The Best Hypoallergenic Dog Food Options For Pups With Allergies
Vet-recommended foods for your allergic pup 🐶
To reduce your pup’s allergic reactions, your vet might recommend hypoallergenic dog food. But what does that actually mean, and how can you find the best one for your pup?
We reached out to Dr. Amber Karwacki, a partner vet at Heart + Paw Callowhill, and Dr. Lydia Harbour, a veterinary dermatology resident at Dermatology for Animals in Arizona, to find out what hypoallergenic dog food is and how to find the best one for your pup.
- Hypoallergenic dog food without chicken, beef or lamb: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult Selected Protein PW Moderate Calorie Dry Dog Food
- Hypoallergenic dog food without fish: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Vegetarian Dry Dog Food
- Hypoallergenic dog food without dairy, eggs, soy or wheat: Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care Salmon & Potato Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food
- Grain-free hypoallergenic dog food: Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Duck & Potato Formula Dry Dog Food
- Hypoallergenic wet dog food:Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Sweet Potato & Venison Formula Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
- Hypoallergenic dog treats: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gentle Snackers Crunchy Dog Treats
What is hypoallergenic dog food?
There are a couple types of dog food for allergies: hydrolyzed protein and limited-ingredient food.
“Most allergies to food will be related to the protein source in the diet,” Dr. Harbour told The Dodo. “Novel proteins (something the dog has never been exposed to) and hydrolyzed proteins are the best options to feed to a dog with food allergies.”
Limited-ingredient dog food contains fewer ingredients than your standard dog food, and it can sometimes include exotic sources of protein (like venison or duck) that your dog may not have eaten before and might not be allergic or sensitive to.
“[Limited-ingredient] diets contain ingredients that are different from the regular diets, so there should be no allergic reactions,” Dr. Karwacki told The Dodo. “The protein ingredients tend to be venison, fish or kangaroo, along with the addition of pea and potato.”
With hydrolyzed protein dog foods, the protein source is broken down into pieces that are too small for your dog’s body to recognize, so his body just thinks it’s protein.
Common dog food allergies
Dogs develop food allergies from being exposed to certain ingredients in their regular food, and they can eat the same food for years before having an allergic reaction to it.
Some of the most common food allergies in dogs include:
Grain allergies are super uncommon, so your pup most likely won’t need to eat grain-free dog food (but we’ve included grain-free food picks in case your vet recommends it).
Dogs can also have more than one food allergy. Determining what the allergy is “gets more complicated knowing that there is the potential for cross-reactions between different protein sources,” Dr. Harbour said. “So a dog allergic to chicken may also be allergic to turkey or duck without ever having exposure to these specific meats because the structure of the proteins are similar enough, as they are all from the poultry family.”
Which dog food is right for your dog's allergies?
According to Dr. Karwacki, talking to your vet is the best way to find the right hypoallergenic dog food. “Be prepared to discuss your dog's symptoms, as well as what foods your dog is currently eating,” Dr. Karwacki said.
You’ll have to determine what your dog’s allergic to before picking a hypoallergenic dog food. To find this out, your vet will perform a blood test or recommend an elimination diet, Dr. Karwacki said. According to Dr. Harbour, elimination diets are more accurate than blood tests at determining food allergies.
“Feed one of the hypoallergenic diets for a period of six to eight weeks, eliminating everything else your dog has been getting that is flavored (treats, chews, bones, table scraps, etc.),” Dr. Harbour said. “This is called an elimination diet trial.”
After the elimination trial, you’ll reintroduce food with the potential allergen. If your dog has an allergic reaction, you’ll know that your dog’s allergic to that ingredient.
“If the dog improves while on the diet, then we can ‘challenge’ the diet with the old food by [giving your dog] a meal with [it],” Dr. Harbour said.
Best hypoallergenic dog food
Some hypoallergenic dog foods that Dr. Karwacki and Dr. Harbour recommend include Royal Canin, Purina, Hill’s Science Diet and Rayne Clinical Nutrition.
“These companies have strict standards when making these [foods], which include either having designated lines for these foods or completely sterilizing the lines before making the food.” Dr. Karwacki said.
Sterilizing the equipment before producing hypoallergenic food is important to avoid cross contamination.
“Think of someone with a peanut allergy … [eating food] made in the same factory as peanuts,” Dr. Harbour said. “We aim for the same level of purity for our canine patients when it comes to food allergies.”
Here are some of the best hypoallergenic dog foods you can buy, recommended by vets and pet parents.
This prescription dog food is made with a novel protein, whitefish, which makes it good for dogs who are allergic to proteins usually included in dog food. It also has fewer calories and fat than other foods to make it healthy for dogs prone to weight gain.
This hypoallergenic dog food’s a vegetarian formula made with soy protein instead of more common sources, so it’s great for dogs who have fish (or other meat) allergies.
This hypoallergenic food includes salmon as the only source of protein to reduce allergic reactions, plus it contains pumpkin to help your dog’s digestion. It also has no artificial preservatives or flavors.
Natural Balance is one of the top-selling limited-ingredient dog food brands, so lots of pet parents obviously love it. This food includes duck as the first ingredient, and it contains potatoes as an easily digestible carb. You can also get it as a wet food if your pup prefers that.
This wet dog food is made with a highly-digestible formula for pups with sensitive stomachs and allergies. It’s designed by vets to include all the nutrients your pup needs, like vitamins B6 and B12.
These limited-ingredient dog treats contain only one hydrolyzed protein source, soy. They’re formulated to be easily digestible, and they don’t include any corn, wheat or artificial colors or flavors.
Don’t worry if your pup has allergies. Once you find the perfect hypoallergenic dog food for him, he’ll be feeling much better.