Ask Dr. Tory: How Do I Know If My Dog Has a Food Allergy?

by Dr. Tory Waxman, VMD

Like humans, dogs can suffer from both environmental and food allergies.

Food allergies are most common in puppies and dogs over seven years of age. Food allergies are rarer in adult dogs but still occur. Signs of allergies in dogs can present with gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea, or with skin issues such as frequent skin and ear infections. 

What are some of the most common food allergies in dogs?

The majority of food allergies in dogs are to protein sources such as chicken and beef. Allergies to gluten are exceedingly rare, other than in Irish Setters and a few other breeds where a genetic celiac-like disease can be found. 

Why is Sundays a preferred choice for some dogs with food allergies?

Oftentimes an exact cause of an allergy is not determined and a limited-ingredient diet is recommended to rule out a food allergy. Blood tests do exist to test for food allergies in dogs, but they rarely correlate with clinical presentation. 

Sundays is extremely limited in ingredients as compared to almost all other dog foods on the market. Our recipes have far fewer ingredients compared to almost all other dog foods. Because of this, even dogs with an unknown allergy do very well on our food, because there’s just less ingredients to have a reaction to. In addition, our diets are single protein source. Our Chicken Recipe. only has chicken meat (including a variety of rich organ meats) and it’s the same for our Beef Recipe.

How can you tell the difference between a seasonal or environmental allergy and a food allergy? 

Seasonal allergies often wax and wane depending on the time of the year. If you notice your dog only chews at their paws during springtime, they may have a pollen allergy. In addition, seasonal allergies can occur anytime during a dog’s life whereas food allergies are most commonly diagnosed in puppies and dogs over seven years of age. 

Fleas are an extremely common yet overlooked cause of allergies in dogs. Flea-allergic dogs can have a severe reaction with only a couple fleas present in their fur so even if you don’t see the fleas, they could still be a culprit. Because of this, I recommend keeping dogs on flea and tick preventative year round (also with our warming winters ticks are now unfortunately becoming a year-round problem). 

Skin tests for environmental allergies are available and are helpful in diagnosing environmental allergies as compared to food allergies where a diet elimination trial is the gold standard for diagnosis. Skin allergy testing is most commonly performed by a veterinary dermatologist. Based on results, environmental changes can be pursued or allergy shots (just like in humans!) can be prescribed. 

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