Just like humans, dogs can develop food allergies. If your dog is allergic to a specific food, you will have to figure out what the allergen is so you can eliminate it from his diet.
While your vet can help with this, it is also useful to know which meat proteins dogs are most commonly allergic to. The knowledge can also come in handy when you’re looking into allergies covered by pet insurance for dogs.
Beef is an incredibly common allergen for dogs. Some experts believe that it is the most common of the canine food allergens because it is in so many pet foods.
Chicken is another very common ingredient in commercial dog foods and another common allergen.
Lamb is yet another fairly common meat protein that dogs are allergic to. However, lamb allergies are a bit unique as many dogs won’t even be exposed to lamb unless they are allergic to other meats or are on another type of special diet.
This is because most commercial dog foods include beef or chicken as the main protein source. If your dog is allergic to one of the other meat proteins on this list, expect your vet to suggest trying lamb.
Other Common Allergens
While meat proteins are among the most common types of foods that dogs are allergic to, they are far from the only known food allergens for canines.
The following are some other common food allergies in dogs:
- Dairy (technically lactose intolerance)
Although much less common, corn, pork, fish, and rice are also possible allergens. Technically, your dog can be allergic to any food.
Allergies Versus Intolerances
As noted above, most dogs that can’t eat dairy have lactose intolerance and not a dairy allergy. This leads to an important conversation about the difference between an allergy and an intolerance.
You don’t want to feed your dog something he is intolerant to or allergic to, but allergies will cause more problems. Intolerances simply mean that it is hard for your dog to digest the food. By contrast, allergies trigger immune responses.
Some of the most common symptoms of a food allergy in dogs include:
- Itchy skin
- Itchy paws
- Skin rashes
- Hot spots
- Pigmented skin
- Oily or scaly skin
- Eye discharge
- Leathery skin
- Ear infections
- Hair loss
- Secondary infections (bacterial or yeast) on the ears or skin
Allergies Develop Over Time
You may wonder if it’s even possible for your dog to be suddenly allergic to something they have been eating all their life. The short answer is yes, it is actually expected.
That is because it takes time to develop food allergies. That means that your dog may eat a type of food without problems for a while, then develop an allergy.
What to Do About Canine Food Allergies
The simplest course of action to take if your dog develops a food allergy is to avoid feeding him the allergen. However, that’s easier said than done. In many cases, you won’t be sure what the allergen is and may have to do an elimination diet or blood testing to figure it out. This can be expensive and time-consuming.
Your dog may also need some medications to reduce his symptoms while you figure out what the allergen is. Insurance for dogs will typically cover the cost of medications and tests, making it much easier to get to the source of the problem and eliminate it from your dog’s diet.
Treatments to Eliminate Symptoms
While you work to find the food causing your dog’s allergies, you will also likely treat the symptoms of the allergy. For example, your vet may prescribe anti-itch medicine for inflammation and recommend hypoallergenic shampoo.
Elimination Diets and Alternative Proteins
If your vet suspects that your dog is allergic to meat protein or any other food, they will likely suggest an elimination diet to figure out the problem. This usually involves giving your dog food with an alternative and much less common protein. Some of these options include venison, duck, salmon, and kangaroo. As mentioned, lamb is another popular choice, but it is also a common allergen.
You will typically give your dog this hypoallergenic food for about eight to ten weeks to give him time to heal. Most dogs will improve within just four to six weeks, but some take the full ten weeks.
After the symptoms disappear, your vet will likely have you give your dog a small amount of the suspected allergen. Importantly, you will use single-source ingredients. So, instead of switching to a different type of dog food that contains chicken, you would check a chicken allergy by adding a few pieces of chicken to your dog’s food bowl. You will then check if the symptoms come back.
Finding the Right Food
After you know what your dog is allergic to, you can find a commercial dog food that does not have any of his allergens. Your vet will likely be able to recommend several choices.
There is also the option of making dog food at home, but this is more complicated and time-consuming. It also requires a great deal of care as you need to ensure your dog gets food with a balanced nutrient profile.
The Bottom Line
Dogs can develop allergies just like humans can. In addition to environmental allergies, they may develop food allergies. The most common meat proteins that they are allergic to include beef, chicken, and lamb. Many dogs are also lactose intolerant and allergic to wheat and eggs.
Your vet will help you determine what food is triggering your dog’s allergies so you can eliminate it from his diet. The vet will also likely prescribe medications to reduce your dog’s symptoms in the meantime.
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