Written By Camryn Rabideau Great Pet Care

If your dog has been experiencing itching and skin irritation, there are a variety of medical issues that could be causing the symptoms, including a food allergy. Food allergies among dogs aren’t that common—according to research from Banfield Pet Hospital, just 0.2 percent of dogs are affected by food allergies, whereas around 3.6 percent have environmental allergies. However, if your dog is allergic to an ingredient in their food, it’s important to have the allergy diagnosed by a veterinarian and find an appropriate treatment, which usually involves changing their food.

The following is what you need to know about dog food allergies, what causes them, and the best dog food for allergies to help your pet start feeling better.

What Are Dog Food Allergies?

“Food allergies can cause a lot of distress for both the dogs and their owners,” explains Dr. Melissa M. Brock, DVM. “To understand the causes of food allergies, it’s important to understand how they develop. Food allergies are triggered by an interaction between your dog’s immune system and certain proteins in his diet. These proteins stimulate an immune response that results in inflammation of the skin or gastrointestinal tract, which is why they’re often referred to as ‘allergic reactions.’”

Dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages can develop food allergies, and it’s important to note that a true allergy is different than a food sensitivity or intolerance. Food sensitivities, which often present similarly to allergies, refer to any adverse food reaction that’s non-immunologic—basically, a food that just doesn’t sit right with your pet’s stomach.

Common Dog Food Allergies

There are several ingredients in dog food that your pet might be allergic to. “The most common food allergens in dogs include beef, dairy products, chicken, eggs, and fish,” explains Dr. Brock. Uncommon food allergens may include:

  • Shellfish
  • Nuts (including peanuts)
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Soy

Dog Food Allergy Symptoms

The symptoms of a food allergy in dogs can be subtle, and they may often overlap with symptoms of an environmental allergy. “The symptoms of a dog food allergy are often difficult to diagnose,” explains Dr. Brock. She notes that some of the symptoms you might see include:

  • Itching and scratching around the face, paws, and neck
  • Redness and swelling of the skin
  • Chewing paws or rubbing them against the ground
  • Hair loss

Dr. Louis DelGiudice, national emergency medical director at AmeriVet Veterinary Partners, adds that your dog may experience symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and chronic skin and ear infections. There may also be more subtle signs, such as hyperactivity, weight loss, or lack of energy. If you’ve noticed any of these problems with your pet, you’ll want to bring them to the vet for a professional diagnosis.