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What are Oatmeal and Allergies?

Dogs that develop allergies acquire inflamed and itching skin, respiratory disorders, and chronic skin and ear infections. Although canines can develop either food or contact allergies from oatmeal, it is more often utilized to assist in relieving the symptoms of allergy. It does this by improving health and vitality to the skin and coat when used as a bathing enhancement. Oatmeal can also provide essential vitamins and minerals and is sometimes used as an exotic carbohydrate during an elimination diet.

Oatmeal can cause either food or contact allergies in canines but is more commonly used as a treatment for dry, itchy skin or as an ingredient in an elimination diet.


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Symptoms of Oatmeal and Allergies in Dogs

Symptoms of allergies increase in intensity with each subsequent exposure. Food related allergies may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea along with the other symptoms of allergy. 

  • Asthma symptoms
  • Bumps
  • Chewing on affected areas
  • Coughing 
  • Ear infections 
  • Hair loss 
  • Itching 
  • Nasal congestion
  • Obsessive licking
  • Red and itchy eyes 
  • Redness
  • Scratching
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sneezing
  • Thickened skin
  • Ulceration of the skin


Oats - Oats refers to the kernel that makes up the seeds of the oat plants. These seeds can be made into several varieties of oatmeal.

Oatmeal - The original oat kernel is cleaned and conditioned and has the hull removed, leaving a portion of the seed called an oat groat which is then heated to around 215 degrees Fahrenheit. This oat groat is then further processed into the various varieties of oatmeal such as steel cut, rolled, and instant oats. 

Colloidal oatmeal - This is oatmeal that is ground down into a fine flour and added to bath water.  This allows the Vitamin E, saponins, and cellulose to be released into the water providing a soothing skin treatment for dry or itchy skin. Although this is a beneficial treatment for most animals with allergies, if your pet has an allergy to oatmeal, colloidal oatmeal baths should be avoided.

Causes of Oatmeal and Allergies in Dogs

Allergies in canines are the defensive mechanism of the immune system which employs specialized immune cells in the dog’s body to defend it against a protein that it sees as an invader. The specialized immune cells that the body uses to protect itself from invaders are known as mast cells, and when the immune system is stimulated by specific allergens, the mast cells release histamine into animal’s system. Histamine has an inflammatory effect on the tissues it comes into contact with, which is the cause of the itchy and inflamed skin conditions characteristic of most allergic reactions in canines.

Diagnosis of Oatmeal and Allergies in Dogs

The condition of the skin during the physical examination will usually prompt your veterinarian to get a skin scraping for a process called cutaneous cytology.  Cutaneous cytology is the microscopic examination of the skin cells which were harvested from affected areas using a skin scraping technique. This method can be used to identify biological organisms that can cause similar symptoms to allergies. These could include issues such as mites, fungi, or even bacterial infections. The timing of the symptoms combined with the results of the tests may indicate the involvement of a food related allergy.  An intradermal skin test, also referred to as a patch test, is often completed for humans with food allergies, as well as blood serum tests, but they are not as definitive in canines, so may not be recommended. 

In order to confirm a food allergy, an elimination diet is usually implemented. Changing the dog's food is at the core of an elimination diet, and your pet will be restricted to either a reduced ingredient commercial food or a diet of bland human food, such as a boiled protein and a simple carbohydrate like rice.  Novel ingredients are required for an effective elimination diet, meaning that the replacement proteins and carbohydrates should be food sources that your pet has not yet experienced. Oatmeal is frequently used as an alternative carbohydrate if it is not already a part of the dog’s dietary intake.

Treatment of Oatmeal and Allergies in Dogs

Oatmeal is useful in treating your pet’s allergies and related disorders in several different ways. 

  • Digestive regulator - Oatmeal is very helpful in getting things moving through the digestive system due to the high content of insoluble fiber
  • Minerals - Oatmeal is a good source of nutrients such as thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium, and iron; these minerals are extremely useful for both immune system health and the overall health of the skin 
  • Naturally gluten-free - Oatmeal is a gluten free alternative for dogs who are allergic to the gluten in wheat and barley sources; oats are often transported with and processed on the same equipment as other grains, however, and care should be taken to ensure your oatmeals source does not have contact with wheat and other grains during processing if your animal is allergic to the gluten
  • Skin relief - When oatmeal is added to your dog’s bath, either in commercially prepared compounds or as a homemade remedy, the cellulose and fiber released from the oats can help ease the itching and dryness that goes along with canine allergies

Recovery of Oatmeal and Allergies in Dogs

Allergies to foods are not curable, but symptoms of oatmeal allergies usually cease if the allergen is removed from the animal’s diet and the environment. Any exposure to the grain can cause a relapse, so care must be taken in the type of treats, chew toys, and topical treatments that you use for your dog. Unfortunately, if your canine has developed a food allergy to oatmeal, they are more likely to have a contact reaction as well, so it may be wise to avoid oatmeal in topical treatments for this reason. 

Patients who have an allergy to one type of food are more likely to develop an allergy to the replacement diet ingredients as well. The approach to combat this circumstance varies within the veterinary community, with some professionals advocating that your pet should remain on a single source of food unless an allergy develops, while others maintain that a steady rotation of three of four novel protein foods is optimal.

Oatmeal and Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

11 Weeks
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms


I have a 11 week old mini Doxie. She has oats for breakfast (breeder told me to give her this as this was included in her diet before I got her). I have noticed that she is itching quite a lot. I have been putting apple cider vinegar on the parts that she is and I cannot find any fleas. Ive been reading about oatmeal allergies in dogs. Is it too soon to know if she is allergic or could it be something else? I can see no other symptons, just scratching quite a lot.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Dogs may be allergic to anything at any age and may develop allergies to foods that they have always eaten; other causes may be due to a change in treats, cleaning products in the home, laundry detergents, plants etc… If you suspect that the oats are the cause, you should try to wean Wilma over to a different diet like a restricted ingredient diet and look for signs of improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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