Chicken Allergies in Dogs: What You Need to Know

Is your dog allergic to chicken? You might not be sure. But if your dog is showing signs of a food allergy, chances are high that it could be a chicken allergy. Chicken is one of the most popular protein ingredients in dog food and one of the most common allergens. You’ll find chicken included in all forms of dog food, from dry kibble to wet foods and treats. If you suspect your furry buddy has a food allergy, reach out to a vet and have them examine your dog. The vet will probably start by asking you questions about what the dog feeds on and begin the elimination process.

corgi with owner on the couch

So, how can you be sure that your dog is allergic to chicken?

Here you will learn more about allergies in dogs. We will talk about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of chicken allergies in dogs. You will also learn about alternative and safe protein sources you could opt for if your dog has a chicken allergy.

About Allergies in Dogs

Allergies in dogs are no different than in humans. They are erroneous reactions to foreign substances by the body’s immune system. When a dog’s immune system mistakenly identifies a substance such as a cleaning product, food, or pollen as harmful, they can experience different allergies. Allergy types include skin allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergies. They have similar symptoms and are equally challenging for the dogs and their owners.

Skin allergies

Also known as allergic dermatitis, skin allergies typically caused by parasites like fleas, reactions to some foods, and environmental allergens like pollen. For example, most dogs are allergic to flea saliva. When bitten, your dog will feel extremely itchy. Skin allergies are also the most common type of allergic reaction in dogs. You can use measures like flea collars to control parasites and parasite-triggered allergies.

Environmental allergies

These are triggered by allergens like dust, pollen, and mold. They can cause skin reactions. But in most cases, they affect the breathing system. Due to their environmental nature, such allergic reactions are also likely to be seasonal. For example, you may notice your dog sneezing or coughing more frequently during certain times of the year.

Food allergies

Not as common as many dog owners think. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says true food allergies affect only about 0.2% of dogs. In most cases, dog owners confuse food allergies with intolerances. Food intolerance does not involve the immune system.

Food allergies can cause severe itching, especially in their ears and paws, and gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. In some rare cases, food allergies in dogs can also result in anaphylaxis or excessive swelling of the face.

Any food can cause an allergy in your dog. However, research shows proteins are the most common allergens, especially beef, dairy, chicken, wheat (gluten), and soy. Every time your furry buddy eats food containing the triggering ingredient, the body’s immune system reacts, and symptoms manifest. Other common food-based allergens include food additives, preservatives, and flavorings.

To avoid allergies, many pet owners have turned to alternative protein sources and hypoallergenic dog foods. Some pet owners turn to foods containing novel proteins like Chippin Spirulina Dailies. Studies indicate that spirulina is especially good because of the following properties:

Other popular novel proteins include cricket protein and wild game.

There is still a significant population of dogs fed on chicken-based feeds, and owners could be grappling with allergic reactions. If you suspect your dog could have a chicken allergy, here’s more information on why it happens, the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Chicken Allergies in Dogs

Dog in front of juicy chicken leg

Chicken is a popular ingredient in dog food. It is also a common cause of intolerance and food allergy. Some dogs have mild reactions while others have extreme responses and should stay clear. But, how could my dog be allergic to chicken, yet I’ve fed them chicken for a long time? You may wonder.

Unfortunately, allergies can develop at any point in a dog’s life. Although most appear during the early stages of life, others can appear in adulthood. Adult-onset allergies can appear due to exposure to new allergens, family history, or changes in the immune system.

When your dog ingests chicken, part of the immune system (the immunoglobulin E antibodies or IgE) binds to an allergen and triggers the body to release inflammatory chemicals like histamine. This inflammation is the body’s way of countering the “foreign threat.” The effects are what you see on the dog’s skin or digestive issues. They may not be as visible when your dog is young. But as you continue feeding them the same protein over and over, the mild response can develop into intolerance and subsequently into an allergy. Therefore, it is crucial to rotate proteins in your dog’s diet.

What are the Symptoms of Chicken Allergies?

The most common signs of chicken allergy show up on the dog’s skin, tummy, or both. You will notice symptoms like red spots and itchiness (especially in the low-hair areas like paws, ears, abdomen, groin, and face), hives, rashes, and fur loss due to frequent scratching and licking. Repeated rubbing and licking (due to itchiness) make these areas hotspots for wounds and infections. If you did not notice the behavior change, you might have seen unexplained bruises and infections on your dog.

Gastrointestinal issues may include diarrhea, vomiting, excess gas, and anal gland issues. A dog having anal gland issues will frequently scoot its backside on the floor.

For some dogs, the allergic reaction could be extreme. They could have symptoms like swollen faces, violent vomiting or diarrhea, difficulty breathing, convulsions, or collapse. Anaphylactic reactions could cause panic and worry, and rightly so because, without immediate medical intervention, it could be fatal. Fortunately, anaphylactic reactions are also rare. If you see the symptoms, take your dog to the nearest vet emergency center.

Other symptoms of chicken allergies in dogs are:

  • Swelling of the ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Red spots on the skin (inflammation)
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Frequent licking, especially of the groin and other low-hair areas
  • Lethargy

As you can see, these symptoms could also be indicators of another condition. So, make a point to visit a vet to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosing Chicken Allergies in Dogs

If you suspect that your furry buddy might have a chicken allergy, take them to the vet. The vet will most likely take a history of the dog, and ask questions about the symptoms, diet, and the environment. They will also do a full physical examination just to rule out any other possible triggers of the symptoms. If they suspect something medical, the vet could also request a blood test or check for infections. If there is a strong indication that the symptoms could be because of a chicken allergy, the vet could recommend an allergy workup or elimination diet.

An elimination diet is an excellent method of diagnosing food allergies. It involves switching diets to vet-recommended hypoallergenic dog food for eight to twelve weeks. Your dog will be on a new diet – no ingredient in its former meals should be on the hypoallergenic meal plan. The plan also requires that previous treats, supplements, vitamins, and even certain medications (like parasite preventives) are eliminated.

What Happens During an Elimination Diet

Having your dog on a strict diet for eight to twelve weeks is tough, and it requires plenty of patience and discipline by the owner as well. However, it can lead to the best possible diagnosis and treatment options for your dog.

During the period your dog is on the elimination diet, they could show signs of improvement. At this, the vet could recommend that you continue with the new diet long-term or explain how to gradually add other items. This process is also known as a food challenge. It can help you know which foods are safe and which ones trigger the signs. If the symptoms resurface one week into a food challenge, it will be easy to tell which food is the allergen.

Besides the food elimination trial, a vet could do blood tests on your dog. The blood tests, also known as serum IgE tests, check the presence of the Immunoglobulin Antibodies. The tests usually take less time than the elimination diet and food challenge. However, one cannot tell which allergen the dog reacted to. Studies also show that blood tests could also give inaccurate results and they are not as reliable as a food challenge.

Treatment for Chicken Allergy in Dogs

Once your dog is diagnosed with a chicken allergy, the next logical question would be how do you treat it?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies. You can only manage the symptoms, try your best to comfort your dog while going through a reaction and eliminate the allergen. A vet could prescribe some medication to break the inflammation cycle and return skin or eyes to normal. The medication could include steroids and antibiotics. They help your dog deal with the after-effects of allergic reactions, thus making the dog feel comfortable or keep food down despite the flare-up.

The best treatment for chicken allergy in dogs is a long-term prevention diet. If your dog is allergic to chicken but not to pork, lamb, or beef, consider replacing it. Try other popular proteins. However, a dog with chicken allergies could likely be allergic to other animal-based proteins. It is worthwhile to consider a hypoallergenic diet — one that is suitable for their body.

Today, dog owners are spoilt for choice in the number of hypoallergenic dog diets available on the market. But all can be grouped into three main types:

  • Veterinary hydrolyzed protein diet. These may contain the offending protein, such as chicken, but the proteins are broken down to a size too small to be recognized by your dog’s active immune system. They are also easy to digest.
  • Veterinary novel protein diet. These are completely free of any product that was present in your dog’s previous diet. They may contain novel proteins like venison, deer, insect proteins, and spirulina.
  • Home-prepared novel protein diet. Under the guidance of a vet or a veterinary nutritionist, you can prepare a hypoallergenic diet for your dog right at home. It will eliminate previously used ingredients. But it will also likely include a balancing supplement.

To conclude, here are some FAQs about chicken allergies in dogs

FAQs About Chicken Allergies in Dogs

Most owners whose dogs have chicken allergies have three main concerns:

  • Whether chicken products like eggs can cause a reaction (is the dog also allergic to eggs?)
  • If the dog will develop other allergies
  • What other foods could cause allergies

If you had these concerns before, reading this article must have helped you to address them. But just to emphasize, here are the answers and a quick summary of the main points.

Chicken allergies are caused by the dog’s immune system overreacting to a specific protein. The same response may not take place with chicken products like eggs since the protein formulation is different. Your dog may not have an allergic reaction to products like eggs and chicken fat. So you can safely include these products in their diet, but do it after checking with the vet.

If your dog has a chicken allergy, it is likely to have inherited it from its parents. If both parents had allergies, the chances are higher. Some of the allergies may not be visible during the puppy stages. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They could appear when you expose your dog to a specific allergen. You might not have noticed the allergy during the puppy days simply because the dog was not exposed to the allergen. In the same way, other allergies could appear later in life.

On the third concern, chicken is perhaps the most popular protein ingredient in dog food. Since it is also an allergen, cases of chicken allergies in dogs are more prevalent than other dog food ingredients. However, other ingredients like beef, lamb, pork, and dairy can also trigger food allergies. But remember, true food allergies are not so common. Your dog could have a case of food intolerance.

Finally, if you see the symptoms and suspect your dog has a chicken allergy, reach out to a vet. They will conduct some tests and if they agree with you, they will likely recommend an elimination diet and food challenge. It may take slightly longer, but the results will help you identify and eliminate the allergen and find alternative (and safe) diets.

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