Some of the Most Common Allergenic Foods for Dogs
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on January 6, 2019
Posted in Dog Allergies
You probably know at least one person who has a food allergy—most likely for nuts, eggs or dairy. But did you know your pets can be allergic to foods, too?
Allergies in dogs can manifest in different ways. Some dogs are allergic to environmental allergens like pollen, dust or even perfume, but others are allergic to everyday ingredients in their food.
Allergies are actually quite common in dogs—it’s estimated that half of all dogs have some sort of allergy. Certain breeds are more prone to food allergies than others, but any dog can develop an allergy to food over time. There are also a number of very common allergenic foods for dogs.
Understanding and testing food allergies
Much like in humans, a food allergy occurs when your dog’s body incorrectly labels a particular food as harmful and creates an antibody for it. These antibodies “fight” the food, which they consider to be a harmful invader.
When your dog eats a food it is allergic to, it might experience a number of symptoms. Some dogs get very sick to their stomach and vomit or have diarrhea. Others get red, itchy bumps all over their skin, and others still might experience more symptoms such as ear infections, mouth sores and swollen facial features.
It’s important to note that food allergies differ from food intolerances. If your dog is intolerant to a food, it may have a difficult time ingesting it and may experience bloating, gas and other GI issues, but these reactions are not based in the dog’s immune system.
To determine whether your pup has a food allergy, your vet may recommend a food trial. During this trial, your dog needs to be fed a protein and carbohydrate that it has never eaten before for a period of a few weeks. If the allergy symptoms stop during that time, it’s likely your pet has a food allergy and the culprit is an ingredient in its old food.
Next, you’ll need to introduce one food at a time back into the diet and track any changes to see if your dog has an allergic reaction to anything. If it suddenly experiences allergy symptoms after re-introducing a food, you’ve found your allergen.
Your pet may need to switch to a limited-ingredient diet or eat foods with a novel protein (a protein source not commonly found in pet foods) to get the nutrients it needs without providing it with an allergen.
Top common food allergens
It’s believed by some experts that food allergies in dogs may appear if the dog has been eating the same food for a long time. This may explain why so many dogs develop allergies to the most common pet food ingredients on the market.
Here are some of the most common allergenic foods for dogs:
- Beef: Beef is one of the most common proteins found in store-bought dog food, which makes it less surprising that it’s also the most common food allergy in dogs. Proteins, in general, tend to be common allergies for canines, but beef is right at the top.
- Dairy: Most dogs have trouble digesting dairy at all—they typically experience vomiting or diarrhea after ingesting it. However, dairy allergies are also relatively common. In true allergies, your dog may experience GI issues, but may also break out in inflamed, itchy skin.
- Eggs: Eggs aren’t extremely common in store-bought dog food, but the proteins in them can cause allergic reactions in dogs if they are included.
- Chicken: Another common protein in dog food is chicken, and it’s one of the most common ingredients that cause allergies. Finding a replacement protein for chicken may seem tough but is not impossible, so there’s no need to worry if your dog develops an allergy.
- Wheat: A lot of people think dogs are most commonly allergic to grains, but they are actually more likely to be allergic to proteins. That being said, wheat is another common allergen in dogs. Dogs need a healthy source of carbohydrates to survive, so you’ll need to find an alternative grain source if your dog has this allergy.
If your dog is allergic to any of these ingredients (or others), the best thing you can do to prevent allergic reactions is to remove that ingredient from its diet completely. You can work with your dog’s vet to find a prescribed or over-the-counter pet food that includes alternative proteins or carbs, as well as the full suite of necessary vitamins and minerals to keep your pet healthy and allergic reaction-free.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan