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  • Writer's pictureGerman Shepherd Breeder


Gastrointestinal food reactions involve abnormal clinical symptoms to a particular diet. A dog that is experiencing a food reaction is unable to digest, absorb, and/or utilize a particular foodstuff.

It is important to note that these reactions are not due to food allergies, which involve an immune reaction to a particular component of a diet. However, both food reactions and food allergy share common symptoms, causes, diagnostics, and even treatments, making it a challenge for an attending veterinarian to differentiate between the two.

Reactions to a particular diet are often due to unknown causes, but they may be linked to a particular dietary ingredient, additive, or dietary compound. Also possible is a reaction to the toxic effects of a particular food contaminant (e.g., Salmonella) or to spoiled foodstuff (e.g., mold/fungus).

Dogs of any age, breed, or gender can be affected. Gluten sensitivity has been reported in Irish setters. Lactose intolerance is a common finding in adult dogs.


Symptoms may appear after adding a new foodstuff or source to your dog’s diet. The clinical symptoms may subside in the fasted state (medically supervised) or within days of a new dietary change. Common symptoms of a dietary reaction include:

DiarrheaVomitingFlatulence/abdominal gasLack of appetiteWeight lossPoor weight gainAbdominal pain and discomfortItching/scratching excessivelyPoor body condition


In most cases of adverse dietary reactions, there is a history of sudden diet change. The dog may also be reacting to food additives, coloring, spices, or propylene glycol, etc. Other underlying factors include an inability to utilize certain component(s) in a food and toxicity due to contaminated and/or spoiled foods.


Your veterinarian will take a detailed and comprehensive history from you, especially regarding the dog's diet. Diagnosis of food reactions can be a daunting task, as there are a number of other health problems that may produce a similar spectrum of symptoms. Moreover, there are other disorders that may occur with dietary intolerances, further complicating the diagnosis.



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