Allergy Symptoms in Dogs

By Hungry Bark | August 8, 2020

If your dog is experiencing symptoms like itchy ears and skin or stomach issues, there’s a good chance your dog may have a food allergy.

Allergies in dogs are usually genetic. When this issue is triggered, it’s because the dog came into contact with whatever it is he or she is allergic to. Environment can affect your dog’s allergies but a genetic predisposition is almost always the root cause.

According to pets webmd, 10% of all allergy cases in dogs are food allergies. Studies are still being conducted to determine just what causes some dogs to express the trait of food allergies.

What are the most common symptoms of dog food allergies?

There are a variety of symptoms of food allergies in dogs. Your dog may exhibit all of these symptoms or only a few. A few common symptoms are:

  1. Chronic diarrhea: your dog may experience loose stool that does not go away. If your dog experiences diarrhea for more than 24 hours, this indicates a more complex problem than simple indigestion.
  2. Chronic gas: dogs are gassy by nature, but if your dog is passing gas more frequently (or they are clearing an entire room with the smell) they may have more than indigestion.
  3. Incessant licking of the paws: if your dog will not stop licking their paws, this is a sign that they are experiencing food allergies.
  4. Itchy rear end (butt scooting or persistent licking): if your dog keeps licking their rear end or scooting it across the floor, this may indicate that they are having an allergic reaction to food or are experiencing some other type of gastrointestinal upset.
  5. Chronic ear inflammation: when dealing with a food allergy, your dog’s ears may keep getting infected or otherwise appear red and irritated. Ear infections are usually indicated by your dog shaking their head constantly or leaning their head to one side.
  6. Gastrointestinal problems: issues in the digestive tract indicate that your dog may be experiencing food allergies.
  7. Recurring skin infections: skin infections may appear as red, irritated patches or flaky skin.
  8. Vomiting: your dog may vomit up food shortly after eating or even several hours later.
  9. Irritated skin on the ears, paws, rear, or stomach: skin irritation in these areas may indicate they are experiencing food allergies.

Swelling of the lips, eyelids, or ear flaps: lips, eyelids, and ears may appear inflamed and swollen if your dog is dealing with a food allergy.

What to do if your Dog is Displaying Food Allergy Symptoms

If you aren’t sure just what is causing your dog’s symptoms, the best thing to do is take your dog to see a licensed veterinarian. Your vet can rule out other issues that could be causing your dog’s symptoms such as testing ear discharge samples for infection and skin for environmental allergies. A blood analysis cannot test for an allergy accurately. Your vet can confirm whether or not your dog appears to have a food allergy so that you can take the next steps towards helping your canine companion feel their best.

Food Allergy Vs. Food Intolerance

Unlike in people, dogs that have an allergy to a certain food will not express a reaction as soon as they eat it for the first time. For example, if a human is allergic to peanut butter, they might exhibit an intense reaction as soon as they ingest it. Dogs, on the other hand, can eat a type of food for several days, weeks, or months before you begin to see signs that they might be developing a food allergy.

When a dog has an immediate reaction to a new food, we call this a food intolerance. Food intolerance is not genetic, as food allergies are, and do not involve the immune system. Both food allergies and food intolerance can sometimes express the same symptoms and may be difficult to tell apart without the guidance of a veterinarian.

Most Common Dog Food Ingredients that may Cause a Food Allergy

If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, the next step is to determine what exactly your dog is allergic to.

You should note that dogs with food allergies are often allergic to more than one kind of food. This means if you’re having trouble figuring out what food is triggering your dog’s symptoms, they’re likely having an allergic reaction to multiple ingredients.

Common foods that trigger allergies in dogs include:

  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Egg
  • Chicken
  • Soy
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Fish
  • Rabbit

How Allergies Work

It may surprise you that many of the common foods dogs develop allergies to are types of meat. After all, dogs are supposed to eat meat.


What happens is that your dog’s body breaks down these proteins into molecules that their immune system improperly identifies as a threat. A properly-functioning immune system acts as a defensive army against invaders, keeping your dog safe from bacteria, viruses, etc. The immune system identifies threats and destroys them. As amazing as the immune system is, sometimes it makes mistakes. In the case of allergic reactions, the immune system improperly identifies something benign, in this case, food, as a threat to your dog’s body. When your dog’s body breaks down that food ingredient, their immune system attacks the food molecules, causing your dog to experience an allergic reaction. The trick is figuring out what ingredient your dog’s immune system is identifying as a threat and eliminating it from their diet. å

What To Do If Your Dog Has Developed A Food Allergy

If your dog appears to have developed a food allergy, the next step is to identify which food or foods are causing your dog’s health issues. To accurately diagnose what food is causing your dog to experience an allergic reaction, you must use a method called the elimination diet. To successfully create an elimination diet, you must stop feeding your dog their normal diet and start them on types of food they have never had before. If your dog has had kibble with chicken, beef, salmon, etc, you will have to find a different kind of meat-based food to give them. You may have to spring for an exotic diet until you can identify the problem foods.

If you don’t want to find an exotic protein option, you could switch to a customized diet like those found from Hungry Bark. The customized and limited-ingredient diets available from Hungry Bark let you monitor exactly what ingredients are going into your dog’s body. Once you know exactly what is in your dog’s diet, you can assess the improvement in their symptoms and overall health in order to move forward from there.

Once your dog’s food allergy symptoms improve, slowly introduce old foods that are suspected to have caused the health issues, one at a time. If your dog has a symptomatic reaction, which can take a few days to a few weeks to appear, then you know he or she has a food allergy to that specific ingredient.

What Are the Best Food Options For a Dog With Food Allergies?

In addition to novel foods, i.e. choosing new protein and carbohydrate sources for your dog in an elimination diet, you can also feed them a hydrolyzed diet. A hydrolyzed diet is one made with intact proteins that have been broken down into such small molecules that your dog’s immune system cannot recognize them as allergens. Starch or rice also make great sources of carbohydrates for your dog’s diet because they rarely cause allergic reactions. Prescription foods and those approved by your veterinarian are preferable to those available over-the-counter. If this all seems overwhelming, consult the experts at Hungry Bark, they can help you choose the best diet for your pup in no time and offer nutritional guidance from a Certified Pet Nutritionist (C.P.N.)

Are some dog breeds more likely to develop food allergies?

This question is more difficult to answer. Rather than some breeds of dogs being more likely to exhibit food allergies, more often there are certain genetic lines that are predisposed to the condition. That being said, breeds that seem to manifest food allergies more often than others include:

  • Dachshunds
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • German Shepherds
  • Retrievers

If your dog is suffering from one or more of the symptoms listed above, they may be exhibiting a food allergy. Learning your dog has a food allergy may seem overwhelming, but with the help of your veterinarian and a customized nutrition plan (like those available at Hungry Bark) you can help your pup live a happy and healthy life.



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