The Best Limited-Ingredient Dog Food Options To Help With Allergies
Try out these foods to help your pup 🤧
If your dog has food allergies or sensitivities, you probably want to do whatever you can to help relieve his symptoms.
One option is a limited-ingredient diet. These are often recommended by vets to help prevent allergic reactions and even determine which ingredients are causing a dog’s allergies.
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 learn more about best limited-ingredient dog food and what some of their favorite options are.
- Best limited-ingredient dog food without chicken, beef or lamb: ACANA Singles + Wholesome Grains Limited Ingredient Diet Duck & Pumpkin Recipe Dry Dog Food
- Best limited-ingredient dog food without fish: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Vegetarian Dry Dog Food
- Best limited-ingredient dog food without dairy, eggs, soy or wheat: Purina Beyond Simple Ingredient, Natural Dry Dog Food, Simply Farm Raised Chicken & Whole Barley Recipe
- Best grain-free limited-ingredient dog food: Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Duck & Potato Formula Dry Dog Food
- Best limited-ingredient wet dog food: Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Sweet Potato & Venison Formula Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
- Best limited-ingredient dog treats: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gentle Snackers Crunchy Dog Treats
What is limited-ingredient dog food?
According to Dr. Harbour, limited-ingredient diets are a type of hypoallergenic dog food that usually have one or two sources of proteins and carbs. There’s no regulation for how many products should be in limited-ingredient diets, however, so the number of ingredients may vary between different foods.
Since limited-ingredient diets have fewer ingredients than regular dog food, your pup’s less likely to consume something that he’s allergic 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.”
Limited-ingredient dog foods are typically used to help diagnose what your pup’s allergic to. By feeding your dog special food with a different source of protein and fewer ingredients, you can start to rule out what’s causing his allergic reactions.
“Feed one of the [limited-ingredient] 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 told The Dodo. “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.
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 below, just in case your vet says he needs it).
Dogs can also have more than one food allergy, so your pup could have multiple protein allergies or be allergic to a protein source and dairy, for example.
“[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.”
That’s where limited-ingredient dog foods come in — to rule out the allergens.
Best limited-ingredient dog foods
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.
Here are some of the best limited-ingredient dog foods you can buy, recommended by vets and pet parents.
This limited-ingredient dog food contains only one protein source, duck, and is made with approximately 60 percent duck ingredients. Pumpkin and butternut squash provide your pup with plenty of fiber, and it doesn’t have any artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
This limited-ingredient dog food’s a vegetarian formula made with soy protein as a single protein source instead of more common ones, so it’s great for dogs who have fish (or other meat) allergies.
Chicken raised without steroids is the first ingredient in this dog food that includes omega-6 fatty acids and sunflower oil. There’s no corn, wheat, soy or poultry by-product meal, and it contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
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.
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.
If your vet recommends starting your pup on a limited-ingredient diet to help his allergies, try one of these picks. He’ll hopefully be symptom-free in no time.