Food Allergy in Dogs

Here you can find out how to reliably recognize a food allergy in your dog and what can trigger allergic reactions.

If your skin is itchy and your stomach hurts, a food allergy may be to blame. It is important that you as the owner know the difference between an intolerance and an actual allergy. Read here what can trigger an allergy and how you can find out whether your dog suffers from one.

The typical symptoms

Purely externally, both the dog’s food allergy and the intolerance to certain foods are noticeable through the same symptoms. This includes:

  • Vomit
  • diarrhea
  • gas
  • itching
  • Flaky and inflamed skin
  • hair loss

The difference, however, is that the immune system is involved in the case of a feed allergy – but not in the case of intolerance.

Food allergy vs. intolerance

Even the smallest amounts of the allergenic (allergy-triggering) food component usually cause violent reactions in the case of a food allergy. The form in which the allergen is ingested is also irrelevant: the dog’s body reacts to it whether it is cooked, raw, served as a flavor carrier or as part of a medication.

In addition: In the case of a food allergy, the dog reacts permanently to this food component. If the dog always eats the same food, but only shows symptoms irregularly, it is probably not a food allergy.

In the case of an intolerance (intolerance) to food, on the other hand, the dog’s body reacts particularly sensitively to certain ingredients such as lactose or gluten. Dogs may also be missing key digestive enzymes, preventing proper digestion of these ingredients. The symptoms usually become more severe the more the dog consumes the ingredient.

Cause of food allergy

Whether in dry or wet food or in treats: the following ingredients are most commonly found in conventional feed and are therefore consumed the most. Therefore, they also lead the list of the most common triggers for food allergies in dogs:

  • chicken
  • beef
  • Grain
  • rice

“Since many dogs have contact with one of these feeds, the proportion of allergy sufferers among them is naturally higher than with other ingredients. In the USA, for example, the number of soy allergy sufferers is particularly high because more soy is used in feed there than with us,” explains nutrition expert Dr. Julia Fritz.

An allergic reaction to feed is always due to animal or vegetable proteins (proteins). If the dog reacts to fat, sugar or carbohydrates, it is more of an intolerance. Likewise, the often demonized additives and preservatives are rather unlikely as triggers.

Risk of food allergy

In a healthy dog, the risk of a food allergy is very low. Because the intestinal barrier ensures that only the food components that have been completely digested into their individual components reach the organism. However, if the intestinal mucosa is damaged and inflamed, this natural barrier does not work. Molecules that are too large then penetrate the organism. The immune system considers them hostile and fights them.

A study by the University of Munich also shows that certain dog breeds have an increased risk of developing a food allergy.

Dog breeds at increased risk of food allergies:

  • Golden retriever
  • West Highland White Terriers
  • German shepherd dog
  • White Swiss Shepherd
  • Boxer

The age and gender of a dog do not play a role as a risk factor.

Suspected food allergy – what to do?

If your dog shows the symptoms described above, it is first necessary to clarify what the causes are. A feed allergy is not always behind it. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Check the causes: Does your dog have fleas, mites or worms? These parasites cause the same symptoms as a food allergy. Be sure to get this checked out by the vet.
  2. Keep a food diary: enter there every day what your dog eats, what medication he is given and whether and what symptoms he shows. This can provide your vet with important additional information.
  3. Determine the correct allergen with an elimination diet: With an elimination diet it can be determined which component of a feed triggers the allergy. You can get help from a veterinarian specializing in animal nutrition.

The elimination diet (exclusion diet) only feeds a single protein component and a single carbohydrate source that the dog has never eaten. The dog is therefore probably not yet allergic to these. If the symptoms improve with the elimination diet, you can assume that the dog has indeed developed a food allergy.

As an alternative to the elimination diet, blood tests can also help diagnose a food allergy in dogs. The antibodies that were formed on various feeds are examined. The hit rate for finding out the allergy-causing components is very high. On the other hand, the statement about which components are suitable for the dog is rather unreliable.

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