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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Food Allergy View In Cats




Condition Overview

Food allergy is the 3rd most common cause of allergic itching and scratching in dogs. It occurs in dogs of all ages. Unlike canine atopy, food allergy is not seasonal.


The most typical reaction is whole body itching, accompanied by the appearance of small red bumps (pustules) and raised patches of skin. Characteristically, the rash involves the ears, feet, backs of the legs, and the underside of the body. Cats develop itchy face and head. Less often, pets react with vomiting or diarrhea.

Since food allergy is less common than canine atopy and flea allergy dermatitis, the dog is often thought to be suffering from one of those diseases. Many dogs will start showing signs just in their ears, with a red moist rash.


Food allergy is caused by a reaction to certain ingredients in your dogs food. The quality of the pet food will also directly effect this condition. Low quality ingredients used in store brand foods will multiply the effects of the allergy. Premium pet food is always recommended.


The diagnosis is made by placing the dog on a hypoallergenic test diet and watching for a definite reduction in itching, scratching, and skin inflammation. A hypoallergenic diet is one that has a very limited number of ingredients that the dog is unlikely to have encountered in the past. Look into the offerings from California Natural and Wellpet (formerly Eagle Pack & Wellness). Both companies have single protein source limited ingredient premium foods.


Eliminate all treats and chews (unless you can find some with limited ingredients - usually found at specialty shops), and switch from a chewable tablet heartworm preventative to one that comes in a different form.

A reduction in itching may occur within a few days of starting the test diet, but in many cases it takes several weeks. The test diet should be continued for at least 10 weeks. Once improvement is noted, various foods can be added one by one until the offending allergen can be identified. You will notice a marked increase in scratching.

Some pets have difficulty digesting milk or cheese products because they lack the enzyme (lactase) needed to digest a sugar (lactose) found in dairy products. Remove all dairy from your pets diet.


Begin prevention by selecting only specialty store high quality pet foods. The clean dog foods seem to stress a pets system less and therefore reduce the instance of food allergy type symptoms.

Ear infections, hot spots, food allergy type symptoms can all be reduced by increasing the quality of your dogs food. Innova, Eagle Pack, Wellness, Canidae, Solid Gold, Fromm, and others are the best in the industry.


Contact your veterinarian if your pet is suffering skin or ear infection from a food allergy. Consult with a pet nutritionist to find the best food for your pet.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Bible

Publisher: BowTie Press, 2005

Website: http://www.bowtiepress.com/bowtie/

Authors: Kristin Meuh-Roe, Jarelle S. Stein

Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats

Publisher: Bantam Dell Publishing, 1996

Website: http://www.randomhouse.com/bantamdell/

Authors: Matthew Hoffman, Laura Catalano, Maryanne Dell

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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