Food Sensitivity Guide: Best Dog Food for Allergies

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic

Dog food for allergies might be just about the only thing that can help a dog with food sensitivities stop scratching and licking paws–not to mention prevent digestion issues. Take a look at our guide on food sensitivities and best dog food for allergies to help your pooch.

Does your dog scratch and bite like a maniac even when there’s not a flea to be seen on their fur? Or are they gassy and have digestion issues like runny stool or constipation? If these things sound too familiar, it’s highly likely that your pet has food allergies. Sadly, allergies in dogs are much more common than we think, and more often than not, their owners don’t even know that their pet is allergic. The reason for this is that symptoms of dog allergies are not always so clear and can be mixed up with other conditions. Scratching and hotspots are usually mistaken for flea or mite infestation, and vomiting and diarrhea that can present with food allergies can also be a symptom of a variety of canine health issues.

If there’s a reason to think that your pet is allergic, read on to find out how you can help them overcome their sensitivities with dog food for allergies.

1. Editor’s Choice: ZIWIPeak Air-Dried Dog Food

When it comes to food sensitivities and kibble for allergic dogs, the golden rule is less is more. Fewer the ingredients in the formula, it’s likelier that there won’t be any of those pesky allergens to wreak havoc on your pet’s health. ZIWIPeak Air-Dried Dog Food doesn’t just boast a limited ingredient formula without any grains, potatoes or peas, but it is also made with the highest quality ingredients and processed to preserve all the nutrients. High-protein and nutrient-dense, it is made from grass-fed, organs, or seafood in combination with superfoods such as New Zealand Green Mussels which contains chondroitin, glucosamine, and omega-3 for a healthy skin and coat, and washed green tripe as a sources of natural probiotics and enzymes. There are a few single protein options to choose from – beef, lamb, venison, or chicken, as well as multiple protein mixes such as lamb and tripe and mackerel and lamb.

2. Promoted Product: American Journey Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free

This grain-free kibble has real deboned chicken as the first ingredient. It’s also full of omega fatty acids that will help your dog’s skin and coat be healthier and less irritated. Too many foods for dogs with allergies have fillers that might upset their gut health and cause allergic inflammation, but not this one. Fiber-rich chickpeas and sweet potatoes help ensure optimal digestion for your dog – and with better digestion, they’re better able to fully absorb nutrients. This means fewer allergic and inflammatory responses from your dog, and overall better health and immunity.

There are no corn, wheat or soy ingredients in American Journey Chicken & Sweet Potato Dog Food, and dogs go nuts for the taste. They don’t even realize it’s full of nutritious fruits and veggies providing beneficial fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients!

This is a sponsored placement.

3. Runner Up: CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE

Formulated for better digestion, complete nutrition, and minimized risk of allergic reactions, CANIDAE PURE kibble is made with just 10 key ingredients. There are no common protein allergens in the mix, such as beef or chicken, and the primary protein is real bison meat. Other ingredients include lamb meal to boost the protein value without triggering reactions, and lentil and carrots as hypoallergenic carbs to give your pooch energy. This dog food for allergies contains no corn, wheat, gluten, soy, antibiotics, or hormones. To boot, CANIDAE PURE contains a proprietary blend of probiotics, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids to support your dog’s overall immune system. There are 3 different package sizes to choose from: 4 lbs, 10 lbs, 21 lbs.

4. Best Limited Ingredients: Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet

Foods with a single animal protein source have long been lauded as an excellent choice of dog food for allergies. Blue Buffalo basics line of kibble uses only one type of real meat in their formula, and the choice is between deboned turkey or salmon. In addition to the single protein source, the formula also includes potatoes, peas, and pumpkin to support optimal digestion and make the food easy to digest for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Your sensitive pooch won’t scratch or lick his paws anymore, as this dry food is free of all major allergens such as chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy or eggs. In addition to its hypoallergenic formula, this dog food for allergies is fortified by a holistic blend of blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help your pooch be in its top form.

5. Best for Skin: Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach & Skin

Highly digestible and gentle on the sensitive stomachs, this dry dog food is an excellent fit for dogs that are not allergic to chicken. The formula is enriched with prebiotic fiber to support a balanced gut microbiome and optimal digestion, as well as essential fatty acids that promote a healthy skin and coat – itch-free and lustrous. The formula is adapted to the needs of dogs with sensitive stomachs, as it encourages optimal nutrient absorption and promotes consistent stool. Veterinarian recommended, this food is made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients you can trust to be good for your pooch. Say bye to rumbly tummies and diarrhea for good!

6. Best Budget: Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6

If you’re looking for budget-friendly dog food for allergies, Rachal Ray’s Nutrish Just 6 is a great solution. You won’t have to break the bank to afford it, and it will do OK for most dogs with milder allergy issues. As the name suggests, this dry food contains only 6 main ingredients, none of which is a known allergen. This kibble is made from lamb meal, which is not ideal in terms of quality but it will not trigger your pet allergies like chicken probably would. The rest of the ingredients include brown rice, ground rice, and dried beets, paired with essential vitamins and minerals. Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 contains no corn, wheat, soy, gluten, potato, dairy, beef, or eggs. And if lamb doesn’t sound too appetizing to your doggo, there’s also a grain-free turkey and pea formula as an alternative.

7. Best Grain-Free: Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet

The main advantage of Instinct dog food for allergies is that its made with just one type of meat (duck, lamb, salmon, or turkey) and one vegetable. There are no hidden allergens lurking in the ingredient list, and the formula includes essential amino acids and antioxidants for your pup’s immune system and health. Instinct dog food for allergies is unique because each piece of kibble is coated with freeze-dried raw ingredients that make this dry food super tasty for canines. This is a great choice for sensitive doggos, as it is made without grain, dairy, eggs, chicken, beef, fish, sweet potato, potato, chickpeas, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or preservatives. They really covered all of their basis!

8. Best Salmon: Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat

Made in the USA, this grain-free dog food for allergies uses wild-caught salmon for its primary and only protein source. No chicken or beef, even in traces- which is fantastic, as these two proteins are usually to blame for that incessant paw licking and stinky farts. And, if your doggo happens to be one of those canines who have trouble digesting gluten, you can comfortably pour this kibble in their bowl. Instead of using grains as fillers, Diamond Naturals relies on a variety of veggies to provide fiber and give your pooch the nutrients they require. Specially formulated to promote healthier skin and coat while eliminating the possibility of further allergic flare-ups, this dog food for allergies will make your pet’s itches a thing of the past!

9. Honorable Mention: NUTRO Limited Ingredient Diet

NUTRO dry food is one of the few that proudly touts it’s made from non-GMO ingredients, so if that’s an important factor for your dog’s diet, you’ll be happy to know you can still have it even when you switch to hypoallergenic kibble. Their Limited Ingredient range is designed to suit the needs of dogs with allergies and food sensitivities, and you can choose according to your pet’s needs from four formulas: venison meal and sweet potato, lamb and sweet potato, duck and lentils, and salmon and lentils. The kibble is free from common allergens such as chicken, beef, dairy, corn, wheat, and soy.

10. Best Novel Protein: Earthborn Holistic Venture

What’s special about Earthborn Holistic Venture are the ingredients that are missing and not just those that are in the formula. This dry dog food for allergies is free of grains and gluten, beef, chicken, fillers, by-products, peas, lentils, potato, eggs, colorants, and artificial preservatives. The main ingredients in this kibble are grass-fed, free-range and pasture-raised lambo sourced from New Zealand and Australia, as well as hand picked butternut squash from Central America, for a novel protein source and a highly digestible complex carb. Their Venture line of dog food for allergies is also available in duck, squid, pollock, pork, and turkey–if you think your pooch would prefer these flavors over rabbit.

11. Zignature Kangaroo Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Formula

You might not have done a lot of shopping for kangaroo meat lately, but the Zignature Limited Ingredient Formula also comes in Guinea Fowl, Goat, Duck, Venison, Catfish and more. Each of their proteins come from quality sources around the world ranging from New Zealand to France, or the Pacific Northwest to Australia, but the food itself is made in the USA. Zignature Limited Ingredient formula uses only one meat source as it protein and then combines it with lentils, peas, and chickpeas, vitamins and minerals to fortify it. There is no beef, chicken, wheat, soy, dairy or potatoes used in this blend. The limited ingredients might help to determine and eliminate what your dog might be allergic to and certainly will eliminate some of the most common factors. The most common substances that dogs are allergic to are beef, chicken, soy and gluten and you won’t find any of those here! So you can tell your dog that there will be no more itching, rashes, hair loss or infections from his dog bowl, just delicious allergy free food!

12. ACANA Singles

The math is simple for the ACANA Singles limited ingredients line of dog food for allergies: 60 percent of the ingredients are reserved for protein from a single source and the remaining 40 percent is split between veggies, fruits, and botanicals. This is the so-called whole prey system that tries to mirror the ingredients (and their ratio) in wild prey. There is no beef, chicken, grains, or any unnecessary filler in this food’s ingredient list, making it a great choice for elimination diet or long-term choice of dog food for allergies. The options that are available for dogs with food sensitivities are duck and pear, lamb and apple, pork and squash, and turkey and greens. And, in the case it’s chicken that’s bothering your dog’s tummy and not beef, there’s also beef and pumpkin formula available.

Types of Dog Allergies

The most common types of dog allergies are:

  • Environmental (seasonal) allergies
  • Contact allergies
  • Flea allergy dermatitis
  • Food allergies

Environmental allergies are usually labeled as dog seasonal allergies, as the culprits are dust, pollen, and mold. Your pooch might sneeze, have a runny nose or eyes, or have itchy skin (especially around the paws and ears) if they are irritated by seasonal allergies. Avoiding contact with allergens if possible and a visit to the vet will help your pooch manage the symptoms- even if seasonal allergies can’t be fully cured.

Contact allergies leave their mark on your pet’s skin, leaving rashes, inflammation, sore patches, blisters, bald patches, and even wounds in their wake. These allergic reactions happen when your pet’s skin has been in contact with a trigger–usually, plants, chemicals, an ingredient in flea and tick medication or shampoo or cream, but the list goes on. If you spot a suspicious spot on your pet’s fur or skin, take them to a vet- after cleaning the irritated spot, they’ll have to prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and antihistamines.

Flea allergy dermatitis happens when a dog’s immune system is sensitive to flea saliva. When a flea bites the skin, it causes strong irritation and will make your pet scratch and bite their fur like crazy. Most commonly, the “target” areas where flea dermatitis happens are around the base of the tail and lower back, but it can be anywhere where these pesky parasites bite them. If it’s flea allergy that’s causing your pet’s woes, you’ll know easily enough- just watch their fur for fleas or flea dirt. Usually, this resolves with efficient flea treatment–choose between spot on treatments, chewables, collars, shampoos and many other flea medications.

Last but not least, it’s the most common type of dog allergies out there–food allergies. Dog food allergies are rarely true allergies but rather heightened sensitivities to certain foods or food groups. Dogs who are textbook allergic to food would go into anaphylactic shock after eating that ingredient, but it doesn’t happen for dogs who are sensitive to certain foods. Their issues with food result in skin conditions, itchiness, and gastrointestinal problems. The treatment for dog food allergies is much more complex as includes switching them to a special diet and trying to discern what exactly is the food your dog is allergic too so you can eliminate it from their nutrition for good.

Are There Allergy Tests for Dogs?

You might be wondering if you can just take your dog to the vet to get tested for allergies instead of trying to pinpoint different allergens on your own. While you should definitely consult your vet for opinion and treatment options, allergy tests for pets are pretty limited in scope and you might need to visit a specialist to get them.

There are two types of allergy tests for dogs. Intradermal skin testing includes injecting allergen serums on a shaved spot on your dog’s skin and the other is serum allergy testing which is done a blood sample. While these types of tests are necessary for certain types of allergies, in case of sensitivity to food, the most reliable method is not testing- but elimination diet.

An elimination diet is about trying to figure out what is making your pet scratch, vomit, fart, or exhibit any of the other common symptoms of food allergy. This involves introducing a novel protein and carb source to your pet. E.g. if up until now your dog has been munching on chicken and rice kibble, you’d swap that for grain-free beef dry food to see how it goes. And so on, until you find what’s the culprit for your dog’s allergies.

Can Dog Food for Allergies Help?

As food allergies are sensitivities to certain foods and/or food groups that were a part of your dog’s regular diet, switching them to dog food for allergies can completely solve their problems. In fact, your dog might have to eat dog food for allergies permanently to keep symptoms at bay, and not just for a short period of time. So, what are the options? What kind of dog food for allergies works? As it is usually the case, the answer to that question is highly individual and what works for some pooches might not be ideal for others.

The recommended diets for dogs with allergies are:

  • Limited ingredients diet
  • Novel protein diet
  • Prescription hypoallergenic food

Limited ingredients diet is just what the name suggests- food that has a reduced list of ingredients. This could be store-bought, commercial pet food with fewer ingredients or homemade food that uses only one type of protein and a single source of carbs. By downsizing the ingredient list, you should be able to eliminate allergy risks. Naturally, to ensure that limited ingredient dog food for allergies is good for your pet, you’ll have to choose a brand that’s nutritionally complete and well-balanced despite the minimal amount of ingredients.

Novel protein diet means introducing a type of protein that your pet hasn’t yet eaten, in an effort to pinpoint a type of food that won’t cause a flare-up. As most regular kibble brands use chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, or fish as their protein source, novel ingredient dog food for allergy is usually based on exotic protein sources. These include kangaroo, buffalo, bison, rabbit, venison, cod, herring, or duck. If the elimination diet test shows that it’s the protein in your pet’s diet that’s causing an allergic ruckus in their system, novel protein diet is the way to go.

Prescription hypoallergenic food is specially formulated for dogs with food allergies. They are clinically tested and backed by veterinarians–mainly because they tend to contain hydrolyzed protein. This results in protein molecules too small to cause an allergic reaction, regardless of their origin. If all else fails, hypoallergenic food might be what your pet needs to be symptom-free.

Needless to say, there are many different types of dog food for allergies, each with its downsides and advantages. To help you make the right choice, we’ve rounded up the 11 most popular foods for dogs with allergies that will suit any type of sensitivity.

What is the most common ingredient in dog food that causes allergies?

Believe it or not, the most common cause of food allergies in dogs is protein source, quickly followed by gluten. The allergy-causing protein can be either in meat (most commonly chicken or beef, but not limited to these types of meat), soy, or in dairy products, so often the solution is to switch the usual type of food for one with a novel protein. In case it’s gluten that’s causing your pet troubles, grain-free food is the way to go. Either way, always thoroughly read the label if your pet has a sensitive stomach and avoid those chock full of artificial ingredients or those considered inflammatory, such as dairy and its derivatives.

How can you tell if your dog is allergic to food?

The first clues any owner picks up on when their dog is experiencing food allergies are either the excessive itchiness or digestive upset, such as diarrhea or vomiting. This usually happens after a switch to a new type of food, but can also happen even after your pet’s been eating the same chow for years – not only that formulas can change, but your pet’s can suddenly develop allergies that they didn’t have before. Either way, if you notice anything out of order, be sure to visit a vet for a check up, as sometimes symptoms of allergies overlap with symptoms of other medical conditions so it’s important to eliminate other causes to your pet’s behavior.

How quickly do food allergies show up in dogs?

There’s no rule – the onset of food allergies can happen when they first try a new type of food, or it can happen suddenly after years of eating the same protein. The symptoms can take up to a day or two to appear after your pet eats their meal, and quickly become chronic if you don’t make the much-needed dietary switch. It won’t usually be an instant reaction!

Can a dog suddenly become allergic to his food?

Yes, dogs can become allergic to a certain type of food out of the blue – even though they have been eating the same brand of food for years back. When this happens, it’s often best to try an elimination diet to determine what ingredient in the food is irritating your pet. This means excluding the most common food allergens from the mix, one by one – first the protein, then the gluten, then dairy, and so on.

How long does it take for food allergy symptoms to go away in dogs?

It all depends on the dog and the severity of their allergy. For dogs that are on a limited ingredient diet, it is expected that the symptoms will go away after 6 to 12 weeks. This is not a set rule, though, as some pooches might see an improvement in their symptoms in the first month, and others might take a couple of months until the digestive and skin issues are resolved.

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Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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