Testing for Food Sensitivities in Dogs with Diarrhea

Testing for Food Sensitivities in Dogs with Diarrhea: A Comprehensive Guide

testing for food sensitivities in dogs with diarrhea

When your dog suffers from diarrhea, it's essential to consider food sensitivities as a possible cause. Food sensitivities, which differ from food allergies, can affect your dog's gastrointestinal health without involving the immune system. A visit to the veterinarian is the first step in determining the cause of your dog's diarrhea and whether it's related to food sensitivities.


The process of identifying these sensitivities usually involves screening tests like a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and fecal parasite tests. Moreover, the implementation of an elimination diet is a method used to pinpoint the exact cause of diarrhea. This diet restricts the ingredients your dog consumes, eliminating those that have previously been part of their meals to observe if symptoms subside.

Key Takeaways

  • Diarrhea in dogs can be indicative of food sensitivities.
  • Screening tests and elimination diets are effective in identifying food sensitivities.
  • Consulting a veterinarian is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Identifying Food Sensitivities and Allergies in Dogs

When your dog shows persistent gastrointestinal issues, it may be essential to consider food sensitivities and allergies as potential culprits.

Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies

You may notice that your dog exhibits symptoms such as itching, redness of the skin, and gastrointestinal problems, which can include vomiting and diarrhea. These clinical signs are indicative of a possible adverse food reaction. Beyond the skin and stomach, symptoms can also manifest as ear infections or poor coat quality. It is crucial to differentiate these signs from other conditions, as they are not exclusive to food allergies.

Diagnosing Food Sensitivities

Diagnosis starts with a detailed history taking and physical examination. Your veterinarian may suggest diagnostic testing such as blood tests to rule out other medical issues. However, blood tests specifically for diagnosing food allergies in dogs are controversial and may not consistently diagnose food allergies accurately. Instead, veterinarians often rely on dietary trials to identify food sensitivities.

Diet Elimination Trials

For a definitive diagnosis, an elimination diet is considered the gold standard. You will need to feed your dog a diet with ingredients they've never eaten before or a hydrolyzed protein diet for at least 8-12 weeks. It's imperative to avoid any treats, flavored medications, or supplements that are not part of the elimination diet. If symptoms resolve during this period and return upon reintroducing the original food, you can confirm the presence of a food allergy or sensitivity.

Common Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

When your dog experiences diarrhea, it can be symptomatic of various underlying issues. Let's explore the common culprits that could be disrupting your canine companion's digestive health.

Gastrointestinal Disorders and Infections

Problems within the gastrointestinal tract often lead to diarrhea in dogs. Conditions such as colitis (inflammation of the colon), gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines), and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) disrupt the normal processing of food and absorption of nutrients. Bacterial infections like Salmonella or E. coli, and parasites such as roundworms or hookworms, can further exacerbate these issues by causing significant inflammation and irritation.

  • Bacteria: Salmonella, E. coli
  • Parasites: Roundworms, Hookworms
  • Disorders: Colitis, Gastroenteritis, Pancreatitis

Dietary Factors and Indiscretions

Dogs with food intolerance may experience diarrhea as a reaction to certain ingredients they cannot properly digest. Proteins from dairy, beef, chicken, and grains like wheat are typical allergens. Dietary indiscretion, a term for when dogs eat things they shouldn't, such as garbage or table scraps, is another common contributor to acute diarrhea. These dietary disruptions can swiftly unsettle your dog's stomach and cause loose stools.

  • Allergens: Dairy, Beef, Chicken, Wheat
  • Indiscretions: Garbage, Table Scraps

Influence of Toxins and Spoiled Food

Your dog's diarrhea can also result from ingesting toxins or spoiled food, which can contain harmful bacteria and other pathogens. Spoiled food often harbors toxins produced by bacteria as the food decomposes, leading to gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea. In such cases, the body's response to remove these harmful substances quickly can manifest as diarrhea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting.

  • Sources of Toxins: Chemicals, Contaminated water.
  • Spoiled Food: Decomposed meats, moldy grains.

Dietary Management and Nutritional Interventions

As your dog faces food sensitivities that cause diarrhea, a structured dietary management plan can be key in identifying and alleviating the issue. This will involve consulting with specialists, meticulous selection of diets, and possibly the use of hypoallergenic or novel protein diets.

Role of Veterinary Nutritionists

When your dog is experiencing gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea that may be related to food sensitivities, seeking advice from a veterinary nutritionist is essential. These experts are trained to evaluate your dog's nutritional needs, considering any existing health conditions like kidney disease, and can formulate a veterinary diet that minimizes adverse food reactions. They also assess the balance of nutrients in your dog's diet to ensure optimal health while managing the sensitivities.

Selecting an Appropriate Diet

Choosing the right diet for your dog typically involves an elimination trial, which is a methodical approach to identify offending ingredients like chicken, beef, dairy, or soy. During this period, you'll introduce a diet with limited ingredients that exclude common allergens and additives. Key points to consider include:

  • Protein Source: Select a diet with a single, novel protein source your dog has not eaten before.
  • Carbohydrates: Opt for diets with uncommon carbohydrates to reduce the likelihood of triggering sensitivities.
  • Additives: Avoid diets with unnecessary additives, which may exacerbate symptoms of food sensitivities.

Hypoallergenic and Novel Protein Diets

For dogs with food sensitivities, starting a hypoallergenic diet or a novel protein diet can be particularly beneficial. These diets typically include proteins and ingredients that your dog has never been exposed to, thus lowering the chances of an adverse reaction. It's crucial to introduce these diets gradually to prevent dietary indiscretion and to monitor for signs of dehydration or changes in gastrointestinal function. Common novel proteins may include venison, duck, or kangaroo, and hypoallergenic diets often have hydrolyzed proteins, which are broken down into smaller components, making them less likely to trigger an immune response.

Treatment and Care for Dogs with Diarrhea

When your dog has diarrhea, effective treatment and attentive care are crucial to manage symptoms and address underlying causes, which can range from food sensitivities to more serious conditions requiring a veterinary diet or medication.

Medication and Supplements

Your veterinarian may prescribe specific medications or supplements to treat your dog's diarrhea, especially if an underlying condition such as a food sensitivity has been identified. Anti-diarrheal agents and probiotics can help regulate bowel function, while medications designed to reduce abdominal pain may also be administered. It's important to follow the prescribed dosage and frequency to prevent potential side effects.

  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory or antibiotic, as appropriate
  • Supplements: Probiotics or enzymes to aid digestion
  • Frequency: As directed by your veterinarian

Importance of Hydration

Diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration, which is why maintaining proper hydration is a critical part of your dog's care. Ensure consistent access to fresh water, and monitor your dog's water intake. If signs of dehydration appear, such as lethargy, dry gums, or sunken eyes, consult your vet promptly, as they may recommend oral rehydration solutions or subcutaneous fluids.

  • Hydration checks: Gums should be slick, and skin should snap back when pinched.
  • Symptoms of dehydration: Lethargy, dry gums, decreased skin elasticity

Monitoring and Progress

Close monitoring of your dog's condition is essential to adjust treatment as needed and to assess progress. Keep track of symptoms, diet, frequency of bowel movements, and demeanor. Reporting these details to your vet can help refine the treatment plan. If diagnostic tests like blood tests or an ultrasound were performed, comparing pre and post-treatment results can provide insight into the effectiveness of the intervention and the likelihood of a positive prognosis.

  • Monitor: Symptoms, dietary response, behavior
  • Document: Any significant changes or patterns
  • Follow-up: Schedule check-ups for blood tests or further evaluations as necessary

Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding food allergies and intolerances in your dog is crucial if they are experiencing chronic diarrhea. Here we address some common inquiries to help you navigate this health issue with confidence.

What are the typical symptoms indicating a food allergy or intolerance in dogs?

Food allergies and intolerances in your dog may manifest as chronic diarrhea, vomiting, itchy skin, and ear infections. You may notice these signs persist or worsen after your dog eats certain foods.

How can food allergies in dogs be accurately diagnosed?

To diagnose food allergies in your dog, veterinarians typically recommend an elimination diet followed by food challenges, or specific blood and skin tests to assess for sensitivities. It's a process of trial and error to pinpoint the exact allergens.

What ingredients are often associated with food allergies in canines?

Common food allergens for dogs include beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit, and fish. Each dog is unique, and determining the specific allergens may require testing.

What is the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance in dogs?

A food allergy in dogs involves an immune system response to a food component leading to symptoms like itchiness and skin problems. Food intolerance, on the other hand, does not invoke the immune system and typically manifests as digestive issues like diarrhea without the allergic symptoms.

What treatments are available for dogs with food allergies?

Once food allergies are identified, the primary treatment is to avoid the offending allergens. Your vet may also prescribe medications to control the symptoms and address any secondary infections caused by itching and scratching.

How can dietary changes help manage a dog's food sensitivities?

Dietary changes, such as switching to hypoallergenic or limited ingredient diets, can be pivotal in managing your dog's food sensitivities. These changes can help identify the offending food and alleviate the associated symptoms.


Related Articles about Allergies and Sensitivities Causing Diarrhea in Dogs

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Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Older Dog Chicken Allergy
Canine Gluten Sensitivity
Limiting Treats Ingredients
Leaky Gut Supplements
Grain Free Foods for Sensitive Stomachs
CBD for Digestive Distress

Dr. Jeff Kordell, DVM is a practicing veterinarian in the northern suburbs of Chicago. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois Veterinary School. Dr. Kordell owns Animal Medical Center at Fort Sheridan and has had his own private practice for over 30 years. He is the co-founder of K&S Veterinary Labs LLC the maker of DiarRice.