Breeder's Notebook

Itching to Eat: Understanding the genetics behind food allergies can assist with breeding decisions.


What do you do when food is your enemy? You itch and scratch, and if you’re lucky, your owner figures it out and takes you for testing. According to one recent study, nearly 8 percent of dogs presented to a referral dermatology practice had food allergies (Chesney, CJ. "Food sensitivity in the dog: a quantitative study.” J Small Anim Pract. 2002. 43: 203-7).

What do you do if your breeding dog has food allergies? Should the dog be bred? Is the condition hereditary? How do you know if it really is allergic to particular foods?

The easy answer, as always, is not to be breed. Unless there’s an overwhelming reason to the contrary, that’s also the correct answer. When a case isn’t black-and-white, you need to examine the evidence.

Are food allergies inherited?
When some breeds are afflicted with a condition more than other breeds, that’s evidence for a hereditary basis. That’s the case with food allergies. Boxers, Bull Terriers, Bulldogs, Chinese Shar-Pei, Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Dachshunds, Dalmatians, German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Maltese, Pekingese, Poodles, Springer Spaniels, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, and several others are considered at greater risk for food allergies. However, allergies can appear in any breed, and the long list of at-risk breeds almost negates the breed risk factor.


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