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.

We rely entirely on the integrity of the information provided by each company. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the specific 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 or ratings.

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.

  • anon101

    Frequent ear infections are in the environmental allergy family.
    Therefore it is considered a dermatological (skin) issue/problem.
    I would stop wasting time on the internet listening to amateurs (myself included)
    Consult a specialist, a veterinary dermatologist for the best results.
    PS: My dog has not had an ear infection in over 5 years after starting treatment prescribed by a veterinary dermatologist.

  • haleycookie

    Theyre are plenty you could try. One off the top of my head is the canidae pure line. I believe all of them are free from those ingredients except pure sea which has salmon. It could be fed to all your dogs except the puppy or any senior dog. But they do have formulas for puppy’s and seniors if you decide to switch to canidae. But you’ll just have to look into any foods available to you in your price range and have a look at the ingredient lists on them. There’s a lot out there it just takes a bit of sniffing around to find them.

  • anon101

    I found intradermal skin testing done by a veterinary dermatologist to be extremely accurate along with the prescribed treatment that followed.
    As the above poster suggested you could try an elimination diet/prescription food to see if it helps…just in case her symptoms are being caused by food sensitivities. It depends on how serious the dog’s symptoms and how your vet advises you to proceed.

  • Pitlove

    Hi Tiffany-

    The golden standard and only real way to determine if a dog has a food allergy/sensitivity/intolerance is to do an elimination trial. Unfortunately all other food allergy “testing” is not accurate and notoriously yields false negatives and false positives.

    I would go ahead and cancel the blood test and tell your vet you would like to do an elimination diet.

  • anon101

    Probably the blood test. I skipped it and went right to the intradermal skin test on the advice of the veterinary dermatologist that was treating my dog.
    http://www.vetstreet.com/care/allergy-testing excerpt below, click on link for full article.
    Allergy testing is most commonly performed to determine if a pet has atopy. Allergy testing can also help diagnose flea allergy dermatitis. Most veterinarians do not use allergy testing to diagnose food allergies.
    The two most common types of allergy tests used in pets are intradermal skin testing and serum allergy testing:
    Intradermal skin testing. Intradermal skin testing can sometimes be performed at your veterinarian’s office. However, because the allergens used for this test are very specific (they vary depending on where you live), your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary dermatologist for this test to be performed. Usually, an area of fur is shaved from your pet’s side or abdomen to expose enough skin to perform the test. Using very small needles, tiny amounts of each test allergen are injected just under your pet’s skin in different areas. After a brief waiting period, the injection sites are examined to measure the degree of local allergic response, such as redness or a small hive. Allergens that your pet is not allergic to will not cause a reaction, while allergens that your pet is allergic to will cause a reaction that corresponds to the severity of the allergy. Pets are monitored carefully during the procedure in case a serious reaction occurs and treatment is required.

    Serum allergy testing. Serum allergy testing is performed at a laboratory using a small blood sample taken from your pet. Your veterinarian does not need to shave your pet or have special allergens on hand to perform this test. As with intradermal skin testing, the results of serum allergy testing can reveal which allergens are not causing an allergic reaction in your pet, which ones are causing a mild reaction, and which ones are causing a more serious reaction.
    Depending on which type of allergy test is performed, you may need to discontinue your pet’s allergy medications for a period of time before the test. Otherwise, the test results may be affected. Your veterinarian will tell you which medications can be used and which ones may need to be discontinued.

  • Tiffany McCord

    Not sure what test Vet is going to do. We wanted to test before we start trial and error with food/diet. And yes, they have a couple brands of prescribed vet foods. Thanks for the info.

  • anon101

    Do you mean atopic dermatitis?
    If so, it usually doesn’t have anything to do with the food.
    I hope this article helps http://www.nevetdermatology.com/canine-atopic-dermatitis-treatment/
    For best results consult a veterinary dermatologist, especially if the symptoms have been going on for 1 year/4seasons without a significant response to treatment by the regular vet.

  • Jo-ann Labuschagne

    Ho there i have a dog with atopi which one of your foods will you recommend please.

  • Susan

    Hi Tiffany, you need to do an food elimination trial/diet, 1 novel meat protein & 1 carb to work out what foods are causing his yeasty ears, it’s best to start with a novel protein & carb he hasnt eaten before or has eaten it alot, this way he probably won’t be sensitive too these new ingredients. My boy can’t eat carrots, he starts shaking head/ears & scratching at his ears & when he eats chicken, oats, barley & corn he gets red itchy paws & yeasty skin… You can cooked or do raw elimination diet or start with a limited ingredient kibble/wet food, either a vet diet, there’s Hills D/D Venison & Potato, it’s grain free, gluten free, soy free, or there’s also Royal Canine select protein formula’s, PR, PD, PK wet/kibbles, then when dog is doing realiy well just eating 1 protein & 1 carb diet you start adding 1 new food/ingredient, do not feed any no treats while doing elimination diet & you add the new food to kibble or cooked elimination meal you add new ingredient for 6 weeks, stop if you see a reaction & go back to 1 protin & 1 carb….
    Food sensitivities can take anywhere from 1 day up to 6 weeks to show stomach, ear, paw, skin reaction, this is why you add the new food for for 6 weeks as soon as you see any reaction stop adding the new ingredient…
    another good kibble is “California Natural” Lamb meal & Rice large bites, it has just 3 ingredients like vet diets have but vet diets has no other food contaminates……Yeast has nothing to do with starchy carbs, like potatoes, rice, oats, barley etc it all depends on what foods the dog is sensitive too, also he needs omega 3 in his diet, the vet diets are very high in Omega 3 for the skin, you can givefish/krill oil capsule, give daily with meal or when you start your food elimination diet buy tin sardines in spring water & add 2-3 sardines to his kibble or give the sardines as a treat & make the sardines the first food to trial…
    Salvia or Hair testing can give false positives & aren’t 100% accurate, they can be used as a starting point but then you’ll need to do the elimination food diet & add these foods that were positive for food intolerances & see does his ears start to get yeast…. Good -Luck

  • anon101

    What do you mean by allergy testing? Please, please don’t say a mail-in saliva or hair test.
    For best results consult a veterinary dermatologist, if you have been working with your vet and you have not noticed significant relief of symptoms after 1 year/4 seasons.
    Those hair and saliva tests are scams. They are “food sensitivity” tests, they are not allergy tests, food sensitivities fluctuate and often do not cause the symptoms you have described.
    Go to forums and use the search engine to look up “environmental allergies” see my posts.

  • Tiffany McCord

    I have an English lab with ear infections for a year. Treated bacterial and yeast. Now doing allergy testing. Have her on fortiflora to help her gut immune to help. But need a dog food for this immune reaction. Not skin or gi problems. Anyone have thought on which food for something like this. (Until test kit comes in and results) looking at 4 weeks.

  • Kyla

    We have a french bulldog that is currently on Pro Plan Vet Diets HA due to allergies to egg, salmon, corn, soybean, beef, milk, wheat, and rice (based on allergy test). I understand from my research this isn’t the best food to continue on forever. Is there any recommended foods that we should try for her instead?

    We’d love to be able to put all our dogs on the same food if possible. An all stages food would be ideal since we just brought a puppy into the pack, but we’d keep her on her own if necessary.

  • anon101

    Food does not cause environmental allergies. The dogs are born with a genetic predisposition.

  • anon101

    Yep, that’s when the environmental allergies start, 1 year to 2 years old. They get worse with age, this is just the beginning.
    For best results consult a veterinary dermatologist. There is no quick solution.
    This is a serious condition (environmental allergies) such as diabetes.
    If I were you I would stop wasting time on the internet and get the dog to a specialist! ASAP
    Good Luck.

  • Rob

    Thank you Susan for the information that you gave. It is much appreciated.Hopefully I will get this all worked out for my dog,by the way she is 1 1/2 years old.

  • Susan

    Hi Rob, if your dog does well on the Royal Canie HP dry kibble then around 3 months of just being fed the R/C HP you start adding 1 new ingredient to his/her diet, you add this new ingredient for 6 weeks, stop adding if you see any reactions like gas rumbling noises thru the bowel, smelly farts, sloppy poo/diarrhea, itchy smelly yeasty skin, paws & ears, bum rubbing on ground etc, keep a diary & write down what foods did what, if after you have tried the R/C HP & your dog is still having gas, sloppy poo’s yeasty skin paws & ears then there’s other Hydrolzed vet diets you can try, Royal Canine has their PS,which has potato instead of the rice, Hills has their Z/d which uses corn starch & hydrolyzed chicken liver has the matching hydrolyzed treats or Hills have their D/D formula’s, free from soy protein, Salmon, Duck or Venison, the proteins are single intact proteins, not contaminated like normal pet foods can be while being made & cut….. Purina has their HA, Purina HA is more for dogs who suffer with Intestestinal stress from foods & dogs with sereve IBD, pancreatitis & skin problems, the HA has the lowest fat%…..
    I did my own elimination diet & just used 1 cooked protein & 1 cooked carb & added 1 new ingredient every month, I’ve done a few elimination diets cause of Patches IBD the last one I used Hills D/D venison vet diet but it was end Summer & I couldn’t tell with Patches skin, was he scratching after our walk or from the vet diet or environment alergies but we did it more for his IBD not skin, his poos firmed up so I know he can eat potato & venison. Patches vet said 4-6 weeks to add 1 new ingredient, food intolerance/sensitivities can take 1 day to have a reaction up to 6 weeks to show symptoms, it all depends on your dog, with Patch chicken & carrots he reacts within 20mins of eating them he starts shaking his head/ears from carrots & when he ate raw or cooked chicken he gets his red itchy paws & paws are hot & swollen then he starts his paw licking, then after 5-7days he gets his smelly yeasty skin ….
    There’s also “California Natural” Lamb Meal & Rice small or large bites, it has just 3 ingredients, some vets recommend “California Natural” when the vet diets haven’t helped dogs with IBD & skin problems….Your dog probably has environment allergies as well, so best to start ellimination diets in the cooler months Winter when pollens, flowers aren’t in bloom, when allergy season hasn’t started yet, as they get older they get worse with their allergies so best to work it all out now while your dog is younger, if you want to know what in the envrionment your dog is allergic to then the gold standard test is “Intradermal Skin test” watch this video humans also do have this test, my daughter had it done on her back. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM3zb0q7pc4&feature=share

  • Debbie Dibble

    If you want to put blame where it belongs, put it on the food manufacturers who keep putting stuff in food that dogs are not suppose to eat. It’s a money scam just like everything else. Make it cheap as they can, whether it is harmful to your dog or not. Then get rich off it.

  • aimee

    My understanding is that Cytopoint was developed as therapy for environmental allergies but I don’t think it is known what effect if any it has on food reactions.

    I don’t think it can be said with any confidence that if injections given at the vet controlled symptoms that food isn’t involved.

  • anon101

    There is no cure for allergies. The veterinary dermatologist that we go to said this at the first visit. “I can’t cure your dog.”
    However, he was able to diagnose and offer effective treatment (lifelong).
    That is as good as it gets for this condition, environmental/seasonal allergies. There is a genetic component, if you want to blame someone, blame the puppy mills, backyard breeders and breeders that continue to breed dogs that have a hereditary condition.

  • anon101

    The cytopoint injections were not available 5+ years ago when I sought treatment for my dog.
    From what I understand cytopoint is promising as a treatment for environmental/seasonal allergies, but has no effect on food sensitivities.
    His dog probably got a shot of prednisone to temporarily stop the suffering (if I had to guess).

  • Rob

    Haha I have heard 4 weeks 6 weeks and 12 weeks to do the food elimination diet.i guess I should do it till symptoms clear up.if they don’t clear up within 12 weeks then I assume it’s environmental then do the skin test.

  • Rob

    Ok thanks

  • Rob

    Ok thanks for the information.

  • aimee

    Yes and she even put the other dog in her house on it too

  • aimee

    Elimination diets are done for 12 weeks. If successful then challenge the dog with the original diet and see if symptoms return, if they don’t then diet wasn’t the cause. If symptoms return then return to the test diets until symptoms are controlled again and then challenge one ingredient at a time, introducing one every 2 weeks or so.

  • Rob

    Your friend continues to just feed her dog the RC hydrolyzed food??

  • aimee

    I wonder what was being given… I’m not so sure you can say if the shots worked then food can be ruled out. I think if it was that cut and dry then food elimination trials wouldn’t need to be done as often as they are needed/recommended to be done by dermatologists.

    I know historically I’ve read adverse food reactions are steroid resistant but I think that statement has been backed off of and I have no idea about the cytopoint injections.

    I’m interested in learning more.

  • aimee

    Allergies are tough.. many dogs have both environmental and food problems making it more complicated.

    The place to start is a good food trial. They are tough to do as you have to make sure nothing crosses the dog’s lips except the trial diet: no flavored medications, no scavenging outside or snacking from the cat box, no dropped food that the dog gets etc.

    After food is ruled out then skin test for environmental allergies.

    I’ve used Royal Canin for my dog for years and been very pleased. The quality control really impressed me. It is a very high quality food.

    A friend of mine followed holistic advice and people’s recommendations from here and her dog continued to suffer for over a year. She then took her dog to a specialist who recommended RC hydrolyzed soy, the same diet her vet had recommended. After switching to it her dog did great and she was gobsmacked.

  • anon101

    http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/allergen-specific-immunotherapy-canine-atopic-dermatitis-making-it-work
    It’s really not that complicated, we were in an out in a little over an hour with a diagnosis, treatment plan, a complete list of allergies and diet advice.
    Two initial visits, then once a year for follow up, the specialist returns calls if something comes up and will communicate with your regular vet should flare ups occur, no additional charge (in my experience).

  • Rob

    Ok thanks

  • anon101

    The blood test for allergies is sometimes recommended, but not as accurate.
    Environmental allergies is usually the culprit. The Veterinary Dermatologist is the best person to recommend what testing is indicated after they examine the dog.
    I never bothered with the blood test, the veterinary dermatologist said it wasn’t necessary.
    My dog has been stable times 5 years, we see the specialist once a year (allergen specific immunotherapy)
    The regular vets were not helpful, back and forth times one year without significant results. Bandaid solutions.
    If you have a serious issue see a specialist.
    See my posts over here: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/forums/search/environmental+allergies/

  • Rob

    What exactly is allergen specific immunotherapy?Is that just monthly allergy shots??

  • Rob

    I have been to 2 veterinarians and both said they think she has a food allergy/sensitivity.If the food trial does not work then I will do the environmental test.So is the intradermal skin test only good for environmental allergies and not for food allergies??What about blood testing for environmental allergies?

  • Rob

    Yes the vet prescribed food is expensive.Im going to use the vet prescribed food to see if the symptoms disappear and if they do then I will try bringing other foods into her diet to see what she’s allergic to.Believe me I do not want her on this prescribed food for the rest of her life if I can help it.

  • anon101

    Monthly shots, an excellent remedy!
    Btw: If the shots work that means that the dog’s symptoms have absolutely nothing to do with food.
    Environmental allergies are a serious condition and require lifelong treatment.
    If you really want to get to the root of the problem, go to a veterinary dermatologist and get intradermal skin testing done, allergen specific immunotherapy is the best, most natural treatment.
    Good luck, whatever you decide.
    Oh, btw, most homeopathic vets are quacks.

  • Rob

    While feeding her a chicken and rice formulated dog food I noticed the allergies swapped to a salmon and pumpkin kibble and no changes for the better.Thats when I put her on the hydrolyzed kibble. I thought I was suppose to try the hydrolyzed kibble for 4 to 6 weeks and if the symptoms clear up I then start adding other foods into her diet to see what she is allergic to.
    Am I understanding this process or am I doing it incorrectly??Believe me I do not want to have to keep feeding her the prescription kibble forever.

  • haleycookie

    Vet prescribed foods can be a good tool but are insanely expensive for their low quality ingredients so until you try an elimination test with other brands and proteins I wouldn’t just call it quits and feed the hyrdolyzed for the rest of her life. That would be a last resort after trying other foods. Just buy small bags and attempt to slowly transition over. If you cannot find something else that works then the vet diet will most likely be your last option to keep your pup on.

  • Rob

    Thank you Aimee for the information.Im doing the food trial now by using the Royal Canin hydrolyzed protein kibble to see how that works.My dog has been on this kibble for the past 5 days. I was just hoping that there was a quicker solution to this problem.I read other articles from holistic veterinarians and they say do not use the veterinarian prescribed kibble.So I’m kind of in the middle of what I should do about this problem.I just want my pup to get better I hate seeing her suffer.The veterinarians that I have been to seem to just want to suppress the symptoms instead of getting to the root of the problem.If I did not mention the prescribed kibble to the veterinarian and asked questions about it I think she would of just wanted to do a monthly shots.Thats what I’m trying to avoid if at all possible.

  • aimee

    Hi Rob,
    On an individual basis you will find that there are people who strongly believe the test worked for them. Bloodletting used to be the standard of medical care because it “worked”. Everything seems to work sometimes which is why to really evaluate if something works testing with controls is done

    Recently immune IQ was tested in the manner and the results were published. The company closed their doors probably to prevent the FDA going after them.

    I sent in IV solution as my saliva sample and cotton from the cotton swabs as my hair sample and got a report back reporting the numerous sensitivities my “dog” had. The company withdrew the product and relaunched it under a new name and now requires a
    disclaimer be signed before they will run the sample.

    The really expensive California based saliva test also fared poorly when tested under controlled conditions. The DVM behind it likes to sue people and the DVM that tested it didn’t want have to deal with a lawsuit so didn’t publish. I heard a new group from one of the major vet schools tested it and also found it not accurate. We’ll have to see if they publish.

    Bottom line put your money towards a good food trial.

  • anon101

    All hair and saliva food sensitivity tests are scams.
    They are not allergy tests.
    Work with your vet regarding an elimination/prescription diet to rule out food sensitivities.
    For the most accurate and the best allergy testing and treatment options have your vet refer you to a veterinary dermatologist. Allergies are complicated and require lifelong treatment. There are effective treatments, your money would be better spent on a specialist rather than phony baloney stuff.
    Buyer beware!