Chicken Allergy In Dogs: All You Need To Know To Manage It

Chicken is one of the most accessible and cheapest proteins. There are many pet food products that contain chicken as well as chicken byproducts. Most dogs love chicken but for some, eating chicken can cause undesirable side effects. This is because their bodies are unable to properly process chicken proteins. Chicken allergies are actually not an uncommon food allergy in dogs. Here are some things that you should take note of if you suspect that your dog is allergic to this protein. 

Signs and Symptoms of Chicken Allergy in Dogs

Signs of chicken allergies in dogs are similar to other dog skin allergies. Spotting the symptoms of chicken allergies early can prevent detrimental effects on your dog’s health. Main symptoms that occur include:

  • Severe itching and scratching, especially around the face, ears and mouth areas. 
  • Obsessive licking and biting of the paws or other areas. 
  • Hair loss, bald patches, skin irritation and even bleeding and wounds due to the frequent scratching and licking.
  • Rashes, skin inflammation and infections caused by the itching and scratching
  • Pawing at the face to relief itchiness
  • Shaking its head
  • Hives, coughing and wheezing
  • Scooting across the floor to scratch its rear and/or licking its rear end. 
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, gas and diarrhoea. This can lead to inflammatory bowel disease if the allergy is not treated.  

If your dog is showing any of the above signs, a visit to the veterinarian may be in order to confirm whether your dog is allergic to chicken.

What causes chicken allergy in dogs?

Just like other food allergies, chicken allergy in dogs tends to develop because of biological and environmental factors. 

Chicken allergy

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Why are dogs allergic to chicken? We first need to understand what happens when your dog eats. Your dog’s digestive system will break down food into amino acids. The amino acids are then absorbed by enterocytes, which are a type of white blood cells. 

Dogs who have chicken allergies are unable to completely break down the chicken proteins.  As such, the immune system looks at it as an unwelcome and potentially ‘dangerous’ substance. Your dog’s immune system will then respond by sending enterocytes to eliminate the chicken proteins. 

This then causes the signs and symptoms as mentioned above. Another thing to note about chicken allergies in dogs is that the allergic reaction will most probably build over time. A dog has to encounter the chicken protein enough times before it is recognized as an unwelcome substance. Thus, it is most likely that the allergic reactions do not happen the first time your dog eats chicken. 

It is also important to remember that your dog may be having a reaction to the brand of dog food that contains chicken, rather than the chicken protein itself. If this is the case, switching the dog food that you are feeding your dog will help allergies to heal. 

When does chicken allergy in dogs develop? 

Chicken allergy in dogs can develop at any age. Chicken allergies can also occur in one stage of your dog’s life and go away in another. For example, you may find that your dog only developed a chicken allergy in the later part of its life, or had a chicken allergy when it was younger which disappeared as your dog grew older. 

How common are food allergies in dogs?

Environmental and seasonal allergies as well as flea-bite allergies are actually the most common causes of allergies in dogs. Food reactions such as dog allergy to chicken are a lot less common than many people believe them to be. 

No doubt, food allergies certainly do occur but it only accounts for about 10% of allergies in dogs. 

It may be your dog just has food sensitivity or intolerance when it has problems with its digestive symptoms and not necessarily a dog food allergy. Be it a true food allergy or intolerance, it is better to find out which ingredient should be eliminated. For example, if your dog is allergic to chicken, just remove chicken from its diet. 

Chicken allergy treatment and diagnosis

If you suspect that your dog is allergic to chicken, the most effective way to treat the allergy is by completely eliminating the food from your dog’s diet. This means that you will have to make sure that all your dog’s meals as well as treats do not contain chicken proteins. 

Your veterinarian may also suggest a food trial using hypoallergenic dog food such as a hydrolyzed protein diet or a novel protein diet if the allergy is severe. In a hydrolyzed protein diet, your dog will be fed proteins that are already broken down to parts that are so small that your dog’s body is unable to recognize it. In a novel protein diet, your dog is fed with a new protein that it has never been exposed to and therefore, cannot be allergic to. Limited ingredient dog food can also help with allergies. 

Once the allergy symptoms have subsided, you can reintroduce chicken to your dog to test if the allergy returns. If it does, you will know without a doubt that your dog is allergic to chicken. Dogs who are allergic to chicken may also be allergic to other types of poultry such as duck or turkey. 

Bloodwork and tests can also be carried out to determine food allergies. This, however, may cost quite a bit of money. Ultimately, the first step in diagnosis and treatment is to bring your dog to the vet. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best route to take as well as prescribe medication, if your dog needs it. 

Common myths about feeding dogs chicken

I’ve fed my dog chicken their entire life! How could my dog be allergic to chicken? 

Frequently feeding your dog the same type of protein, in this case, chicken, is exactly what can build up an intolerance or allergy in your dog’s digestive system. You should instead rotate proteins and choose different types every month or two.

My dog is allergic to chicken so it can’t have eggs

This is not true. Dogs who are allergic to chicken can eat eggs as eggs are a separate allergen. 

Chicken free dog food 

If your dog is indeed allergic to chicken, you might find that chicken free dog food is the best option to prevent symptoms from flaring up. You can consider other sources of protein such as lamb, pork, venison, kangaroo, rabbit and fish. PetCubes’ range of raw dog food has novel proteins that are nutritionally balanced

When choosing chicken free dog food, you will also have to consider other factors such as price, your dog’s age, breed and size as well as other food allergies and intolerances that your dog may have. 

Conclusion

If your dog’s itching and scratching is due to a chicken allergy, then it is best to eliminate chicken protein from its diet. You will however, need to ensure that your dog’s new diet is balanced and nutritious. Healthy and novel proteins such as venison and rabbit will help to keep your dog healthy. Do remember to consult your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet. You should also head to the vet if you suspect that your dog has a food allergy or intolerance to rule out if there are any other underlying medical issues.

Reviewed by:

Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.

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