Immune related reactions to certain foods, chemicals, pollens, grasses, vaccinations, flea and worming treatment and many other potential allergens are among the most common causes of allergies in dogs and cats, and a leading cause of visits to the vet. When the immune system is unable to neutralise an allergen, it releases histamines which lead to inflammation and itching.

The mucous layer of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract plays an important function in the digestion of food, the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream and as it contains a huge amount of immune cells protects an animal from ingested bacteria, fungi, viruses, food allergens and toxic substances; and determines how much antigenic material is passed into the bloodstream. Approximately 80% of immunity comes from the gut, which is why gut health is so important. Certain foods, supplements and herbs, e.g. probiotics, slippery elm and marshmallow play a vital role in supporting gut health.

Adverse reactions to food can cause a wide variety of skin lesions, itchiness in pets and appears to be an important cause of GI problems in dogs and cats. According to Hand, Thatcher, Remillard, Roudebush and Novotny (Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, p612, 2010), “Inflammation of the mucosa predisposes animals to the development of acquired food allergies”.

Today beef, dairy products, wheat and chicken appear to be the main foods causing adverse food reactions in dogs and should not be fed to dogs with food sensitivities. My own dog develops severe itching from eating chicken or dog biscuits containing wheat.

To relieve the symptoms of an allergic reaction the cause of an animals allergic reaction needs to be identified and this maybe tricky. Diagnosis of an adverse reaction to a food is confirmed by food elimination trials. A positive allergy to a food is confirmed by a cessation of the allergy symptoms once the food is eliminated from the diet but return of the symptoms upon reintroduction of the food into the diet. Allergies to pollens are more difficult to diagnose and may require the assistance of a veterinary dermatologist.

If your dog or cat is suffering from allergies contact us to discuss your pets diet and nutritional needs. Chronic skin conditions require a veterinary visit to rule out any other serious health conditions.


1. Hand, M, Thatcher, C, Remillard, R, Roudebush, P, Novotny, B, 2010, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th Edition, Mark Morris Institute, USA,

2. Mindell, Earl, RPh, PhD, Elizabeth Renaghan, 2007, Dr. Earl Mindell’s Nutrition and Health For Dogs, Basic Health Publications, Inc, California, USA

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