Understanding Allergies & How To Help

Does Your Dog Have Allergies?

Adverse food reactions can, unfortunately, be quite common in dogs. Adverse food reaction is an umbrella term used for food allergies, sensitivities, intolerances, or any negative response to a component of food. Symptoms of food allergies occur in response to the immune system, which begins to attack the culprit. True food allergies are actually quite rare in dogs and are most often caused by proteins. 

Common Signs & Symptoms of Adverse Food Reactions:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchy skin 
  • Hair loss
  • Ear and skin infections

OR Is It An Intolerance?

Food intolerances and sensitivities are much more common than allergies. So, what is the difference between food intolerances and a food allergy? The immune system! A reaction to food due to a food intolerance does not involve the immune system. Symptoms will occur upon the first exposure to a certain food item when it is a food intolerance. 

Alternatively, a food allergy occurs when the immune system is involved. The immune system begins to attack the culprit and over time and repeated exposure this will result in the common signs and symptoms of food allergies. A food intolerance can often develop into a food allergy when left untreated. Both food sensitivities and allergies can also increase the likelihood of an irritable bowel disease diagnosis. 

Adverse food reactions often begin at a young age though they can develop in any breed and at any age. 

How Can We Know For Sure?

Because of the similar signs and symptoms of food intolerances and food allergies, they can often be difficult to differentiate. Food allergies can be diagnosed with a few different methods. There are currently many skin-patch and blood tests available to determine if your pet has food allergies to numerous potential food culprits. However, these tests are not usually very accurate

The best way, or the gold standard, to determine a food allergy diagnosis is by an elimination diet. This test lasts a minimum of 8 weeks, and the diet must not contain any previously consumed ingredients. The best elimination trial diets contain single animal or vegetable protein and carbohydrate sources. During this time no treats or snacks should be provided – only the trial diet (and water) should be consumed. After the 8 weeks, the food thought to be causing the allergic reactions is reintroduced. If the re-introduction of the food item results in a reaction, then a food allergy can be diagnosed.

So, What's Next?

The best treatment for food allergies is simply avoiding the food causing the allergy. Since protein are the most common food allergies in dogs, novel proteins are often used in pet foods to support food allergies. Novel proteins quite literally mean a new protein. This means that your dog has likely not consumed these proteins before which can limit the chances of seeing an adverse reaction. 

Common novel protein sources in pet foods are: 

  • Venison
  • Kangaroo
  • Bison
  • Rabbit
  • Quail
  • Alligator 

Limited ingredient diets can also be useful for pups with food allergies or sensitivities as they can limit exposure to certain foods that may cause a reaction. At Tom&Sawyer, we offer multiple meals for pups who may suffer from food allergies and sensitivities! Our Rosemary Venison, Kangaroo, and Fisherman’s Best Friend meals offer novel proteins and contain a limited number of ingredients in a complete and balanced recipe to keep your pup thriving!

In addition, if your pup has a grain or gluten allergy we also have a line of grain and gluten-free options! 

If you have questions about your pet and food allergies, intolerances, or novel proteins, contact your veterinarian or ask our Animal Nutritionist at hannah@tomandsawyer.com.


Hannah Godfrey
Animal Nutritionist
BSc.H. | MSc. Animal Nutrition