Any dog can experience food allergies, but some breeds are more prone than others. Let’s find out how you can spot a food allergy in your Shih Tzu and what you can do to manage the symptoms. That way, you can keep your dog happy and healthy!
What is a food allergy?
Food allergies in dogs are similar to food allergies in humans. Any protein that causes an allergic response is known as an allergen. Your dog’s immune system recognizes allergens, and this can lead to an excessive reaction. Dog allergies can be to pollens, molds, foods, insect bites, or even house dust mites.
Some allergic reactions are instant, while others take longer to develop. In severe reactions, you might notice swelling of the face and neck, breathing difficulties, and hives or raised lumps on the skin. Thankfully, food allergies rarely cause anaphylaxis or respiratory signs, but it is possible.
What are the symptoms of a food allergy in Shih Tzus?
Rather than hives (known as urticaria), swelling, or breathing difficulty, it’s much more common for food allergies to cause itchy rashes and redness of the skin. The most commonly affected areas are the muzzle, inner ears, groin, paws, and axillae (armpits) and you might notice wrinkly, discolored skin, or even pus-filled spots (pustules) if there’s an infection.
It’s not all about skin though, food allergies can also cause diarrhea, flatulence, weight loss (check out our shih tzu weight chart to make sure you know if your doggy is overweight or underweight), and sometimes vomiting. If you’re unsure what’s causing your dog’s symptoms, it’s best to get advice from a vet first.
What treatments are available?
Sadly, just like in the human world, allergies can’t be cured. However, the symptoms can be controlled. If your dog has an allergy to something other than food, like pollen, that you can’t control their exposure to, they might need medication. This can range from antihistamines to immunosuppressants.
Thankfully, if your dog has a food allergy you should be able to prevent their exposure, once you know what the allergen is. You might want to ask your veterinarian to perform allergy testing, or perhaps try cutting out ingredients for a few weeks one at a time to see if your dog’s symptoms improve. Feeding a limited ingredient dog food allows you to have more control over what allergens you’re exposing your dog to as many dog food recipes contain a long list of ingredients. The longer the ingredient list, the higher the chance your dog will have an allergy to an ingredient in the recipe. Once you know what food allergen is affecting your dog, you can choose a dog food that doesn’t include it.
How can food allergies be prevented?
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to guarantee that your Shih Tzu won’t develop a food allergy. Dogs aren’t born with allergies and can develop them at any time, although it’s more common for them to develop when they are young. On the other hand, feeding your dog a diet that includes many ingredients, exposes them to a lot of allergens which may make it more likely that they develop an allergy. Choosing a grain free diet, as long as it’s still nutritionally complete, may reduce the chances of your dog having a food allergy. Therefore, choosing a diet that uses a single source of animal protein without any high carb fillers like barley, wheat, oats, rice, or pasta could help to reduce the likelihood of an allergy developing.
Shih Tzu food allergies can be frustrating for both pet parents and their fur babies. After all, it’s horrible to see your dog feeling itchy and restless, and it can be irritating when they scratch, shake their head, or lick their skin constantly. While you can’t stop your dog from getting an allergy, you can help to relieve your dog’s symptoms by avoiding the allergens they react to.
Is my Shih Tzu allergic to chicken?
If your Shih Tzu has itchy skin or diarrhea, they might have a food allergy. Try feeding a diet without chicken for a few weeks and speak to a vet for further advice.
How do I know if my Shih Tzu has allergies?
If your Shih Tzu has allergies, they might have a red, itchy rash on their muzzle, belly, groin, or paws. They might also have itchy ears or diarrhea. If your dog has a sudden, severe allergic reaction where they are struggling to breathe or experiencing swelling, seek veterinary advice right away.
How do you know if a dog is allergic to their food?
If a dog has a food allergy, you might not notice it straight away after they’ve eaten. In some cases, your dog might have diarrhea or develop a raised skin rash quite quickly. However, it’s more common to see skin rashes appearing over time.