Food allergies in dogs are one of the most common allergic conditions. They can manifest as skin
conditions — chronic ear inflammation, itchy feet or even generalized itching, diarrhea and excessive flatulence.
Food allergies occur because some food, usually a protein, is not fully digested but is absorbed into the bloodstream. The immune system is fine with basic metabolites like amino acids, fatty acids and glucose but “unknown” proteins are treated as invaders. The immune response to these “invaders” is what creates allergy symptoms.
Allergies form over time. Also, because of the way allergies develop, it is, paradoxical as it sounds, the more common protein forms that trigger allergies. So, it isn’t uncommon for dogs to become allergic to basic food items like wheat, beef, lamb, pork, dairy, egg and fish. Also, because allergy development appear to be related to a generally hyperactive immune system, it’s quite common for a dog to be allergic to more than one item.
The are, broadly, two ways to treat an allergy. One approach is to downgrade the immune response through medication. This is not such a good idea because when real invaders enter the body, the immune response may be left wanting. The other approach is to prevent these “foreign” proteins from entering the system.
Of course, the latter approach means that one needs to figure out what the allergic trigger is. One usually does this through what’s called a food elimination trial. Such trials last eight to twelve weeks during which your pet is put through the rigors of an extremely limited diet. As new food items are gradually added, one looks for telltale signs of an allergic reaction. This is not as easy as it sounds for the following reasons:
- Your pet may be allergic to multiple items. Which raises the question: when during the elimination diet does one stop looking for allergens?
- Allergic reactions are actually a summation of the effect of allergens present in the food and environment. So, an environmental change could trigger an allergic reaction confounding the food trial.
Instead, many owners just opt for a diet that eliminates the common food allergens. The good news is that this approach, more often than not, does work for a pet with a food allergy. Here are a choice of excellent hypoallergenic dog foods.
Zeal’s Gluten-free dog food is fish-based and grain-free, ideal for a dog with food sensitivities because it excludes the common allergens like wheat, rice, corn and soy. Fish used include Haddock, wild Salmon and Whiting. Dehydrated white fish and sweet potatoes are the two main ingredients. Others are eggs and organic coconut, fruit like apples and bananas, and vegetables like alfalfa, pumpkin, parsley and cabbage. It is sold in dehydrated form; just add warm water, wait a few minutes and serve. It is somewhat pricey at just over $100 for a 10 pound pack, but it could be just what your dog needs to get over food allergies.
Firstmate’s Pacific Ocean is a dry food directly aimed at food allergies. It is grain-free and fish-based with its key ingredients including potato, herring meal, tomato pomace, chicken fat and fish oil. The strategy of the manufacturers appears to be to limit the number of ingredients so as to reduce the potential triggers … and it seems to work. Owners who have reviewed the product consistently shower praise on the effects of this food on their dogs. A 28.6 pound bag will set you back just under $70.
This is another dog food aimed at food allergies that limits the number of ingredients to improve its hypoallergenicity properties. Wellness Simple includes three dry formulas that use oatmeal and lamb, rice and duck, and salmon and potato respectively. Foods that are most likely to trigger allergic reactions like corn, wheat, dairy, eggs, meat by-products and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, are excluded. It’s about $60 for a 26 pound bag.
The tack taken by Addiction Pet Foods is to use novel protein. Novel protein is protein your dog is less likely to have encountered before; in this case, it comes mainly from wild kangaroo meat. So, if you dog is allergic to regular meats, like beef or chicken, this dog food could fit the bill. A 15 pound bag cost just under $60.
Royal Canin’s approach to creating a hypoallergenic food is to use hydrolyzed protein. This involves breaking down the protein into its basic amino acids prior to adding it as an ingredient, which makes it less likely to trigger allergies. The key ingredients of this formula include rice, soy protein isolate hydrolysate, chicken fat and dried beet pulp. At $36 for a 7.7 pound bag, it could be worth a try.
A Final Word on Best Dog Foods for Allergies
Most owners will have to experiment a bit before finding the dog food that works. If a food is working, eighty percent of dogs will show significant improvement within six weeks. Plan your purchases accordingly. Food allergies can be frustrating and will require dedication and time on your part; but they can be resolved. Good luck!