Grain Allergies In Dogs: Symptoms and treatment
Written by Dr Claire Stevens
Food allergies are not limited to humans — dogs can also have allergic reactions to certain foods, such as grains and beef. Allergic reactions include symptoms such as itchy skin and hair loss, as well as gastrointestinal issues which can be very unpleasant for you and your pet! Since grains are commonly added to dog foods, some dogs may be exposed to them in excess over time. Consequently, grain allergies can start at any age, sometimes even after your dog has been fed the same diet for years without incident.
Symptoms that are frequently associated with grain allergies include red, itchy skin, hair loss associated with constant scratching and chewing, ear infections, and inflamed pads on the underside of paws, often combined with obsessive licking. Other symptoms include gastrointestinal upsets that can cause vomiting, gas and diarrhoea.
If your dog is experiencing skin allergies or any other allergic symptoms, you should seek advice from your vet. Once the vet has ruled out other common causes of these symptoms, they may suggest changing your dog’s food to a hypoallergenic diet.
Food allergies are caused by a response from the immune system to something it considers harmful, even though it may in fact be harmless. The body’s natural defence mechanism kicks in to protect the body from the perceived threat — in this case, grain. This response causes inflammation which materialises as an allergic reaction. Since we see variations from dog to dog, one dog may be fine eating grains in their diet for their entire lives, while another may experience skin flare-ups or other ailments whenever he consumes grains. If you suspect your dog may be allergic to grains, consult with your veterinarian who will advise you on the best plan of action.
Your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination and may also do a blood test and other diagnostic tests like skin scrapings and a fecal analysis.
Should your vet suspect a food allergy, next you will need to determine what the problematic ingredient is so that it can be removed from your dog’s diet. Once the cause of the problem has been found and removed, your dog should recover relatively quickly.
This may require a process of elimination, which is best conducted under the guidance of your veterinarian. This typically involves switching diets to a hypoallergenic diet, such as the Hypro Premium range to see if the symptoms persist after trialling it for 6-8 weeks. Your vet may prescribe medication such as a medicated skin cream or antihistamine tablets to help ease the allergic symptoms while you work through the process of determining what is responsible for the allergy.
If your dog continues to be exposed to an ingredient that he is allergic to, it will result in a weakened immune system over time, which may, in turn, lead to chronic skin and ear infections, as well as other health issues. Feeding your dog a grain-free diet may offer a simple solution to alleviate skin allergies and other allergic reactions.