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Food Sensitivity Guide: Best Dog Food for Allergies

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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.

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.

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.

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 10 most popular foods for dogs with allergies that will suit any type of sensitivity.

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.

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Best Dog Food for Allergies: 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. 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. 

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Best Dog Food for Allergies: Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein

Whether you’re looking for dog food for allergies you’ll use for the long term or need a good option during the elimination feeding diet, this veterinary-approved food fits the bill. Designed for adult dogs and growing puppies, this kibble contains hydrolyzed proteins to eliminate the possibility of an allergic reaction. Additionally, this formula is not “just” hypoallergenic but fully adjusted to the needs of dogs with food allergies–it will improve their digestive issues and recover their coat and skin to its previous glory. And it’s all thanks to an exclusive blend of fibers that promotes good digestion and EPA and DHA essential fatty acids. This is a prescription hypoallergenic dog food, so you’ll need your vet’s authorization to get it.

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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.

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Best Dog Food for Allergies: 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!

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Best Dog Food for Allergies: Diamond Naturals

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!

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Best Dog Food for Allergies: NUTRO

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.

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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, colorants, and artificial preservatives. The main ingredients in this kibble are rabbit meal sourced from France and California-grown pumpkin, 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. 

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You might cringe at the thought of dining on kangaroo meat, but it’s actually a fairly popular novel protein source in dog food. Kangaroo meat is high in protein but low in fat, which makes it highly nutritious and highly digestible. And, of course, as it’s rare and unusual to come across (unless you’re living down under), so it is far less likely for your pet to have an allergic reaction when eating food that contains it–they simply haven’t had the chance to develop an intolerance to it. Zignature Limited Ingredient formula uses only kangaroo meat and meal as its protein source, combined with lentils, peas, and chickpeas, as well as different minerals and vitamins to fortify it. There is no beef, chicken, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, or potatoes in this blend, so if one of these non-protein food allergens is what causes your pet’s irritation, you can feed them Zignature kibble and enjoy all of the exotic protein benefits to boot.

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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.

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