Best Dog Foods for Allergies

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Dog with Allergies and Scratching

The best dog foods for allergies typically share one of 3 basic designs:

  • Limited ingredient diets
  • Novel ingredient diets
  • Prescription or veterinary diets

First, because they contain fewer components…

Limited ingredient dog foods can make it easier to pin down the specific cause (known as an allergen) to which your pet may be allergic.

Next, novel ingredient dog foods contain components to which the animal might not have been previously exposed.

These recipes contain obscure ingredients… like buffalo, pheasant, or kangaroo.

Many experts insist that feeding a “novel” diet doesn’t prevent food allergies.1

It only makes it more likely that if your pet does develop an allergy, it will be to that novel protein rather than instead of something more common…

Like beef or chicken.

And finally, veterinary dog foods are diets that have been designed to contain hypoallergenic ingredients.

In these recipes, proteins are chemically processed (hydrolyzed) into their basic amino acid building blocks…

Which can make the original allergen “invisible” to your pet’s immune system.

These products are typically prescribed by veterinarians.

Most Common Allergens

Most hypoallergenic dog foods are designed to avoid the use of ingredients most likely to provoke an allergic reaction.

The most common canine food allergens1 include…

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Egg

Surprisingly, dogs aren’t naturally allergic to these items. It’s just that these are the ingredients most commonly found in many dog food recipes.

So, they’re simply the ones dogs are most frequently exposed to.

And many times, it’s not even the ingredients that are the problem. Dogs can also be allergic to what’s in the ingredients, too.

Food May Not Be the Cause
of Your Dog’s Allergies

Contrary to popular belief, food isn’t the primary cause of a canine allergies.

According to Drs. Foster and Smith, food allergies account for just 10% of all canine allergies. They’re only the third most common cause — ranked well behind fleas and atopic (non-contact) allergies.

Yet food is the first to be blamed whenever a dog shows any sign of an allergic reaction — like itchy skin.

And that begs the question: Is it really an allergy in the first place?

Food Allergy
or Food Intolerance?

Food allergies and food intolerances are considered two different issues.

A food allergy occurs when a dog’s immune system mistakenly identifies a particular food ingredient as harmful. And then creates defensive antibodies to fight the invading enemy (the food).

A food intolerance is a digestive problem rather than an immune response. An intolerance occurs when a dog’s digestive system is unable to digest a specific ingredient.

For example, lactose intolerance is a common condition in which a dog is unable to break down lactose (a sugar found in milk).

Different Conditions
with Different Symptoms

The symptoms of an allergy can include skin rash, hives, itching, paw biting, obsessive licking and sometimes nausea or vomiting.

The signs of food intolerance include (mainly) digestive distress, gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Again, let’s use milk as an example…

A milk intolerance would look more like gastric distress. This can include symptoms like gas, bloating or diarrhea.

However, a true milk allergy would produce an immune reaction (for example, itching or a rash).

Best Hypoallergenic
Dog Foods for Allergies

If you believe your pet is suffering from a food intolerance or a food allergy, you may wish to consider feeding a commercial dog food that’s been specifically designed to help manage these issues.

The best dog foods for allergies below were selected because they meet all 9 criteria associated with superior brands.

In addition, their labels reveal…

  • No risky cancer-causing preservatives
  • No anonymous meat ingredients
  • No toxic coloring agents
  • No generic animal fat
  • No propylene glycol
  • Above-average protein content
  • Below-average carbohydrates
  • Modest fat-to-protein ratio

Best Veterinary
Hypoallergenic Dog Foods

The veterinary dog foods below are marketed as hypoallergenic. Readers are encouraged to consult a veterinarian before feeding these products.

Use links below to compare price and package sizes at an online retailer.

ProductForm
Hill’s Prescription D/D Skin/Food Sensitivities Dog FoodDry
Hill’s Prescription D/D Skin/Food Sensitivities Dog FoodWet
Hill's Prescription Diet Z/D Original Skin/Food SensitivitiesDry
Hill's Prescription Diet Z/D Original Skin/Food SensitivitiesWet
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Chicken Flavor FormulaDry
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Vegetarian FormulaDry
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Selected Protein Adult PRDry
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Selected Protein Adult PRWet

Best Limited Ingredient
Dog Foods for Allergies

The limited ingredient dog foods below may be helpful in tracking down specific allergies.

Keep in mind, these products are listed here because of claims made by each manufacturer.

Use links below to compare price and package sizes at an online retailer.

ProductForm
Acana Singles Dog FoodDry
American Journey Grain Free Limited IngredientDry
Canidae Grain Free Pure Limited Ingredient DietsDry
Earthborn Holistic Venture Limited Ingredient DietsDry
FirstMate Limited Ingredient Grain FreeDry
FirstMate Limited Ingredient Grain FreeWet
Go! Sensitivity and Shine Limited Ingredient DietDry
Merrick Limited Ingredient Grain FreeDry
Merrick Limited Ingredient Grain FreeWet
Natural Balance Limited IngredientDry
Nature's Variety Instinct Limited IngredientDry
Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient DietDry

Special FDA Alert

The FDA has announced it is investigating a potential connection between grain-free diets and a type of canine heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy. Click here for details.

A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

We rely entirely on the integrity of the information provided by each company on its product label or its website. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the data a company chooses to share.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

We rely on tips from readers. To report a product change or request an update of any review, please contact us using this form.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews.

However, we do receive a fee from Chewy.com for each purchase made as a direct result of a referral from our website. This fee is a fixed dollar amount and has nothing to do with the size of an order or the brand selected for purchase.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

  1. Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN, Deborah E. Linder, DVM, MS, DACVN, Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN, Clinical Nutrition Service, Cummings School, Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, Tufts University
  2. Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN, Deborah E. Linder, DVM, MS, DACVN, Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN, Clinical Nutrition Service, Cummings School, Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, Tufts University