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What are Grain Free Allergies?

Just as some people have an allergy to grains, so do some dogs. This leads some owners to believe a ‘grain-free’ food is the best thing they can feed to their pet. However, when some people switch over, their dog develops symptoms of allergies or digestive upset. Not many owners will link it to the food since they believe the new food is the best thing they can possibly give to their dog. In reality, some dogs need grains in their diets in order to develop properly and to be able to absorb all the nutrients in their food. If you are feeding your dog a grain free diet and he doesn’t seem well, consult with your veterinarian. As soon as you take your dog off the grain free diet, he should recover without a problem.

‘Grain-free’ is a type of food being produced for our dogs. While everyone wants the best for their dog and wants to give them the best diet out there, some dogs actually need grains in their diet in order to thrive. If you are considering changing your dog’s food, discuss it with your veterinarian first.

Grain Free Allergies Average Cost

From 523 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Grain Free Allergies in Dogs

Symptoms of an allergy to grain free foods can vary from dog to dog. Symptoms may include

  • Rashes
  • Hot spots
  • Loss of fur
  • Skin inflammation
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea/loose stools

Types

There are all sorts of ‘grain-free’ dog foods out there available for purchase. In recent years, grain-free diets have gained popularity. While grain-free food may be a diet your dog needs, be sure to read the rest of the ingredient label. Not all grain-free foods are created equal. When selecting a food you must also consider the protein source. While the food is grain-free, other ingredients may cause allergies in your dog, such as beef or chicken, the two most common protein-source allergens in dogs.

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Causes of Grain Free Allergies in Dogs

Grain free dog food may be free of harmful grains, but are instead full of harmful starches. Starch holds the dog food together. The starches are complex carbohydrates that the body turns into sugar. And what likes sugar? Yeast. This is one of the major causes of the allergy symptoms and chronic yeasty ear infections. 

If your dog has allergies, it is his body’s way of protecting itself from something mistaken harm. 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 free diet which may develop quickly, or after a period of years. Many food-related allergies happen after the dog suffers from an infection involving the stomach or intestines.

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Diagnosis of Grain Free Allergies in Dogs

When you first arrive at the veterinarian’s office, she will begin with a physical examination of your dog,  and will verify his  vital signs. The veterinarian will also discuss the symptoms your dog is experiencing, taking note of the history behind them. If your dog is vomiting at the clinic, the veterinarian will inspect the contents for any clues to the cause. If your dog is having diarrhea, the veterinarian will perform a fecal test to rule out any internal parasite or bacterial overgrowth. 

If your dog is experiencing infection or soreness of the ears, an ear cytology will be performed. The veterinarian takes a sample of the buildup in your dog’s ears and looks at it under the microscope. This will allow the veterinarian to identify what bacteria or yeast is growing in the ears, if any. If your dog has a skin condition, a skin scraping may be taken to rule out bacteria or external parasites. 

Blood work will be performed to give the veterinarian a broad look as to how the internal organs are functioning. A complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel will provide the veterinarian with needed information for proper assessment. A packed cell volume (PCV) may also be performed to determine hydration status. 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 free 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 the grain free aspect whatsoever. 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 the grain free aspect to his diet. If a relapse in allergy symptoms occurs once the grain free aspect is reintroduced, then you know the source. 

Bicom testing (bioresonance) is another method of determining a food related allergy in your dog. Many holistic veterinarians use the Bicom testing with an extremely high success rate, but other veterinarians may not have experience with it. If you look up Bicom testing, some methods are potentially used to ‘retrain’ the body’s electromagnetic waves to relearn the allergen does not actually pose a threat and should therefore stop producing an allergic response. The veterinarian takes a blood sample from your dog and tests different food items and substances to see if it has a ‘good’, ‘neutral’ or ‘bad’ response.If it is determined that the grain free diet is not good for your dog, then you simply remove that food from his diet and the allergic symptoms should stop. One downside to Bicom testing is that it is unable to provide you with what exactly in the dog food that your dog is allergic to, just that an ingredient within it is not good for your dog.

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Treatment of Grain Free Allergies in Dogs

Strict control of the diet is the best treatment of grain-free related allergies. It can be a long, discouraging process, but once you discover if this is the source of allergen and you are able to successfully remove it from his diet, you and your dog will both be better off. 

Medication to heal and soothe your pet’s skin will be prescribed. In some cases, the veterinarian will suggest bathing your pet with a prescribed shampoo to encourage the reparation of the skin.  Removal of the grain free diet is imperative; 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 problems like ear infection, chronic diarrhea and secondary skin infection.

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Recovery of Grain Free Allergies in Dogs

Once the source of the allergen is removed from your dog’s diet, he should make a full recovery without a problem. Since you will be removing the item causing his immune system to over-react, it will be able to return to its full strength and protect him from actual threats, not false ones. Since your dog’s food provides him the nutrients for life, once he receives what he actually needs and not what makes him sick, he will be back to his healthy self with no more scratching or chronic infections. Just because a new diet is out on the market, it does not mean it is the best one for your dog. Talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s diet. Together, you will come up with the best source of nutrients for your dog.

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Grain Free Allergies Average Cost

From 523 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

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Grain Free Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Mixed

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Itchiness, Ear Infections & Weight Gain

My dog has been on a salmon & pea food for a few months. He has recently gained 14 pounds and he’s gotten two ear infections back to back. He has been itching and chewing on his tail so bad he has to wear a cone now. I just started him back on grained good yesterday. How long before the new food will help his symptoms?

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From your description, it is possible that your dog does not have food allergies, and it may not be food that is going to make the difference. Dogs can be itchy if they have parasites, mites, allergies to environmental things, or bacterial or yeast infections. Because I cannot see your dog, it may be best to have a conversation with your veterinarian about what may help. The weight gain can be a side effect of phenobarbital, I'm not sure how long your dog has been on that, but that may be affected as well. I hope that you are able to figure out with your vegetarian how to help your dog.

July 26, 2020

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French Bulldog

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1.5 years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

We’ve had our dog on a grain free diet her whole life. Within the last month she hasn’t had an interest in eating the food and recently when she does she vomits the food whole so it looks like it hasn’t been digested. We’ve tried giving her some new grain food and she hasn’t seemed to get sick from it yet. Could she have developed an allergy to the grain free food?

July 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello It sounds like the grain free diet is not sitting well with his stomach. There has been some link with grain free diets and heart disease, so it is best to consult your veterinarian about which diet is best for your pup. Good luck.

July 20, 2020

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dog-breed-icon

French Bulldog

dog-age-icon

1.5 years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

We’ve had our dog on a grain free diet her whole life. Within the last month she hasn’t had an interest in eating the food and recently when she does she vomits the food whole so it looks like it hasn’t been digested. We’ve tried giving her some new grain food and she hasn’t seemed to get sick from it yet. Could she have developed an allergy to the grain free food?

July 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello It sounds like the grain free diet is not sitting well with his stomach. There has been some link with grain free diets and heart disease, so it is best to consult your veterinarian about which diet is best for your pup. Good luck.

July 20, 2020

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Mailee

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German Shepherd

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vomitting
Bloody Stool
Dark Stool
Very Loose Stool

My dog used to be on Nutro regular chicken and rice formula for large breed. After hearing a lot that a grain free diet is better, I decided to switch her over. About a week after mixing her old food and the new, I noticed that her stool started to get funny. After 2 days, she kept having really loose bowel movements every 3-4 hours. Now it has been 3 days and there isbsome blood now. She has no temp and her energy is normal until she starts another bowel movement. I tried givi my her a bland diet of rice mixes with a little bit other old food, but it is not working. What should I do?

March 23, 2018

Mailee's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Grain free is a subject I wont get into now, but a regular dog food is perfectly fine with grains (see link below regarding food allergies). I would transition Mailee back over the the old diet but it may take a week or more for you to notice an improvement in the stool quality, it may also be worth checking in with your Veterinarian for their input as well. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2017/01/food-allergies/

March 23, 2018

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Duke

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Lab-Collie

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23 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

I have a lab/collie mix dog. He is almost 2 years old. He had some lose stool during the week so I took him off the grain free dog food. And just gave him rice for one day. The next morning I noticed his poop was more solid. So I put him back on his dog food with some rice. Well this morning he had diarrhea. Do you think it’s from the dog food?

Nov. 12, 2017

Duke's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

It’s possible that the diarrhoea is due to the food, grain free doesn’t mean trouble free and dogs may have issues with any ingredient whether it grain or not. Move Duke over to a sensitive diet for a few days to see if there is any improvement in the consistency of the stool; diet, stress, treats, environmental allergens, infections, parasites and other causes may lead to diarrhoea. If you see no constant improvement, you should visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 12, 2017

Hi I just got a jog pit bull and the owners told me she has a sensitive stomach and she needed grain-free food because she would vomit a lot and have loose stool well her vomit is the size of Mount Everest she doesn't have diarrhea but it's loose stool is grain-free food supposed to help with the puking why would she be puking so much

Feb. 4, 2018

Christina M.


When you say sensitive diet, what exactly are you talking about?

Nov. 12, 2017

Duke's Owner

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Cheeto

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Maltipoo

dog-age-icon

6 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Licking Feet

I buy dog food at a feed store and buy their best brand and switched to zero grain. He is now livking his feet constantly. Im going to try a new food but not sure what?

Grain Free Allergies Average Cost

From 523 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400