Chicken Allergies in Dogs: What You Need to Know

Categorized as Food & Care

Long ago, what looked to be a Labrador-Pitbull and something else mixed breed crawled out from a bush on a country road as I handed treats to my neighbor’s dogs. Skinny and forlorn, I picked her up and took her home. Hilde was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect as well as leishmaniasis during her first visit to the vet. 

What has this got to do with chicken allergies? Indirectly quite a bit. One of the symptoms in dogs suffering from leishmaniasis is skin sores, so when Hilde developed these, I assumed it was the disease for which there is no definite cure. 

Until one day I was reading a blog and a woman described my Hilde’s skin symptoms… and that they were the result of a food allergy. Out of curiosity, I switched foods and the open sores disappeared. Her previous kibble had made her itchy. She scratched and sores were the result.

Allergies Just Like Humans

Dogs can be allergic to foods, chemicals, or substances just like humans. So, include chicken in a possible list of allergens. Our furry BFFs can be allergic to chicken, or any number of things found in their diet or environment. One of the problems with a chicken allergy is that some form of chicken is found in most dog foods and often as the primary ingredient.

One of the initial problems in identifying an allergy will be that they may produce identical symptoms as other health issues. This causes confusion when attempting to identify the “what” behind the symptoms. Various health issues call for differing treatments, so the correct diagnosis of a food allergy is fundamental to bringing it under control.

What Is an Allergy?

An allergy is when the immune system overreacts to some element in the immediate environment. The element can be inhaled, ingested, or simply touched. Examples might be a household cleaning product or air freshener that is inhaled, food, or even the material used in a chew toy or bedding.

In the case of chicken, when your dog eats, the allergen or meat protein will be identified by the immune system as threatening. Your immune system will call up its army and attack. The effects of the battle are the inflammatory symptoms produced on your dog’s skin or in the gut.

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Whereas a food allergy will involve the immune system, food intolerance or sensitivity indicates a problem digesting a certain dietary ingredient and not an immune reaction.

Canine Allergies

While canines can experience similar allergies to ours, such as seasonal pollen, their most common allergy may be to flea bites. Canine food allergies are few by comparison affecting roughly 0.2% of dogs, but they do exist.

Typical Chicken Allergy Symptoms

Food allergies, and especially chicken, will often appear as a skin problem or provoke a digestive tract reaction, often both. Allergic reactions can appear from mild to severe.

Skin Symptoms

Skin irritation provoked by a food allergy often takes the form of:

  • red spots 
  • extensive patches of a rash
  • itching
  • endless scratching 
  • loss of fur
  • hives

Localized reactions can appear anywhere on your pooch including paws, ears, face, groin, and even the abdomen. Infections are quick to follow because your pup will lick and scratch repeatedly in search of relief.

Digestive Tract Allergy Symptoms

Not all dogs will manifest skin symptoms when dealing with an allergy. Allergies can easily provoke symptoms straight from the gut such as 

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas 
  • Vomiting
  • Irritated glands may have your pooch dragging his or her behind across your floor. 

Severe Allergy Symptoms

Anaphylactic shock is by no means limited to humans. A severe allergic reaction can cause your dog’s face to swell up and airways to close from the swelling. Your dog may begin to exhibit tremors, difficulty breathing, and even collapse. This type of reaction requires immediate intervention. Left untreated, it can be fatal.

While severe food allergies in canines are fortunately rare, should your dog show any of these symptoms, get help immediately.

How Do I Know if My Dog Has a Chicken Allergy?

If you observe any of the symptoms described here, the first step will be to schedule a veterinary appointment and inform your pup’s doctor of your suspicions and what you noticed. Your vet will do a thorough check-up to eliminate other health issues with similar symptoms. 

Once other health issues have been discounted your vet will most likely program an elimination diet to discover if chicken or some other ingredient, such as dairy or grain, is at the root of the problem. If food is not the problem, your vet may search for environmental allergies through a blood workup.

Will My Dog Need Allergy Medication?

Allergies are incurable but they can be managed. Sometimes your vet may prescribe steroids for the inflammation caused as well as antibiotics if the skin is infected or there is an open sore. If your dog’s symptoms include vomiting or diarrhea, the vet may prescribe something to contrast these reactions.

Medication will be an immediate but rarely long-term solution. If your dog has a food allergy, the solution will be a correct diet.

Alternatives for Chicken Allergies

Just because your dog is allergic to chicken doesn’t mean his or her life or feeding experience will be any less enjoyable. In the case of a chicken allergy, your dog can be fed with another protein source such as veal, rabbit, beef, or pork. There are pet food databases that can assist you in your search for a quality alternative.

It is important to read the kibble or wet food ingredient list as a good percentage of commercial dog foods contain some form of chicken meat, broth bone meal, or organs. You may also want to look for a food product that is not processed in a factory where chicken foods are prepared.

With the proper diet and regular check-ups, your dog will live a long and happy life even if it excludes chicken.