Food Allergies in Dogs

Any dog can be allergic to food.

Food allergies in dogs can cause a large amount of skin redness, hair loss, pruritus (the sensation of itchiness), vomiting, and diarrhea. The good news is that it's very easy to treat this condition once it is diagnosed. Diagnosis involves conducting a food trial with the supervision of your veterinarian. It is a simple, non-invasive procedure.

Food accounts for about 15% of canine skin allergies. Unfortunately, veterinarians are finding it more difficult to diagnose food allergies. This is often the result of misinformed owners trying to provide what they think is the best nutrition for their pet.

Breeds and Gender Most Commonly Affected by Food Allergies

There is no specific breed, sex, or age of dogs afflicted by food allergy. Any dog can be allergic to food. It's important to understand that your dog can develop an allergy to food that he has eaten for a long period of time, as well.

Presentation/Signs of Food Allergies

Dogs usually show signs of being very pruritic when they are affected by food allergies. They may have red, irritated skin, crusting, and chew at their fur. This may sometimes even result in hair loss. A large portion of food-allergic dogs show only a single sign: recurrent ear infections.

Causes of Food Allergies in Dogs

The causes of food allergies and intolerances in dogs are:

Diagnosis of Food Allergy

Fleas, environmental allergens, scabies, and reactions to medications can all cause dermatological issues that appear similar to those caused by food allergies. It is important that your veterinarian see your dog, perform a physical examination, take a thorough history of the problem from you, and rule out other causes of skin conditions. The final step in diagnosing food allergies is to conduct a food elimination trial.

Food Elimination Trial

A food elimination trial is the only way to confirm a food allergy. This consists of using a special diet for a period of at least 12 weeks. If, after 12 weeks, your dog is doing better, your veterinarian may recommend that you challenge them with the old food to see if the original signs reoccur. Interestingly, dogs tend to only have an allergy to one ingredient in the food and, by eliminating that ingredient, your dog will be on its way back to health. A food elimination diet does not mean simply giving your dog a brand or type of food that is different. Many over-the-counter foods contain similar ingredients to one another. Often, owners do not believe that their pet has a food allergy because they have tried many types of food and not seen any improvement.

Types of Diets Used in Food Trials

Special Considerations During a Food Trial

There are several things that you need to do at home to ensure that the results of your dog's food trial are accurate:

Medications can be used for short term relief but they are not a cure. They can be used during the initial portion of a food trial to provide relief.


The prognosis for dogs with food issues is very good if the owner is willing to commit to following the rules of the food trial to obtain the diagnosis and then staying with a diet that will not cause either an immune reaction or intolerance by eliminating the offending substance.

Alternative Therapies


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