Food allergy and hypersensitivity entails the immunological response or reaction to allergens found in food and requires prior exposure to the allergen to incur symptoms. There are a wide range of foods, additives and preservatives that can produce an allergic reaction in dogs. Worse yet, as your dog ages, it can acquire allergies to foods that may not have posed any problems in the past.


Dogs with food allergies are normally allergic to specific proteins, which may be in the components of animal or plant-based ingredients in the diet. Some common foods which may cause allergic reactions in dogs are wheat, chicken, dairy and beef [1]. The development of a food allergy may take a long time before symptoms manifest.

How Can a Food Allergy Be Diagnosed?

The only way to diagnose a dog food allergy is by having your dog undergo a hypoallergenic food trial. There are two ways to assess this:

  1. Using a “Novel Protein”
    Using a protein source which is new to the dog may reduce the chances of an immune response. A novel source of carbohydrate can also be included since they may also contain proteins[2]. Some hypoallergenic food options include, rabbit and potato, kangaroo and pea, duck and rice or salmon and sweet potato. The idea is to provide the dog with protein sources that it has never had before.
  2. Using “Hydrolysed Protein”
    Hydrolysed diets are made with broken down protein sources [2]. These hydrolysed proteins may be in the form of polypeptides and amino acids, which the immune system should not be able to recognize as allergens, hence potentially eliminating the possibility of an allergic reaction.

The hypoallergenic food is typically fed for 8-10 weeks to sufficiently gauge the dog’s response. Make sure to restrict all other food sources when your dog is undergoing this trial [2]. After a food allergy has been diagnosed, a challenge must be performed to confirm what prior food ingredient(s) may be the cause of the allergy. One ingredient from the previous diet is added to the hypoallergenic meal. Any reaction to the ingredient will be noticed within two weeks. These food items should then be removed completely from the dog’s diet.


  1. Coughing, sneezing, wheezing
  2. Flatulence
  3. Vomiting
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Red, inflamed skin
  6. Poor growth in young dogs
  7. Frequent scratching or hair loss
  8. Chronic ear problems [2]

Some “hypoallergenic” foods include:


  • Rice
  • Potato
  • Turkey
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Rabbit
  • Venison
  • Duck
  • Papaya

Please note that these “hypoallergenic foods” are foods which are deemed less likely to present an allergic reaction in dogs. Since each dog is different, there may be cases where one or more of these foods may still cause an allergic reaction.

It is advised that you work in collaboration with your veterinarian and or animal nutritionist to determine the best food sources for your dog. Speak to your veterinary health official if you think that your dog may have a food allergy.


[1] J. Coates, “The Best Food Options for Your Dog with Allergies,” PetMD, [Online]. Available: [Accessed 16 March 2019].

[2] H. Pet, “How Food Allergies Can affect Your Dog,” Hill’s , 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 2019 March 18].


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