As pet owners, we always want to give our dogs the best possible care, including a well-balanced diet to maintain their health and happiness. However, dealing with issues such as itchy skin, gastrointestinal problems, and recurring skin infections can be confusing and frustrating. So, let's break down the differences between food allergies and intolerances, delve into their symptoms, and offer dietary advice on managing them effectively.


Food intolerances in dogs

Food intolerances (or food sensitivities) occur when a dog's digestive system has difficulty processing certain ingredients in their diet. Intolerances typically result from enzyme deficiencies or sensitivities to specific food components. 

Food intolerances in dogs can manifest in various ways, often involving gastrointestinal symptoms. The most common symptoms are digestive, such as diarrhoea, vomiting, excessive gas, bloating, and stomach discomfort.

Food intolerances can also present as skin problems, including itching, redness, rashes, hot spots, or persistent ear infections.


Food allergies in dogs

On the other hand, food allergies in dogs involve an abnormal immune response to specific proteins found in their diet. When a dog with a food allergy eats a particular protein, their immune system mistakenly identifies it as harmful. 

The body then produces antibodies, such as immunoglobulin E (IgE), to combat the perceived threat. As part of this immune response, mast cells, which are a type of white blood cell, release histamines to fight off the allergens. Histamines are chemicals that cause inflammation and irritation in various tissues, leading to the characteristic symptoms of a food allergy.

Symptoms and signs of a food allergy in dogs include:
  • Skin issues: itching, scratching, licking, gnawing, rashes, hot spots, and secondary skin infections. 
  • Digestive troubles: diarrhoea, vomiting, gas, bloating, discomfort.
  • Ear infections: chronic or frequent ear infections characterised by redness, foul odour, discharge and discomfort. 
  • Respiratory symptoms: In rare instances, coughing, wheezing or sneezing may be observed.



If your dog has shown signs of an adverse reaction to food and has developed a skin issue known as a cutaneous adverse food reaction, it's crucial to consult with your veterinarian. Chronic itching, a common symptom of food allergies, can lead to secondary skin infections if left untreated.


Diagnosing and Managing Food Allergies and Intolerances

The most effective approach to diagnosing a food allergy in dogs involves identifying and eliminating the trigger ingredient through a veterinarian-supervised elimination trial using a single, novel protein diet. 

Once you pinpoint the culprit ingredient (or ingredients!), you can manage the allergy by feeding your dog a single protein diet that meets its nutritional needs without triggering a reaction.

Additionally, your vet may recommend various treatments to help manage and address the allergy and any secondary issues that may arise. These treatments might include antihistamines to reduce itching and inflammation and corticosteroids to suppress the immune response.

Watch below as Bondi Vet, Dr Alison helps Luca with his food related allergies.


What are the most common ingredients that cause food allergies in dogs?

The most common food allergens include proteins such as beef, chicken and egg, dairy such as milk and cheese, and grains like wheat and corn


Icons of chicken, beef, eggs, wheat, corn and milk


What's the best diet for my dog with a food allergy or intolerance?

After completing your elimination diet trial and discovering your dog's triggers, it's best to stick to single protein diets that only use ingredients they can tolerate and digest. 

Our SPD (Single Protein Diet) ranges are each crafted with only one protein source per recipe. The diets are also grain-free (with the exception of Chicken & Brown Rice recipes) and dairy-free, providing added peace of mind and minimising the risk of flare-ups and discomfort. 

All of our Single Protein Diets undergo rigorous independent testing to verify their single protein composition and we maintain strict quality control to prevent cross-contamination during manufacturing. Not only are these diets complete and balanced, but we also offer a wide range of protein options such as Salmon, Kangaroo, Duck and more, catering to your dog's specific needs.