Dog Food Allergies


The following items represent some of The Dog Food Advisor’s most frequently asked questions about dog food allergies.

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy occurs when a dog’s immune system mistakenly identifies a particular food ingredient as harmful. And then creates defensive antibodies to fight the invading enemy (the food).

Is it better to feed your dog the same food each meal? Or is it safer to change menus on a regular basis?

For the surprising answer to these and other questions about dog food allergies, be sure to visit this video by Dr. Karen Becker.

What are the signs and symptoms of a food allergy?

The symptoms of an allergy include skin rash, hives, itching, paw biting, obsessive licking and sometimes nausea or vomiting.

What is a food intolerance?

A food intolerance is a digestive problem rather than an immune response. An intolerance occurs when a dog’s digestive system is unable to digest a specific ingredient.

What are the signs and symptoms of a food intolerance?

The signs of food intolerance include mostly digestive distress… gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

If my dog is allergic to a specific dog food, does that mean there’s something wrong with the quality of the product?

Allergies are related to your pet’s own immune system and are not due to a problem with the product itself. So, if a dog is allergic to a particular ingredient, he will likely experience the same unfavorable reaction to that ingredient… no matter what brand you find it in.

If my dog shows signs of an allergy, should I immediately suspect it’s caused by the food?

Maybe not. Because food is only the third leading cause of canine allergies, the signs and symptoms you observe may not even be related to your pet’s diet in the first place.

What are the most common causes of dog food allergies?

Dog food ingredients most likely to provoke an allergic reaction1 include…

  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Fish
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Yeast2

What else could cause my dog to be allergic to his food?

Many times, it’s not even the ingredients themselves that are the problem. In some cases, a dog can also be allergic to contaminants in the food itself.

What should I feed my dog if I suspect his allergy symptoms are caused by his food?

Since certain recipes have been intentionally designed to help you control or isolate these problems, you may wish to read our recently updated article, “Hypoallergenic Dog Foods“.

You may also wish to consider a grain free dog food.

What should I do if I believe my dog might have allergies?

Allergies can have serious consequences for your pet. Remember, much of the advice offered by well-meaning dog owners throughout this site may not be appropriate for your dog. So, be sure to consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.


  1. Drs. Foster and Smith, Food Allergies and Food Intolerance
  2. Yeast added by the Dog Food Advisor
  • Pitlove

    Ya I understand. I just wanted to clarify because a lot of people only ever consider that their dog is reacting to an animal protein source and forget about the other ingredients that comprise the food. How is he doing on Canidae?

    I personally have never heard of a dog reacting to chicory root, however just because I’ve never heard anyone complain about it, doesn’t mean its impossible. Chicory root is usually a good addition to dog food that is welcome as it is a prebiotic but also contains antioxidants. Unfortunely without doing a proper and painstaking elimination diet, you won’t know if he is actually doing better on foods without it or if its a coinscidence because the foods without it don’t contain something else he’s reacting to.

    I’ve learned a lot dealing with my boys skin issues and I’ve found that most of the things I was suggested to avoid (chicken, grains) are the things that have aggravated his skin the least. It’s very easy to get lost in some of the information you find on the internet and also dog food companies marketing. Sometimes the food you least expect will be good for your dog is the best one.

  • Megan

    Okay thanks so much for clearing some of that up for me. I didn’t mean that the problem was the protein, but that I was eliminating the ones he has had to narrow down the problem. I have him on a food that includes a protein he has not had before, less additives, and a smaller ingredient list (not LID-although if this food does not help I will be checking out LID foods) so it’s easier to cancel things out or narrow it down to the problem.
    Another question I have is chicory root. I realize it is in many dog foods and have been reading how it is a prebiotic and everything, but I saw a comment down below on how chicory root/inulin can cause excessive itchiness in dogs. Just curious as to if it is okay for them or if its better to try to avoid it. I understand that there will be dogs that are unaffected by this as well, but I have noticed less itchiness on my dog with the new food he is on which does not contain this additive.
    I know this whole process is personalized to our needs because no dog has the exact same situation. Im just looking for suggestions on foods/diets for excessive itchiness, or other peoples experiences with a similar situation and how they got through/solved it.

  • Pitlove

    People often forget that animal proteins are not the only thing that dogs can react to. Often times dogs react to the protein that is in whatever carbohydrate source the food contains. Sometimes it’s both. Or even a random ingredient all the way down at the bottom of the ingredient panel.

    If he is on a duck kibble and still reacting, it’s possible that the old food hasn’t completely gotten out of his system or that he is reacting to a carb in the grain-free food or something else in the food. Grain free is not automatically better for dogs who have “allergies”, especially if you have no clue what the dog is reacting to. If your dog is intolerant to chicken and you feed him a grain-free chicken based food, he will still react to it. An LID food could certainly help, but you will need to feed both a protein and carb that he has not eaten before.

    My dog who once was losing hair and had sores all over his back actually does excellent on grain based foods. His hair has grown back and his skin looks excellent now. He’s also less itchy. I’ve also added Salmon Oil and Raw Goat Milk to his food which has made a huge difference.

  • Megan

    Hi everyone, my dog has been itching so much-much more than necessary. I have eliminated the possibility of parasites so I know its not that. He itches his neck, ears, tail, legs, paws, armpits, chest, and his butt. Ive narrowed it down to a food allergy, because no other scenario makes sense. I switched his food to Canidae Grain-free pure sky duck dry kibble and am now hoping that it will all subside. It seemed to increase when he ate dog food with salmon, lamb, beef, and chicken. Ive read numerous articles about how over an extended period of time, dogs can develop an allergen toward those products if fed constantly. Im taking him off of grain altogether regardless, because it seems to be a better option overall. Im also keeping him away from wheat, soy, and corn. Now I’m trying to figure out if he needs limited ingredient food. Can someone please tell me their experience or any advice? Ive been looking into blue buffalo basics turkey/potato grain free limited ingredient dry kibble as well. I would like to find a good food that helps him out, but that is also a reasonable price-and by that I mean not the $89.99 bag of natures variety instinct dog food. He was doing the butt in the air and smashing his face in the bed and rubbing it; however, it is still too soon to tell if the Canidae is a good choice or not. But please comment and reply to give input-THANKS!!!

  • ifiller

    I got my Mini Schnauzer when she was 9 months old (she’s now 7 years old) and within the first several months I noticed a lot of bumps on her back. I took her to the vet a couple of times who gave her steroid shots. I started doing my own research and discovered that bumps on a dog’s back might indicate a grain allergy. I started feeding her AvoDerm and Blue Buffalo grain-free food and the bumps went away. I’d definitely try grain-free if it hasn’t cleared up yet.

  • Peggy Gurney

    Wow, after reading your post, I went and checked the cans of dog food in the cabinet, and thankfully, none of our dog food lists chickory, chickory root, or inulin in the ingredients.

  • B Bowen

    Thanks. We’re on week 2 of the new food and the vet said it can take up to 6 weeks to clear up.

  • DDog

    Yes, my mini schnauzer gets very bad skin bumps, I call them hives, from food allergies. Especially down her spine. I put her on Royal Canin Reduced Allergy dry food and it really cleared up her back.