Dogs can suffer from allergies, or an abnormal immune system response against foreign substances called “allergens.” Some allergens include pollen, medications and even food. Veterinarian Dr. Susan Wynn states that 10 percent of dog allergies are food-related and chicken is a common culprit. Could Fido be allergic to chicken?
The most common allergy symptom that your dog will display in response to a food allergen like chicken is itchy skin. You may notice that Fido is constantly licking and scratching his head, neck, ears and limbs, writes Dr. Pascale Pibot of the Royal Canine Research Center. The excessive licking and scratching may lead to hot spots, lesions and hair loss. Just like humans, your dog's eyes may become irritated and he may get ear infections frequently, according to Natural Dog Health Remedies, a website on holistic care for dogs. Your dog may also experience digestive distress.
Is it a Food Allergy?
Because many food allergy symptoms are similar to those of respiratory, contact and insect bite allergies, it's important to first rule out other allergies. Fortunately, there are some clues that may help you figure out if your dog is having a chicken allergy. Food allergies can happen anytime during the year, unlike seasonal or environmental allergies. Medications such as antihistamines and corticosteroids that are used to treat other types of allergies are ineffective when used to treat food allergies. Consult your vet if you suspect that your dog is suffering from any type of allergy.
Elimination and Trial Periods
If you and your vet suspect that Fido might be suffering from a chicken allergy, you may be instructed to start him on an “elimination diet.” You'll be instructed to first remove chicken and any products containing chicken from your dog's diet. Next, choose a protein source such as turkey or lamb that your dog has never eaten before and feed it to him for a period of 12 weeks. It is important to refrain from feeding your dog anything but this protein source, plus a carbohydrate such as rice or millet and fresh water.
If Fido's symptoms clear up after the elimination diet is over, begin to feed him chicken again. You can conclude that your dog is allergic to chicken if he begins to exhibit symptoms after going back on his previous diet. However, if there hasn't been any improvement after the 12 weeks, you'll need to repeat the process again by introducing a food ingredient that he has never eaten before.
Once you have confirmed that your dog is allergic to chicken, make the appropriate changes to his diet. Feed him foods that he tolerated well during the elimination and trial periods and stay away from the foods that he didn't do well with. Over time, however, dogs tend to become allergic to foods they eat on a regular basis, according to Dr. Wynn. Thus, Dr. Wynn recommends varying a dog's diet every two to three months to avoid a food allergy from developing.
You may also opt to feed your dog commercially made hypoallergenic dog food which do not contain additives, artificial flavoring or coloring. Lastly, you may choose to prepare homemade meals for your dog so that you are in control of what goes in your dog's food. However, it is imperative that you consult your vet or a pet nutritionist before preparing your dog's food to ensure a balanced, healthy diet.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Nancy Chen is a professional writer and owner of a pet care business. She is also certified to teach English to middle and secondary school students. Chen holds a bachelor's degree in English and comparative religions from Tufts University, as well as a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University.