Hypoallergenic dog foods typically share one of three basic dietary 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 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.
The most common canine food allergens include:
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 a list — a group of hypoallergenic dog foods using limited ingredient recipes.
This list 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.
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.
- Acana Singles Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free
- Canidae Limited Ingredient Diets
- Evangers Limited Ingredient Diets
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet
- Zignature Limited Ingredient Diets
A Final Word
The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.
Happy Dog Cafe Express 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 our blog readers.
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.
Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.