Finding the best dog food for allergies or Intolerance will take a bit of time and effort as it is likely to be a process of elimination.
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1. Allergy Or Intolerance?
It is worth noting that dog allergies are not only caused by food because grasses, plants, shrubs and household cleaning agents can also be the culprits – or any combination of these – so consider other possibilities as you journey through your dog food options – but here we will take dog food as our starting point.
Intolerance and allergies are also another point of consideration as they are often considered to be one and the same thing but that is not so. Allergies show the usual problems with the skin and itchiness whereas food intolerance will be more likely to lead to or vomiting or diarrhea – without the skin and itch problems normally associated with allergies. If us humans eat a food style or food that is prepared in a fashion that is far from usual for us (like when we go overseas and try “local” cart/stall foods – or even the water) we can gastro symptoms.
The good news is intolerance and allergies can be avoided by choosing a dog food free from the ingredients identified to cause the symptoms. Mind you, if you are not already aware, finding the actual ingredient, or ingredients, that are causing the allergic reaction will probably be a long process of trial and error, as you try to eliminate all different food inclusion items. To see results from any changes will take from 6 to 12 weeks.
2. The Main Allergy Suspects
If you have been told that a grain free dog food is going to cure your dog’s allergy problems then that may, or may not, be so! Without a doubt, the grain free dog food debate is very divided and you can find as many good opinions for having grains in dog food as there are good opinions against grain inclusion. Grains are certainly topping the list in the eyes of many observers that I have come across and it is certainly a great first place of starting to hopefully bring your dog comfort. Whilst a grain free recipe might not be the answer, it is one part of the “elimination” process in trying to track down the cause of a dog’s allergy, and a grain free dog food is often the first suggestion given by vets. Finding this type of dog food is nowhere near as hard as it used to be and many manufacturers now promote their no grain formulas.
However, grains are not the only cause of allergies in dogs. Much like us humans – some of whom have allergic reactions to many varied food or other items – so it is in our dogs. It could be a protein source or another food intolerance. An allergy can manifest for no apparent reason, and could even be something that the dog has been quite tolerant to in the past! Here are a few of the main allergy suspects: beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish, chicken eggs, corn, wheat, and soy.
It would also be pertinent to look at the quality of ingredients and steer away from those that use by-products, fillers, artificial flavors and food additives. A quality ingredient product, from a specialist dog food manufacturer, is more likely to shorten your search for the best dog food for allergies. In fact, you may find switching to a product from a specialist manufacturer solves your dog’s problem – quality of the ingredients can make the difference.
3. A Change In Food Style
If your dog food has multiple protein sources such as chicken, beef, duck, turkey, tuna, and salmon or any other combinations then try switching (gradually) to a food that has maybe only two protein sources and see if it makes any difference. It may also be possible that your dog is only allergic to one type of protein and will be okay eating other proteins. It will probably take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks to notice a major difference. Trial and error may take time but is cheaper and less stressful than a run of blood sample tests. When carrying out these elimination methods you should also ensure that the ONLY food source for your dog is its’ meals – so no treats from the pet shelves, no table scraps, no cleaning up the cat bowl etc. is allowed!
A change in food style might also be worth considering. Perhaps start with a vegetarian food and then add back meat proteins one at a time or switch away from processed food altogether and try a BARF or cooked homemade selection. Quality of ingredients should not be overlooked when trying to determine the best dog food for allergies. The following are undesirable inclusions in the ingredients:
ETHOXYQUIN, BHA, BHT, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, PROPYL GALLATE, RENDERED MEAT, ANIMAL FAT, MEAT and BONE MEAL, POULTRY MEAL, MEAT MEAL, BY PRODUCT MEAL, CORN, CORN GLUTEN MEAL, REWERS RICE, CELLULOSE, SOYBEAN MILL RUN, BEET PULP, WHEAT, UNNAMED PRESERVATIVES.
Check the label and ensure none of the above are included and you will be on your way to getting the best dog food for allergies.
4. Hypoallergenic Dog Food
Some dog foods highlight that they are a hypoallergenic dog food so they would also be worth further evaluation but ensure they also do not have any of the above undesirable ingredients. These hypoallergenic dog foods use very restricted ingredients in the dog food recipe. They may also add in some cases natural supplements to help boost the immune system of the dog.
What Is Hypoallergenic Dog Food?
Now we need to consider what identifies a hypoallergenic dog food. Typically it is a recipe of ingredients that has a reduced meat content in the products make up. Many times the meat content that has been taken out is replaced with grains. As grains can sometimes be the very reason for a dog’s allergy problems this needs to be considered when selecting a food style that is supposed to be addressing allergies. Grain-free dog food has certainly been recognized by many manufacturers as a desirable and distinct option to have within their product range, so it will be reasonably easy to eliminate grains from the “suspect” allergy causing list! Always check the ingredients listing even if the product is marketed as hypoallergenic dog food for unwanted “suspects”
- Chicken, turkey, wild game meats.
- Wild caught fish… but does not include shark, swordfish, tilefish or mackerel. Organic farmed fish is acceptable.
- Lamb is considered one of the most hypoallergenic meats because it is allowed to roam free and is not exposed to a formulated lot feed designed to speed up the growth cycle, and which most likely includes wheat and dairy products. Lamb is also probably more readily available than wild game meat.
(By the way……. meat has to be organic or free-range)
- Red meat (other than lamb and wild game) and pork.
- Corn, wheat, soy.
- Dairy products – including cheese, yogurt, eggs.
- Any form of shellfish which includes; shrimp, crab, scallops, lobster.
- Fish as mentioned above – shark, swordfish, tilefish, and mackerel.
- Farmed fish – unless organic.
- Preservatives (other than natural), colorings and additives.
How Do I Introduce Hypoallergenic Dog Food?
Switching to a hypoallergenic dog food (or any switch in a dog’s food) needs to be done on a gradual basis. Not to do so will cause your dog discomfort, with an upset stomach and most likely will be combined with diarrhea and possible vomitingWhat happens is that when PH balances in the dog’s digestive system are thrown out of balance the dog’s system will increase fluid levels to bring the PH back into balance – hence the excess fluid is then excreted through bowel movements or as vomit.
Start to change over the food with around 10% new food for the first day or so. Then increase the new food portion by another 10% a couple more times after which you can up the new food content to 20% increments for another two or three times followed by the 100% change to the new food. There are other variations to this time and percentages but it all boils down to a gradual process to minimize any detrimental side effects for the dog.
5. Homemade Organic Dog Food
Another option you have is to basically start from scratch! Gradually switch your dog to 100% homemade organic food and wait for 12 weeks to pass. Hopefully, there will not be any allergy symptoms but if there is then you will need to eliminate each ingredient that could be a suspect. If the allergy has disappeared then if you wished you could start to reintroduce quality commercial food.
From the information I have given above I hope to have given you some insight. Of course all of the above regarding the best dog food for allergies and intolerance is intended purely for information purposes and you are encouraged to discuss aspects of any dog allergies with your veterinarian, a holistic veterinarian or a dog health professional who has specialist knowledge in this area, or perhaps seek a specialist vet or professional through the vet’s online website.