What are Grain Allergies?
While ‘grain-free’ dog food has become a fad in recent years, some dogs actually require this diet due to a grain allergy. Grains are found in an abundance in dog foods which leads to excessive consumption of them by the dog over the course of his life. Allergies to grains can develop immediately or after years of constant exposure. The most common symptoms seen with grain allergies includes itchy, red skin, chronic ear infections, and discoloration of the feet from the pet licking them so much. If your dog is diagnosed with a grain allergy, luckily the treatment and recovery process is very straight forward. You will need to remove any foods, treat, or flavored medications that contain grain from your dog’s diet. Once this is done, his symptoms should subside and he should get back to his healthy self.
Grains are in many of the human foods and dog foods manufactured today. Some dogs are allergic to grains causing a number of health related issues. If you believe your dog has a grain allergy, discuss it with your veterinarian.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Grain Allergies in Dogs
Symptoms of grain allergies can vary from dog to dog. Symptoms may include
- Itchy skin
- Dry, flaky skin
- Hair loss
- Chronic ear infections
- Obsessive licking/chewing of feet
- Inflamed, red paw pads
- Gastrointestinal upset
Grain allergies in dogs may develop immediately or may develop after years of being fed the same diet.
There are a variety of grains that can be found in your dog’s food. Some of these grains include wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, and certain beans. ‘Gluten’ is a term to describe some of these grains, but not all of them. A ‘gluten-free’ diet and ‘grain-free’ diet are two different things. ‘Gluten’ covers only a few of the grains listed above, ‘grain’ includes them all. If you believe your dog has a grain allergy, you will have to stick with the ‘grain-free’ diets.
Causes of Grain Allergies in Dogs
If your dog has allergies, it is his body’s way of protecting itself from something it thinks will harm it. While the item in question is actually harmless, the body doesn’t recognize it as such. The body finds it dangerous and mounts a protective response to the threat. Your dog’s body produces an immune response to the grain ingredient. This allergic response may develop quickly or may develop over a period of years. Many food-related allergies happen after the dog suffers from an infection involving the stomach or intestines.
Every dog’s nutritional requirement of grains varies. Some dogs need grains to have a healthy coat and skin, another dog might get an ear infection every time he has grains, or another may require grains in his diet to keep him at a healthy weight. Every dog’s diet requirements are different. If you believe your dog has a grain allergy, talk with your veterinarian.
Diagnosis of Grain Allergies in Dogs
When you first arrive at the veterinary clinic, the veterinarian will start with a physical exam. This will allow her to take note of all your dog’s symptoms. If your dog’s skin is irritated, the veterinarian may take a skin scraping to check for external parasites or bacterial overgrowth. If your dog has watery eyes, the veterinarian may perform fluorescein staining to check for a scratch on the eye that could possibly cause the watering.
Blood work will be performed to give the veterinarian a broad look as to how the internal organs are functioning and to rule out other possible causes. A complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel will provide the veterinarian with needed information for proper assessment. If your veterinarian feels it is necessary, she may also perform a urinalysis for further evaluation of kidney function.
When it comes to diagnosis of grain allergies in dogs there are very few diagnostic tests you can run. A dietary trial is the most frequently used method. In a dietary trial, you have to feed your dog a novel diet, meaning you feed him a diet without any grain ingredients whatsoever. During this trial, you cannot give any type of treats or flavored medication containing grains as it can affect the results. You have to feed your dog the novel diet for at least 90 days before you can get a reliable diagnostic. After the 90 days, if resolution of the allergic signs occurs, you then must reintroduce grains to his diet. If a relapse in allergy symptoms occurs once the grains are reintroduced, then you know the source.
Intradermal skin testing for food allergies not always accurate in every case. This test can give false positive and false negative results. When the result is a false positive, the the dog is not allergic to the food burt when ingested it results in a positive allergic skin response. As for a false negative, some food allergies produce a delayed result of a positive allergic reaction and the positive diagnosis is missed. Another way the test can result in a false negative would be when the allergic response is localized. For example, if your dog is allergic to grains but symptoms only manifests as a runny nose, this means the antibodies to the allergen are located only in the nose. Since the allergens antibodies are localized in the nose and not the entire body, there are no antibodies in the bloodstream to cause a reaction throughout the rest of the body, including the skin.
Treatment of Grain Allergies in Dogs
Medication will be given to relieve your dog of the intense itching he is experiencing. This will be done concurrent to removal of the grains from the diet; the skin irritation may take time to heal.
Removing grains completely will also help avoid chronic infections. If the allergen remains in your dog’s food, it will continue to weaken his immune system over time. This leads to long-term and recurring issues with his skin, and other areas such as ears.
Strict control of the diet is the best treatment of grain related allergies. It can be a long, discouraging process, but once you discover if this is the source of allergen and are able to successfully remove it from his diet, you and your dog will both be happier and healthier. Your veterinarian will lead you through the diet elimination trial, providing your with instructions and foods to replace the grains. The diet must be a strict one; all family members will need to adhere to the trial and not give your pet any treats, medications, or supplements not approved by the veterinarian.
Recovery of Grain Allergies in Dogs
When you remove grains from your dog’s diet, his prognosis of a full recovery is good. When the grain is no longer in your dog’s system, all symptoms should cease and he should return to his normal self. Chronic infections and skin irritations will heal and not occur again as long as you keep grains out of his diet. His immune system will stop over-reacting and return to its normal strength. This will help your dog fight off actual threats instead of false ones.
While the overall process can be discouraging, once your dog is diagnosed with a grain allergy it is an easy fix. Once grains are out of his system, it means no more itchy skin and no more constant scratching to keep both of you up at night.
Grain Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Can Vomiting be a symptoms of grain allergy?
It has happened once my dog vomited for few days after having non-grain-free dry food. I suspected the problem is from the manufacturer. Then I changed brand and turn to Grain-free food. My dog was Healthy until yesterday. After he finished his last grain-free food, I bought a non-grain- free food from the same brand. Then he got vomiting and diarrhea for whole last night. I start to suspect that problem comes from grain but not the brand or manufacturer. I just wonder if I should give up the current 25kg dry food and continuely feed him with grain-free? Thank you.
Dogs may vomit due to many different reasons and changing food suddenly from one brand to another brand (regardless of grain) may cause vomiting, you need to slowly wean your dog from one food to another; despite what you may read in online forums, the majority of dogs tolerate grains perfectly fine and do not require grain free dog foods. Try to slowly wean Tank across to the new food over a period of seven to ten days to give his stomach time to adjust as grain free food and grain based food are very different to digest. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
I have a 2 year old Maltese X girl once I changed her diet to grain free an preservatives free diet her vomiting stopped I now make all her treats cook all her meals an she only has rain water to drink
Add a comment to Tank's experience
Was this experience helpful?
Can grain allergies make my dog's eyes irritated?
My dogs eyes itch alot so I got her eyedrops that said they should help though they don't get rid of the problem. When i bought her they told me to get her grain free food. So I'm investigating further.
Many people believe in grain free food, however a dog is just as likely to have an allergy to beef. If the eyes are irritated, it would be best to flush them out by running some lukewarm water over the eyes (not directly in them) and applying an antibiotic eye ointment; Benadryl at a dose of 0.5mg/lb may also help if the cause is an allergan. The irritation may be from allergies, foreign bodies, chemical irritation (cleaning products, detergents), infection etc… If you see no improvement, visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Add a comment to Julie's experience
Was this experience helpful?