Dogs with allergies to common ingredients in commercial dog foods often experience irritation in their skin and ears or gastrointestinal problems. Like humans, your pet can be allergic to any ingredient in his food, but common allergens for dogs include wheat, soy, eggs, chicken and beef. No dog food is completely allergen free. But learning more about your pet's allergies and his food helps you determine which food will be allergen-free for him.
Limited and Novel Ingredients
Dog foods labeled as hypoallergenic often have fewer ingredients than a typical commercial dog food. The limited-ingredient recipes are formulated to help you determine what is causing your pet's allergic reaction. Instead of containing multiple meat sources such as chicken, beef and lamb, a hypoallergenic dog food will contain just chicken. If your dog's allergic reaction goes away, you know he was allergic to beef or lamb. Certain companies producing hypoallergenic dog foods use meats -- called novel ingredients -- that are less common as allergens. Instead of using chicken, beef, lamb or other commonly used meats, a hypoallergenic dog food may use whitefish, buffalo, duck or similar rarely used protein sources. If your pet is allergic to a common meat, try Nature's Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Duck Meal Formula or Royal Canin Hypoallergenic PW, with whitefish as its protein source.
Grains such as wheat and corn often cause allergic reactions for dogs. Companies typically include grain sources of carbohydrate into their foods because they're cheap ingredients. Unfortunately, they are also difficult for dogs to digest. If Winston is allergic to grains, Orijen Grain-Free Adult Dry Food includes highly digestible fruits and vegetables for carbohydrates instead of grains. Canidae Grain Free, Taste of the Wild High Prairie Canine Formula and Fromm Family Grain Free Surf & Turf are additional foods made without grains for dogs with allergies.
Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food
Hydrolyzed protein dog food is made when the protein ingredients are broken down into tiny pieces -- so tiny that the dog's immune system doesn't trigger an allergic reaction. The hydrolyzed proteins are paired with carbohydrates that don't often cause allergic reactions such as potatoes or rice as opposed to corn or wheat. Hill’s Prescription Diet Z/D Canine is a hydrolyzed protein dog food using hydrolyzed chicken as its protein source and potatoes as the carbohydrate. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine Hypoallergenic uses hydrolyzed soy as its protein source and rice as a carbohydrate. Hydrolyzed dog foods are easily digested by your pet, so these brands provide a solid choice if your pet is struggling with gastrointestinal problems due to food allergies.
Quite a few companies make hypoallergenic dog foods, but the most important thing for you to find out is which ingredients are causing your dog's allergic reaction. Your best option is to try a number of hypoallergenic foods with limited ingredients to single out which ingredients are causing the problems. If you already know which ingredients to avoid, choose an appropriate dog food lacking them, such as a novelty ingredient dog food. If you're struggling to find the problem, a hydrolyzed protein dog food may reduce the protein source into such a tiny molecule that your dog won't have a reaction.
- WebMD: Caring for a Dog with Food Allergies
- DogFoodAdvisor: Royal Canin Veterinary Diets Hypoallergenic Select Protein (Dry)
- DogFoodAdvisor: Suggested Hypoallergenic Dog Foods
- DogFoodAdvisor: Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet (Dry)
- The Dog Food Project: Grain Free Products
- Vetinfo: Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food
- DogFoodAdvisor: Hill’s Prescription Diet Z/D Canine (Dry)
Courtney McCaffrey graduated from the College of Charleston in 2008 with a B.A. in media studies. She has served as an editor for Blooming Twig Books and the MADA Writing Services publishing company. She is now a writer on various outdoor sports such as snowboarding, skiing, surfing and bodysurfing.