Food Sensitivity and Allergies in Shiba Inus in Dogs

Written By Leslie Ingraham
Published: 12/30/2021Updated: 12/30/2021
Food Sensitivity and Allergies in Shiba Inus

What are Food Sensitivity and Allergies in Shiba Inus?

A food sensitivity (intolerance) and food allergies are two conditions that cause the most common health problems in Shiba Inus. This is a hardy breed that enjoys general good health, but allergies to some dog and human foods can cause difficulties for them. 

Food allergies result when, over time, the Inu’s body begins reacting to otherwise harmless substances, called allergens. The culprit is a substance in food, such as a protein or grain, although other ingredients such as preservatives and chemicals can also an allergic reaction.

Food sensitivities are not the same as allergies in that they don’t involve the immune system. Instead, the gastrointestinal system responds by causing stomach and intestinal upset whenever a specific food is eaten. 

Food allergies and sensitivities can be uncomfortable and disruptive to the Shiba Inu’s well-being. For this reason, identifying the cause and treatment is essential to their quality of life.

Symptoms of Food Sensitivity and Allergies in Shiba Inus in Dogs

Symptoms of food sensitivities and allergies differ, although some overlap. Symptoms of a food sensitivity or intolerance can include:

Symptoms of food allergies typically occur in multiple systems, and can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Itchy skin
  • Uneven bald patches
  • Coughing
  • Facial swelling
  • Hives
  • Vomiting 
  • Inflamed feet
  • Poor growth in young dogs
  • Chronic gas
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Hyperactivity
  • Occasional aggression
  • Weight loss

A severe allergic reaction can lead to anaphylaxis that may lead to death if it is untreated.

Causes of Food Sensitivity and Allergies in Shiba Inus in Dogs

Dogs, and especially Shiba Inus, can be sensitive or allergic to one or more ingredients in commercial dog food products, including treats. Preservatives, vitamins and minerals are added to protein and carbohydrates in kibble and canned food. Any of these substances can cause problems. 

Allergens may take some time to build up in a dog, so they’re rarely seen in dogs less than 1-3 years old. The onset will most likely involve the skin first. The body sees these allergens as invaders and its immune system fights them by producing Immunoglobulin E (IgE) that causes the release of histamines. Histamines then can cause skin symptoms like inflammation and itching.

Food intolerance or sensitivity is caused by the GI system’s inability to digest certain foods. The onset is often sudden, and may cause the dog to refuse a diet containing the foods. If your Shiba Inu vomits and/or has gas or diarrhea shortly after eating a food, the cause is likely to be an intolerance such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance.

Most food problems are caused by:

  • Proteins like chicken, beef, dairy products, or eggs
  • Complex carbohydrates like wheat, soy, and corn
  • Dyes
  • Preservatives
  • Flavoring
  • Added vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients

Diagnosis of Food Sensitivity and Allergies in Shiba Inus in Dogs

The first step in dealing with food sensitivities and allergies is to figure out what is causing them, and then remove that from the dog’s diet. The process, while simple, takes time, patience, and perseverance. 

Using an elimination diet followed by a “challenge” diet is a time-proven method of determining the substance to which the dog is allergic or intolerant to. The veterinarian begins by asking the pet parent to feed the dog a hypoallergenic, bland diet, often including a protein and carb the dog has never eaten before. This may include “novel” protein such as bison or venison, along with brown rice. Sometimes a bland chicken and rice diet is a good place to start.

After feeding the elimination diet for 8-12 weeks, without the addition of any other foods or treats, the symptoms should abate. The vet then begins to introduce foods back into the diet, watching for a reaction. When a reaction occurs, that added substance is flagged as an allergen or intolerance. Because multiple substances may be causative, continuing the challenge diet until all substances have been tried will result in a comprehensive profile of tolerated foods.

In the event the elimination diet doesn’t result in answers, another option is a serum IgE test, which is performed on blood. This procedure measures the amount of IgE in the blood. A high amount indicates that an allergy is active and causing symptoms. A skin patch test, in which the vet injects specific allergens into the skin and watches for reactions, helps rule out other causes of allergic symptoms, such as fleas or environmental substances.

Treatment of Food Sensitivity and Allergies in Shiba Inus in Dogs

Treatment of food allergies and sensitivities aims to reduce or eliminate the dog’s symptoms, and prevent future attacks. 

Treat the symptoms

While the elimination diet is underway, many of the pup’s inflammatory and itchy skin issues can be alleviated with antihistamines or prescribed corticosteroids. Gastrointestinal symptoms can be reduced with medications like antiemetics, antacids and antidiarrhetics.

Heal the skin

When the dog’s skin is itchy and irritated, they will respond by scratching, biting, or rubbing the area to try to relieve the itch. If this attempt to feel better is long-term and consistent, secondary yeast or bacterial infections may result. The veterinarian will treat these infections with antibiotics and/or anti-yeast medications. In addition, there are shampoos, creams, sprays, and ointments that they may prescribe to use at home to help soothe the skin.

Change the diet

There are hypoallergenic and bland diets on the market that don’t contain some of the most common allergens and irritants. Your veterinarian will know which ones will be of most help to prevent future episodes. The vet will also guide pet parents in diets made at home, advising on ingredients and supplements.

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Recovery of Food Sensitivity and Allergies in Shiba Inus in Dogs

There is no cure for food sensitivities and allergies except to avoid feeding any of the substances causing them. This means introducing new foods, and some pups like the Shiba Inu may not respond well to change, so have patience when introducing anything new in the diet. 

One of the most important factors in continued alleviation of food problems is monitoring. Pet parents should watch for any new episodes and report them to the veterinarian. Regular office visits will also allow the vet to observe subtle signs that another allergy is arising. Dogs with food allergies may develop new allergies to food and other substances. Treating them early will prevent infections and severe reactions.

Food allergies and sensitivity can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your Shiba Inu is at risk of developing an allergy or sensitivity to food, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

Cost of Food Sensitivity and Allergies in Shiba Inus in Dogs

The average cost to treat your Shibu Inu’s food allergies and/or sensitivity can range from $200 - $2,000.

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