Have you noticed an uptick in your dog’s scratching that cannot be linked back to actual ticks or fleas? Does your dog have gastrointestinal problems? If your pet is having chronic ear infections or his coat seems dull, he may be dealing with a food allergy. And you are going to need to buy one of the best hypoallergenic dog foods possible.
Usually the dog’s food is the first thing to discuss when you start seeing signs of an allergy. The food may be the root of the problem, but it’s not always exactly an allergy. Still, as the first course of action, your veterinarian will probably ask you to switch to a hypoallergenic dog food.
The best hypoallergenic dog foods for sensitive dogs are:
- Purina Veterinary Diets HA Hypoallergenic
- PS For Dogs 100% Hypoallergenic Dog Food
- The Honest Kitchen Revel Dehydrated
- Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Dog Food
- Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach
If you’re seeing signs of trouble, it’s usually a good idea to talk to your vet before making the switch. He or she may want to investigate other possible causes of the issue before you make any changes.
And it’s good to remember that dog allergies aren’t always triggered by food. Your dog could be allergic to something she breathes, eats or touches. If you see constant licking, itching and GI trouble, it may be an indication that something in your dog’s environment is awry.
In this article, we’ll cover how to identify an allergy and how to choose a hypoallergenic dog food for dogs with mild intolerances to dogs with severe hypersensitivity. We’ll also discuss how these foods will help your dog’s condition.
Surefire Signs of a Dog Food Allergy
Your dog cannot tell you what’s wrong, so it can be very troubling when you notice signs of a problem. There’s no way to know whether it’s something mild or severe. Your veterinarian can definitely help, but it is also helpful to be able to identify signs of common problems like allergies.
Your dog may be victim of a food allergy or food intolerance if it is showing any of the following physical signs:
- Excessive scratching
- Chronic ear infections
- Licking the paws, flank or groin
- Constant itching regardless of season
- Continuous scratching that may even lead to bacterial skin infections
- Bacterial, fungal or yeast infections
- Signs of gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, diarrhea and frequent belching or bowel movements
Allergies can present themselves in more ways than just physical. If your pup is experiencing any of the signs above plus any of the following, it may be related to a food allergy:
- Loss of appetite
- Behavioral problems
- Signs of emotional distress
Food Allergy or Food Intolerance?
Although the symptoms are similar, food allergies and food intolerances are two very different things. If you notice the symptoms of allergy, you’re going to want to know whether you are dealing with an allergy or intolerance.
An allergy is much more severe. If your pet has an allergy, his or her immune system is reacting to something in their food.
Food allergies range in severity, but you should know that food allergies can be life-threatening. Even if your dog’s food allergy is not so severe that it threatens his life, you may want to treat the allergy as if it were life threatening. Allergies change over time and there is always a possibility that they will get worse. You don’t want to find out that the allergy had progressed after it’s too late.
Exposure to environmental pollutants weakens your dog’s immune system over time and leaves him vulnerable to developing allergies. So, even if your 3-year-old dog has been eating the same food throughout his life, he could have just developed an allergy that can become serious.
As we’ve seen, when it is allergic to a specific type of food, a dog’s body will reject it once digested. On the other hand, if your pet has a food intolerance, it is incapable of digesting that specific ingredient.
Food intolerances can lead to a lot of discomfort. As you can imagine, if your dog cannot digest something, it has to exit the body somehow. This can lead to vomiting, gas and diarrhea.
If your dog has an intolerance and not an allergy, it does not need to be approached with the same level of urgency as an allergy. Food intolerances are virtually never life threatening. However, it should still be addressed to avoid discomfort and messy situations.
Either way, if your dog has an allergy or intolerance, you’ll want to be careful about everything that could enter your dog’s mouth. This includes food that you or your children may drop on the floor. It can feel like a full-time job, but it will be worthwhile when your dog is finally feeling comfortable again.
Unfortunately, dogs cannot manage their own diet and food intake. They are much more likely to eat everything in sight. So it is up to you to monitor and control what goes into your dog’s mouth – especially when an allergy is involved.
Top 5 Best Hypoallergenic Dog Foods
The best way to tackle your dog’s food allergies and intolerances is to change their diet right now and transition to a food having limited ingredients. Some dog foods are clearly labeled as hypoallergenic, while others aren’t label as such but still offer similar health benefits.
Here are the top 5 best hypoallergenic dog foods currently available, with the best ones named first.
1. Veterinary Diets Vegetarian HA Hydrolyzed
With over 18% of protein content and a low 8% fat level, Purina is offering a perfect vegetarian and hypoallergenic dog food for all dogs that are meat or beef intolerant. And believe it or not, there are plenty of those, so such a complete and balance meat-free food is very welcomed.
The price is one of the highest but this is because the quality is high enough to please the most demanding dogs and humans:
- Hydrolyzed Proteins — facilitates the digestion thanks to already broken down nutrients
- Single Carbohydrate Source — nutritious and limited ingredients list to avoid allergic reactions
- Highly Digestible Formula — foods used are highly digestible even by dog with sensitive digestive systems
Transition to Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed to reduce and potentially completely eliminate itchiness, skin bumps, and red patches, within weeks. Some dog owners have reported great results within two weeks:
Despite its very high price tag, it remains one of the absolute best hypoallergenic dog foods currently available. A no-brainer if you can afford it!
2. PS For Dogs 100% Hypoallergenic Dog Food
The best way to treat a dog’s allergies and food intolerances is through a healthier diet; PS For Dogs has come up with a 100% hypoallergenic dog food for all of those dogs struggling with their sensitive skin and stomach.
With its limited-ingredient formula, PS For Dogs is ensuring a clean recipe that eliminates most common allergens. It has a high protein content from a single protein source while remaining totally grain-free. This hypoallergenic dog food formula is suitable for dogs of all ages, from puppies to seniors, and it’s compatible with a raw-like diet since it has been air dried rather than baked. The offals used in this dog food boosts the nutritiousness through high-quality vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
Plenty of dog owners report a clear reduction of their pet’s itchy patches and paw licking once they fully transitioned to P.S. 100% Hypoallergenic Dog Food. The only downside is the price but it’s, I think, more cost-effective than courses of allergy injections.
3. The Honest Kitchen Revel Dehydrated
What few dog owners know is that sensitive stomachs react not only to the ingredients, but also to how they are prepared. Skin conditions and upset stomachs are very often tightly linked to the dog’s current diet. To illustrate this empirical rule, Honest Kitchen surveyed over 6,200 customers and 75% confirmed their dog’s digestion problems improved!
Avoiding highly processed foods is always better and The Honest Kitchen formula prepares it perfectly. Ingredients are all-natural, human-grade, minimally processed, and free of meat by-products, preservatives or GMO ingredients. To make it even better, Honest Kitchen is not using any soy, rice, wheat, beet pulp or corn whatsoever. Technically, you could eat it yourself (I still wouldn’t recommend that, though.)
Because the food is dehydrated, you need to pour water before serving it to your dog — don’t worry, it just takes a minute! Your sensitive dog will love the free-range chicken, barley and peas; overall offering a highly nutritious dog food for the most difficult pooches out there.
4. Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient
Wellness Natural Pet Food is a dog food manufacturer famous for their premium and natural ingredients. Limited-ingredient dog foods focus on delivering nutritionally complete and balanced dog meals while keeping the ingredients list as short as possible in order to avoid red flag ingredients that could cause allergic reactions.
Made in the United States, their formulas are boasting a single protein source and a handful of main ingredients so your dog can avoid most food intolerances and food allergens. Because meats like poultry and beef can upset some dogs’ stomach, this recipe is made with natural salmon, a complete and sought-after alternative to meat proteins.
Additionally, flaxseed and canola oils are providing your dog’s system with the good fats to heal and improve their skin and coat health. This hypoallergenic dog food formula contains no eggs, dairy, meat by-products, gluten, wheat, soy, corn, and artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.
5. Hill's Science Diet Sensitive Stomach and Skin
Hill’s Science has come up with arguably the best hypoallergenic canned dog food, more suitable for owners of difficult dogs who need a highly palatable meal. Using natural salmon, and carrots, green beans, and apples, this is a healthy grain-free alternative to those other dog foods packed with cheap grains and low quality protein sources.
Many dog owners have failed while trying different premium dry dog foods (grain free, organic, weight control) and they often have to go for very expensive vet-prescribed dog foods to get the desired results. Yet, going with a healthy and highly palatable hypoallergenic wet dog food can solve most allergic reactions! If you cannot afford wet dog foods in the long run, use a grain-free dog food and buy a few cans of this Hill’s Science Sensitive Stomach & Skin to use a dog food topper.
A good news with this food is that the cans are packed with actual food instead of an overabundant gravy (cheap since it’s water) and very little food content. Here as well, several dog owners witnessed huge improvements with their dog’s coat and hair, as well as their dog’s stomach and stools.
Common Dog Food Allergens
Just like you, your dog can be allergic to virtually anything. However, if you’re just starting to investigate potential triggers, you may start with the following list of common dog food allergens:
If this reminds you of what you read the last time you looked at the list of your dog’s food ingredients, you may be on to something. These are all very common ingredients in most dog foods. This is exactly why there is a need for hypoallergenic dog food.
The ingredients on this list aren’t necessarily bad for your dog. In fact, many of them are a part of a healthy canine diet. But if your pup happens to be allergic, they could be deadly.
And if your dog has one allergy, there’s a chance it has others too.
How to Treat Dog Allergies
If you want to take a conservative approach and make small changes before moving to a complete hypoallergenic diet, start by giving your dog foods that only have one source of protein. For example, if your dog food has fish, chicken and lamb, put it aside for now and opt for a food with only one of those protein sources instead.
If you want to take a more aggressive approach, as you should in the case of a severe allergy, place your pet on a hypoallergenic dog food diet immediately. Studies have shown that dogs respond well to dietary changes within 8-10 weeks.
Best Ingredients for Hypoallergenic Dogs
As soon as you realize that you’re dealing with an allergic reaction, put your dog on a hypoallergenic food plan. After you have identified the trigger food, you can relax a bit and begin introducing other foods again.
Start by choosing a food that eliminates every known allergen. Because the list of common allergens contains so many everyday ingredients (e.g. dairy, beef, grains), you may want to choose a dog food with a short ingredients list, without too many chemicals, and ideally, with a single source of proteins. These may include pheasant, buffalo or kangaroo. Rabbit and fish are on the list of common allergens, but they aren’t as likely as the others on the list to cause problems. So, these two offer a good place to start. You could also try a vegan dog food temporarily.
Choose a dog food to try for about 10 weeks. After this time, you should notice that your dog’s symptoms have subsided. Now, you can begin introducing more common ingredients one by one. If you see the allergic reaction reappear, you can associate the latest ingredient you’ve added and come to a conclusion. Wait 10 weeks between each ingredient you have added back to ensure there is no reaction.
What to Do After Changing Dog Food
After you’ve chosen a dog food, be sure that your dog eats nothing else. This means avoiding all dog treats, biscuits and scraps. Even in small amounts, the food your dog is allergic to can wreak havoc.
This may go without saying, but you should also avoid giving your dog common allergens like cheese, bread or peanut butter. Doing so during the 10-week period would negate your efforts.
Since symptoms of a dog food allergy are triggered by the immune response, consider doing anything that would build your dog’s immune system naturally. This may boost your efforts by detoxifying your dog’s filter organs (like the kidneys and liver) and the lymphatic system, thus bringing back your dog’s immune system to a healthy state. Many animals are affected by the myriad of air pollutants around us, and a general cleanse or detox can help with those types of allergies as well.
Make sure your dog gets enough water and exercise, and consider homeopathic remedies to help treat allergies.
Dog food allergies can be devastating, so you’ll want to make every effort to remove the culprit ingredients and restore your pet’s health.
Here is a table listing the top 5 Best Hypoallergenic Dog Foods: