"How would you know if your dog had a wheat allergy?
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"How would you know if your dog had a wheat allergy?

Dogs
Health & Safety

Dogs can theoretically be allergic to virtually anything, much as people can, but there are some products that tend to be more likely to cause allergies in dogs than others. While atopic allergies are more common in dogs than any other kind (allergies that occur due to inhalants or skin contact) food allergies come a close second, and wheat is the most common food allergen to affect dogs overall.

However, while wheat allergies are fairly well known and spoken about and are as mentioned the most common canine food allergen, very few dogs are actually likely to be affected by this very common dog food ingredient. That said, it is a good idea for all dog owners to develop a basic understanding of how a wheat allergy may affect your dog and what sort of symptoms it will present with, which is what we will look at in this article. Read on to learn more.

More about wheat

Wheat is a cereal grain that comes in many different species and variants, but the most common of these is simply known as common wheat, and this is the most likely type to be used in dog food. Wheat is relatively easy and inexpensive to grow and grows all across the UK as well as the world, and is a vital food source for many cultures, as evinced by the fact that the total area of the world dedicated to growing wheat is larger than that of all other food crops combined!

Because it is cheap and easy to grow and fairly hardy, its inclusion in various food products helps to provide bulk and a cheap source of calories, and it is of course also hugely popular in some of our best known breakfast cereals as well as being versatile enough to be a component ingredient in many other meals too!

Is wheat a good ingredient for most dogs?

If wheat production worldwide stopped tomorrow, a lot of people in many countries would starve to death in short order-this is the level of our reliance on wheat. However, while it is invaluable across many applications for different reasons, when it comes to the inclusion of wheat in dog food, it provides very little added value.

Wheat is used in dog food as a filler and bulking agent, which has very little usable nutritional value for dogs. Many of the more expensive dog food brands proudly declare their products to be wheat-free, as do hypoallergenic diets and foods designed specifically for dogs with allergies.

Dogs would not eat wheat in the wild, and when it is fed as part of their staple diet, most of it will be pooped back out, as the ingredient can help to bulk up food and make your dog feel full, but that is about the limit of it.

The symptoms of a wheat allergy in dogs

First of all, whilst most dogs that allergic to wheat will only react badly to it if they eat it, some dogs will also have an atopic allergy to it, meaning that inhaling the pollen or brushing against growing wheat may cause an allergic reaction too, so this is something to bear in mind.

However, most dogs that are sensitive to wheat have to actually eat it to react badly, and the symptoms of the allergy can be very variable in terms of their severity, age of onset and presentation, which can make it harder to deduce the cause. Some of the main and most common symptoms of a wheat allergy in dogs include:

  • Loose stools or diarrhoea, indicating that the food has not been digested properly.
  • Your dog is also apt to be rather gassy, and may show symptoms of digestive discomfort after they have eaten.
  • The dog will often need to go to toilet more frequently than is normal given their diet and lifestyle.
  • Respiratory symptoms that may present like mild asthma.
  • Skin and coat problems, such as generalised itching, hot spots, or a dull coat and flaky skin.
  • Some dogs will be so itchy that they will lick, chew or scratch sores and hot spots onto their skin, often around the paws.
  • In rare cases of wheat allergies in dogs, the body will reject the food before it has even passed through the digestive system, leading to vomiting during or after meals.

If your dog is displaying some of these symptoms, it is important to speak to your vet about them and get him to formally diagnose or rule out a wheat allergy.

What can be done for a dog with a wheat allergy?

While many canine allergies can be hugely difficult to treat and manage, wheat is fortunately not one of them! Simply removing wheat from your dog’s diet by changing their food to one that is wheat free (and ensuring that their treats are also wheat free) is all that is necessary to resolve the allergy.

It is obviously important to ensure that you are vigilant about keeping your dog’s diet free of wheat in the future too, and so this may mean picking their diet carefully to ensure that it is wheat-free or totally grain-free-which may cost more than a bag of generic dog food, but will be much better for your dog!

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