Food Allergies and How They Can Cause Stomach Issues in Dogs
If your dog is suffering from diarrhea, vomiting or gas, you may initially assume they ate something out of the ordinary or they are stressed. While either of those certainly could be true, have you considered that their diet may be to blame?
While food allergies in dogs often present as skin issues, they can also cause gastrointestinal (or GI)-related symptoms. As a dog parent, you know these conditions are not only uncomfortable for your pet but that they can lead to bigger health issues if left untreated.
If you suspect your dog has a food allergy and are ready to get their gut health in check, keep reading. We’ll fill you in on digestive issues related to dog food allergies as well as what you can do to give your dog some relief.
What Are Food Allergies?
How Do They Relate to Digestion?
Various ingredients in dog food can trigger an immune response in your pet. When your dog’s immune system misidentifies a particular ingredient as a foreign substance, it can cause an allergic reaction, which presents as GI issues.
Dogs can also suffer from food intolerances. An intolerance, or hypersensitivity to an ingredient, can lead to difficulty digesting that ingredient. Whether your dog has a food allergy or food intolerance, however, the symptoms and the treatment will typically be the same.
What Are Common Dog Food Allergy GI Symptoms?
How Do I Identify Them?
While food allergies in humans typically present as itching, swelling and, in worst cases, anaphylaxis, the symptoms can look a little different in dogs. Although itching, skin rashes and even ear infections are common, dog food allergies and intolerances can also lead to digestive issues, including:
The timing of the symptoms and your dog’s overall health should help you determine if your dog’s digestive issues are because of a food allergy. If it is a food allergy, symptoms such as vomiting and soft stools will likely occur within an hour or two of eating, and your dog will appear to be in generally good health aside from the digestive issues.
What Are the Most Common Food Allergies in Dogs?
While nearly any dog food ingredient can cause an allergic reaction, proteins and grains are the most likely culprits.
In general, dogs are most commonly allergic to:
How Do You Treat Dog Food Allergies?
Medication can help treat environmental or seasonal allergies. Treating food allergies, however, can be a bit trickier, but there are solutions.
The first step is determining what your dog is allergic to.
Typically, the most successful method of determining what ingredient your dog is allergic to is using an elimination diet. This requires you to temporarily switch your dog’s diet to one that doesn't contain any of the ingredients they've previously eaten. Then you’ll slowly reintroduce the ingredients that are potential allergens to determine which one is causing the reaction. This can be a lengthy process, but once you pinpoint the ingredient, or ingredients, causing an allergic reaction, you can choose a diet that doesn’t include those ingredients.
There are many food options available for pet parents looking to avoid allergens that are causing tummy troubles for your dogs. Once the elimination diet is complete and you have determined your pet's food allergy, you can switch to a new dog food, like a limited ingredient diet or a grain-free diet. As the name indicates, limited ingredient diet dog food uses minimal ingredients and typically includes just a single protein rather than a mixture. Read labels until you find a recipe that doesn’t include the protein you’re trying to avoid. If grain is the culprit, your vet might recommend a grain-free diet tailored to promote easy digestion.
If you believe your dog has a food allergy, your vet may recommend a vet diet dog food. Requiring a prescription from your veterinarian, these formulas typically include a few ingredients, including a fat source and supplements. Your vet will prescribe the best food based on your dog’s needs.
If you decide to or your vet advises you to change your dog’s diet, make the switch gradually. Transitioning to a new food too quickly can exacerbate digestive symptoms, like vomiting and diarrhea, that your dog is already dealing with. Switching to a new food should be done gradually over seven to 10 days, mixing increasing amounts of the new food with the old as you go along. Check out this handy chart to help make the transition.
Need help finding a personalized solution for your dog’s food allergies? Check out our digestive health solution finder.