Although you may think that they are very common, dog food allergies only account for about 10 – 15% of all dog allergy cases. But they are the most common dog allergies after flea allergies and seasonal dog allergies. Interestingly, food allergies account for about 20% of the causes of itching and scratching in dogs.
This type of allergy does not discriminate among dogs. They affect both male and female, puppies and seniors, neutered and intact. Food allergies can appear in puppies as young as five months, and in seniors as old as twelve years. Typically, the allergy develops sometime between two and six years. In general, pets who suffer from this allergy also suffer from inhalant allergies, like dust and mold, and from seasonal allergies.
Some allergic reactions related to your dog’s diet are so mild that you may never know your dog has common dog food allergies. Other dogs may suffer from chronic symptoms.
It is not quite understood why some dogs have a sensitivity to certain types of food while others don’t. What is known are some of the triggers of these allergies, the symptoms, how to diagnose it, and what to do about it.
Dog Food Allergies vs Dog Food Intolerance
There is a difference between having an intolerance to certain types of food and having a dog food allergy.
In food intolerance, it is not the food item itself that triggers an allergic reaction. Instead, the body simply cannot process or tolerate that particular food. If your pet has a food intolerance, they will often show signs associated with problems from eating certain foods. For example, they may have diarrhea, or vomiting after eating that particular food item. However, that does not mean that they have a food allergy.
If your pet has a food allergy, she may also have diarrhea and vomiting, but she will usually have some of the other common symptoms of dog allergies such as itching, scratching, and biting.
Causes of Common Dog Food Allergies
Dogs are generally allergic to the proteins present in pet food. The most common triggers are:
- chicken eggs
- dairy products
Of these, beef and dairy products are the most likely to cause an allergic reaction in your dog.
Unfortunately, most commercial dog foods are made with one or more of these ingredients. This is important because the most common ingredients in pet food are the same ones that are the most common sources of allergies. To avoid this, you may want to try an allergy formula dog food.
Symptoms of Common Dog Food Allergies
The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those that occur in other types of allergies. You will likely notice a variety of signs that can include:
- itchy skin
- excessive scratching
- hot spots
- anal itching
- face rubbing
- head shaking
- recurring skin infections
- recurring ear infections (especially yeast infections)
- hair loss
You may also notice a combination of any of these other signs:
- flatulence (passing gas)
- seizures (in severe cases)
Sidenote: Some veterinarians believe that dogs with food allergies may have more daily bowel movements than pets without food allergies. There seems to be some evidence that dogs with food allergies may have three or more daily bowel movements while dogs with no food allergies potty an average of 1.5 times for the day. This is inconclusive however.