Dog Food Allergies – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Living with Dog Allergies

We’ve compiled a complete guide to understanding your dog’s food allergies, from symptoms and diagnosis  to treatment and living with dog food allergies on a daily basis. Sadly dog food allergies are quite common, especially among popular breeds such as French Bulldogs, but there are lots of hypoallergenic dog foods available to make it easier to diagnose and manage.

A few facts about food allergies in dogs:

  • A food allergy and a food intolerance are different, we’re looking at food allergies in dogs here.
  • A food intolerance is the inability to digest a particular ingredient, such as lactose intolerance in humans means that person is unable to properly digest lactose.
  • A food allergy is when the immune system mistakenly identifies a particular food as harmful and then creates antibodies to fight it off.
  • Around 10% of allergies in dogs stem from food.
  • In most cases the dog will be allergic to several things, the most common allergens being beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit, and fish.

Diagnosing Dog Food Allergies 

Symptoms of a dog with food allergies include (but not limited to):

  • Obsessive licking, especially of their feet
  • Itching at their rear end
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Severe gas
  • Ear inflammation

The only way to effectively diagnose a food allergy in your dog is through an elimination diet, in the same way a human might diagnose a gluten intolerance. You completely remove potential triggers and if the symptoms subside then it’s safe to assume that there is indeed a food allergy. By slowly reintroducing the potential allergens one at a time (challenging the food allergy) you can discover which allergen is the trigger for your dog’s food allergy.

It can take anything from a few days to a few weeks for symptoms of an allergy to disappear so this is a lengthy process to get to the root of the problem. Whilst eliminating all potential trigger foods it’s not just their main meals that need to be hypoallergenic but their treats as well. Weeks of effort being on a hypoallergenic food could be ruined by simply providing them with a treat that triggers their food allergy so it’s important to be strict during this elimination process. It helps to buy a kibble-based hypoallergenic dog food so it can double up as treats, as you’ll want to keep up your training and reward your dog for good behaviour.

Are Dog Food Allergies Genetic?

Yes, dog allergies are often genetic though they can sometimes be caused by the environment. In many cases your dog won’t display symptoms of a food allergy until they are triggered by the food they are allergic to (the allergen) This could mean your dog won’t show symptoms of a food allergy until later in life. Certain breeds, such as bulldogs, have a genetic predisposition to food allergies so when they display symptoms this is likely to be the first thing your vet will suggest ruling out once they’ve checked for parasites and common skin conditions that have the same symptoms as food allergies.

Some research suggests that, like humans, if dogs are exposed to antibiotics when they are puppies then that will alter the environment in their intestines leaving them predisposed to food allergies once a trigger is ingested. It is also likely that breeders who continue to use dogs from lines that are predisposed to food allergies continue to create a cycle of allergies in their puppies, which can be the case with many popular breeds such as French Bulldogs.

French Bulldog – Living With Dog Food Allergies

When we brought Stitch, our French Bulldog, home in November 2015 we did so fully aware that French Bulldogs are prone to allergies due to their sensitive stomachs and brachycephalic facial structure. We did our research and used a breeder where we could see the Mum who was happy and healthy, living in a home as a family pet where she and the puppies were well cared for. Despite our diligence Stitch still gets the odd issue such as a sensitive stomach and “cherry eye”. We’re very lucky that he has quite a long snout for a French Bulldog so he has no breathing issues and can run rings around us on walks, even coming out for short jogs with me.

Just after he turned one years old we suspected that Stitch might have a food allergy and the vet suggested we start working to rule this out by putting him on a hypoallergenic diet for a few weeks. The poor little fella was scratching furiously all around his hind legs and stomach with little alleviation from piriton and soothing creams so we got straight onto the hypoallergenic dog food diet and hoped that this would resolve the issue.

It took a few weeks for his constant scratching to subside which was a frustrating time for us as we worried that it was something else, such as cleaning products in the house which would be even harder to identify.

Best Dog Food For Allergies and Sensitive Stomach

The vet recommended a few products to us and we decided to try Purina HA hypoallergenic dog food, the others were:

The Purina HA worked well for us in that we eventually started to see an improvement with Stitch’s dog food allergy symptoms. However, it’s a pretty bland food so it took a few days of stubbornness on both sides before he finally gave in and ate. We know that this food isn’t a long term solution as some days he refuses to eat even though we know he’s hungry, so carefully introducing new ingredients to try and eliminate the cause of his dog food allergy is the next step.


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