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Updated: Jul 2, 2022

Even being a doctor, I was unaware of the true impact food allergies can have on a person’s life. Our sons have life-threatening, anaphylactic type of food allergies that we’ve known about since they were little. This has impacted our mealtimes, shopping and lifestyle.

Did you know dogs can also have food allergies?

What Causes Allergies?

Thank goodness, true food allergies in dogs are rare, but even so, dogs can experience allergic reactions that make their immune system release histamines. These reactions can be triggered by food, but more likely are triggered by environmental things like pollen, grass, fleas or mold.

Itching is an obvious sign of allergies in dogs, but it is not exactly specific. I mean, there are other reasons besides allergies that make a dog scratch, right? The same goes for dogs licking their paws. I remember the first time I learned that this was another sign of allergies. I thought, surely it can’t be that every dog that licks its paws is having an allergic reaction!

Allergies, Sensitivities and Intolerances

Diagnosing allergies, sensitivities or intolerances, whether it’s for humans or dogs, is not easy nor is it straightforward. Our allergist spends nearly an hour with us every visit trying to get a thorough history, exam and treatment plan for my sons. She is usually running behind on her appointments, yet we don’t mind because when it’s our turn, she is so thorough and fully present with us.

Are you curious about the difference between allergies, sensitivities and intolerances?

It may be an academic difference, but an allergy involves the immune system and its cascade of responses to an allergen. A sensitivity does not actually involve an immune response. It’s more of the digestive system. An intolerance is a problem with the body lacking a chemical, like the enzyme lactase that is needed to digest milk. So, allergic symptoms would be hives, itching, swelling, dizziness, and anaphylaxis. Sensitivity symptoms would present in the digestive system like gas, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, cramping and nausea. The thing is, allergies can be fatal. Sensitivities and intolerances, even though they are awful and can ruin your day, are not fatal.

An allergic reaction to food will usually occur immediately or shortly after ingestion. Typically, it is a severe reaction. A food sensitivity is something that usually has developed over repeated exposures in time.


So, be patient with your vet as they try to help you diagnose your dog’s allergies, sensitivities or intolerances when it comes to possible allergies. Remember, the immune system is really tricky. Even trained specialists need a lot of time to diagnose and treat immunological issues. Veterinarians don’t have the luxury of getting a full history from their patients, nor are they usually able to spend hours with them. Things you can do to help your vet out include keeping a detailed log of the following:

· what they eat,

· what symptoms they display

· the timing of the onset of the symptoms.

There are a variety of apps and diaries for purchase to make it easier on you, but good old-fashioned pen and paper is also perfectly acceptable!

What have been your experiences with food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances in your pets?

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