Is a Dog Being Allergic to Chicken Really a “Thing”?

Is it truly possible that a dog can be “allergic” to chicken? This seems to be a popular belief as the cause for a dog to have itchy skin, hot spots, or waxy, infected ears. From chicken?! Really?!

I mean have you ever heard of a human who is allergic to chicken? You see restaurant menus alerting people with food intolerances to the presence of gluten, dairy, nuts, etc. — but chicken?!

I thought about this when I received this question from Bill: “My vet says absolutely no grains, beef or poultry allowed for my allergic five-year-old mini-Sheltie, Bonnie. She came from a shelter with a bad yeast infection of her skin and ears and the vet said those food ingredients are the most likely cause. I certainly don’t want to keep aggravating a food allergy. So, what can you suggest I feed her?”

Skin Problems Don’t Mean a Chicken Allergy!

A dog who has been in a shelter can arrive there (and onward to her adoptive home) with deficits because of previous neglect, poor hygiene, stress and poor nutrition — but not because she’s allergic to a food ingredient. I respectfully suggest that Bill should look for a veterinarian who understands that most skin allergies in dogs are not caused by the diet but by environmental factors: a reaction to something Bonnie has touched or breathed. A veterinary internist or dermatologist will look for answers in the environment, where all the kinds of airborne and contact allergens that plague human allergy-sufferers (pollen, grasses, etc.) also affect dogs. In fact there are excellent blood tests available that can pinpoint the exact elements an individual dog is reactive to (runny eyes and nose, smelly ears, skin problems of various kinds) and they can make up an individualized serum that can be injected or given as a daily oral spray (like the oral serum both my dogs Maisie and Wanda get, made individually for them by SPOT Platinum to reduce the terrible hives, bumps, redness and itching they get in summer, racing through high fields of grasses and weeds (in fact, I give them their oral squirts twice a day in summer when the allergens are at their height).

Environmental Allergies are the Most Likely Cause

Trying to avoid chicken, beef and grains “just in case” would be a lifetime of management without any proven reason and an unnecessary burden — while not addressing and treating the actual underlying allergies. As far as “grains” (or corn for that matter), you won’t find them in premium dog food anyway. And when you consider Halo’s newest line of food, not only are the ingredients high quality, they are even non-GMO and otherwise earth and animal friendly. One step on the path to improved health would be to switch to a high-quality premium pet food like Halo, which uses whole meat, poultry and fish while avoiding growth hormones and meat meals with animal byproducts. You don’t want to stop feeding a high-quality food while your dog keeps on itching — you want to find out the real cause of the problem.

Food Allergies Are Rare

Dogs are rarely allergic to food ingredients, even though this is often misunderstood. Some vets will even put dogs on prescription dog foods with limited ingredients you may not be comfortable with — rather than looking elsewhere for the cause of itching, runny eyes or nose or other symptoms of allergies.

Poultry (which includes eggs) does happen to be the most common food ingredient to which some dogs can be intolerant, but the best way for a responsible veterinarian to get to the bottom of allergic symptoms is to first conduct a blood allergy test. If it shows no reactions, then it’s time to determine whether the dog is genuinely food allergic. A vet will instruct the owner to put the dog on a strict two-month “elimination diet” in which all commercial food is removed and the only thing to pass the dog’s lips will be boiled chicken and rice. After those 8 weeks, the vet would allow the addition of other food ingredients, one by one, to find the offending source.

However, please note that the elimination diet itself is chicken based!

Don’t Blame the Food!

Never guess or make assumptions about a pet food or an ingredient being the cause of itching or other symptoms. If you suspect allergies in your dog, ask your veterinarian for a blood allergy test to see if something in the environment might be causing the problem. Any concerns you have are best deciphered by modern technology under your vet’s supervision.

—Tracie Hotchner

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photo credit: ☺ Lee J Haywood Scratching via photopin (license)