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4 min read

10 Surprising Food Allergens for Dogs


By hannah hollinger

Published: 05/20/2019, edited: 03/28/2023

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Does your dog itch and scratch often? Do they consistently suffer from ear infections? These symptoms, and others like bouts of diarrhea, point to a possible food allergy. There are several food allergens that can cause a dog to feel unwell.

Even a premium pet food such as a limited ingredient grain-free dog food can make your companion sick if they are allergic or intolerant to some of the ingredients. If your canine pal is all of a sudden showing signs of issues with their food, you will need to narrow down the culprit.

Doing so takes careful investigation and the help of your vet. Your veterinarian will put your dog through a process called an elimination trial, whereby foods are eliminated from the diet and then slowly re-introduced, one by one. Most often, a dog is given a hypoallergenic dog food. If the dog is young (most canines are diagnosed with allergies when they are under the age of one) a limited ingredient puppy food will be prescribed.

It seems that more and more, pet parents are holding discussions at the dog park about food allergies and what causes them. Read on to find out why your pup may have developed a food allergy and what you can do about it. We’ll also list 10 surprising food allergens.

How Does Dog Food Allergy Develop?

First, we have to understand how an allergy to food occurs. Simply put, an allergy typically occurs when a protein is misidentified by the body. An adverse response is triggered and the body fights back by producing histamines, leading to itching, obsessive licking and chewing of the paws, and more. The more the food is eaten, the more the body reacts. Scientifically, it is described as an immune-mediated reaction.

An intolerance to a certain food, not to be confused with an allergy, is also an adverse reaction but is milder and a non-immune mediated response. Symptoms (typically vomiting and diarrhea) will be less severe than they are with a true allergy and may be caused by reasons like intolerance to too much fat in the dog food.

Some of the breeds that are known to be prone to allergies are German Shepherds, Boxers, Pugs, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels and Golden Retrievers.

The Symptoms Of A Food Allergy

When our canine buddies have a food allergy, it can manifest in several ways. We don’t like to see our dogs experience any of the effects of an allergy because they make them very uncomfortable, but this is the body’s way of saying something is wrong.

Signs you may see in your dog are itchiness and constant licking or chewing of the paws, red and crusty looking patches on the skin, and loss of fur. Recurring ear infections are another sign, as is excessive flatulence. Other digestive issues are vomiting and diarrhea, or bowel movements more than twice a day.

10 Surprising Food Allergens For Dogs

  1. Chicken - Considered a common ingredient often found in a single protein dog food, it is not expected that canines would have a problem consuming it. Your dog will not experience a reaction the first time the protein is eaten, but develops a problem with digesting it over time.

  2. Chicken Eggs - When a dog has a sensitivity to the protein in eggs, the symptoms will quickly intensify if the allergen is not removed from the diet.

  3. Beets - While not often known to be an allergen, some canines are allergic to beet juice. Beets are high in vitamin C and other nutrients; give them in small amounts to determine your pup’s tolerance to the vegetable.

  4. Pork - Not only is pork an unexpected allergen to dogs, but it also contains fat that is hard for your dog to digest, which can lead to illnesses like pancreatitis.

  5. Beef - Beef is one of the more common dog food allergens. Because the protein is one found most often in dog food, our pets develop an allergy. Alternating protein sources is recommended as opposed to always feeding the same one.

  6. Rawhide Chews - A dog who has an intolerance to animal protein can develop an allergy to rawhide chews, particularly chews that contain beef and beef fat.

  7. Cow’s Milk - The protein casein, found in cow’s milk, can cause your pup to have an allergic reaction. Lactose is another culprit; your vet may recommend you try lactose-free products.

  8. Additives - While this one may be difficult to pin down, canines can often be allergic to artificial food coloring, nutritional or Brewer’s yeast, and preservatives like BHT.

  9. Wheat - The gluten in wheat found in cereals is a high-incident allergen. Used as a filler in food, wheat can cause your pet to have diarrhea and gas.

  10. Corn - Although corn is highly digestible when appropriately prepared and added to dog food, there are some canines who cannot tolerate it and develop an allergy.

What Can I Feed My Dog?

Once your dog has been diagnosed as having allergies, your vet will prescribe a food that will not cause complications. For example, if the allergen is determined to be chicken or chicken eggs, a dog food without chicken meal is required.

In other cases, the veterinarian or nutritionist will suggest food that can also help with symptoms your dog may be experiencing. Your vet can recommend the best food for dogs with itchy skin, for example. Or, a prescription diet that eliminates fish oils in the case of a fish allergy, but is also the best dog food for dry skin, will have to be chosen by your vet.

The intricacies of diets described as hydrolyzed, novel protein, and therapeutic must be left up to the vet. Your animal’s caregiver has been trained in the knowledge of how to use nutritional intervention as a treatment for allergies.

Alternatively though, you can discuss a home cooked diet with your vet, who may agree to taking the approach of making a simple meal for your dog in your own kitchen; however, care must be taken to not deprive your pup of nutrients added to commercially prepared food. Home cooked dog food is not often considered a long-term solution for this reason. Many top dog food brands offer hypoallergenic recipes for dogs with common allergies. 

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