The Difference Between Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities in Dogs


Pet parents want to feed their pups the best, but food allergies and sensitivities can make it hard to find a recipe that doesn’t cause itching, upset stomachs, discomfort, and distress.

Many pet parents don’t know the difference between food allergies and sensitivities, and that can make it even more difficult to find a recipe that works.

There are high-quality foods on the market that don’t trigger food allergies in dogs, as well as foods made specifically for pups with sensitivities. But to get the right food, you first need to know whether your dog has a sensitive stomach or actual allergies.

Dog Food Allergies Versus Food Sensitivities

Food allergies and food sensitivities in dogs have different causes and symptoms. An allergy is a reaction involving the immune system. A reaction happens when your dog’s body reacts to a substance. While the substance may be harmless for dogs in general, each dog’s immune system has varying degrees of tolerance.

To fight the invader, your dog’s body produces antibodies that create a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms, usually external. Some of the most common dog food allergy symptoms include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Hair loss
  • Scabbing
  • Hives
  • Skin and ear infections
  • Hot paws

On the other hand, food sensitivity, or intolerance, has to do with the digestive system and your dog’s inability to digest certain foods properly. Dogs with food sensitivities often have internal symptoms, such as bloating, stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, or other digestive issues.

Managing Allergies with Dietary Changes

If you’ve noticed the symptoms of food allergies in your dog, then there are recipes you can try that are specially formulated without the most common allergy triggers, which include:

  • Chicken
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Dairy products
  • Beef

While chicken is a common food allergen among dogs, sometimes the allergy can be caused by the quality of the meat rather than the ingredient itself. Low-quality meats can contain preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, and other additives that can cause allergic reactions or upset your dog’s microbiome, increasing the risk of allergic reactions.

Nutram recipes are all prepared with all-natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, which are preserved with rosemary and mixed tocopherols (aka vitamin E). All Nutram meals are strictly dehydrated fresh meat, which also does not contain additives nor by-products like beaks, entrails, feet, or feathers.

One of the best dog foods for allergies is Nutram’s T26 Total Grain-Free recipe (for small breeds, try the grain-free T29 recipe). They’re both made with wholesome ingredients like lamb, lentils, chickpeas, pea protein, flaxseed, apples, and pumpkin, and are free of common allergens.

Treating Sensitivities with a Grain-Based Diet

Food sensitivities can also be treated with the right food, especially wholesome grain-based recipes that contain oatmeal, brown rice, and barley. Grain-based recipes are a great option for sensitive stomachs because they help to absorb excess stomach acid, they’re chock-full of amino acids, and they’re part of a healthy, balanced diet for dogs.

When you’re looking for the best dog food for sensitive stomachs, try Nutram’s I20 Ideal Solution Support Skin, Coat & Stomach recipe, which is formulated with lamb meal and brown rice.

Just remember that when you start feeding your pup a new high-quality dog food for allergies or sensitivities, it could take one to two months for previous symptoms to dissipate completely.

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