Hypoallergenic Dog Foods

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Hypoallergenic dog foods typically share one of three basic dietary designs:
Dog with Allergies and Scratching

  • 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 allergen to which a pet may be allergic.

Next, novel ingredient dog foods contain components the animal might not have been previously exposed to — so, therefore, less less likely to be sensitive to.

These foods contain obscure ingredients — like buffalo, pheasant, kangaroo or millet.

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

And as the names suggest, these products are typically prescribed and sold by veterinarians.

Most Common Allergens

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

According to online pet food retailer, Drs. Foster and Smith, the most common canine food allergens include:

  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Fish
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Yeast

Surprisingly, dogs aren’t naturally allergic to many of these items. It’s just that these are the ingredients most commonly used in 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.

Why 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).

The Bottom Line

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.

At the end of this article, you’ll find two lists — one includes a group of hypoallergenic dog foods prescribed by veterinarians and another using limited ingredient recipes.

These lists should not be considered a complete catalog of all hypoallergenic foods available.

In fact, if you know of a specific dog food you believe we should have included on these lists, please feel free to share your suggestions in the Comments section below.

Or if you’re looking for some suggestions yourself, be sure to look through our readers’ comments below to find some good ideas.

Veterinary Hypoallergenic Dog Foods

The following veterinary dog foods are marketed as hypoallergenic. However, readers are encouraged to consult a veterinarian before feeding these products.

Suggested Limited
Ingredient Dog Foods

The following limited ingredient dog foods may be helpful in tracking down specific allergens. However, these products are listed here only because of claims made by each manufacturer.

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.

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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.

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