GlauJust like in humans, your dog can develop allergic reactions to its food. The exact ingredients they’re reacting to can be tricky to pinpoint. But once you’ve gotten familiar with the symptoms to look out for, some smart detective work by you and your vet will help you land on a plan to ease your pup’s discomfort.

First, let’s clarify what we mean by a food allergy, rather than a food sensitivity or intolerance: When your dog has an allergic reaction to an ingredient in its food, its immune system releases antibodies to fight off the unwanted substance, resulting in itching, hot spots, and other symptoms.

A sensitivity, according to the American Kennel Club, doesn’t involve the same immune response. About 20% of all dogs will develop a reaction to food that results in itchy skin and 40% will show signs of an allergy before they’re a year old, says Adam P. Patterson, DVM, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology, Chief of Dermatology at Texas A&M University. German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, and West Highland white terriers tend to be the most commonly affected, but allergies can develop in any pup, purebred or otherwise.

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