The Ultimate Guide to Feeding Dogs With Skin Allergies
If you have an itchy pup, you may be wondering: What is the best food for a dog with skin allergies? While skin allergies are more commonly triggered by environmental factors, changing your dog’s food could make a difference in how itchy your pup is, regardless of whether their skin is reacting to a food or environmental trigger.
Let’s take a deep dive into skin allergies in dogs, the connection between diet and skin, and the best food for dogs with skin allergies.
What Are Skin Allergies in Dogs?
An allergy is a reaction to an allergen where the immune system overreacts to one or more triggers, and skin allergies in dogs are when that overreaction leads to a pup suffering from itchy, inflamed, or even painful skin.
Causes of Skin Allergies in Dogs
The most common causes of skin allergies in dogs include:
•Flea allergy dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction to the saliva in flea bites. Itchiness is most common at the base of the tail and is easily treated by ridding your dog of fleas.
•Environmental allergens, which are typically seasonal, include allergens like pollen, dust, grasses, weeds, and mold. Environmental allergens are the most common type of allergic reactions in dogs.
•Food allergies are responsible for about 10-20% of all dog allergies and often cause dogs to lick their paws and scratch their ears. The most common dog food allergens include beef, chicken, pork, dairy, egg, lamb, wheat, soy, and rice.
What’s the Difference Between Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities in Dogs?
Many people think their dog has a food allergy when the dog actually has a food sensitivity. What’s the difference?
Food allergies involve an immune response and frequently affect the skin, while food sensitivities more commonly affect the digestive system and don’t involve the immune system. One common example of a food sensitivity that affects both people and dogs is lactose intolerance. People and pups who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme (lactase) required to digest lactose and may suffer significant effects if they eat dairy products, but their immune system has nothing to do with the negative reaction to lactose.
Symptoms of Food Allergies in Dogs
Common signs of food allergies in dogs include:
•Redness of the skin, especially in the ears
•Itching (including scratching, licking, rubbing, or biting affected areas)
•Oily fur and skin
•Repeated skin infection
•Chronic ear infections
•Swelling of the face or eyes
•Sneezing or reverse sneezing
•Red or watery eyes
•Gastrointestinal issues (soft stool, vomiting, diarrhea, or gas)
Symptoms of Food Sensitivities in Dogs
Symptoms of food sensitivities in dogs tend to focus primarily on the digestive tract and include:
•Mucus in the stool
•Blood in the stool
•Loss of appetite
What’s the Connection Between Diet and Skin Allergies in Dogs?
There are two main connections between diet and skin allergies in dogs:
•In dogs with food allergies, the diet itself can either cause or cure skin allergies by including or eliminating the offending ingredient(s).
•In dogs with environmental allergies, a diet that is high-carb, highly processed, and low in fatty acids can contribute to a drier, flakier, itchier coat.
As you can see, switching to a naturally low-carb, species-appropriate raw diet that’s rich in fatty acids can help improve the symptoms of dogs with skin allergies even if they’re caused by environmental factors, and since a raw diet is naturally limited-ingredient, We Feed Raw is also ideal for dogs with food allergies.
Can Certain Foods Cause Skin Allergies in Dogs?
While any food can cause skin allergies in dogs, the most common food allergy triggers in dogs are:
How Do I Know if My Dog Has a Skin Allergy?
If your dog is constantly licking, chewing, or scratching themselves and their skin is red, flaky, or irritated, they likely have a skin allergy. The best way to find out what your pup is allergic to is to work with your veterinarian, although switching their food to a species-appropriate raw diet may help, as well.
What Is the Best Food for Dogs With Skin Allergies?
The best food for dogs with skin allergies is one that’s limited-ingredient, species-appropriate, naturally low-carb, and raw. We Feed Raw meets all those criteria and more. Our turkey recipe, for example, only contains turkey tail, turkey gizzards, turkey wings, turkey liver, and a vitamin and mineral mix. That’s it.
What’s the importance of a low-carbohydrate diet for dogs with skin allergies? Carbs drive inflammation (in both humans and dogs). According to Eating Well: “In fact, the effect that carbs have on blood sugar—whether that's slow and steady or a sudden spike—is considered a primary driver of inflammation.”
Dogs don’t have any nutritional requirements for carbs, so cutting them out of your dog’s diet may help relieve some of the inflammation associated with skin allergies.
Can a Raw Diet Help With Skin Allergies in Dogs?
Yes! With fewer ingredients for dogs to be allergic to, no grains to cause inflammation, and high-quality protein your dog can easily digest, a raw diet is an excellent choice to help with skin allergies in dogs. Our turkey, beef, and chicken recipes all come from single protein sources, making them great food for dogs who aren’t allergic to those proteins.
Benefits of a Raw Diet for Dogs With Allergies
Dogs with skin allergies who switch to a raw diet may experience a variety of benefits, including:
•Reduced allergy symptoms
•Shinier, softer coat
•Whiter, cleaner teeth
•Stronger immune system
•Smaller, firmer stools
•Better weight control
•More mealtime excitement
Find out how much it would cost to get your itchy dog started on We Feed Raw here.
What Are Other Causes of Allergies and Dry, Itchy Skin in Dogs?
Apart from food, fleas and other environmental allergies can also make dogs itchy, but allergies aren’t the only things that can make dogs itch. Your dog’s diet itself may be causing dry, itchy skin. How?
For starters, many types of kibble contain only the bare minimum amount of fatty acids. Fatty acids are essential for a healthy skin and coat, so if your dog is only getting the bare minimum, they may be living, but they likely aren’t thriving.
Another way your dog’s kibble may be causing dry skin is due to the connection between carbohydrates and inflammation. Kibble REQUIRES high levels of carbohydrates for the food to stick together and form crunchy bits. Those same high levels of carbs can trigger inflammation and dry, irritated, itchy skin.
That’s why a low-carb, species-appropriate raw diet may help dogs with skin allergies even if it isn’t a food allergy triggering their itchiness.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are Common Signs of Skin Allergies in Dogs?
Common signs of skin allergies in dogs include:
•Frequent itching and scratching
•Red, inflamed skin or rashes
•Excessive licking, especially of the paws
•Dry or oily skin
•Biting or chewing on the skin
•Swollen paws or face
•Frequent head shaking due to itchy ears
•Regularly rubbing against surfaces
How Can I Tell if My Dog Has a Food Allergy?
Some of the most common signs that a dog has a food allergy include:
•Chronic ear infections
•“Stained” brownish, red, or pink lips, jowls, or toes
•Brown, red, or bronze nail beds
•Red belly, itchy skin, and a dull coat
What Should I Avoid Feeding My Dog With Skin Allergies?
If you know what your dog is allergic to, then you should avoid giving your dog that food. If you haven’t figured out what allergies your pup has, the most common dog food allergy triggers in dogs are beef, chicken, dairy, egg, lamb, pork, wheat, soy, and rice, so it’s best to avoid giving your pup anything with those ingredients.
Can a Homemade Diet Be Nutritionally Balanced?
If you work with a veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist, you may be able to make a nutritionally balanced diet for your dog yourself. However, it’s easy to make mistakes, and your dog could suffer as a result. We Feed Raw is already nutritionally complete and balanced for dogs of all life stages, including the growth of large-breed puppies.
Are There Any Supplements That Can Help With Skin Allergies in Dogs?
Some supplements that may help with skin allergies in dogs include omega fatty acids, quercetin, probiotics, L-theanine, and CBD.
Should I Buy Hypoallergenic Dog Food for Skin Allergies?
If your dog has a severe food allergy but you don’t know what they’re allergic to, then a hypoallergenic dog food may help your pup recover so you can figure out what they’re allergic to. However, you can also feed a limited ingredient raw diet and get similar results.
What’s the Best Food for Dog Skin Allergies?
The best food for dog skin allergies is a low-carbohydrate, limited-ingredient, species-appropriate, nutritionally complete and balanced raw dog food like We Feed Raw. High in skin-healthy fatty acids and low in potentially allergy-triggering ingredients, our food is an excellent choice.
Can I Test My Dog for Food Allergies at Home?
Advertised at-home test kits for dog allergies are unreliable and frequently give false positives and negatives. The best way to determine what your dog is allergic to is to bring them to the vet for proper testing. Alternatively, you can try a food elimination diet where you feed them a protein they’ve never had before for several months in the hopes of clearing up their allergies.
Are Grain-Free Foods Better for Dogs With Skin Allergies?
Grains—along with most carbohydrates—can cause inflammation in dogs, triggering or exacerbating skin allergies. However, dry dog food that’s labeled as “grain-free” frequently contains legumes and other ingredients that may be connected to dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition. The best diet for dogs with skin allergies is one that’s naturally grain-free like We Feed Raw.