The causes of allergies in animals are probably one of the most perplexing questions that a vet or pet owner is likely to face. If you suspect that your dog has allergies, the accepted science decrees that the cause of the allergic reaction be ascertained.
There are numerous causes of allergies in dogs including inhalant allergies, flea allergies, and dog food allergies. The cause we are principally concerned with here is dog food allergies. In following the guidelines sketched below, we are sure that you will be able to find the best dog food for allergies.
How to Choose The Best Dog Food For Allergies?
There are basically 3 different approaches to providing the best dog food for allergies.
Limited ingredient: The attempt here is to minimise the number of ingredients. The more ingredients you have, the more likely that one of them will trigger your dog’s allergic reaction.
Novel Ingredient: Most dog foods use similar ingredients like beef, chicken, grains, and fish. Your dog might build up intolerance to these ingredients, which if left untreated, will possibly manifest as an allergic reaction. The idea with these best dog food for allergies is to introduce novel ingredients such as bison and turkey. Hopefully, your dog’s digestive system won’t recognise the ingredient, and, therefore, won’t have a reaction.
Veterinary or Prescription Hypoallergenic Dog Food: This dog food for allergies normally contains hydrolysed ingredients, again in an attempt to fool the dog’s digestive system. It is hoped that the dog’s immune system will not recognise the constituent part of the ingredient as an enemy. Hopefully, this will reduce the likelihood of an allergic reaction.
Other Hypoallergenic Dog Food Requirements
The best dog food for allergies should have easily digestible sources of starch like rice. The recipe should also preferably be grain free, and not contain wheat, soya or corn. These grains are known as allergy triggers in a lot of dogs.
As dogs that suffer from allergies usually have sensitive stomachs, it is recommended that the formula contains pre and probiotics. This is to maintain intestinal flora which aids in digestion.
The best dog food for allergies will also contain all essential vitamins and minerals necessary for maximum nutrition. Preferably the minerals will be chelated for easier absorption.
The protein source should come from a named, single source like lamb. You don’t want to see “meat meal” in the list of ingredients. This could be ground up bits of anything and might very well cause a reaction in your dog. With single source protein it is also easier to monitor the effect of the single source; and either stick to your choice or change it for another single source until you find one that agrees with your dog.
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is an inappropriate response from the dog’s immune system. The immune system cannot recognise that the allergen is not harmful and over reacts. In a sense, the dog’s immune system attacks the body itself. The dog’s body releases antibodies containing histamines and serotonin which cause the allergic reaction.
What Do I Do When I Suspect my Dog has Allergies?
The first important step is to try and discover what is causing the allergy. It is highly recommended that you consult a veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist if you suspect that your dog has a severe allergic reaction. The second step is to eliminate that cause from your dog’s environment.
Symptoms of Allergies
Most allergic reactions in dogs manifest as skin problems, amongst others. These include:
- Red, pussy, itchy skin.
- Excessive scratching or licking, which will eventually open raw wounds. The lesions then become prone to secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections.
- Running eyes
- Ear infections
- Inflamed throat
The last two symptoms are generally associated with dog food allergies. Having said this, food allergies can also manifest with any of the other symptoms mentioned above.
The other problem is that some allergies manifest immediately, such as vomiting after a meal, but others build up over time and will only manifest up to 4 years later. There is no point at this stage in trying to figure out what he recently ate that could have caused the allergic reaction.
Causes of Allergies
Fleas: An allergic reaction to flea saliva is the most common cause of contact dermatitis in dogs. There are various methods for eliminating fleas, from dusting with flea powder to the use of “spot on” type chemical deterrents. Some people prefer holistic methods. Whichever you prefer, you need to eliminate fleas as the cause of your dog’s allergic reaction.
Reaction to Airborne, Chemical, and Synthetic Allergens: Our modern world is filled with all sorts of allergens:
- Cleaning products
- Rubber and plastic
- Pet care products
Any one of these, and others too numerous to mention could cause an allergic reaction in your dog.
Food: Dogs have various allergic reactions to many different kinds of food, and no two dogs are the same. The allergy might manifest as vomiting or diarrhoea; or it might manifest as itchy, dry skin and loss of fur. Whatever the manifestation, you know that your pooch is not happy. If that’s the case, finding the best dog food for allergies should be the first thing on your to-do list.
Food Allergy or Food Intolerance
You’ve kinda sussed out the fact that the reason your dog isn’t happy is something to do with his food. Now you have to ask yourself, is it a food allergy or is it food intolerance? They both have similar symptoms. So, what is the difference between an allergy and food intolerance?
Dog Food Allergy:
An allergy is a response of the immune system. The dog’s immune system somehow mistakes the nutrients in the food as enemies and launches an immune response, creating antibodies. The most common reaction is itchy, dry skin and excessive licking or scratching. However, a food allergy can also cause vomiting and diarrhoea. If the dog has a true allergy to dairy, for example, this would involve an immune response.
Dog Food Intolerance:
Food intolerance will also cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but this is merely an indication of digestive distress. Let’s use dairy as an example again. Lots of dogs find it difficult to digest lactose, which is a sugar found in milk. If the dog has a food intolerance to dairy, he might also exhibit signs of diarrhoea and vomiting, similar to that shown by a dog that has a food allergy. Intolerance is when the dog finds it difficult to digest a specific ingredient and doesn’t involve an immune response.
Different Approaches to Best Dog Food for Allergies and Intolerances
The best dog foods available for allergies and intolerances can be broken down into 3 categories.
Limited Ingredient: Because these recipes have limited ingredients it’s easier to try and isolate what is causing the allergy or intolerance. They typically use a single protein and a main starch as the principle ingredients. This makes it easier to narrow down the search for the best dog food for allergies.
Unusual Protein Food: These are hypoallergenic dog foods that use novel or unusual ingredients as the main source of protein and starch. Lamb and Sweet Potato, or Salmon and Brown Rice are examples. The idea is to give the dog protein and starch sources that they haven’t been exposed to before, in an attempt to eliminate which dog food is causing the reaction.
Hydrolysed Foods: In these formulas, the food has been broken down into incredibly small molecules which the dog’s immune system won’t recognise as allergens. This eliminates, to a large extent, the possibility that the dog will have an adverse reaction.
Best Dog Food for Allergies & Hypoallergenic Dog Food
We have chosen 5 dog foods considered good for allergies to review.
1. Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food For Allergies – Lamb Flavour
Proteins, Carbs, and Fats
Protein: This recipe uses a single source named protein: lamb, and only lamb. There is no other source of animal protein. This dog food should be one of the best dog food for allergies because of this single source. The single source protein is also considered hypoallergenic. Admittedly the plants used, like flaxseed and peas, also have a plant-based protein content, which should up the protein content slightly.
Carbs: The carbs supplied, in this case, ground brown rice and ground white rice as well as alfalfa, are gluten free and a good alternative to wheat, corn, and soya. Wheat, corn, and soya have been known to cause allergic reactions in dogs. These ingredients also provide fibre which helps in the digestive process and keeps the dog regular.
Fats: Chicken fat contains linoleic acid which is high in omega-6 fatty acids, while the flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Both are considered essential for optimal nutritional health. The chicken fat is preserved with mixed tocopherols which are not considered harmful for a dog, or likely to cause an allergic reaction.
All the Other Stuff
Vitamins and minerals are well represented in this recipe. Vitamins include A, B12, C, D and E. Minerals present include zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and potassium. The minerals have been sequestered to limit deterioration and to make them more absorbable by the dog’s digestive tract.
Beet pulp is one of those controversial ingredients with two decidedly opposed camps. However, most experts agree that, in the quantities here present, beet pulp is quite acceptable as an ingredient for hypoallergenic dog food.
The alfalfa mentioned earlier is normally used in horse feeds, so its inclusion in any recipe is questionable. It is high in plant protein, so that appears to be the reason for its inclusion.
Lastly, this recipe contains live micro-organisms such as Bacillus subtilis, which provide enzymes that are considered very beneficial for the dog in that they help with the breakdown of protein and starch.
- Single source, named, hypoallergenic protein
- Live micro-organisms
- Chelated minerals
- No wheat, corn or soya
- Added fruit and vegetables
- Ingredients are natural, not organic or non-GMO
2. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food For Allergies
Protein: The principle source of protein in this best dog food food allergies is turkey in all its forms. Turkey, turkey meal, freeze-dried turkey and freeze-dried Turkey heart and liver. Therefore, this formula is very rich in a single source, named animal protein. The addition of turkey heart and liver boosts the protein content to 30%, and the freeze-dried technique serves to classify this recipe as raw. Don’t forget, turkey meal is a meat concentrate and is richer in animal protein than the original source.
Carbs: Carbs are supplied by peas and tapioca, both considered to be quality starches. Peas are fairly high in plant based protein and dietary fibre. Tapioca is an extract of the cassava plant and is considered a good quality starch.
Fats: Fats are supplied by canola oil and coconut oil. Canola oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and coconut oil is high in medium–chain fatty acids. These medium chain fatty acids are believed to help with canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome and skin disorders. Because of this, it can be considered a valuable addition to this recipe. Unfortunately, canola oil can sometimes come from GMO rapeseed, which will upset the purists amongst you.
An interesting addition is montmorillonite clay which is packed with essential trace minerals that help to control diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome. This is very useful in a hypoallergenic dog food. Essential vitamins and mineral are in abundance and should cover all your dog’s nutritional needs.
There is, however, no mention of live micro-organisms, so there are no prebiotics or probiotics.
The minerals are chemically bound to protein molecules to make them more easily digestible. The green tea extract provides anti-oxidants and enhances flavour.
- Only named, single source protein
- No grain such as wheat and corn
- Flavour enhancers such as green tea and natural flavour
- Specifically designed for sensitive stomachs and dogs inclined to allergies.
3. PS For Dogs 100% Hypoallergenic Dog Food Lamb Flavour
Right off the bat, this recipe appears to be highly regarded by all reviewers, and if the customer reviews are anything to go by, this dog food is a real winner and should be mentioned. I couldn’t find one negative customer review. Having said that, I think there will always be a dog, somewhere, that refuses to eat one or another dog food.
- The chief protein in this recipe is lamb. Not only that, the ingredients in this formula are air dried. This ensures that that this best dog food for allergies can be classified as “raw”. Air dried is similar to the way beef jerky is manufactured. There is no cooking, so no loss of nutrients. The protein is single source and named. It is derived from grass fed, free range, human quality lamb from New Zealand.
- All key ingredients are hydrolysed, and the formula is specifically tailored for dogs with paw-licking and scratching allergies. Hydrolysed means that the constituent ingredients are broken down into microscopic proportions. This is an attempt to hoodwink the dog’s immune system.
- There are very limited ingredients, which is always recommended for dogs with allergies or intolerances. The ingredients are also low glycemic in an attempt to reduce yeast infection.
- There has been a conscious effort to eliminate all ingredients that can be considered as allergy triggers, specifically any grain like wheat or corn.
- All key ingredients are hypoallergenic and low glycemic
- Good quality, air dried, named, single source protein
- Grain free
- Money back guarantee
- Specifically designed for dog’s with sensitivities
- One of the more expensive hypoallergenic dog foods
4. Royal Canin HP Hypoallergenic Dog Food
When Royal Canin HP Hypoallergenic Dog Food first appeared on the market, it was a prescription only dog food for allergies. While doing research, we discovered that many sites required a vet’s prescription before the food would be dispatched. On another site, however, we learned this has since changed. Now all that is required is your vet’s contact details. It would be wise, therefore, to check the requirements in your own area before toddling off to the local store.
A swift perusal of the list of ingredients reveals that there are no animal-based proteins in this best dog food for allergies. In fact, the only animal ingredient of any nature is chicken fat. Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid which is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, essential for optimal health in your dog.
The principal source of protein is hydrolysed soy, a plant-based protein source. This is interesting as most hypoallergenic dog foods avoid grain. As this product comes recommended by vets, and you may even need a vet’s prescription to buy it, you would be forgiven for being a bit confused by this conflicting information.
What we did find is that this is considered a good elimination diet. An elimination diet is used to cut out as many ingredients as possible for a few weeks. You then slowly start adding different ingredients to observe your dog’s reaction. This is done to try and discover what triggers your dog’s allergic reaction.
The important thing about the elimination diet is that it must supply all the nutrition needed while the elimination diet is in effect. As this product is recommended by vets for dogs with extremely sensitive stomachs, you would assume that it supplies all the nutrients required for your dog.
If your dog thrives on this hypoallergenic dog food, there is then nothing wrong with continuing to use it indefinitely.
- Minimal ingredients
- Hypoallergenic dog food
- Used as Elimination Diet
- Added vitamins and minerals
- No animal protein
- No pre or probiotics
- Requires a vet’s prescription, or at very least, the retailer will likely require your vet’s contact details.
5. Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin Dog Food For Allergies
Breakdown of Main Ingredients
Protein: Different forms of fish are the source of animal protein is this recipe. Salmon, salmon meal and fish meal provide a reliable source of quality animal protein. Salmon meal and fish meal are protein concentrates and contain significantly more protein than the original source. Fish has the added advantage of being high in essential fatty acids which promote healthy skin.
Starch: The sources of starch are Brewers rice, barley and oatmeal. These ingredients are considered non-allergenic sources of starch and dietary fibre.
Unusual or Suspect Ingredients
- The addition of canola meal is unusual as this is normally used in animal feed and has very little nutritional value for the dog. What’s more, it is the 2nd ingredient on the list, which leads one to believe that its principle purpose is as filler.
- Brewer’s Yeast is rather controversial. Some consider it a good source of minerals and that it supports the immune system. Others think that it is linked to allergies in dogs.
- The minerals don’t appear to be chelated. Chelated means that the minerals have been chemically bonded to amino acids to make them more digestible. We would assume that the best dog food for allergies would have chelated minerals.
- There is no mention of probiotics.
- There is no mention of extra vegetables and fruit which are powerful anti-oxidants and easily digestible.
- Single source of protein, namely fish.
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
- No Wheat, corn or soya.
- No artificial colourants or flavours
- No chelated minerals
- Added Canola Meal
The first step is to determine if your dog has an allergy or food intolerance. An allergy is a response of the dog’s immune system and might be triggered by any number of things. These triggers could include pollen, dust, fleas, cleaning solvents, etc. Once the trigger has been identified, normally with the help of a vet, the necessary action can be instituted.
Food intolerance is somewhat different. It is a digestive reaction to something the dog has eaten and will usually result in diarrhoea and vomiting. It is not a reaction of the immune system. It then becomes your task to find out what is causing this reaction and eliminating it out of the dog’s diet. Your task can be somewhat facilitated with the help of a vet or pet nutritionist.
Whether allergy or intolerance, a bad reaction to food is a condition that must be attended to, or you could very well see your dog worsen by the day. He would not be getting enough nutrition for optimal health, and his allergic reaction will cause your dog increasing discomfort. It is not something that can be ignored.
We are sure that you will find the information above helpful in your quest for the best dog food for allergies.