Dog Allergies and Food

Dog allergies, specifically skin allergies, also known as allergic dermatitis, are very common. Allergies are among the leading causes of skin and coat issues in dogs and they affect dogs of all ages and breeds. In fact, skin, ear, and coat disorders are the most common reason for pets to visit the vet. Approximately 15-25% of all practice activity is involved with the diagnosis and treatment of skin and coat problems. Dogs with allergies require a specific diet and food, and in this article you will learn about the best foods for dog allergies.

What are the clinical signs of dog skin allergies?

  • Itching
  • Red, Inflamed skin
  • Dry brittle coat
  • Licking
  • Swelling
  • Chewing
  • Loss of hair
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Bad odor
  • Shaking Head
dog allergies symptoms

There are three types of common Dog Skin Allergies.

  1. Flea Allergy Dermatitis- an allergic reaction to fleabites or flea salvia.
  2. Food-Related Allergies- an abnormal reaction to normal foods triggered by an animal’s immune system.
  3. Environmental Allergies- Dust, pollen, and mold can cause atopic dermatitis

Identifying The Cause of Dog Allergies

Flea Allergy Dermatitis can be the easiest to both identify and treat. Often if you look closely at your pet’s skin you will see little black dots throughout their coat or even little black specks jumping or wandering around. These are the fleas and their droppings. White specks are often flea eggs. Your dog will most likely display excessive scratching, other signs include hair loss, scabs, and red irritated skin. A flea treatment and flea control will treat the existing fleas and prevent them in the future, eliminating the reaction.

dog flea
Flea jumping on dog fur close-up view

Pin Prick Dog Allergy Testing

The next two are more difficult to identify. You can have your pet tested for allergies using a skin prick test, however, that can be quite expensive. I use to recommend this at the beginning of my career as a Canine Nutritionist, however not only was it expensive, but I found the results were often overwhelming for my clients, as the list of things the dog tested allergic to was often incredibly lengthy. I will never forget one client whose dog tested allergic to grass, pollen, dander, and human dander among other things. Can you imagine finding out from your veterinarian that your dog is allergic to YOU?

Continual or Seasonal?

To help determine if your dog’s allergies are food-related or environmental, consider, when and how often the dog shows symptoms. If it is continuous, regardless of the time of year and the weather, it is most likely a food-related allergy. If it is off and on, or the dog has good days and bad days, it is most likely environmental. Keep in mind that while humans tend to inhale allergens, dogs tend to absorb allergens through their paws or skin.

Regardless of if your dog’s skin and coat condition is caused by environmental allergies or is a food-related issue, skin problems in dogs are typically a reflection of an underlying condition within your pet’s immune system. So the initial steps taken to begin to address the allergies may differ, the way we address the root cause, by supporting your pet’s immune system is the same in either case.

First Step to Resolving Your Dog’s Allergies

The first step to help treat either environmental allergies or food-related allergies causing skin and coat disorders is removing triggers of those allergies where possible. This will help prevent the condition from worsening while you build your pet’s immune system.

For dogs with a food-related allergy, the first place to start is an elimination diet. The dog elimination diet involves gradually shifting your pet to a diet that has none of the more common allergen proteins and carbohydrates, such as beef, dairy, and wheat (5). This should be done for 5-10 weeks, then you can gradually add back each ingredient and monitor its effect on your pet’s health.

The elimination diet can be done in one of two ways. You can use a homemade diet with a limited number of simple ingredients while avoiding common allergy-triggering foods. Homemade diets for elimination are typically bland but should include a protein and a carbohydrate. Below are examples of what to eliminate as well as what to use in replacement.


  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Egg
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Corn
  • Potatoes

Replacement Protein

  • Fish
  • Venison
  • Bison
  • Rabbit
  • Buffalo
  • Kangaroo
  • Emu
  • Pork
  • Duck

Replacement Carb

  • Brown Rice
  • Pearled Barley
  • Pumpkin
  • Oats
  • Sweet Potato
  • Squash

The other option is to use a commercial food that is specifically designed for dogs with allergies. Below are some of my favorite options for commercial foods.

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Best Food For Dogs With Allergies- Kibble

Environmental Dog Allergies

For environmental dog allergies, the first step in the management of allergies is wiping your pet down after being outside to remove what allergens you can. Wipes like the ones below can be used to easily wipe your pet’s coat and paws as they enter back into your home after playing outside, to get the allergens off their coat and reduce the possibility they enter into their system. You can also have your pet wear booties to eliminate allergens from getting onto his paws, which is a commonplace where allergens originate from and are later absorbed from.

Best Foods for ANY Dog Allergies or Skin and Coat Conditions

Allergic reactions are the result of a compromised immune system, regardless of if the allergic reaction is food-related or environmental. We can help boost the pet’s immune system through nutrition and target addressing the underlying conditions, specifically looking at the liver and endocrine system. By fixing the root cause you can address both types of allergens. Below are three ways you can address your pet’s immune system with nutrition that directly impacts their skin and coat health.


Zinc is the second most commonly used mineral in your dog’s body, and plays a critical role in your pet’s immune system, thyroid function, and digestive issues, all three of which can lead to dermatitis, and poor skin and coat health. In fact, a zinc deficiency can lead to what is called Zinc Responsive Dermatosis, dry flakey skin that results in skin lesions.

Commercial dog foods add zinc to their formula however they typically add a cheap source of zinc in the form of zinc oxide or zinc sulphate. Your dog’s body cannot easily absorb or use these forms of zinc, and often, zinc deficiency will result. You want to have a source of zinc that is more highly digestible such as zinc citrate, picolinate, gluconate, chelated, or methionine. Certain breeds use a higher amount of zinc than others to become zinc deficient, they include; Huskies, Malamutes, Great Danes, St. Bernards, German Shepards, Dobermans, and other large breeds.

Ensure your dog is getting a sufficient amount of zinc. You can add naturally high zinc foods to their current diet or add a zinc supplement. Beware, Zinc can be toxic in dogs if taken in large doses of over 225mg, and lethal in doses over 900 mg, often this is only seen when a dog ingests non-food items such as pennies. The general rule of thumb is 25 mgs of zinc per 50 pounds of your dog’s weight. If you don’t see an improvement in your dog after six weeks at this level, you may want to increase the daily dosage to 50 mgs. 

When feeding your dog, you can add these items, which are high in natural zinc; goat, egg, halibut, buffalo, turkey, lamb, ostrich, pork, and rabbit. You can also look to add a zinc supplement, however, ensure you use the proper feeding instructions. If you are using a commercial dog food, ensure you get a high-quality dog food, refer to the list of best food for dogs with allergies above.

Incorporate any of the following into homemade diets to help increase your pet’s intake.

  • Goat
  • Egg
  • Halibut
  • Buffalo
  • Turkey
  • Lamb
  • Ostrich
  • Pork
  • Rabbit

When using a commercial diet you can add a zinc supplement to their food.

Consider this:

Probiotics and Prebiotics For Dog Allergies

Your dog’s gut flora plays a major impact on their immune system. Probiotics and prebiotics can provide relief from allergies by increasing the good bacteria in your dog’s digestive tract, helping to develop their immunity and reduce allergy symptoms. They help provide relief to not only itchy skin and dry coat but can also help ward off ear infections and improve overall health.

There have been scientific studies proving that adding a probiotic to your dog’s diet will help address their symptoms of allergies. In a 2012 study, early exposure to probiotics decreased allergen-specific IgE. Remember: that’s a key indicator of an allergic response (2). Meanwhile, another allergic marker, IL-10, was significantly higher in the control group, suggesting that probiotics for dogs were having a meaningful and positive impact.

Consider Adding:

dog probiotics for dog allergies

Dog Probiotics For Allergies

All-in-one Supplement for Dogs’ Allergies or Skin, Coat, and Ear Infections

When dog owners come to me, as a Canine Nutritionist, for advice on how to treat their dog’s allergies and coat conditions through nutrition, the first step we take is eliminating processed foods and focus on a whole food diet, however, as a Mother and Business Owner, I know that it is not always feasible to provide your dog with home-cooked meals each day. In those cases, I recommend a variety of products that will provide their dog with the nutritional support to treat the root cause of their pet’s allergies and provide them with relief.

Consider These All-In-One Supplements Targeted For Dermalogical Support that heals dog allergies:

Herbal Support Supplements

The medicinal power of herbal remedies is not unique to humans, our canine family members can also benefit from the use of herbal medicine to help treat skin and coat conditions. Dandelion Root and Milk Thistle are two herbs that have the ability to support your pet’s health and are specifically helpful in treating skin and coat disorders.

Dandelion Root

Dandelion root benefits the liver, skin, kidneys, urinary tract, as well as the digestive and circulatory systems. It is one of the more complete superfoods that can provide a variety of health benefits for your dog. In addition to the number of nutrients it can deliver it is also considered a Liver tonic and with it’s use will get rid of toxins and help build your pet’s immune system. Simply dry the greens and crumble them onto your dog’s food or:


Dandelion root for dogs

Pet Wellbeing Dandelion Root

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is very effective at tackling chronic skin disease such as seasonal allergies in the Spring or Fall especially allergic dermatitis.  In addition, it can be used for any liver disease or kidney, spleen, or bladder problems.  It helps remove toxins, such as allergies, and supports your pets immune system and overall health.



While, finding the best food for your dog with allergies is important, equally as important is ensuring their immune system is properly supported as it is at the root of almost all pet allergies. Owners should always consult with a veterinarian on an ongoing basis to ensure the underlying cause of their pet’s allergies is addressed.

For more information, check out the list of Canine Supplements I recommend or schedule a Canine Nutritionists Consult.

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