• Laura Simonson

Food Sensitivities in Dogs: Could Plant-Based (Vegan) Diets Help?

Updated: 4 days ago

Could Plant-Based Diets for Our Dogs Help Treat Adverse Food Reactions and Sensitivities?

Is your dog (and you!) going crazy due to scratching, skin breakouts or open sores or persistent eye or ear infections? Is your pooch dealing with tummy issues or awful poops? Your dog is not alone. In fact, based on interviews with our partner veterinary clinics, it's estimated that up to 50% of their patient visits are due to these issues.

Exploring Possible Causes

Dermatitis and gastrointestinal signs are the most common signs of adverse food sensitivities or reactions, which can be classified as either immunologic or non-immunologic. Food sensitivity refers specifically to reactions in animals that have an immunological basis. In contrast, food intolerance is appropriately used for non-immunological reactions. Because of the differing pathogenesis, a food sensitivity may develop over time due to repeated exposure to a food, but food intolerance can occur after one exposure since it does not involve immune amplification. Acute immune-mediated reactions (severe allergies) that typically involve angioedema are termed food anaphylaxis (1).

Adverse food sensitivity reactions can be hard to diagnose because they can result in similar clinical signs and exist alongside other diseases. Still, current evidence suggests that 10-49% of reactions and 1-6% of all dermatoses in dogs and cats can be attributed to food. Further, food sensitivity has been linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease in dogs and clinical response to dietary modification has been observed in canines with chronic colitis (1).

Animal-Based Proteins: Reviewing the Literature on Dietary Allergens

Happy Virchew dog shouting I am a good pooper for all the dogs in the park to hear.

A literature review from 1967 to 2007 found that beef and dairy were the most common dietary sensitivities for dogs in cases where the problem ingredients were clearly identified, contributing to 34.2% and 19.8% of the 278 cases respectively. Wheat was identified in 15.1%, chicken in 8.6%, egg in 6.5%, lamb in 4.7%, and soy in 4.7%. Corn, pork, fish, and rice contributed to less than 3% each (2).

By switching to high-quality, plant-based proteins (which could certainly be called 'novel'), Virchew is receiving reports and testimonials from dozens of dog customers that their dogs have received relief from itching, redness, swelling, diarrhea, bloody stools, and mysterious vomiting. After a few weeks or few months, most have experienced a complete reversal and have continued showing no signs of symptoms at all.

Food Sensitivity Check List

Signs to watch for that could be a food sensitivity:

  • Inflamed, reddish skin (paws or skin at belly region)

  • Persistent itching

  • Dandruff or excessively dry skin

  • Persistent licking

  • Fur loss

  • Eye infections and inflammation

  • Waxy buildup in ears

  • Smelly, crusted ears

  • Facial swelling

  • Abnormal defecation

  • Diarrhea, gas (flatulence)

  • Abnormal stool or abnormal numbers of stools per day (1 - 2 is considered normal)

NOTE: It's important to note that any one of these symptoms could also be clinical signs from other underlying conditions. You should always consult your veterinarian before making the decision to change your dog's diet.

3 Key Reasons Virchew Stands Out From the Pack

A dog named Zak has parents who share a testimonial on how great his skin is.

1. Virchew is not kibble. In fact, it's filled with dehydrated or dried, or lightly processed plant-based ingredients that you rehydrate before serving to your dog. The result is a nutrient-dense, moist, tasty meal for your dog. And, of course, Virchew does not include typical ingredients that are linked to food sensitivities or allergies.

2. Virchew is complete and balanced. We have worked diligently with Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists to ensure our foods are complete and balanced based on industry guidelines (AAFCO). In fact, our formulations surpass the guidelines in many of the ingredients. We intend to continue our innovation as the leading, plant-based food for dogs as we collect evidence and data from our nutrition programs with our veterinary partners.

3. No animal-based ingredients or known allergens. Of equal importance, our formulations do not contain any animal-derived allergens, or possible plant-based allergens such as wheat (gluten), soy, or corn. Our Virchew meals are made in our own production center, reducing the chances of antigen cross-contamination, found to be common in companion animal foods. (3, 4) This approach could potentially minimize the risk of adverse food reactions in our dog customers.​


  1. Roudebush, Philip, W. Grant Guilford, and Hilary A. Jackson. "Adverse Reactions to Food." Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. 5th ed. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute, 2010. 609-635. Print.

  2. Hill's Evidence-Based Clinical Nutrition for Dermatology Specialists. Topeka, KS: Hill's Pet Nutrition, 2007. Print.

  3. Okuma, Tara A., and Rosalee S. Hellberg. "Identification of meat species in pet foods using a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay." Food Control 50 (2015): 9-17.

  4. Raditic, D. M., R. L. Remillard, and K. C. Tater. "ELISA testing for common food antigens in four dry dog foods used in dietary elimination trials." Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 95.1 (2011): 90-97.

An Important Disclaimer:

Virchew's blog, website, social media posts/comments, email communications and other correspondence are for educational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent disease.

Our products and services are not a replacement for the expert care and advice provided by your veterinarian. Any dietary or healthcare changes should be made under their guidance, especially in the case of existing underlying health conditions.​

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