If your dog is having an allergic reaction, the only way to determine if it is from something he is eating is to conduct a food trial. This simply means switching your dog’s food to a hypoallergenic formula for about 12 weeks an monitor any changes. Once you have determined that your dog does in fact have a food allergy, the only treatment is maintaining that diet. For that reason, along with taking a look at some facts about food allergies, we’ve rounded up some of the best hypoallergenic dog foods for you to try.
Around 10% of allergic reactions in dogs are attributed to food. It is difficult to distinguish the source of your dog’s allergen through symptoms alone. Food allergies may surface in the same way as many other types of allergies, including:
• Compulsive scratching, licking or chewing – especially the paws and groin
• Bald spots – may be from fur loss or from excessive scratching and chewing
• Hot spots – red, wet lesions on the skin
• Skin infections
• Chronic ear infections
• Sudden behavioral changes – especially signs of distress and anxiety due to discomfort
While these may also be symptoms of other allergies, there are some key factors that raise the likelihood of it being attributed to your dogs’ food, particularly:
• Ear infections are due to yeast infections
• Skin irritation or itchiness continues throughout the year or begins in winter when there are minimal airborne allergens
• Itchiness does not respond to common steroid treatment
• Gastrointestinal problems are present, including diarrhea, gas, vomiting, or frequent bowel movements
Since food allergies account for a small portion of allergic reactions, it is important to contact your veterinarian to rule out other possibilities including intestinal parasites, bacterial infections, sarcoptic mange, or flea bite allergies.
Why And How Of Food Allergies
Food allergies can develop at any time from when your dog is a puppy. They are the result of a genetic predisposition that has been triggered by a certain food. Your dog’s body reacts to a certain ingredient as if it was harmful and essentially attacks it, causing any number of uncomfortable symptoms.
Dog food now has a myriad of different ingredients that make it hard to pinpoint the allergen. What’s more, the most common allergens tend to be a lot of the more common meats, fillers, and additives that appear on so many dog food labels.
The most common food culprits include dairy, chicken, beef, lamb, fish, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, gluten & yeast.
This list is not exhaustive. With so many pet food manufacturers adding all sorts of artificial ingredients that add no nutritional value, it seems that food allergies are even on the rise. One of the best things you can do for any dog, whether they are suspected of having a food allergy or not, is to feed them as naturally as you can. Foods that embrace all-natural, organic, grain and gluten-free philosophies are less likely to expose your dog to anything that their body is not equipped to process.
Unfortunately, as we mentioned, these food allergies are due to a genetic predisposition so if your dog does carry the inability to digest certain meats, for example, the only way to avoid causing him discomfort is to avoid the food completely.
Once other possible allergies are ruled out, your veterinarian will advise you to conduct a food trial. By changing your dog’s diet, you will hopefully be removing the allergen. During this time you must feed your dog only the hypoallergenic food for around 12 weeks. You must be very careful not to also be feeding them any human food, non-hypoallergenic treats or anything else that may derail the trial. Since you don’t know the specific allergen, it’s critical to closely monitor what your dog is ingesting.
What Is Hypoallergenic Dog Food?
Hypoallergenic dog food simply means that it has a low likelihood of producing an allergic reaction. These are typically limited ingredient foods with unique protein and carbohydrate sources.
There are several different types of hypoallergenic food for dogs. Some of them use diverse ingredients that are likely new to your pup’s system, while others use special processing to break down potentially offensive ingredients so that your dog’s body no longer recognizes them as a threat.
All hypoallergenic dog foods should have some common qualities to look for.
To avoid exposing your dog to allergens, these foods should be free of common offenders including wheat, soy, lactose and any other of the more popular fillers. It should be easy to digest and contain a single source of protein for those dogs that have issues with certain meat. These foods should also be rich in omega fatty acids to support healing in your pup’s skin and coat, along with antioxidants to boost their immune systems.
Since food allergies are diverse, consider your dogs’ individual needs when looking at the best hypoallergenic food option. While some dogs have more problems with their skin and coat, others show their symptoms through digestive troubles. One dog may be allergic to soy, while another cannot stomach beef. This is what makes it so challenging to pinpoint the source of food allergies. A food trial may result in having to switch to a different hypoallergenic food selection if allergies persist. It all depends on your dog.
Here are some of our picks for the top hypoallergenic dog food brands available on the market as well as their key features.
AvoDerm uses limited ingredients like chicken meal and brown rice and is rich in antioxidants. What makes this food especially unique is that AvoDerm uses avocado, widely applauded as a superfood for humans. While some parts of the avocado plant are toxic to animals, AvoDerm only uses the safe meat and oils from the fruit. This recipe includes avocado to provide plant-based protein as well as very healthy oils, vitamins and minerals to benefit your pup’s digestion, skin, and coat.
For dogs that have an allergic reaction to meats, Royal Canin may have the solution. Hydrolyzing is the process of partially breaking down meat proteins so that the body does not recognize them in the same way. Royal Canin is a leader in this process and their foods have proven effective for a lot of dogs whose allergies are triggered by protein. Their formula also includes simple, easily digestible ingredients and omega fatty acids to keep your dog well-nourished.
Addiction offers a completely unique protein source that is very unlikely to trigger allergies in any dog. Kangaroo makes their recipe safe for dogs that have issues with other more common protein sources. They also include apple pectin, which is great for your dog’s stomach and coat. This is a grain and gluten-free food so your dog is not exposed to any of the more common harmful fillers, either.
Dr. Harvey’s has created a blend of ingredients that you can prepare with your choice of protein. Their natural blend of oats, barley, brown rice, sweet potatoes and a mix of healthy veggies and herbs is designed to help your pup’s digestion, skin, coat and overall health. This will allow you to sample different meats to determine what is safest for your dog. While this does require a little preparation, it is a great choice for parents of allergy-prone dogs.
This is another limited ingredient option that Acana has perfected. It includes their signature Wholeprey mix of meat, cartilage, and organs to meet your dog’s nutritional needs without having to add a lot of artificial supplements that may cause an allergic reaction. Acana also uses apples, pumpkin and a mix of botanicals to support digestion and help balance your dog’s sensitive system. This is available with different choices of animal protein depending on your pup’s needs.
If you suspect your pup has a food allergy, you should contact your veterinarian to rule out other possibilities.
When it comes time to do a food trial, remember to be vigilant to ensure your pup isn’t ingesting other foods that may trigger his allergy. You want to be able to rid your dog of his uncomfortable symptoms. The ultimate goal is to find a food that will support his health and energy needs while not aggravating his food sensitivities.
For dogs that may have multiple food allergies, it may seem frustrating to find the right food. The purpose of this list is to give you some solid choices from a few different approaches that might help.