Understanding Dog Food Allergies

Understanding Dog Food Allergies

Barbara Mary Hanly

Does your dog suffer from regular skin irritations and an upset stomach? Well, this could in fact point to an allergy or intolerance to specific ingredients in their food or treats. Over the recent years, more and more dogs are being diagnosed with allergies to their food than other stomach and skin-related issues. Caused by prolonged exposure to specific proteins – those spells of itchy skin, the constant scratching and even loose stools can all point to the likes of chicken, beef and even eggs as the major culprit.

However, spotting a food allergy or intolerance in your dog can be tricky as symptoms are often disguised as other issues like fleas or gastroenteritis. If you notice a major change in your dog’s behaviour and health – we always recommend speaking to your vet who can determine if their food and treats are to blame.

Allergy vs Intolerance

As pet owners, we are becoming more aware of how our dog’s diet can affect their health and well-being. But can you spot an allergy or intolerance in your pet? First, it is important to understand the difference between the two:

Allergy – Instantaneous reaction to a foreign and unwanted chemical in the body that causes our immune system to attack. Often allergies can affect the skin, nervous and respiratory systems. Although extremely rare, anaphylaxis can occur in dogs so be extremely vigilant if your dog displays any of the above symptoms and seek veterinary help right away.

Intolerance – A sensitivity, often developed over time, to a specific ingredient like milk, gluten, or wheat, which commonly affects the digestive system but is as life-threatening as allergies can be.

Dogs can develop both specifically with ingredients in their diets, however, it is often that problems relating to digestion can be ruled out as an intolerance rather than an allergy.

What Causes Food Allergies/Intolerances in Our Pets?

There is no distinctive one size fits all approach as to exactly why our beloved best friends develop allergies to their food. However, research into food allergies in dogs, suggests that it is the body’s adverse reaction to specific proteins in the body which leads to both skin and gastrointestinal issues. These specific proteins trigger a shock response in our dog’s bodies leading them to produce histamines – responsible for the itching and redness we so commonly see in human allergic reactions.

Regarding intolerances, this can be caused by a developed sensitivity to ingredients in their food and treats. Most commonly beef, chicken, grains and even egg can result in intolerances leading to digestive issues such as excessive flatulence, loose and smelly stools and sometimes even vomiting.

Top Tip! If you are noticing changes in your dog’s digestion after prolonged use of a specific flavour and brand of food – speak to your vet about your concerns who may prescribe a hypoallergenic diet.

What are the Symptoms of Food Allergies/Intolerances?

Diagnosing our pets with allergies or intolerances can be a tricky task as symptoms often indicate more common problems like fleas, ticks, stomach bugs or even flaky skin. What is always important to remember is that you know your pooch better than anybody so changes in their behaviour, eating habits and even symptoms they might present can help determine if a food allergy or intolerance is to blame.

The three areas that allergies affect is skin, digestion and respiration. Creating itchy skin, tummy troubles and excessive coughing or sneezing – here’s what to look out for if you believe your pooch is a little sensitive to their daily diets.


Skin Irritations

Your dog’s skin is the largest organ in its body and the major sensitive to both internal and external changes. As histamines are released, they cause flare-ups of red, sore, and extremely itches patches on your dog’s skin. Prolonged and reoccurring itchy can lead to hair loss (alopecia) in your pet – so keep an eye out for thin or missing patches of fur.

You may see your dog’s itching in common areas: backs, ears bellies and around their neck. If they are up to date with their tick, flea and worming treatment then itchy skin can be an indication food may be to blame. A favourite place to itch is the ears so wary of your dog excessively scratching this area.

Digestive Discomfort

When it comes to your dog’s digestion, and frequent changes can indicate an intolerance rather than an allergy in your dog. For those humans with dairy or lactose intolerances who find themselves running to the nearest bathroom when the ingredient has been accidentally consumed – this is a little like the impact it has on our dogs.

Bloating, excessive flatulence, diarrhoea and even vomiting (in some cases) are all symptoms that gastrointestinal upset is occurring because of a specific ingredient in your dog’s diet. This is often either:

  • Grains (like barley, white, rice)
  • White potatoes
  • Chicken or beef proteins

These ingredients are among the most commonly used in pet food brands as they are cheap to produce and manufacture. However, prolonged exposure to these ingredients is in fact leaving many of our pets sore in the stomach and needing to switch their diets to healthier and hypoallergenic options.

Developmental Issues in Younger Dogs

In younger dogs, intolerances and allergies can often lead to growth issues as your pup is maturing to adulthood. As nutrients, vitamins and minerals are not being sufficiently stored in the body and are lost through digestive upset, your developing dog isn’t getting the fuel they need to grow big and strong. You may notice your puppy losing weight, not as energised as they once were as even behavioural changes or lack of attention as food is not being stored to fuel vital organs like the brain.

Respiratory Problems

It would be hard to ignore that during the spring and summer months, many of us are left with runny noses and excessive sneezing when pollen counts are at the highest. Just like hay fever, food allergies can lead to respiratory issues in your dog such as coughing, wheezing, and sneezing after consumption.

With any respiratory problem, if you believe or suspect your dog is struggling to breathe, it is vital to get them checked out immediately to avoid anaphylaxis shock (a rare but life-threatening reaction to an allergy in the body).

How to Treat a Dog with Food Allergies

If your dog is diagnosed with an allergy rather than intolerance it is imperative that any food or treat is completely absent of that or those specific ingredients which trigger the immune response in your dog.

For those with food intolerances, especially with ingredients such as rice, barley, wheat and potatoes, grain-free food and treats are amongst the most popular alternative. Fruits and vegetables are used to replace these overused and nutritionally poor bulking agents adding ingredients such as sweet potato, squash, quinoa, and carrots as staples into your dog’s main food and drink for a diet that is completely natural, healthy and absence of those intolerance causing ingredients.

For protein-based intolerances, such as sensitivity to chicken and vegetables, hypoallergenic, plant-based, or single-protein diets are advised. Meats such as rabbit, venison and even goat provide the vitamins and minerals your dog needs without causing any of the nasty side effects.

However, as a leading brand of plant-based products in the UK, there is no diet we recommend more than a plant-based one. Replacing nasty fillers like white potatoes and wheat with quinoa, squash and sweet potatoes are a fantastic way of feeding your pet a nutritionally dense diet without the worry of even skin or digestive issues. Fruits and vegetables are easy to digest, can help support the immune system and work as keeping your dog’s body working exactly as it should.

Plant-Based Treats & Chews

New to plant-based? Why not try plant-based treats and chews to gradually transition your dog into the world of plant-based pawfection. Here at Soopa, we have dedicated our time and efforts to creating treats 100% suitable for dogs suffering from allergies and intolerances. Inspired by Lily, the pooch who couldn’t find supermarket treats that would often lead to digestive troubles, Soopa’s founder, Barbara Hanly, spent her years creating recipes that would support her dog’s digestion and skin.

Before she knew it, Soopa was born and our range of tasty treats and chews are packed with ingredients proven to support your dog’s health, completely natural and grain-free and designed with allergies and intolerances in mind.

Supporting Your Dog’s Diet

Read the symptoms above and suspect your dog may have an intolerance or allergy to the food they are on. Speak to your local vet who will recommend varying their diet to rule out the possibility of any problems with what you are eating.

If you are intrigued about the powers of plant-based, head over to our range of scrumptious snacks and invest in your dog’s health today by picking up a few flavours of our healthy bites and rest assured those irritating itches and troublesome tummies caused by food will soon be long gone!

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