Chicken Allergy in Dogs: Signs and Treatment

Dogs, like humans, can be allergic to many things, including environmental factors and food. Nailing down what’s causing the allergies in your dog can be a long and frustrating process. In this article, we’ll be focusing on food allergies, specifically one of the most common foods in many households: chicken. We’ll also discuss the signs of chicken allergies in dogs, as well as at-home and veterinary treatments that can make your pet healthier and more comfortable.

Can Dogs Be Allergic to Chicken?

Yes, dogs can be allergic to chicken. Chicken is the primary protein source in many commercial dog foods. It’s highly palatable, inexpensive, and an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. However, this ubiquity also makes chicken a frequent culprit in canine allergies. 

When dealing with a chicken allergy, the body cannot tell the difference between chicken or chicken by-products, including the organ meat or bones. This may even include chicken eggs in some dogs. Studies find that food allergies affect 1-2 percent of dogs.[1] Of the dogs known to have food allergies, 15 percent will be reactive to chicken.[2] This makes chicken the third most common food allergy behind beef and dairy.

Symptoms of a Chicken Allergy in Dogs

There are many symptoms of chicken allergies in dogs, including:

  • Itchy skin: Persistent scratching, licking or biting, especially around the face, paws, and hindquarters
  • Hair loss secondary to the licking and biting at skin 
  • Gastrointestinal upset: vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, flatulence, or other chronic digestive issues 
  • Recurrent ear infections, often accompanied by redness and unpleasant odor 
  • Respiratory issues: sneezing, coughing, and wheezing 
  • Chronic inflammation: red inflamed skin and feet or recurrent skin infections 
  • Brown discoloration to feet and nail beds and chronic chewing of feet

What Causes Poultry Allergies in Dogs?

Food allergies in dogs occur when the immune system reacts negatively to specific substances in the diet, such as chicken. Allergies are different from a sensitivity or intolerance in that allergies involve an immune response to a particular item that is usually harmless. The body mistakes this ingredient as harmful, and the immune system will fight the “foreign” ingredient in a variety of damaging ways.

Testing for Chicken Allergies in Dogs

If you suspect that some of the chronic skin issues that you are seeing in your dog are related to a food allergy, there are several things that you can do at home – the most important of which is an elimination diet trial. 

An elimination diet trial is when you offer a hypoallergenic diet to your pet over a two month period of time. You will need to make sure that everything that passes your dog’s lips is hypoallergenic, including treats and snacks. A hypoallergenic diet is one that has a novel protein (something that the dog has not been exposed to before) or a hydrolyzed protein (broken down into its most basic components so the immune system can’t recognize it as foreign). 

If itching is uncontrolled and inflammation is severe, you should schedule an appointment with your regular veterinarian. It’s important to rule out other causes of skin itching, including fleas, mange, environmental allergies and infections. 

Your veterinarian may also recommend additional testing, such as blood work with thyroid level or skin testing. There is some controversy surrounding blood allergen testing. Most veterinary dermatologists find them unreliable and expensive. At this time, there are no blood, hair, or saliva tests that are reliably accurate in diagnosing food allergies. 

Regular vet checkups are also essential in monitoring your dog’s health and adjusting treatment plans as necessary. Your veterinarian can also recognize if any early interventions are needed.

How to Treat a Chicken Allergy in Dogs

There are several ways to help treat a chicken allergy in dogs. Some of the options your veterinarian may recommend include:

Supplements. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help improve skin health and reduce inflammation.

Antihistamines. Medications like Benadryl or Zyrtec may be helpful in mild to moderate cases and should be given under the direction of a veterinarian. 

Corticosteroids. These can help alleviate severe symptoms of itching and inflammation, but they are not a long-term solution to an allergy due to potential side effects with prolonged use. 

Additional medications. Other prescription anti-itch medications including Cytopoint, Apoquel, or Atopica may be prescribed for dogs with chicken allergies.

Atopica for dog allergies

Chicken allergies in dogs are a common but manageable concern. By recognizing the symptoms, reading food labels, and working closely with your veterinarian, you can provide your dog with a comfortable and healthy life. Remember, every dog is unique, and finding the right formula to manage allergies will require a lot of trial and error. With patience and attention, you can help your canine companion lead a happy and less itchy life.

References

  1. Olivry, Thierry, and Ralf S Mueller. “Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (3): prevalence of cutaneous adverse food reactions in dogs and cats.” BMC veterinary research vol. 13,1 51. 15 Feb. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12917-017-0973-z
  2. Mueller, Ralf S et al. “Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats.” BMC veterinary research vol. 12 9. 12 Jan. 2016, doi:10.1186/s12917-016-0633-8

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