Dog Food, Allergies and Your Dog’s Ears

What your dog eats affects his ears. Allergies in dogs often show up as itchy ears or an ear infection in addition to causing itchy skin. A dog eating a poor quality food is much more susceptible to ear infections, fleas, and all kinds of parasitic infections.

Allergies tend to cause inflammation and infection in and around the ears. These changes in the ear canal can cause an imbalance of bacteria or yeast and cause an ear infection. Especially if your dog eats an inferior quality food or has ingredients he is allergic to.

Common Food Culprits

Studies have found that some ingredients are far more likely to cause food allergies than others. The most common offenders in dogs are:

  • beef
  • dairy
  • wheat
  • chicken
  • lamb
  • fish
  • eggs
  • corn
  • soy

And most allergic dogs are usually allergic to more than one thing.

Notice that the most common offenders are the most common ingredients in cheap dog food. This correlation is not a coincidence, as the incidence of allergic reactions can be associated with the amount of exposure. So if your dog eats more of certain trigger foods, the more likely it is that he becomes allergic to it.

What Is My Dog Allergic To?

One way to find out is a simple process of elimination. Start with the list of the most common allergens and find foods without them. Look for foods with the fewest ingredients. Look for foods without artificial preservatives and colors, too. This is easier than it used to be because many food manufacturers have created lines of hypoallergenic foods that tend to have fewer ingredients and without the most common allergens.

Note – if your dog is pregnant or nursing, is a puppy, or has any other special needs, talk to your veterinarian before trying this elimination diet, to be safe.

Take note of the ingredients in your current food and look online or in your pet store for brands that say limited ingredients or Allergy Dog food, or Allergen Free. Compare it against the ingredients in your current food and look for natural preservatives like vitamin E(tocopherols) or vitamin C(ascorbic acid).

Foods that have worked well for me:

Four Week Tryout

Buy a bag of the food for a 4 week or longer tryout. Improvement in symptoms may take up to 6 – 12 weeks, so be patient. But if you notice your dog’s symptoms are worse within the first 4 weeks, he may be allergic to an ingredient in the new food. Stop the feeding of that one and try another hypoallergenic food with different ingredients.

You may need to repeat this multiple times and will have a better chance of finding the allergens if you choose foods with the fewest ingredients possible. It is best to find foods with a novel protein source and one grain, preferable something your dog has never eaten before. Examples would be duck and potato, or venison and sweet potato.

During the elimination diet, do not give treat, pigs ears, rawhides, or anything with flavoring like plastic chew toys or flavored medicines, unless they have the same ingredients as the food you are feeding. Also no table scraps.

When your dog’s symptoms improve, you can confirm his allergy this by reintroducing his old food. If symptoms reoccur within 10 days or 2 weeks, you know that he is probably allergic to one of the original ingredients.

Allergy Testing

The elimination diet can take a long time, and you may never find out exactly what your dog is allergic to. If you are impatient and would like to know exactly what to avoid, you can have your dog allergy tested.

One type of test involves your vet taking blood and sending it to an allergy lab for analysis. You’ll get back a sheet of what your dog is extremely and moderately allergic to. That way you can make sure to choose food that doesn’t include these ingredients. Another benefit of testing is that you can find out the non-food allergens like molds, grasses, etc, that your dog is sensitive to.

Now What?

The key to managing food allergies is avoidance. Find a good quality food and treats without the allergens and keep him on it. Consider adding a Probiotic, digestive enzymes and essential fatty acids to his diet.

There is no one answer for every dog, and allergy problems can’t be solved overnight. But gradually figuring out his food allergies combined with a good quality food will make him much happier and hopefully itch-free and ear infection free life.


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