Chicken is one of the most popular protein sources in the world. It's relatively cheap, has the amino acids required to build and maintain muscles, and is widely available. For perspective, an estimated 50 billion chickens are slaughtered for food every year!
It's not just humans who love it. Dog food manufacturers often use chicken as the go-to protein source. Whether it's whole meat or chicken byproduct, it's in dog food formulas at all price points.
For the most part, dogs have no problem consuming it. Chicken tastes great and can easily fulfill your pup's dietary requirements. But what happens when a dog develops a chicken allergy?
Most dog owners see their lively pups as nearly indestructible. So when they start having stomach issues or scratch their skin incessantly, it's a cause for concern. Chicken allergies are more common than you think.
So how do you know if the chicken in dog food is causing trouble for your dog, and how do you manage this strange allergy?
How Can Dogs Be Allergic to Chicken?
Dogs are tough, but they're not immune to allergies. Like humans, canines can suffer from allergies and food sensitivities. They can experience the pains of pollen and go into anaphylactic shock from consuming something their body doesn't agree with.
Fortunately, chicken allergies usually aren't life-threatening for your pup. However, they can be incredibly uncomfortable and slowly affect their health if you feed them chicken!
Whether they're allergic to grass or chicken, allergies are a byproduct of many environmental and biological factors.
When your pup consumes food, its digestive system breaks everything down for absorption. Proteins like chicken break down into amino acids, eventually getting absorbed by enterocytes. Enterocytes line the gut and play a big part in helping your dog receive the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
The Gut Can't Break Down Chicken Proteins
Allergies occur when the gut can't break down proteins. In the case of chicken, your dog's system may have trouble processing chicken proteins. When that happens, the enterocytes can't absorb them properly. So what happens?
The immune system sees chicken proteins as a potentially harmful invader! It goes into overdrive to try and protect the body from what it sees as a threat. The immune system sends antibodies to attack the proteins, resulting in unwanted symptoms.
The same process happens in your body when dealing with sensitivities or seasonal allergies. It's all a case of mistaken identity and the inability to break down proteins.
When Do Chicken Allergies Develop?
Here's the thing about allergies: They can develop at any point. Not only that, but they can go away!
Your dog's body changes a lot throughout life, so you must be mindful of how they handle certain foods and allergens. A pup can be allergic to chicken only to have no problem digesting it as an adult. Conversely, dogs can go for years without any issues, developing an allergy much later in life.
What Percentage of Dogs are Allergic to Chicken?
It's to know for sure how many dogs can't handle chicken. Experts believe that roughly 20 percent of all dogs will develop allergies at some point in their life. That's more than most realize. Your pup could be suffering without you realizing it!
Chicken is among the top-reported allergens, affecting an estimated 15 percent of dogs. With how much chicken is utilized in commercial dog food, that's a lot of dogs who need something better.
Symptoms of a Canine Chicken Allergy
Dogs allergic to chicken can display a variety of symptoms. The symptoms of a chicken allergy are similar to any other allergy, so it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause. Furthermore, the severity of these symptoms can vary wildly from dog to dog.
Skin problems are one of the most obvious signs of trouble. Allergies manifest themselves as itchy that can eventually turn into rashes and hotspots. Dogs scratch until their skin turns raw, which could open the floodgates to infection.
Most itchiness will occur around the abdomen, face, ears, and paws. However, it can be problematic everywhere.
Pay attention to your dog's behavior. If your pup has itchy skin, you'll know it. In addition to scratching, it'll lick the area raw.
Of course, digestive trouble can occur, too. As your furry friend struggles to process chicken proteins, they may experience stomach pain. Vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive gas are also common.
Younger dogs may also encounter anal gland issues, resulting in that awful scooting behavior and unwanted pressure. If left untreated, these digestive problems can turn into inflammatory bowel disease.
Finally, we have the most serious issue with allergies: Anaphylactic shock. This symptom is rare, but it's possible with any allergy. It only occurs when a dog is severely allergic to something.
Anaphylactic reactions can cause facial swelling, sudden vomiting, difficulty breathing, and tremors. If not treated fast enough, dogs can also pass out or die.
With so many possible symptoms, thinking about your dog suffering can be scary. That's why it's important to watch your dog's reaction to food and take action whenever necessary.
Diagnosing a Chicken Allergy
If you suspect your dog has a chicken allergy, the best thing you can do is take them to the vet.
Vets will work with you to understand this problem and perform various tests to learn more about what's happening. In addition to a full physical exam, they may take swabs and skin scrapes to rule out other health issues.
Vets may also do blood tests. While not reliable for food allergies, blood tests can provide more insight into environmental allergies.
Typically, diagnosing an allergy involves doing a food trial.
This process requires you to eliminate chicken from your dog's diet entirely. It's about the process of elimination. By removing the chicken, your vet can see if symptoms improve.
They may also recommend using dog food with hydrolyzed proteins that are easier to digest and absorb.
Food trials can last anywhere from one to three months, and you'll keep your vet posted on how your dog reacts to new foods. Depending on how they react, your vet may recommend that you try introducing chicken back into their diet. If the symptoms return, you know your dog is allergic to chicken!
Managing Chicken Chicken Allergies in Dogs
There is no cure for allergies in humans or dogs. Your goal moving forward should be managing symptoms to avoid uncomfortable reactions. You want your dog to get the most out of what they eat, which means avoiding chicken-based foods at all costs.
A Diet Switch-Up
Fortunately, there are many options for dogs allergic to chicken. Chicken might be one of the most prevalent protein sources, but it's not the only one.
A big part of managing this allergy is transitioning to foods that don't contain chicken or chicken byproducts. Contrary to popular belief, dogs can still have eggs if they have a chicken allergen. Chicken and eggs are two different allergens.
When shopping for new food, scrutinize the ingredients list. Go for formulas that use alternative proteins like lamb, beef, or fish. If your dog suffers from other sensitivities, your vet may recommend moving to a novel protein. Novel proteins include things like duck, alligator, or even kangaroo!
You can also try a limited-ingredient diet. These formulas are great for dogs suffering from multiple sensitivities because they contain simple ingredients without problematic extras.
Remember to consider treats. Treats can also contain chicken, so you must read the labels of every dog food product you provide.
As always, keep your vet posted and don't be afraid to ask questions.
Medications are sometimes necessary to stop the inflammation cycle after eating chicken. Vets may prescribe a course of antibiotics or steroids. If your dog has skin rashes and infections, they might prescribe medications to address them.
Flare-ups can happen even after changing your dog's diet. For example, dogs can sneak table scraps off your plate or sniff around another dog's food at doggy daycare. When flare-ups happen, make sure to go back to the vet for treatment.
Vets always recommend that you focus on finding your dog's diet first. But if your dog is still having trouble, they may recommend that you provide probiotics. Even if your dog does well on their new diet, there's no harm in using probiotics as an extra layer of protection.
Studies show that maintaining a healthy gut microbiome with probiotics can naturally decrease antibody levels that cause allergy symptoms. They may also mitigate skin issues while keeping your dog's digestive system in good shape.
Never Ignore Possible Chicken Allergies
Imagine having to eat something you're allergic to every day! Allergies are a big deal, and you should never ignore potential problems. While symptoms might seem mild, they can worsen. Plus, they make your dog miserable!
When you start to notice problems, go to your vet as soon as possible. Understanding the allergy can empower you to make smarter dietary choices for your pup, allowing them to live comfortably while staying healthy.