This post may contain affiliate links. We are compensated for referring customers to our affiliate partners.
It may come as a surprise to you to learn that it is not just humans who are susceptible to food allergies – many dogs suffer from food allergies as well. In fact, about 10% of all allergies seen in dogs are related to food. A food allergy occurs when a dog’s immune system identifies a certain type of food or ingredient as a threat – as a result, it produces antibodies to fight the threat and those antibodies can result in negative symptoms for your dog. If your dog suffers from food allergies it is imperative that you find a commercial dog food diet that does not contain that ingredient. Unfortunately, many commercial dog foods contain multiple allergens so it can be difficult to pinpoint the particular ingredient that is causing your dog’s allergy. In this article you will learn the basics about dog food allergies and receive some recommendations for commercial dog foods that are good for dogs with food allergies.
Basics About Dog Allergies
Food allergies are the third most common type of allergy affecting dogs – they fall in line after flea bite allergies and atopic allergies. Though food allergies only account for 10% of all allergies in dogs, they account for 20% of causes for scratching and itching in dogs. When you think of how a food allergy affects people you probably think of gastrointestinal side effects – things like vomiting, gas, and diarrhea. In dogs, it is food intolerances that typically cause these symptoms. For allergies, the most common reactions are skin-related – things like itching, scratching, inflammation, and irritation. Dogs of both sexes and all different breeds can be affected by food allergies and they can develop as early as five months of age or as late as 12 years. In many cases, dogs that develop food allergies also have some kind of contact or inhalant allergy as well.
When it comes to food allergies in dogs, certain ingredients are more likely to cause allergic reactions than others. Some of the most common food allergens affecting dogs include:
• Chicken eggs
As it has already been mentioned, not only are these foods the most common food allergens, but they are also some of the most commonly used ingredients in commercial dog foods. The most common symptom related to food allergies in dogs is itchy skin – this is most commonly seen on the face, ears, feet, forelegs, armpits, and rump. Other symptoms of food allergies in dogs may include recurrent or chronic ear infections, excessive scratching, hair loss, hot spots, and skin infections that may respond to antibiotics but recur after treatment has stopped. Some dogs with food allergies also exhibit increased frequency in bowel movements – as much as double the normal amount.
Because the symptoms of food allergies in dogs are so similar to the symptoms of other types of allergies, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. There are certain signs to look for, however, which point more toward a food allergy than a contact or inhalant allergy. Recurrent or chronic ear infections are more commonly seen in dogs with food allergies than in dogs with other types of allergies – also, very young dogs suffering from severe skin problems are often victims of food allergies. It is also a good indication that food allergies are to blame if the symptoms occur year-round or if they begin during the winter when other allergies die down.
While it may be fairly simple to diagnose your dog with food allergies in some cases, pinpointing the food causing the allergy can be difficult. The best course of action to take is to put your dog through a food trial. Feed the dog a commercial diet exclusive of all common food allergens for at least 12 consecutive weeks – choose a food made with a novel source of protein and carbohydrate, one the dog has never eaten before. After about three weeks you should start to notice a significant improvement in your dog’s condition but do not stop the trial early – your dog needs to be on the food trial for a full twelve weeks before you move to the next stage. After twelve weeks you can begin to introduce food allergens one at a time – start with the common allergens that were present in your dog’s old food. Monitor your dog closely during the trial to determine which ingredient causes the allergic reaction to start back up again. When it does, you have successfully identified the food causing your dog’s allergies. Then, all that is left is to switch your dog to a commercial diet that does not contain that ingredient for the long-term.
Our Top 3 Recommended Foods for Dogs with Allergies
In order to diagnose your dog with food allergies you must put him through a food trial lasting at least 12 weeks. During that trial you need to feed him a commercial diet free from common food allergens – it should also be a formula that contains a source of protein and carbohydrate that is novel (new) to your dog. Examples might include venison and rice, or rabbit and sweet potato. Below you will find several recommended commercial diets made with novel ingredients that are also free from all common food allergens.
1. Nutro Natural Choice Limited Ingredient Diet
Nutro Natural offers several different formulas for their limited ingredient diets including a fish and rice formula as well as a venison and rice formula. The Fish, Whole Brown Rice and Potato recipe is ideal for dogs with sensitive skin and stomachs and it is a great option for food trials as well. This formula is made with fresh fish, fish meal, chickpeas, rice bran, and split peas as the top five ingredients – other important ingredients include whole brown rice, whole grain oatmeal, chicken fat, and dried potatoes. While this formula does contain some high-quality ingredients there are a few ingredients that some might consider questionable – things like rice bran and pea protein. The Venison Meal, Whole Brown Rice, and Oatmeal recipe is made with venison meal, whole brown rice, whole grain oatmeal, brewer’s rice, and chickpeas as the top five ingredients. It also includes rice bran, pea protein, split peas, chicken fat and flaxseed. If you are looking for a commercial diet that is free from common allergens, Nutro Natural Choice Limited Ingredient Diets are not a bad choice but you can do a little better.
2. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet
Merrick’s Limited Ingredient Diets are made with a single source of real animal protein as the first ingredient and fortified with all natural ingredients. These diets are free from grains, corn and soy as well as artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Merrick offers a variety of different Limited Ingredient Diet recipes including Duck and Sweet Potato, Salmon and Sweet Potato, and Turkey and Sweet Potato. These is also a Lamb and Sweet Potato recipe, but because lamb is on the list of common food allergens you should select one of the other options. The Duck and Sweet Potato formula is made with deboned duck, duck meal, sweet potatoes, peas and potatoes as the top five ingredients – other ingredients include potato protein, organic alfalfa, and dried fermentation products. The other two formulas are largely the same, with salmon and salmon meal or turkey and turkey meal substituted for the top two ingredients, accordingly. The fact that these diets include two high-quality sources of protein (fresh meat and meat meal) as the top two ingredients is very good. It is a little troubling, however, that these formulas also include several plant-based proteins like potato protein and alfalfa.
3. Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet
Nature’s Variety offers four different limited ingredient dry food diets as well as two formulas with “raw boost” – freeze-dried pieces to support nutrition and digestive health. The four limited ingredient dry food diets are made with turkey, lamb, duck, and rabbit as the main ingredients supported by grain-free carbohydrates like peas and tapioca. These limited ingredient diets also include things like coconut oil, chelated minerals and canola oil. As is true for several of the other limited ingredient diets already discussed, these Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diets contain several plant-based sources of protein which may increase the protein content of the product without adding more meat. Still, these formulas may be a good choice for food trials.
If your dog is suffering from food allergies it is not something that you should ignore. Not only can it lead to irritating skin-related symptoms but it could have a negative impact on your dog’s ability to absorb nutrients as well. If you suspect that your dog has a food allergy, put him through a 12-week food trial and then work to identify the offending ingredient – once you do, you can switch him for the long-term to a formula that doesn’t contain that ingredient.