food allergies in dogs

Nearly all the food your dog eats contains protein … and these proteins all have the ability to trigger food allergies in dogs.

The most common allergy-causing proteins are beef, dairy and chicken. Some plant-based proteins including corn, wheat and soy, can also be triggers.

Most vets focus on treating existing allergies with food elimination diets. Or they rely on dangerous immune-suppressing drugs. But the cause of food allergies isn’t much understood … or it’s been forgotten.

It All Started With A Dog And A Jellyfish

In 1913, French physiologist Charles Robert Richet won a Nobel Prize for his vaccine experiments. He injected dogs with trace amounts of jellyfish poison to see if the dogs would develop a tolerance to it. When he injected the dogs the first time, they seemed OK. When he injected them the second time, the dogs reacted violently and quickly died.

This response was opposite to what Richet expected. Instead of protection from the first injection, the allergy got worse. He called this reaction anaphylaxis. This is latin for anti-protection.

Curious about these results, Richet experimented further. Over the next few years, he injected trace amounts of milk and meat proteins into cats, rabbits and horses and found the same results. The first injection seemed to create a sensitivity to the injected protein. After that, things got worse.

Serum Sickness

No one knows the long-term consequences of injecting foreign proteins into the body. Even more shocking is the fact that no one is making any structured effort to find out.

These results weren’t a complete surprise to Richet.

At the same time he was performing his research, Austrian pediatrician Clemens von Pirquet and his student Bela Schick were doing their own. They found that children who’d been given vaccines containing animal proteins developed a strange illness after being vaccinated. They recognized that animal antiserum resulted in both protection against an infection but also sensitization (sometimes with serious or fatal consequences).

This illness was simply called “serum sickness” until Pirquet and Schick began studying it. They noticed the symptoms were much like those in people who were hypersensitive to pollens and bee stings. In 1906, they created the word allergy to better describe this reactivity.

Large scale allergies like serum sickness were unknown before vaccines were developed. But by the turn of the century, doctors had clearly identified vaccines as a cause of allergies.

Many studies have built on this foundation since this initial discovery, proving that allergies containing animal proteins are directly linked to the development of food allergies.

How Food Allergies In Dogs Develop

Digestion starts in the stomach. When dogs eat protein, it’s first pre-digested in the stomach. Here acids and enzymes break it into smaller pieces. This partially digested food then moves into the small intestine. It’s further digested and the proteins are broken down into their smallest parts: amino acids.

These little amino acids travel through the walls of the small intestine and into the body, through special cells called enterocytes. These cells are capable of rejecting any amino acids they see as a threat … and any foreign protein that does get through is quickly attacked and killed by the immune system.

food allergies in dogs

This is how proteins are meant to enter the body.

But the viruses in vaccines are grown on animal proteins (such as cow fetuses or chicken embryos). A small amount of this protein is ground up with the virus and it’s in the vaccine.

When your dog is vaccinated, those undigested animal proteins are injected into his bloodstream. This means they bypass the body’s normal digestion process.

A Man-Made Malady

Serum disease, as this is called, is a man-made malady. If we had no curative serums or syringes to get the material into the body, there would be no serum disease. Instead, multitudes would still be dying from diphtheria and lockjaw. So, we find ourselves faced with the necessity for choosing the lesser of two potential evils.

Serum disease, as this is called, is a man-made malady. If we had no curative serums or syringes to get the material into the body, there would be no serum disease.

These undigested proteins cause a response in a type of immune cell called a TH2 lympocyte. These TH2 cells interact with other lymphocytes (B cells), which make a large amount of antibody (IgE) that’s specific to each type of protein

The IgE circulates in the blood and binds to an IgE-specific receptor on the surface of other kinds of immune cells called mast cells and basophils. These are involved in the acute inflammatory or immune response after vaccination. The IgE-coated cells are then sensitized to the injected protein. This allows the immune system to respond if that protein makes another appearance.

But what if the dog now eats the protein his body is sensitized to?

Activated mast cells and basophils release histamine and other inflammatory chemical mediators. This causes several immune responses:

  • vasodilation
  • mucous secretion
  • nerve stimulation
  • smooth muscle contraction

This results in itchiness and anaphylaxis.

Depending on the individual dog, the allergen, and how it’s introduced, the symptoms of food allergies in dogs can be system-wide (anaphylaxis) or localized to particular body system like the skin.

[Related] How can you tell if your dog has a food allergy? Here are 5 signs to watch for.

The Role Of Vaccines

To make most vaccines, like distemper and parvovirus, the virus itself needs to be grown and harvested. This process begins with a small amount of virus, which needs to be grown in cells. Various types of cells are used, like chicken embryos, calf serum. The cell lines just need to reproduce quickly and repeatedly. 

Once the antigen is grown, vaccine manufacturers try to isolate it from the cells. But proteins and other food particles can still be present in the vaccine. Then an adjuvant (a material that stimulates an exaggerated immune response) can be added. Stabilizers or preservatives may also be added.

Modern Research

Modern scientific research is showing us just how wide-spread a problem this is. And it isn’t only an issue for dogs.

For example, research shows that vaccinated children are developing allergies to gelatin (a common vaccine ingredient):

food allergies in dogsfood allergies in dogs

The researchers add: “We reconfirmed a strong relationship between systemic immediate-type allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, to vaccines and the presence of specific IgE to gelatin.”

This is the same conclusion Charles Richet arrived at over 100 years ago. Robert S Mendelsohn MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Illinois warns, “No one knows the long-term consequences of injecting foreign proteins into the body. Even more shocking is the fact that no one is making any structured effort to find out.”

Others have spoken out about the concern for long-term issues as well. A review of research that looks at vaccines and allergies noted:

food allergies in dogs

It’s clear that scientists, vets and doctors need to learn more about how these injected foreign proteins cause allergies and many other auto-immune diseases in our dogs (and ourselves). Until that day comes, it seems the best approach to food allergies in dogs is prevention.

Preventing And Managing Food Allergies In Dogs

The best way to avoid food allergies is to avoid unnecessary vaccinations. This isn’t foolproof though. Even one well-timed vaccine can cause a lifetime of allergies in your dog. But the more you vaccinate, the greater the risk.

As far as prevention and treatment, here are some other important things to think about:

  • Make sure you know the difference between food allergies in dogs food sensitivities. Food sensitivities are much more common and tend to be less immediate and violent compared to allergies. 
  • Protect your dog’s gut to protect his immune system. Your dog’s gut is a miraculous system of working cells. And as I mentioned earlier, it plays a big role in allergies. Health concerns like leaky gut syndrome can make it easier for those allergy-causing proteins to sneak through the lining, causing a reaction. Work on healing any gut issues to better fight back against the proteins that lead to allergies.
  • Switch to a fresh, whole foods diet. Kibble is typically very starchy, meaning it’s likely to aggravate allergies. A fresh, raw diet won’t have those starches. It will also have the beneficial pre- and probiotics and digestive enzymes that are important for a healthy gut.
  • A holistic vet who understands the true cause of allergies will help get your dog back on track. You can find a great holistic vet at

But prevention is the best approach. Every vaccine has the ability to cause not just food allergies, but other common inflammatory, immune-related diseases, including cancer. Make sure every vaccine you give your dog is absolutely necessary. Clean your dog of existing vaccine damage and heavy metals. Hopefully you’ll never have to worry about food allergies.