Hypoallergenic Dog Food: Elimination Diets, Feeding Trials, and Foods
If you have a dog with dog food allergies then your dog probably needs to eat a hypoallergenic dog food. However, the food you choose for your dog will depend on different factors. One of the most important factors will be what your dog is allergic to. Different dogs are allergic to different things in foods. There are eight ingredients that are very common in most dog foods. There is nothing in particular wrong with these ingredients but they are used so often in dog foods that some dogs have developed allergies to them. These eight ingredients are:
- Dairy Products
Again, most dogs can eat dog foods that contain these ingredients without any problems. By the numbers, only about 10 percent of dogs with allergies have dog food allergies.
If your dog has dog food allergies then he may be allergic to one or more of these ingredients. Before choosing a hypoallergenic food for your dog (which tend to be expensive), it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian about your dog’s food allergies. Your vet will probably recommend putting your dog on an elimination diet so you can determine exactly which ingredients are causing your dog’s allergies.
In an elimination diet you will be asked to feed your dog a diet with one particular protein. This will usually be a protein that your dog has not previously eaten. You will need to feed your dog this diet for 12 weeks. During this time your dog must not be given any other food. This means no tablescraps, no treats, no vitamins, no doggy toothpaste. Nothing that is not cleared by your vet.
During this phase your vet may recommend that you feed your dog a hypoallergenic dog food if it contains a protein that your dog has not eaten before, and little else. Technically, a hypoallergenic dog food will contain only one source of protein and a starch, though some foods that are marketed as “hypoallergenic dog foods” will have a few more ingredients. They may also be marketed as “limited ingredient” diets. You may see “L.I.D.” on the label.
Your vet may recommend that you use a dog food that has hydrolyzed proteins. Hydrolyzed proteins are proteins that have been broken down into such small molecules that the dog’s immune system won’t recognize them as allergens. They have ceased to be whatever food they were previously. This means that the dog’s body will not produce an allergic reaction to them.
During the feeding trial phase of the elimination diet, you will need to continue to feed the hypoallergenic dog food for six to 12 weeks. About a quarter of dogs that are allergic to dog food have symptoms that disappear by the third week on these trials. You need to continue to feed the hypoallergenic food for six or more weeks. By the time the dogs finish the feeding trials at 12 weeks, most dogs respond to the trials. Gastrointestinal problems clear up first, while skin problems take the most time to improve. It may take as long as six to nine weeks before you seem improvement.
If your dog’s food allergies have not improved then that means that the allergens which trigger your dog’s allergies are still in the food he is eating or in the environment around him. You will need to change to a different hypoallergenic dog food and start the feeding trials over again. Remember to work with your veterinarian on this process.
If your dog’s allergies seem to be gone after the feeding trials are finished then you should have a good idea of what is causing your dog’s allergies. At this point you will need to challenge your dog with a provocative food challenge test. You will add things that your dog was previously eating back into his diet. You can add things to his diet one at a time with a week or so in between to see how your dog reacts. When your dog’s symptoms reappear you will have confirmation of what your dog is allergic to so you can remove it from his diet for the future.
Hypoallergenic dog food
Once you have identified the ingredient(s) which trigger your dog’s food allergies, you can look for hypoallergenic dog foods which don’t contain that ingredient. There are many good hypoallergenic dog foods available. Some of the best ones include:
Wellness CORE, including Wellness CORE dry adult Ocean Formula, and Wellness Super5Mix Whitefish and Sweet Potato Recipe.
Flint River Ranch, including Flint River Ranch Fish & Chips, Trout and Sweet Potato Dog Food. Also Flint River Ranch Duck, Oatmeal and Potato Dog Food.
Solid Gold Barking at the Moon.
Natural Balance Dry Dog Food, including Grain Free Limited Ingredient Diet Venison and Sweet Potato Recipe, and Grain Free Limited Ingredient Diet Lamb Meal and Brown Rice Recipe.
AvoDerm Dog Food including AvoDerm Natural Grain Free Salmon Meal & Potato Formula.
Orijen Dog Food, including Orijen 6 Fresh Fish with Sea Vegetables Dry Dog Food, and Orijen Regional Red Dry Dog Food.
Pinnacle Dog Food, including Pinnacle Trout & Sweet Potato Formula Dog Food, Pinnacle Duck & Potato Formula Dog Food, and Pinnacle Salmon & Potato Grain Free Formula Dog Food.
Arcana Dog Food, including Arcana Wild Prairie, Arcana Provincial Grasslands Grain Free, and Arcana Pacifica Dry Dog Food.
You will need to check the labels and read the ingredients of these foods to make sure they don’t contain an ingredient that your dog is allergic to.