Many people may not realise that their dog has a food allergy or food intolerance or may not recognise the symptoms associated with one. However, dogs with food allergies and food intolerances are more common than you may think.
Allergies or intolerances can occur at any age and in any dog breed, although some breeds are more prone to allergies than others. Just because your dog doesn't have an allergy or intolerance now doesn't mean they won't have one in future.
Please note: We can give you scientific information based on facts; however, we are not qualified to provide nutritional or medical advice. For professional advice, please always speak with your vet.
Food allergy or food intolerance: what are they?
The terms allergy and intolerance can be confused and used interchangeably, making it challenging to understand each of them. So what do each of these terms mean?
Food allergies in dogs
Food allergies invoke an inappropriate activation of a dogs' immune system when exposed to a particular food. They can be severe and even life-threatening. Food allergy symptoms in dogs are often displayed quickly, and even a small amount of an allergen can invoke an exaggerated response from a dogs' immune system.
Food intolerances in dogs
Food intolerances do not invoke an inappropriate activation of a dogs' immune system and are not life-threatening. Instead, they occur usually with an inability to process certain foods. In this case, symptoms of a food intolerance are generally slower to develop and often correlate to eating substantial amounts of certain foods.
Intolerances tend to be more common than true allergies, and if you suspect one, then it is best to seek professional advice and speak to your vet. A point to note is that allergies may not always be food-related - for example, flea or environmental allergies can also affect dogs.
Symptoms of a food allergy or food tolerance
Despite the difference in mechanisms of food allergies and food intolerances, the distinction between the two is not always straightforward as the symptoms that manifest are often similar for both.
In general, symptoms can include but are not limited to: -
- Rashes or red, sore skin (from itching or chewing skin)
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
- Eye discharge
- Yeast infections
- Saliva staining (pink or brown staining of the fur)
- Discoloured nail beds (red or brown discolouration)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sore stomach
- Excessive flatulence (wind)
Please note that these dog allergy symptoms are not unique to a food allergy or intolerance and may indicate other conditions. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned or are in any way concerned about your dog, we urge you to please contact your vet.
Treating food allergies or food intolerances
The best way to deal with food allergies and food intolerances is to find out the root cause, and you should do this in consultation with your vet. Your vet may offer you an allergy test for your dog or put your dog on an elimination diet that aims to identify allergens that your dog cannot have.
Medications help relieve symptoms but do not address the underlying root cause. It's better to determine what is causing the allergy or intolerance rather than masking the symptoms. The medicines used may provide symptom relief but could have other very undesirable side effects on your dog. Please scientifically research your options before committing to using these and do what you feel is suitable for you and your dog.
The vet may put your dog on an elimination diet that aims to identify what your dog is eating, causing them to have allergy or intolerance symptoms. An elimination diet is carried out by removing foods from the diet then reintroducing them back one at a time. Slowly reintroducing foods means it is easy to identify, which causes issues when symptoms develop.
If you would like to read more about our experiences of food allergies and intolerances with Kero and Bree and how an elimination diet for dogs helped us read our blog "How An Elimination Diet Solved My Dogs' Food Allergies".
Has your dog ever had any issues with food allergies or food intolerances? Share your experiences in the comments below; we'd love to hear from you.
Related Blog Posts:
- How An Elimination Diet Solved My Dogs' Food Allergies
- 10 Tips For Choosing Treats For Dogs With Allergies