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Allergies In Dogs: What Are Dogs Allergic To? [Part 3]

df dog

In this article, I will cover the following:

This article is the 3rd part of my 5 part series about Allergies in Dogs. Here is the list for easier navigation:

  1. Allergies in Dogs [Part 1]: Symptoms, Causes, and Why you need to go with your gut
  2. Dog Food Allergies vs Food Intolerance: The big difference [Part 2]
  3. Part 3: This one
  4. Hypoallergenic Dog Diet: How To Do It at Home Better Than Any Kibble
  5. Elimination Diet For Dog Allergies [Part 5]

If you have read parts one and two of this series on dog allergies, you may ask yourself, what are dogs allergic to and why? There are many foods that your dog may react negatively to, some of which may surprise you, and we can help you to understand why these foods cause can cause issues in dogs.

The top foods dogs are allergic to and why

Recent studies show that dogs’ most common food allergens are wheat, beef, chicken and dairy products, while in cats, it’s chicken, beef, and fish (Muller and Olivry 2016).

If you wanted to save yourself the read, the advice is very simple – if your dog is exhibiting recurring skin, ear or gut conditions, then it’s highly likely they have a food intolerance. It’s at least the best, easiest and thus first place to start. In line with this, before a drug is taken or a cream is applied, you need to first try removing at least these problem proteins from your pet’s life.

● Wheat

The top food causing dogs’ allergies is wheat. Inside wheat is a very tough little protein called gluten. Gluten is a long-chain molecule, something like a necklace of beads.

It gives dough its stretchability and permits you to spread peanut butter on what should be a flimsy piece of bread, and it’s the base of some of the world’s best glues (from where it gets its name).

A side effect of gluten’s amazing toughness is that it’s hard to break down in the gut. 30% of humans still can’t digest it properly.

The longer you eat it, the better you digest it. Hence Europeans who have been farming wheat for millennia are pretty good at digesting it, and only 20-30% suffer from gluten intolerance.

However, Africans farm and consume gluten-free cereals such as sorghum and millet. As a result of the slave trade 400 years ago, we now find that 40% of African-Americans suffer from the effects of gluten intolerance in the US. Aboriginals were only introduced to wheat 100 years ago, and 50% are known to be gluten intolerant.

This is how bad it is in humans…and we’re omnivores, adapted to eating plant forage, with long, slow digestive systems and appropriate microflora.

Your dog is a carnivore. With a rapid digestive system and a microflora completely unadapted to plant food, he is terrible at digesting plant forage, and they have only been eating wheat for 50 years!

3d cover feeding Dogs
Learn about gluten intolerance and much more in Dr Conor Brady’s book!

To avoid food sensitivity symptoms, please ensure your dog is never fed wheat. This means no dog food that contains any wheat (check your ingredients).

Also, no bread, pasta, dental sticks, or cereal-based dog treats. Not a crumb. It is the number one cause of food intolerance in dogs, and its removal cures most cases reported to us. And moving to a wheat-free dry food is not enough. Studies of these dry foods show that 10 of 12 studied were contaminated with proteins, not on the label, mostly wheat gluten.

● Chicken and beef

Dogs are commonly shown to have a problem with chicken and beef, which, as carnivores, is confusing, to say the least. It should be as unusual as a cow allergic to grass!  The problem is we are not talking about the normal chicken and beef you have for dinner. The stuff your dog is fed is very hard to digest, and that’s the beginning of his “allergies” troubles…

dog intolerant
A dog intolerant to chicken or beef should be as unusual as a cow allergic to grass.

1/2: Why would a carnivore be allergic to chicken and beef?

The chicken or beef that the majority of dogs today are fed is present in a heavily processed form in dry (kibble) food. Harsh cooking denatures any animal protein therein, forming crosslinks. The net result is that such protein is harder to digest (think overcooking that steak).

The human food chain produces a huge amount of chicken and beef by-products and waste. These are then rendered (boiled under pressure). The fat floats to the top, and the protein sinks to the bottom.

This grey protein goo is taken off the bottom of the vat, dried to form flour, and then sent to pet food companies worldwide as the “meat” portion of many animal feed products. These manufacturers then cook this product again at high temperatures before being bagged and leaving it sitting in a storehouse for months (or years).

pre-rendered meat meal
Rendered meat

As well as decreasing digestibility, this harsh cooking destroys all the enzymes naturally present in meat that would have been released when the fresh stuff was chewed up.

The net result of these two processes is that the protein dry food is very hard to digest. Hence Stroucken et al. (1996) found cooking during the extrusion of dog food pellets reduced protein digestibility in the pellet. This is not good news. Undigested material is now reaching the intestines, which is shown to fuel the growth of the wrong bacteria.

This process and the chemical preservatives present in kibble are the beginning of your dog’s gut woes. Studies show kibble reduces species richness in dogs. Pathogenic bacteria now bloom and fuel inflammation (remember, all these mysterious “allergies” are inflammation based?!).

At this point, your dog’s poo may occasionally be soft as the gut ties to rectify the issue by “pumping the chain” and flushing all the undigested matter and bad guys out.

If you do not address this situation and return the gut flora to symbiosis (happily living together in the right proportion), then this inflammation takes hold. The body doesn’t sit idly by while this happens, and the GALT kicks in, sending in the troops to try to clear up the damage… dive deeper into this in part one.


As mentioned in part one – the best analogy for dogs who are chronically itchy and gut sick – what you are looking at is a little house on fire; the fireman are scratching their heads, trying to work out how to stop the smoke coming out of the windows and chimney when what they need to concentrate on is putting out the flames inside first and see what damage there is after that.

2/2: A surprising reason for chicken and beef allergies in dogs…Vaccinations

There is a second reason both chicken and beef are theorised to cause so much allergy in dogs and cats: vaccinations.

Many vaccinations used in our pets are made with a chicken or beef blood serum. It’s thought that these vaccinations, or more likely the completely unnecessary annual boosting of our pets, injected straight into the bloodstream with adjuvants that drive immune response, may cause the host’s immune system to link the protein as the threat and respond accordingly next time it sees it.

Makes sense to me, but I have no studies to support it.

We will be able to determine if your dog is OK with chicken and beef down the road, but for now, please ensure that no cooked meat is used in your dog’s future hypoallergenic diet. The more you cook meat protein, the more antigenic it becomes. Just one of the reasons dry foods that state “hypoallergenic” on the front are so very far from the definition of the word.

The more you cook meat protein, the more antigenic it becomes. Just one of the reasons dry foods that state “hypoallergenic” on the front are so very far from the definition of the word.

dogs dairy

● Dairy

Many dogs can have an intolerance to cows’ milk; this is due to a few factors, one being the problem protein in milk, casein, which is very similar to wheat gluten.

Like humans, some of us can consume milk and have little or no issues, the same goes for our dogs, and this is due to the lactose present in milk (goats milk does not contain as much lactose as cows milk, which is why some dogs do better with this). 

Pups, when relying on mum’s milk, have the enzyme lactase to allow lactose to be broken down and digested sufficiently.

As the dog ages and is weaned off mum, this enzyme is no longer present, making it difficult to digest the lactose. Not to mention that the wonderful milk they would be getting from mum is from the same species, in the most natural and raw form, very different to the highly pasteurised shop-bought milk from an entirely different species.

Not to mention that the wonderful milk they would be getting from mum is from the same species, in the most natural and raw form, very different to the highly pasteurised shop-bought milk from an entirely different species.

remove wheat, dental sticks and dry food to cure weepy eyes in dogs
Avoid wheat at all costs, including ultra-processed food,
supermarket treats and dental chews!

● Nasty Food Chemicals and Additives Can Cause Food Intolerance in Dogs

Finding out which food chemical in that bag or can of ultra-processed food irritates your dog will be almost impossible. A short nutritional rule is if you can’t pronounce it, don’t feed it.

With more agents than the FBI, pet food manufacturers are permitted by the FDA to include anti-caking agents, antimicrobial agents, curing, drying and firming agents, oxidising and reducing agents, pH control agents and surface active agents.

Other chemicals, such as synergists and texturisers, emulsifiers, humectants, and stabilisers, control the exact texture of the pellet.

One of these texturisers, a thickener called sodium carboxyl-methyl-cellulose, a plastic filler which used to be used to thicken milkshakes, is banned by the FDA for human consumption…but it’s OK for pet food.

Then there’s BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin—a nasty group of fat preservers already well covered by other authors. A quick Google will explain why you should avoid these in your diet.

It’s not only chemicals in food causing allergies in dogs.

Other chemicals to cut out would be chemical flea and worm treatments (usually for dogs with no fleas or worms), kennel cough “vaccines”, and annual boosters in dogs (after one year of age, in line with advice from the top veterinary immunologists), if just until we get your dog over this issue. Your dog’s immune system needs a rest, and these chemicals are like a punch to its guts.

As long as all these are going in, you may never find out which ones are causing the problems in your dog.

Canine Allergy Course
To learn more about how to help your dog overcome recurring skin, ear and gut conditions (ReSEGs) issues, join Dr Brady’s canine allergy online course.

3 Most Common Questions

1. Which Dog Breeds Suffer The Most Allergies?

  • French Bulldog
  • Pug
  • Bulldog
  • English Bull Terrier
  • Boxer
  • German Shepherd
  • West Highland Terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Maltese

The white-coated dogs tend to suffer more from allergies, and small breeds are likely to suffer more vaccine reactions due to the large dose they are given… Did you know a Chihuahua gets the same dose of vaccine as a Great Dane?!! Thus making these breeds more likely to develop intolerances to chicken and beef.

2. Is it likely that my dog will develop other food allergies?

If your dog is already showing symptoms of food intolerances, he/she will likely go on to develop other food allergies. 

As explained in part one, gut dysbiosis and the response of the GALT (Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue) to the offending foods/chemical insults/stress etc., will lead to inflammation and then to a leaky gut.

Once the gut lining is compromised, half-digested debris leaches into the bloodstream, causing a huge immune response. Until you fix the gut lining, and bring the gut flora back into homeostasis, any food, any amount of stress, chemicals etc., will potentially cause your dog to develop further allergies and eventually, as that inflammation builds up, health issues such as arthritis, pancreatitis and kidney and liver issues.

Fixing the gut is key; if the gut remains unhappy, you could feed the best diet possible, and your dog may still experience issues.

3. How do I determine what my dog is allergic to?

You may be tempted to buy a food allergy test at this stage. First off, bio-resonance food allergy tests are not the answer.

These cheap tests (less than £100) test for hundreds of proteins and allergens, it is too long to go into here, but they do not work.

Research them to your heart’s content, but having sent saliva samples from the same dog and gotten vastly different results more than once, we know they are unreliable. Even blood tests can be inaccurate and misleading.

If the advice from the next two articles does not help and your dog continues to have problems, the only allergy test worth a damn is Nutriscan – this costs $300, so you may want to leave that until you feel every other option has been exhausted. 

What your dog needs more than anything is some gut healing, a gentle diet to start with and then what is known as an elimination diet, which will help you determine exactly what food is causing an issue; more on this here.


In summary, If you keep putting the above antigens (wheat, cooked meat, chemicals) into your dog and not fixing the dysbiosis in the gut, you will continue to get problems on the surface.

Again think of a man with a peanut allergy fed small amounts of peanuts daily. As long as you do this, you will continually focus on the symptoms with expensive pills, jabs and creams, telling the immune system to quit trying to purge the body of toxins.

The above need to be cut out completely. Not a speck. So what should you do, and what is the best food for a dog with allergies? Read our next article.

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