Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance in Dogs

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When our dogs are experiencing problems like itchy skin or an upset stomach, many owners will begin to suspect that their pet has a food allergy. Veterinary experts say that food allergies in dogs are not as common as people think, and that a food intolerance may be the cause of your dog’s issues. What’s the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? Read on.

While an allergy is caused by an immune system reaction, an intolerance is a sensitivity.  According to the nutritionists at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, out of all the dogs they see for suspected food allergies, only around 10% of them have an actual food allergy. What about the other 90%?

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Some of the dogs with skin issues are having allergic reactions to airborne particles in the environment like pollen, dust, and mold. For dogs with digestive problems, a food intolerance is more likely to be the culprit than a food allergy. Food intolerance can be more subtle than a sensitivity to a particular ingredient. For some dogs, it could be the amount of fat or fiber in a dog food, or even how it was cooked.

What are the most common food ingredients to cause intolerance in dogs? According to the experts at PetMD, owners should be aware of lactose, gluten, artificial additives like coloring, and table scraps containing things like spices.

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Of course, all dogs are different, so you should talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s particular food sensitivities. The standard way of identifying an intolerance or allergy is to exclude likely causes one at a time from your dog’s diet and see if the symptoms improve. Once the food is identified, avoid feeding your dog anything containing the offending ingredient, and be especially careful about people giving your dog “treats.”

 

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