Many dogs suffer adverse reactions to food, but
such conditions are often very difficult to diagnose and treat. As
manufacturers of super premium, hypoallergenic pet foods, we receive
many enquiries regarding this subject. This fact sheet has been
written to help you to provide
optimal nutrition for dogs suffering from adverse dietary reactions.
reactions cannot be ignored as they can cause a variety of
challenges to your dog’s health and well-being ranging from
skin and gastric disorders to behavioural problems.
nutrition is a complex science, a simple understanding of the dog’s
digestion and making the appropriate adaptations to the feeding
regime and eliminating the reaction-provoking ingredient/s will
help to restore peak health and vitality.
What is an adverse food reaction?
There are 2
main types of adverse food reaction:
1) Food Allergy / Food
Hypersensitivity – this is a true
allergy which is defined as an immune response to an ingredient
(usually a protein source).
Dietary or Food Intolerance
– this is an adverse reaction due to non-immunologic mechanisms.
Reactions to Food
Metabolic Food reaction
ABOVE: DIFFERENT TYPES OF ADVERSE REACTION TO
= an acute allergic reaction to an ingredient, usually manifesting
in swelling of the face, lips, ears, tongue and throat. Hives (skin
weals) may also be evident.
= describes an adverse reaction to food resulting from scavenging,
over-eating or ingestion of indigestible material.
Metabolic food reaction
= an adverse reaction to a food or food additive as a result of the
effect of the substance on the animal’s metabolism; e.g. lactase
= an abnormal response that resembles a food allergy but does not
involve immune mechanisms.
Pharmacologic food reaction
= an adverse reaction to a food or additive as a result of a
naturally derived or added chemical that produces a drug-like or
pharmacologic effect in the animal.
Signs of Adverse Food Reactions
How do I know if my
dog has an adverse food reaction?
Adverse food reactions may manifest
in a variety of different ways. They can affect dogs of any age.
True food allergies tend to arise after prolonged exposure to an
ingredient, and these are most common in animals aged from 1 – 5
years. However, the incidence of adverse food reactions as a whole
is highest in dogs that are less than a year of age, accounting for
one third of reported cases.
Although there is no conclusive
proof that certain breeds are more susceptible, the highest
incidence of adverse food reactions manifesting in gastrointestinal
symptoms have been noted in the Shar Pei and German Shepherd. The
Shar Pei and German Shepherd are also commonly affected by adverse
reactions manifesting in skin problems, alongside the Cocker
Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, Westie, Wheaten Terrier, Boxer,
Dachshund, English Bull Terrier, Dalmatian, Lhasa Apso and Golden
Retriever. There is evidence that the Irish Setter is frequently
affected with gluten induced enteropathy.
The symptoms of an adverse food
reaction are often similar to those affecting dogs with a range of
other conditions. Skin problems often imitate those arising from
bacterial or parasitic causes, whilst gastric problems may mirror
those arising from viral, bacterial or medical causes. It is
therefore extremely important to ensure that you seek veterinary
advice in order to rule out other causes of the symptoms, and
especially so if your dog is vomiting, lethargic and / or appears in
discomfort. Antibiotic / anti-inflammatory therapy may be needed to
treat secondary infection and inflammation.
Some dogs may suffer other symptoms
including the ingestion of unusual items (e.g. excessive grass
consumption, eating stones or faeces). Some may lack concentration
making them over-excitable and difficult to train. Unfortunately,
the tests used to diagnose an adverse food reaction are not
particularly reliable. Blood tests, endoscopic food testing and
intradermal skin testing may be helpful in some cases but it is
widely believed that a dietary trial excluding the suspected
reactive ingredient/s is the most effective means of diagnosis. A
faecal sample may be helpful to rule out bacterial causes.
Your dog may exhibit one or more of
these signs : -
Gastrointestinal Symptoms -
Loose stools / diarrhoea
Increased frequency of passing motions
Increased stool volume
Note: The above signs may also be indicative
Skin Conditions -
Skin inflammation (especially ears, face, feet, armpits and / or
Scaly, dry skin / dandruff
Changes in the skin pigmentation
Behavioural Problems -
Eating unusual objects (e.g. stones, excessive amounts of grass,
Coprophagia (i.e. eating faeces)
Lack of concentration and difficult to train
Over-excitement and taking a long time to calm down
Irritability for no apparent reason
A young dog with poor skin and/or bilateral ear infection
(affecting both ears) passing 3 or more bowel movements a day is a
classic case where an adverse dietary reaction is the most likely
cause of the problems.
Dogs that have already been
diagnosed with irritable bowel disease may be more susceptible to
adverse food reactions (usually dietary intolerance rather than true
food allergy) since the inflamed bowel mucosa is likely to be more
sensitive to certain ingredients. Dogs with this condition should
avoid gas producing foods and those with an excessive fat content.
Dogs with chronic colitis (an
inflamed lower bowel) or malabsorption (an impaired digestive
ability) may also benefit from dietary trials and avoidance of
potentially reactive ingredients.
Treatment of Adverse Food Reactions
How do I treat my
dog’s adverse food reaction?
Step 1: Keep a
Food Diary - The first
thing to do is to closely scrutinise exactly what your dog eats each
day. If necessary, keep a food diary for a period of a week.
You must include
absolutely everything that your dog ingests, and this includes
things that he does eat, even if he isn’t supposed to; e.g. stealing
cat food, raiding bins etc.
You will need to include: -
The main daily diet (i.e. the
proprietary dog food used)
Human food given, such as left-over
meat and vegetables from dinner, a piece of toast etc…
Dog treats given (all types,
including soft treats, biscuits and chews)
Dietary supplements such as
homeopathic remedies / toothpaste
Access to other food-stuffs; e.g.
garden vegetation, cat food or food intended for other pets in
the household, scavenging and stealing
that everything possible is included in your list regardless of the
quantity consumed. One small dog biscuit a day may not seem much,
but it would be enough to trigger a reaction in a sensitive animal.
Even flavourings and preservatives in toys and pet toothpaste may be
of relevance. Some animals do have a threshold – whereby they may be
able to digest small □uantities of a potentially reactive ingredient
with symptoms only becoming evident after a certain volume is
consumed. However, during the initial stages of investigation, you
will need to exclude ALL the prime potential triggers from
Once you have
created your list, take a look at the items over-leaf and see if any
of the common triggers of adverse food reactions are included. You
may be surprised…
Next, we advise
that the food items most likely to cause an adverse reaction are
eliminated from the diet.
complimentary pet foods (i.e. treats) can be stopped immediately,
however you will need to bear in mind that any sudden change to a
routine can be detrimental. Therefore, if your dog has always been
used to a food reward for good behaviour during training, then stop
the potential offending food item, but replace it with a
hypoallergenic dog treat (such as Arden Grange Crunchy Bites), a
ration of the normally daily food allowance (weighed out and put by
specifically for this purpose) or a very small portion of fresh meat
(not beef or liver). Most of our reported incidences of adverse food
reactions are as a result of ingredients found in non-hypoallergenic
commercial dog treats, and often simply by substituting these with
more suitable alternatives, the symptoms are alleviated.
Step 2 :
Ensure that your dog is fed only pet food and treats that are
preserved naturally - Arden Grange use a combination of mixed
tocopherols (Vitamin E) and rosemary extract.
Avoid any artificial colourings, flavourings and
Step 3 :
Ensure that your dog is fed a hypoallergenic food such as
Arden Grange that is free from the ingredients that are most likely
to trigger an adverse reaction. Beef, wheat and dairy accounted for
more than 65% of reported cases of adverse food reactions in 10
studies! It is never a good idea to suddenly change onto another
diet however, and Arden Grange recommend a gradual introduction of
the new food over a period of several days.
should also contain a top □uality protein source that is easily
digested. An incompletely
digested food protein has the potential to incite an allergic
response because of residual antigenic proteins and large
polypeptide molecules. Arden Grange diets use only the highest
quality ingredients that are easily broken down into the building
blocks necessary for all the structural and metabolic functions
within the body. None of these ingredients are genetically modified.
COMMON ALLERGENS FOUND IN COMMERCIAL DOG
FOOD & TREATS
Note: Avoid pet foods listing
‘cereals’ as an ingredient as these usually chiefly contain wheat
Feed only hypoallergic dog food and treats
Step 4: Be careful what other
food-stuffs your dog has access to;
be these human foods, food intended for other pets, vegetation from
the garden and other sources. Dogs with robust digestions can
usually eat a variety of foods, but special care needs to be taken
with the potentially reactive dog whilst you are working to
establish the possible triggers of adverse food reactions.
Dairy products (especially milk, fermented cheeses and yoghurt)
should be avoided since many dogs are lactose intolerant, as
their levels of lactase (responsible for the digestion of milk
sugar) decreases with age.
Many dogs love
fish, but Arden Grange do not recommend the feeding of tinned
fish such as tuna and mackerel. This is because it contains
high levels of histamine which may provoke an allergic response.
meats (particularly pork and beef sausages)
also contain high histamine levels and therefore should be avoided.
HUMAN FOODS OFTEN FED TO PETS THAT SHOULD BE AVOIDED IN THE
POTENTIALLY REACTIVE DOG
Milk, fermented cheeses and yoghurt
Liver (especially pigs’ liver)
Tomato, spinach & avocado
Tinned / processed fish
Sardines (fresh or canned)
Dishes containing spices (e.g. curry, chilli)
Processed meats; especially pork and beef sausages
Grapes, chocolate and onion – these are
TOXIC to dogs
Your dog may love human food but make sure you are not giving inappropriate
foods that can upset the digestion
A NOTE ABOUT CHICKEN FAT / OIL
It is a common myth that dogs allergic to chicken
protein are also allergic to chicken fat or oil.
This is not the case since a true food allergy is an immune response
to a protein.
The pure chicken oil in Arden Grange pet foods is easily digestible
and acceptable to even the most sensitive digestion.
The good news is,
that whilst you will need to be extremely strict whilst identifying
the cause of the reaction, you can then start to reintroduce other
food stuffs back into the diet one by one on a trial basis. If
symptoms return, then avoid that ingredient or food stuff in
It is not unusual
for the skin to become very scurfy during the initial phase of
exclusion. This is a sign that the body is detoxifying itself from
the ingredients it is unable to digest and properly metabolise. In
cases of dietary intolerance, an improvement to your dog’s general
health and demeanour may become noticeable very quickly. True food
allergies take longer to rectify and it may be that it takes a
couple of months before a visible improvement is noted.
SOME FINAL HANDY HINTS
dietary reactions can be exacerbated by stress and over-excitement,
since the immune response is impaired when an animal is suffering
from stress. Try to keep your dog to a routine and provide a calm
environment particularly during feeding times.
A small meal is more easily digestible than a large one.
Arden Grange recommend the feeding of several small meals throughout
the day if an animal is suffering from symptoms that may be
associated with an adverse food reaction.
Excess fermentation can occur in food stuffs that are improperly
It is especially important that animals suspected to be suffering
from adverse dietary reactions are fed food that has been stored
correctly. Arden Grange pet foods should be stored in airtight
contains in order to prevent them from becoming moist from humidity
diets are a sensible choice for dogs with suspected adverse food
reactions since they are hypoallergenic and free from artificial
colourings, flavourings and preservatives. Safe supplementation with
Arden Grange hypoallergenic Crunchy Bites dog treats ensures that
your dog doesn’t go without reward during the food trial.
advisers can offer advice on the best product for your dog and help
you with any queries that you may have regarding any aspect of your
dog’s nutrition. Simply call us on 01273 833390.
Please note that this information has been
written with the potentially reactive dog in mind. Many dogs are
able to successfully digest and metabolise a variety of different
ingredients. More information is available on request.