What are Milk Allergies?
Scratching in any area of the body is usually the first sign of an allergy in dogs. Sometimes mistaken by pet owners as a simple skin condition due to the use of a new shampoo, or an encounter with an irritating plant while out on a run in the field, milk allergies in dogs can be overlooked. Milk and other dairy products are known to be one of the top allergens found in dog foods. Pet owners may also have the habit of allowing their pet a sample of cheese, ice cream, or milk on a regular basis. Many pets tolerate, and in fact enjoy, the taste of a milk based product on occasion.
Documentation shows that dogs of any age can develop allergies. Typically an airborne allergy such as pollen will develop at an early age but allergies to food can develop at any time in a dog’s life, with senior dogs being more prone to food allergies. Any time an older dog is experiencing skin issues, food allergies should be considered. In addition, with younger pets, the presence of an allergen should not be overlooked when evaluating itchy, red skin. Diagnosing and treating an allergy to milk can be a timely exercise; patience and perseverance will be required.
Allergens are substances that can cause an inflammation that results in effects such as itching, hair loss, and dermatitis. Canines of all breeds can have allergies to milk that will lead to secondary complications, occurring because of the allergy symptoms.
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Symptoms of Milk Allergies in Dogs
Symptoms of milk allergies in dogs will differ between canines. Many of the signs of allergies that will be seen in dogs can mimic other illnesses. Be certain to have any display of discomfort or unusual behavior checked by your veterinarian without delay in case there is an underlying disease course in progress, and to limit your pet’s agony and distress.
- Itchy skin
- Excessive scratching and licking
- Red skin
- Dry skin
- Hot spots
- Bald patches
- Frequent bowel movement
- Skin infections
- Ear infections
- More rarely, seizures, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will be present
It should also be noted that dogs can be fed a food for weeks to months (even two years in some cases) before symptoms of allergy appear.
Milk 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:
- Shar Peis
- German Shepherds
- Springer and Cocker Spaniels
- Labrador Retrievers
- West Highland White and Wheaten Terriers
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
Causes of Milk Allergies in Dogs
- Allergies commonly develop in reaction to protein
- Food allergies are less common than airborne allergies
- Diseases that are concurrent to an allergy may complicate diagnosis
- The age of the dog (young and old) may have a bearing on allergies development
- Reactions to foods can be called a food allergy or a food intolerance (for example, milk allergy versus lactose intolerance)
Diagnosis of Milk Allergies in Dogs
The diagnostic process for determining a food allergy is not a simple one. The first step may be to do a full health evaluation, starting with a history of your pet’s recent illnesses, travel history, activity level, typical diet, and bowel and urinary habits. It will be helpful to the veterinary team if you are able to provide detail as to when the symptoms started and exactly what signs of illness or discomfort prompted you to make the veterinary appointment.
Tests that may be run initially are a complete blood count, serum chemistry analysis, electrolyte panel, fecal analysis, and urinalysis in order to verify if there is an underlying illness that could be causing symptoms similar to allergies. If your pet has dry skin patches, the veterinarian may do a skin scraping to be checked under the microscope for abnormalities or the presence of mites or bacteria.
Some pets may have ear infections and skin infections that run concurrently with an allergy; the veterinarian will check your pet’s ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and skin to evaluate the extent of these conditions. If your pet is suffering from severe gastrointestinal symptoms, the veterinarian may recommend additional testing in case inflammation needs to be addressed.
Treatment of Milk Allergies in Dogs
Finding out if your pet has an allergy to milk can be a lengthy process. Your veterinarian can guide you through the steps. Elimination diets involve removing the suspected allergen from the diet for a period of up to three months. This may seem like a daunting task but fortunately, many dog food producers now offer several food options for pets who have sensitivities.
You will need to avoid feeding your dog anything containing dairy products during the trial. Studies show that the case with most dogs is that improvement in their condition will be evident after four to six weeks. However, elimination trials may be continued, at the discretion of the professionals at the clinic, for a period of at least eight to twelve weeks. An elimination trial means all sources of food must be monitored, including snack items such as dog biscuits and treats. All members of the family must be aware of the importance of adhering to the rules, or the elimination diet will not be successful. Once your pet seems to be on the mend, suspected ingredients will be slowly added back into the diet in the attempt to determine the culprit.
If your dog has concurrent issues like pruritus or other secondary skin irritation, or a condition such as ear infection, medications will be prescribed to begin the process of providing relief for your canine companion.
Recovery of Milk Allergies in Dogs
Once the allergen is eliminated from your dog’s diet, the recovery should be straightforward. Care on your part to read all ingredients and avoid milk products when purchasing food items for your pet will be essential. Soon this will be second nature. If you have a doubt as to whether a food item is suitable for your dog, do not make the purchase. If you see any concerning changes in your pet’s demeanor, be certain to contact your veterinarian for a follow-up appointment.
Milk Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog is allergic to beef. Does this mean he can't have cow's milk either? Thinking of trying a cheese bone (to replace our beloved bully sticks) but most are made with both Yak and cow's milk.
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My 6 year old GSD has a confirmed milk allergy through blood work done for allergies. I know I have to read labels and avoid milk products. What are other ingredients that would be a byproduct of milk?
my puppy is 6 weeks old and spits up and has like a gurgle in his throat..we thought was mega esph. but the other day he slept for about an hour eleveated after he drank then spit up curled mommy milk so now thinking? maybe allergy or lactose?
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my GSD plays and runs but after sometime suddenly his legs becomes so weak that he is not even able to walk properly...sometimes we think that these are fits...but we have consulted many doctors but we can't get any remedy...please help my GSD so that he becomes a healthy puppy like other puppies...he is 3 months old and have this problem from time when he was 1 month old...
German Shepherd are prone to spinal problems due to their breeding which can lead to leg weakness (especially in the hind legs). I would suspect some spinal injury which presents intermittently, an x-ray of the spine will be able to confirm the diagnosis. Another cause may due to the heart being unable to pump blood efficiently when beating fast leading to poor blood circulation. Without performing a physical examination and checking reflexes etc… I am unable to advise you further. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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