Immune systems like to keep us on our toes, occasionally picking something that we are exposed to and saying, “Hey, you there, intruder! I’m going to fight you!”
And unfortunately for our canine companions, allergies do not just favor humans.
Eggs are one of the more common food allergens in dogs, alongside chicken, beef, dairy, soy, and wheat. While food allergies are relatively uncommon in dogs, affecting only 1% of the population,1 the clinical signs can be incredibly frustrating. On the other (and more positive hand), diagnosis and treatment are rewarding.
Read on to learn more about egg allergies in dogs and what you can do if you suspect your dog is suffering from it.
What Is Egg Allergy in Dogs?
Food allergies, independent of the specific allergy, are all a result of the immune system overreacting to the substance and mounting an immune response in defense to it.
In an egg allergy, the body will mount antibodies to a specific component of the egg (usually the proteins in the egg yolk), treating it as a foreign substance that they must protect the body against. Since it takes time for the body to form this response, it is not uncommon for food allergies to manifest after your dog has eaten the same food for a prolonged period.
This means that if your dog was once previously okay with eating eggs, they could still develop an allergy to them, even after years.
Food allergies make up 5–15% of the total number of dogs that suffer from skin disorders, so it is important to rule out other causes of skin disease too with your veterinarian.
Signs of Egg Allergy in Dogs
The most common clinical sign of egg allergy in dogs is itching, or pruritis. Unlike perhaps the more common environmental allergies, food allergies in dogs are mostly continuously present and do not fluctuate with the seasons.
The itching is normally generalized across their whole body but, in some cases, can include more localized itching around the face, paws, and ears. Occasionally, repeated and chronic ear infections that recur despite treatment may be the only signs of food allergy in dogs.
Dogs with egg allergy may also show gastrointestinal signs, such as waxing and waning vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain.
How Are Food Allergies Diagnosed?
Food allergies, and more specifically egg allergy, are one of many potential diagnoses for dogs displaying any skin or gastrointestinal signs. Therefore, veterinarians normally take a wide-lensed approach when searching for an allergy diagnosis. They will take your pet’s history into account with their clinical signs and proceed with several diagnostic tests.
These tests include:
Treatment of Egg Allergy in Dogs
Usually, in the treatment process, dogs with sore and itchy skin are treated with a combination of antibiotics, immunosuppressive medication (such as steroids or other allergy medication designed to reduce itching, including oclacitinib or cytopoint), and antihistamines.
If this treatment resolves the clinical signs of the allergy, and your dog is still eating their ordinary diet, then food allergy as a final diagnosis becomes less likely.
However, if the clinical signs don’t resolve, then the next step of the treatment is a food trial, as discussed below.
What Is a Food Trial?
Food trials are a prolonged process of intensive dietary elimination. For a specified period (usually about 6–12 weeks), your dog is put on an elimination diet. It is the hope that if your dog has a food allergy, the clinical signs will resolve without any other treatment.
The next step of this process is to reintroduce the original diet, or individual foods, to observe if the signs of allergy (such as itching, vomiting, or diarrhea) return. If your dog has an egg allergy, the reintroduction of eggs into your dog’s diet will cause them to have a relapse of clinical signs, usually within 1–2 weeks.
It is extremely important that for the duration of the food trial, you feed your dog ONLY the specified food for that time. This means that they cannot have any treats, snacks, or scraps from your plate, and many owners find this difficult if their dog’s daily routine is governed by their snack times (and we all know just how clockwork our canine companions are when it comes to their food!).
The specific diet will be agreed upon by your individual veterinarian. Most commonly, your veterinarian will recommend that your dog goes on a hydrolyzed diet. These diets break down the proteins in the food so that they are too small for the immune system to recognize and react to them. Depending on the diet chosen, some are also suitable for long-term feeding, so if your dog has an excellent response to the diet change, they can remain on it long-term.
While egg allergies are relatively uncommon in dogs, diagnosis and treatment yield satisfying results. Getting to the bottom of the specific allergy can be a challenging and time-consuming process for a dog owner, so a certain amount of dedication is required.
However, since allergies are a lifelong condition, the payoff is tremendous. Having an open and honest relationship with your veterinarian, in which you can work together well with the common goal of giving your dog the most comfortable and happy life possible, will help improve the outcome for your pet.
Featured Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay