Food allergies in dogs are very common and particularly upsetting to both the animal and their caregivers. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, gas, skin/coat issues, non-seasonal pruritus (itching), ear inflammation/infection, and seizures.

The first step in addressing a dog food allergy is identifying it, but it can be difficult to do so. The process should begin with a trip to your Veterinarian. The plan will usually involve putting your dog on a simple, bland diet and then the slow reintroduction of other foods every couple of weeks. You may also wish to explore raw or other natural, alternative homemade dog diets to reduce the level of chemicals and gain more control of dietary ingredients overall.

If you suspect a food allergy, you can start by eliminating the following top dog food allergy triggers one by one to determine if symptoms improve:

  • Wheat
  • Soybeans
  • Corn (Maize) or corn oil
  • Eggs
  • Milk – Milk may cause an allergic reaction when other dairy products do not.
  • Yeast
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Fish or fish oil
  • Chemically treated water (try filtered or distilled)
  • Individual preservatives
  • Artificial colors and flavors

Dog food allergies may result from long-term feeding of the same ingredient, even lamb and rice. Some experts suggest rotating foods every few months, and/or selecting dietary items that aren’t common, such as duck or venison.

Science has also identified a genetic predisposition for hypersensitivity to food in dogs. With this condition, the endocrine-immune dysfunction results in an erratic metabolism that identifies food as an invader. This can cause intolerance and malabsorption. In these cases, you will find that there is very little you can feed to your dog that doesn’t cause a reaction. Working closely with your Veterinarian to address this extreme sensitivity is advised.

Some dog breeds have been identified (arguably) as being predisposed to food allergies, including Bull Terriers, Lhasa Apso, Bichon Frise, Labrador Retriever, Shar Pei, Shih Tzu, Dachshund, Boxer, Chinese Crested, Cocker & Springer Spaniel, Collie, German Shepherd, Poodle, Irish Setter, Pug, Miniature Schnauzer, American Hairless Terrier, Dalmatian, Maltese, Pekingese, Fox Terrier, Brussels Griffon, and dogs of mixed heritage that includes these breeds.

Whether or not food allergies in dogs can be prevented is a debatable topic. Respected experts have indicated that nurturing the digestive system in young dogs may prevent allergies and food sensitivity down the road. It has also been suggested that a longer nursing period may prevent food allergies in dogs as it does in humans.  Others advise us to avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, and suggest re-balancing the digestive system when we do need them.  Edible-grade Calcium Montmorillonite Clay addresses allergies through the adsorption of allergens and toxins (including common pet food contaminants and chemicals), while also countering the histamine effect, and stimulating natural purification processes. All of these suggestions will benefit pets in other ways so it can’t hurt to take the advice.

There are few canine conditions that cause more misery than allergies and it can be a tough, long road. We can be encouraged by the fact that progress is being made because dogs are genetically related to humans, so their allergies continue to be heavily studied. This information can then be applied to canine solutions without the need for funding further studies. There has never been more options available than there are today, resulting in a much higher quality of life for allergic dogs.

Day, Michael J. The canine model of dietary hypersensitivity. Division of Veterinary Pathology, Infection and Immunity, School of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol. 2005.
Rosser, Edmund J. DVM, DACVD. Diagnosis & Treatment Of Food Allergy In Dogs. American Animal Hospital Association proceedings.  2009.
Zucker, Martin. Veterinarians Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs : Safe and Effective Alternative Treatments and Healing Techniques from the Nations Top Holistic VeterinariansVeterinarians Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs. 2000.
Knishinsky, Ran. The Clay Cure : Natural Healing from the EarthThe Clay Cure : Natural Healing from the Earth. 1998.
Winter, William G. DVM The Holistic Veterinary Handbook. 1997.


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32 thoughts on “Identifying Dog Food Allergies with a Process of Elimination ©

  1. It’s so nice to have a plan for fixing our dog’s allergies, thank you! It’s really frustrating to want to help her but nothing works.

  2. Excellent information – thank you. We’re determined to get to the bottom of our dog’s alergies.

  3. I’ve been trying to figure out what my dog is allergic to and even after pinpointing a long list of allergies I still don’t have all of them identified. We’ll love each other through it though!

  4. Our dogs both appear to be allergic to something in grass because they get itchy when they roll in it in the summer?

  5. Great directive! We found out our dog isn’t allergic to a food item so now we know to look for some other allergy.

  6. Thanks! Turns out my dog is allergic to fish, fishmeal and possibly to a preservative associated with seafood.

  7. My dog is miserable every Spring and Fall with allergies and he gets so itchy. I don’t think it’s his food because it’s seasonal. 🙁

  8. Fantastic blog! Our little Yorkie has allergies so we’re always looking for good advice.

  9. We started with very plain homemade meals and worked our way through a list of possible allergies our dog might have. By then we were so used to making his food we just kept doing it and he’s doing wonderful.

  10. We’ve found a few things our baby is allergic to but she has more allergies that we haven’t figured out yet. She’s itchy and her ears get infected when her allergies act up. It’s so sad that dogs have so many allergies nowadays!

  11. I haven’t figured out what my dog is allergic to & I hope this will help find his allergies. He is miserable and on steroids! I’ve tried everything from medication to special shampoo but the only think it accomplished was making my bank account smaller. 🙁

  12. We had dogs when I was a kid and allergies weren’t even heard of back then. Whatever has changed isn’t for the better.

  13. We identified wheat and corn as my dog’s allergies using your article! Thank you SO much!

  14. We are slowly identifying our dog’s allergies using a method like this but we’re running out of things to try. We would love to hear more suggestions from your readers.

  15. I hope this helps us find out what’s wrong with my dog. We’re sure he’s allergic to something but we have no idea what it could be.

  16. We have been going through your list of suggestions to find out what food my dog is allergic to. It has been very helpful and even my Vet is impressed with how we are approaching the problem. Kudos!

  17. I am seriously considering the BARF diet after hearing about so many other allergic dogs being cured by it. He is so miserable with allergies most of the time and it drives me crazy that I can’t fix him!

  18. I remember a time when dogs or cats didn’t have so many allergies. It was back when they ate farm butcher and table scraps. That’s what my dogs and cats live on now and they never have a problem.

  19. A cat I had a few years ago was one of the few cats that suffer from arthritis & allergies. I guess that’s why the vet had no idea what to do for her. I felt so helpless! I wish I had this information then.

  20. This allergy article will be such a good help for my dog who is allergic to so many things. Thanks for the warning about the person using your post without permission too. There are so many want-to-be’s and scammers online.

  21. Most allergies come from boughten pet food!!! Going raw cleared up all of my dogs allergies when nothing else worked, even changing brands.

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