Does your dog really have a food allergy?

For a while there, everything seemed to be grain free. But does your dog really need to avoid grains? It turns out, that food allergies are less common than you think...and grains are nowhere near the top of the list of allergies.

Based on a study published in the National Library of Medicine (Olivry, 2017), it's estimated that the prevalence of cutaneous adverse food reactions, which are likely representative of food allergies, is less than 1% among dogs with any disease, and between 15 to 20% among dogs with pruritus or allergic skin disease.

However, according to according to the 2018 State of Pet Health Report from Banfield Pet Hospital food allergies affect just 0.2 percent of dogs.

"Pet owners are increasingly aware of food sensitivities in people—and that diet plays a role in skin health," said Dr. Emi Saito, senior manager of veterinary research programs at Banfield.

"Many are led to believe their itchy pet may also be suffering from a food allergy. Banfield Pet Hospital data supports that food allergies in our pets are uncommon, and other causes of certain skin conditions should be investigated before pursuing a food allergy diagnosis."

It's worth noting that the true prevalence of food allergies in dogs can be challenging to pinpoint due to variations in diagnostic criteria and the possibility of unreported cases.

For dogs that did have a genuine food allergy, another study (Meller, 2016) aimed to identify the most common food allergens that cause adverse food reactions in dogs and cats. Researchers undertook a literature review and identified 297 relevant studies on dogs and 78 studies on cats.

Here's what they found:

  • In dogs, the most common food allergens reported were beef (34%), dairy products (17%), chicken (15%), and wheat (13%). Other common allergens were lamb, soy, corn, and egg.
  • In cats, the most common food allergens reported were beef (18%), fish (17%), and chicken (5%). Other common allergens were wheat, corn, dairy products, and lamb.
  • There were limitations in the studies like lack of details on provocation protocols, bias due to selective rechallenges, and changes in pet feeding habits over time.

The study concluded that for diagnosing adverse food reactions, food challenges should begin with beef and dairy products in both dogs and cats, as they are the most commonly reported allergens. However, the identified prevalence of allergens may not be accurate.



Olivry T, Mueller RS. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (3): prevalence of cutaneous adverse food reactions in dogs and cats. BMC Vet Res. 2017 Feb 15;13(1):51. doi: 10.1186/s12917-017-0973-z. PMID: 28202060; PMCID: PMC5311844.

Mueller, R.S., Olivry, T. & Prélaud, P. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats.BMC Vet Res 12, 9 (2016).


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