dog. This will give your veterinarian more input as to the type of allergen that is affecting him. If your veterinarian suspects food allergies, he will suggest a diet for your dog in order to find the offending allergen. This will also help him diagnose intolerances to any chemicals within foods, such as proteins.

He may suggest a specific diet for your dog for 12 weeks. After that period of time, he will want you to slowly introduce foods back into his diet. He will want you to watch for any symptoms to occur once the foods are introduced one at a time. For protein intolerance, this will take time to diagnose, as he will need to figure out specifically what is affecting your dog.

There may be another type of test for intolerance to protein, known as a saliva test. This test is based on your dog’s saliva. The igA and igM antibodies are produced to fight any sensitivity in food, and this test measures the levels of these antibodies.

Treatment of Dietary Protein Intolerance in Dogs

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with intolerance to protein, he will explain to you that the only way to treat this condition is to eliminate the protein from the diet. Treatment methods include:

Special Diet

In order to eliminate the offending proteins from your dog’s diet, he may prescribe a specific food for him to eat for the remainder of his life. A prescribed dog food for this condition is safe because it will still allow your dog to get the balanced diet and nutrients he needs to live a healthy life.

Avoid Treats and Bones

Treats, bones, and other snacks (even people food) should not be given to your dog with intolerance to protein. Even a tiny bit can set off any symptoms and make your dog feel ill.

Petted logo

Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Get a quote

Recovery of Dietary Protein Intolerance in Dogs

Regular visits with your veterinarian will be necessary in order to manage this condition, as well as avoiding all protein. With intolerance to protein, your dog may have other types of intolerances or sensitivities, so it will be important to watch for any symptoms. This may be unlikely, but knowing what to watch for in terms of reactions can keep you proactive.

Your dog should be able to live a long and healthy life with protein intolerance. Knowing the signs of a reaction will keep your dog safe. It will also be important to alert any guests or friends that your dog has this intolerance, so they will avoid giving him treats. Also, if you board your dog you will need to let the people in charge know of this sensitivity.

Dietary Protein Intolerance Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Pit Bull



five years


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Itching, Excessive Scratching, Nose Is Chapped AnExcd Dry
See above described allergy symptoms. He eats a high quality (Acana) but we add meat.

Sept. 26, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. Food allergies are actually not very common, and there are many other possible causes for the signs that you describe. Since I cannot see him, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 18, 2020

Was this question and answer helpful?
Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.