Imagine coming home from work, excited to be greeted by your favorite pup, only to walk in the door and see your furry friend incessantly scratching at his face. The room is filled with a foul odor and you realize your dog has a bad case of gas. You are left to wonder: “What’s wrong with him?” The answer could be a number of things, but a certain possibility is that your dog is having an allergic reaction to something he ate. In this article, we will outline the common signs and symptoms of food allergies in dogs, as well as what to do when your dog has a food allergy.
What is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy is an over-reaction of the immune system to an ingested substance that it perceives to be a threat. While many dogs experience an intolerance to a variety of foods, this is different from an allergy in that it does not involve the immune system. An intolerance is merely an adverse reaction of the gastrointestinal system to a certain food. An allergic reaction to food, on the other hand, may not even include gastrointestinal symptoms.
An allergic reaction does not occur the first time your dog is exposed to an allergen. Rather, it will occur after repeated exposure and oftentimes the reaction will get more severe with each additional exposure. While any individual food ingredient can cause an allergic reaction in your dog, some are more likely than others. These include dairy, beef, chicken, eggs, lamb, wheat, soy, corn, and fish.
As in humans, the only way to treat a food allergy in your dog is to eliminate the allergen from his diet. This sounds simple, but finding the specific ingredient causing the reaction can be challenging. The preferred method once a food allergy is suspected is to place the dog on an elimination diet, which starts with one or two ingredients and slowly adds foods to check for allergy.
Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies
Chronic Ear Infections
If your dog suffers from frequent ear infections (more than 2-3 per year), he could be experiencing a food allergy. Ear infections can be identified by a smelly brown or black build-up in the dog’s ear canal, accompanied by incessant scratching at the head and ear, as well as head-shaking. When you take your dog to the vet for this issue, they will conduct tests to rule out common causes of ear infection in dogs such as yeast infections and ear mites. If the tests come back negative, your veterinarian may place your dog on an elimination diet to determine whether an allergen is present in his diet.
As in humans, skin irritation is one of the tell-tale signs of an allergic reaction in dogs. Skin underneath your dog’s hair may appear red or pink, inflamed, and dry. Incessant scratching at affected areas of the skin can lead to bald patches. When you take your dog to the vet for treatment, they will check for fleas and prescribe medication and/or medicated shampoos and conditioners to relieve the issue. If these do not have an effect, other causes become less likely and food allergy is probable. Your pup will be placed on an elimination diet to determine the allergen.
Just like humans, dogs’ allergic reactions include symptoms such as itchy skin, stuffy noses, and watery eyes. Excessive discharge from your canine’s eyes causes staining to the nearby fur, as well as itching. These signs, accompanied sometimes by clogged tear ducts and a goopy discharge, are ample reason for a veterinary visit. As with other symptoms, your vet will rule out other causes such as eye trauma by treating for them, then place your dog on an elimination diet if a food allergy is suspected.
Other Common Symptoms
- Chronic gas
- Chronically inflamed feet
- Obsessive licking
- Paw biting
Preventing Food Allergies
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent food allergy in your dog. However, as allergic reactions tend to worsen with repeated exposure, you can help keep your dog healthy by monitoring him for these common signs of food allergy and acting as soon as you notice an issue. This can help to reduce the risk of severe allergic reactions which can be traumatic and sometimes deadly.