Just like humans, dogs can have allergic reactions to the foods they eat. Unfortunately, these allergies typically can’t be cured. However, they can be very effectively managed with tailored diets, allowing pets to live a healthy and more comfortable life. In this post, we explore the causes of these reactions, how common they are, and what you can do to help your pooch if they suffer from a food allergy, including introducing an insect-based diet.
What causes food allergies in dogs?
As with people, food allergies in dogs are caused by the immune system overreacting to one or more ingredients used in the foods they eat. A wide range of ingredients can trigger problems, including wheat and soy, but allergies in dogs are most frequently caused by proteins found in meat or dairy. Allergies can develop at any stage of a dog’s life, but typically they develop within the first year.
Symptoms to look out for that may indicate an allergy include an upset stomach which manifests as diarrhoea, vomiting, excessive wind or loss of appetite; saliva staining on their coat; or itchy, red or sore skin.
If you think your canine companion might have a food allergy, get them checked out by a vet. They will assess whether the problems are likely to be caused by an allergic reaction or if something else may be to blame.
How common are food allergies in dogs?
Food allergies are relatively rare in the canine population as a whole. According to a report by Banfield Pet Hospital, these conditions affect just 0.2 per cent of dogs. However, a study published in MSD Veterinary Manual - the global biopharmaceutical company - found the actual figure to be closer to one or two per cent of all dogs.
However, while it’s true that allergies are fairly uncommon, the true prevalence of food allergies in dogs is still unknown.
Can food allergies cause itchy skin in dogs?
Yes - along with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pains and excessive trapped gas, itchy and/or red, sore skin is a common sign of a canine food allergy.
Although skin allergies, called allergic dermatitis, can also be caused by an allergic reaction to flea bites and environmental allergens - such as dust, pollen, and mould - food allergies tend to create more uniform and recognisable forms of dermatitis. This is to say, when food intolerance is the cause of your pup’s itchy skin, you will tend to notice they are scratching specific areas of their body, including their ears and paws. You may also notice that the skin on their stomach is also sore. This can occur when a dog resorts to licking this area in an attempt to soothe stomach cramps caused by food allergies.
What to feed a dog with food allergies
If you have taken your four-legged friend to the vet and, following a thorough examination which may include blood and other testing, they believe a food allergy may be the cause of any of the symptoms listed above, it is likely they will recommend starting your dog on an elimination diet.
An elimination diet consists of specially formulated hypoallergenic food prescribed by your vet. It will be given to your pet as their only source of food for between eight and twelve weeks, avoiding all other forms of food during this time. This way, if one or more of the ingredients in your pet’s regular food is the cause of their symptoms, the elimination diet should mean your dog’s condition improves.
Prescribed hypoallergenic dog food diets can offer a variety of unique or ‘novel’ protein sources. As we explored in our recent blog on this type of canine nourishment, feeding foods containing proteins that are not recognised by your dog's antibodies can result in a reduction or complete resolution of the symptoms previously seen.
While meat and even fish-based hypoallergenic foods are often recommended, insect-based dog food is becoming an increasingly popular choice as a dietary alternative for food-sensitive dogs among pet owners and vets alike. Here at Percuro, our entire range of entovegan dog food makes use of gentle and soothing ingredients like chicory and chamomile, as well as naturally hypoallergenic insect proteins.
What to feed dogs with skin allergies?
As we have discussed, skin irritation is a common symptom of food intolerances in dogs. With this in mind, when it comes to feeding dogs with skin allergies, a process of dietary elimination is usually required. If your dog’s allergies are seriously impacting their dermatological health, it is important to work with your vet to determine the best food options for your dog to tackle the issue.
If you suspect that your canine companion is suffering with an allergic reaction caused by their food, trying them on a diet containing fewer (or no) common allergens, such as dairy, beef, lamb, chicken, egg, soy or gluten, could be worth a shot.
At Percuro, our insect-based dog food can provide your furry friend with a hypoallergenic diet made up of novel essential proteins and easily digestible and nutritious superfood grain. Each of our products also contains high levels of fatty acids, including olive oil, algae oil and flaxseed. These acids, balanced to perfection, are designed to properly support healthy skin, maintain natural protective barriers and help minimise inflammation.
Co-author: Dr. Scott Miller