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
  • Jacqueline

    I mean fish and lamg limited ingredient*

  • Jacqueline

    Sorry for the late reply ! But i definitely bring this up to my vet . Thanksss

  • Jacqueline

    Im sorry to hear that. I had bought her the natures instinct limited ingredient turkey formula not too long ago and she didnt vomit for 3 days but then again she started vomitting again. So yea me and my pup are desperate now for some help!

  • lucille heagy

    Same thing with my dog tried BB wilderness, Wellness salmon limited ingredient, Authority all grain free still vomits. Vet tolD me same thing she gulps her food and bought thst special dish she still throws up. They did xray of her esophagus and blood work all ok. So now I give her boiled chicken, carrots, sweet potatoe and pasta along with Hills prescription diet Z/D thru Vet and she still throws up once in awhile.

  • will

    Yeah thats right, most of the time the vets don’t have any reason that a dog is vomiting or having diarrhea. Its the number one reason people bring dogs in. You may want to look over all these posts cuz there is some good ideas here. I knew a police dog trainer that had a number of dogs that threw up and he mixed the grindings which he picked up from the local grocery butcher for free. Its the mix of meat, fat and bone. Like saw dust from the cutting blades. This did it for his dogs. It worked for me for a while but it became difficult to keep up with lots of dogs. Thats when I tried adding water to their food at feedings. Took care of the vomiting that seemed to happen somewhat regular after finishing. Some guidelines are wrong on dog foods. Often tell you to feed way too much. I have it to an exact balance for mine. Same amount twice a day. A little bit one way or the other for a week and its fatty mick fatty or the start of weight loss.

  • will

    Like I said my multiple dogs are healthy eat a good blend of food and thats all they need. They all use to eat grass and lick excessively and that is what caused the acid. I stopped all the grass eating and keep the nervous licking to a minimum. What once was an out of control vomiting issue is no more. All due to me preventing the grass eating. There is no research that proves dogs need to eat grass. It may be that at one time dogs did eat grass as part of their diet. They eat it because they want to or see others doing it. Not because they have to. Eating grass creates a situation where they eat other garbage or take in chemically treated grass. Excessive acid is from the ingestion of grass. Try feeding very first thing in morning. Your dog may be getting nervous with the expectations of the day, seeing you leave, and/or the expectation of being fed. I personally jump out of bed and head right outside with them for a quick washroom break and then back inside for a treat until first meal.

  • Susan

    Grass has Chlorophyll, the Chlorophyll settles their stomach, but dogs cant chew their food like we do & don’t have salivary amylase (digestive enzymes in their salvia) so they are un able to break down the cellulose walls of the grass to access the Chlorophyll that’s why the grass comes back out undigested in whole form….
    Patches first vet said don’t let Patch eat TOO much grass cause the grass will go thru him, what it was doing but he was pooing out what he didn’t need in his body…..Vet said only let him eat some grass for about 1 min then stop him, when Patch ate heaps of grass 6am he’d poo out that grass 4pm that afternoon, he doesn’t do that anymore cause I limited his grass eating & only let him eat a few blades of grass, I have found when Patch has his acid reflux bad of a morning when he eats about 4-6 blades of grass he seems a lot better then when I give him his ant acid medication also when he feels real sick, I let him outside & he starts chewing on the grass, I have his lead so I can bring him back inside cause he just keeps eating & eating the grass, so after he eats about 6 pieces of grass, I bring him inside & he has eaten enough grass to bring up his acid in his stomach & get it out & the grass doesn’t go thru him later…..
    I’d rather he bring up the acid instead of it sitting in his stomach & feeling real sick all day & mouth licking.. I grow small batches of the grass he likes I even bring in a few blades of grass & put in water just incase he gets up thru the night feeling sick, the grass seems to help settle his stomach the best instead of medications…

  • will

    May be a little late on this discussion but I have had these experiences with vomitting to a huge extent. Vomitting number one reason people bring dogs in to the vet office, so solving this issue would be bad for vets. Sounds like many of the suggestions so far here are good practices. Here are some things to definitely consider. (1) I learned that casual eaters that have food at all times usually don’t have this problem. Its tough to get dogs to this point if its not in their nature or they were initially raised in an environment that prompted them to dive in or else loose out. (2) Wetting the dog food just prior to feeding prevented the vomitting for mine after eating. This only works if dog is eating it immediately. It shouldn’t sit and get mushy. It doesn’t have to soak in. Although my brother does lightly micro and stir his dogs food prior to feed. The water is consumed at the same time as the the food instead of expanding unexpectedly in the gut when the dog drinks water after eating. (3) Don’t let them eat grass or lick their hair excessively. Its a belief that dogs eat grass because of having sour stomach. Nonsense, the grass and hair can’t be digested and causes the stomach to secrete excessive digestive juices which causes them to vomit. Very few dogs can tolerate grass. Trust me the need to eat grass for “sour stomach” is a crock. Giving your dog attention, walks and something good and safe to chew on will help with keeping them from grass and excessive licking. Try antlers for chewing. Soup bones from the butcher work well too. Rawhide is not a good or safe choice for most dogs. They are not but I won’t get into great detail on that. Starting with country of origin and how its prepared. Look it up. Engulfing big pieces of hide can cause blockages. After I implemented these practices I suggested, my 5 dogs of different breeds never throw up. It takes a lot of work to train them to know you don’t approve of grass eating. There are going to be vets and people that will not accept my facts on grass but keep these suggestions in mind and you will see that vomitting will not be a part of your dogs life. I’m not saying it will be the answer for all but it is for the majority.

  • LabsRawesome

    That’s great! I hope she continues to do well. 🙂

  • Jacqueline

    When i gave her the food for the first time she ended up throwing it up but just a little bit than she usually does. However, yesterday which was the second day she hasn’t vomit.

  • LabsRawesome

    Hi Jacqueline, how is your dog doing?
    I was just wondering if she’s keeping
    her food down.

  • Julie

    Please discuss megaesophagus with your vet immediately…your posts sound as though they are suggestive of this and will only improve with a feeding chair…you can make it work!

  • aimee

    Hi Jacqueline,

    Your vet is the one to advise you on which tests to do. Blood work and radiographs sound reasonable to me.

  • Jacqueline

    No they just have done the Parvo test twice on her. I’ve been thinking of asking them if they could run some blood tests on her and x-rays …. should i?

  • Jacqueline

    I ended up buying the limited ingredients lamb formula small bag. The pets smart workers told me if she still vomits to take back the bag and they will help find another one.

  • LabsRawesome

    You could try the turkey. But you might want to start with
    a different protein. Is there a fish, beef, or lamb formula?
    I would get the smallest bag in case it doesn’t work out.

  • Crazy4dogs

    Well, you’re doing the feeding right. NV Instinct could work, but it might be too close to chicken, it’s hard to say. You might try fish or lamb if the turkey doesn’t help. Good luck! 🙂

  • aimee

    Hi Jacqueline,

    So sorry you and your pup are going through this. Were there any tests that your vet has wanted to do?

  • Jacqueline

    Will the natures variety instinct turkey formula will be fine?

  • Jacqueline

    Ive been doing that. The vet recommended me to feed her small portions but she still vomits. That is why i believe thats not the reason. I feed her 6 times a day, small portions. Im actually thinking about buying her the natures variety instict turkey formula today.

  • Crazy4dogs

    It might be the chicken. You could try switching to fish or another protein as Labs suggested. She might be regurgitating because she’s eating too much and too fast. How many times a day are you feeding her?

    I had a foster that did this. When I decreased the portion but fed several times a day, the problem was solved.

  • Amateria

    I checked out the sports mix via this website their darn website wouldn’t open… She keeps feeding low star rated foods with grains, could be a grain reaction, maybe even a soy reaction.
    Hopefully this gets sorted out, I used to have really bad insulin resistance to anything high carb I puked at least once a day it was awful, I could imagine the dogs just about had enough of it as well.

  • LabsRawesome

    Try a limited ingredient dog food. You can find a list of them on this site by typing it into the search engine. Try a food with no chicken or chicken fat.
    Maybe a fish based food would do the trick.

  • Amateria

    You keep feeding her chicken I see, I’m not sure what flavour the sports mix was but maybe she’s allergic to chicken, there’s also a small chance that when their allergic to chicken that chicken fat can cause issues.

    Not saying that that’s the reason but it’s well worth checking out.
    I’m sure some better informed people here with real life experiences will find this post and help you out further.

  • Jacqueline

    I have a 6 month old pitbull puppy. Ever since I got her she vomits after she eats. I used to give her puppy pedigree chicken flavor but I stopped because I thought probably it might be that food. So I switched to sports mix but same thing happens she couldn’t hold it in. So now I give her pro plan savor chicken with rice but she still vomiting. I’ve taken her to the vet and they just keep on telling me the same thing it’s because she eats fast. I’ve even bought her a specific bowl that they recommended me to buy so she wouldn’t eat that fast. However she still vomiting. The vet told me she’s on risk of being anorexic because she’s too skinny. I hate seeing her like this. How do I know if she’s actually allergic to her food? I’m tired of the vet telling me the same thing.

  • Susan

    Hi, my boy has food sensitivities/intolerances…it’s best to feed raw or cooked diet, you can eliminate certain ingredients…. with a kibble you are limited & kibbles are high in carbs, starchy carbs that turn to sugar & cause yeasty smelly ears skin etc with grain free kibbles some are higher in starchy carbs, stick with limited ingredient kibbles if you cant cook or feed raw diet…I have found kibbles that are fish/salmon & rice or fish/salmon & Sweet potatoes to the best… I try & stay away from peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, tapioca, beet pulp, pea fiber, pea protein potato fiber etc…. I feed kibble for breakfast & cooked for dinner, this way I’ve reduced the kibble intake so Patch is getting less carbs… I cook boil diced chicken breast only takes about mins & boil sweet potatoes & freeze 1 cup sections of meat & freeze the sweet potatoes in section & take out the night before & put in fridge for next day, I add cooked broccoli, zucchini whatever veggies I’m eating, I make extra to add to Patches meal that’s when I cook.. also green lipped mussel, tin sardines are excellent to give as a treats.. foods high in omega 3 are good for the skin, brain heart…… Bath when the itching starts.. I use Malaseb medicated shampoo.. Patch gets yeasty smelly skin & hive like lumps all over his white fur probably from environment allergies… I bath & the bath relieves his itch & washes off any pollens etc & if he starts to get red paws & red around bottom of mouth or has itchy ears I use Hydrocortisone 1% cream I apply at night before bed I get a cotton tip & put some hydrocortisone cream on cotton tip & clean around Patches ears normally the cotton tip isn’t dirty so that’s good,then next morning the redness is all gone…When Patch starts shaking his head/ears I know he is eating something he’s sensitive tooo & change his kibble straight away we haven’t had any ear problems since feeding kibbles with Salmon fish sweet potatoes & lamb & Rice.. I’ve started feeding “Taste Of The Wild” Pacific Stream Smoked Salmon & I rotate the Taste of The Wild Sierra Mountain Roasted lamb but I first wait & see he doesn’t start any itching, scratching etc before I try another kibble, then I rotate them around every 2 months, Patch was eating Wellness Simple & Wellness Complete but as soon as we got to 2 months he’d be doing sloppy yellow poos, bad farts & start to smell yeasty & shake his head (ears) so I emailed Wellness they told me food sensitivities/intolerances can take 1 day to 6 weeks to start showing signs, so I started feeding Taste of The Wild Pacific Stream cause he also has IBD due to food sensitivities & a lot of dogs do really well on the TOTW kibbles that have EPI & IBD & skin allergies…if you do not see any improvement after 1 month on a kibble change to another kibble with different ingredients & protein… also California Natural Lamb Meal & Rice has just 4 ingredients & is a Hypoallergenic kibble suppose to be good for food sensitivities & a starting point when doing elimination diets then when ur dog is doing really well introduce a new food for 1 month & see if there’s any reaction if not then introduce another ingredient, ingredients that kibbles have

  • Morganna Kennsington

    I gotta know if I’m the only one whose experienced this or not.
    I’ve got a black lab/rotty/chow mutt, 120 lbs, roughly 9-10 years old.
    But he’s lived off cheap kibble his whole life, typically varieties of Ol’ Roy (mostly Kibbles, Chunks, and Chews) and for a bit of time Sam’s Club brand Simply Right. And one day my brother bought him the wrong food. It was Simply Right small dog kibble. No big deal. It was smaller than usual and I was afraid he would choke on it but he seemed okay with it. About half the way through the 40 lb bag he started to get sick. He had bloody diarrhea constantly and was kinda listless. He was visibly uncomfortable and miserable and had gas so bad it was near constant and sometimes hurt him.
    At the time we had no idea what it was and figured it was some sort of doggy stomach bug. We gave him chicken broth cooked rice and yarrow with the oddball can of dogfood we have set aside for emergencies mixed in. His issues lessened but didn’t stop altogether. We kept feeding him the rice mixture and he’d get better for a day or two and then get sick all over again. We moved him from the small dogfood over to his favorite Ol’ Roy flavor thinking the small dogfood was bad. Didn’t help but he was happier with the old food back.
    I enlisted the help of the internet and asked a vet tech friend for help. She suggested things for me to try. We did and it was all temporary results.
    Well one night after having several weeks of issues off and on it hit me. I get the same way with milk products. It’s possible he had somehow developed an allergy to the foods main ingredient, wheat. I suggested it to mum and she was skeptical. Gluten allergies didn’t exist when she was growing up and was fairly sure it was a bullshit diet fad. A few days of pushing her to try a gluten free kibble on him to see if it made a difference she finally resigned and agreed.
    We looked around. The only options we had were $40 for 20 lbs of some yuppie brand or $35 for 40 lbs of Simply Right. Cost won out and we bought the Simply Right Exceed grain free food. It was bland and he wasn’t too keen on it. It reeked really strongly of the salmon it was made from. Very gag-worthy. Three days later he dried up and was considerably perkier.
    It’s been a year on consistent Simply Right grain free food and he’s so much like he was as a puppy! He’s excitable and jumpy and perky as all can be! He’s not had diarrhea since that stint and we’ve managed to find 2 brands of treats that don’t have grains! One’s Doggy Delirious which I HIGHLY recommend! They’re limited ingredient treats that even people can eat. The ones Sam’s Club typically carries are peanut butter and pea(And really don’t taste too bad. Don’t ask) but they have several flavor’s available! And the other is Exceed grain free moist treats. The DD are bones and the Exceed are like moist jerky strips, like Beggin Strips. He absolutely adores the Exceed treats and will even ask for them(he’ll run to the box, nudge it and stare at us wiggling, does the same with normal biscuits and for his peanut butter he’ll run to the silverware drawer and prance around). The moist treats are for special occasions, like if he alerts us or we have to put medication on him.

    But my entire story’s point; Has anyone else ever heard of an instance where small dogfood fed to a large dog caused some sort of intolerance or serious reaction? I’ve found no cases of it ever happening and I have no idea how it happened. He was far from a puppy when it developed and the only difference in anything that pertained to him was that small dogfood. It didn’t have a recall or any complaints towards it either. It was weird and scary. I was so sure he was going to die and what scared me most was that we had a bug near us that was killing dogs. Some strange new disease that had no treatments that had killed off several local dogs. Winny doesn’t go into public and we keep him pretty much inside all he time but we live in a suburban neighborhood now with loads of other animals around. In the end I finally realized it was a gluten issue. But everything says they develop at 6-8 month’s at latest and nothing says an 8-9 year old dog can suddenly develop it. All I can do is blame small dogfood for poisoning him and ruining his bowels. Is that possible? Bits of research I’ve done and vet advice has said that small dogfood is made with different needs and it’s tentatively said it’s POSSIBLE but not likely. No one knows what happened or why. He’s fine now and happy as a clam but if this happens to someone else’s pup I gotta know! If this is a thing people need to be able to protect their large dogs from harm!

  • Karen Hoppe

    Thank-u for the reccomendations..

  • Babslynne

    Victor is a 4 to 5 star rated dog food depending on which one you get, Purina Light and Healthy is 1 star, so clearly that’s the answer, slowly transition back to Victor by adding a little more at a time to the Purina while reducing the Purina over the course of a week to 2 weeks. Also add a tablespoon of plain canned pumpkin to the mix to keep her from getting diarrhea that sometimes occurs during a food change, or give a probiotic.

  • Karen Hoppe

    I used to give her and my other dog I had, Victor brand is that good, but but i started changed to Pufina light and healthy and has lot of things she could be allergic too like soy. and other ingredients,

  • Karen Hoppe

    And she has also nbeen really tired, eating lot of grass,but not throwing up or diaharrea , anyhow, supposed take her back to vet mondaym and she’s has irritation on her rectum and her privates… been so miserable poor baby…..

  • Karen Hoppe

    My dog is having all of the symptoms related to food alergies, i took her in on feb 29th she has been having ear and allerg issues since have had her for around 2 years now anyhow the vet cleaned her ears, and put medicne in them, and prescribed steroids and antibiotics for her othre itching her feet , so should i maybe try changing her food.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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