Shopping for a dog food for allergies can feel a little overwhelming. The expense of grain-free foods can make feeding your allergic dog a trial, let alone the cost of rarer proteins like bison or venison. We’ll cover common problem foods for dogs, and explore hypoallergenic dog food options, from the best affordable hypoallergenic dog foods to the most deluxe, super-premium formulas available.
What is my dog allergic to?
If your dog suffers from skin irritations or poor digestion issues, and other common causes have been ruled out, having them tested for food allergies is a good first step to understanding how to help your dog feel better. Food allergies in dogs are genetic, passed down from parents to pups. The problem occurs when your dog tries to break down the proteins in the problem ingredient. Not surprisingly, the top allergy-causing foods are nearly all proteins.
The most common causes of food allergy or intolerance:
Food allergy testing for dogs
There are commercial skin and blood allergy tests on the market, and your vet may recommend starting there. You can read about one owner’s experience of this testing here.
The most thorough way to discover which foods your pet is allergic to is by process of elimination, however.
“What we do is take the dog off all the foods it’s eating and we put him on a food that he’s never had before. … I’ve sent people out for alligator and yak. Once the dog has improved, we start reintroducing the old foods that we think caused the problems in the first place. If he has a reaction, which usually takes a few days to a few weeks, then we know he has a food allergy.”
How to feed a dog with food allergies
Once you’ve determined the offending items in your dog’s diet, the next step is avoiding them as much as possible. You can use a prescription food from your veterinarian, make your own food from scratch, or you can try a commercial food with limited ingredients.
Tips for making your own dog food at home
Making your own food from scratch is hands-down the most reliable way to ensure your dog’s diet has not come into contact with anything they’re allergic to. We’ve got some healthy dog food recipes to share with you and some great dog food recipe hacks to make cooking for your dog less of chore.
The best limited ingredient foods for dogs with allergies
We’ve rounded up some of the best hypoallergenic dog food, including two bargain winners that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Keep in mind that not all foods are right for all food allergies, and higher quality or rarer ingredients are simply going to cost more than your average diet. We’ve included links and pricing from Amazon; you may be able to find these foods at your local natural pet store at a different price.
Dr.’s orders: Hill’s Prescription Diet Skin/Food Sensitivities
This is the food your vet is likely to recommend you start with, and may sell right in the office. That said, this is a highly processed food with some unrecognizable ingredients that may be off-putting to some pet parents. The upside is that a food like this can quickly get your dog’s health back on track, and then you can adjust foods once you nail down your dog’s allergies for sure.
The D/D formula is grain- and soy-free, using a single protein source. The Z/D ULTRA formula is a little more esoteric, and uses hydrolyzed protein— which means the protein is broken down molecularly so there’s nothing left of the allergen. The D/D is available with venison, salmon, or duck as the protein. Prices will vary.
D/D Single Protein Formula Venison and Potato: $5.90 /lb for a 17.6-lb bag
Z/D ULTRA Formula: $5.65 / lb for a 17.6-lb bag
The Cadillac: Acana Single Protein Formula
This limited ingredient diet comes in four single protein varieties. A whopping 50% of the recipe is the featured meat protein. The rest is pretty much fruit, veggies, and a dash of probiotics. This is by no means an economy meal, but if pronounceable ingredients are important to you, this is a ridiculously high quality food. You can shop around for deals, especially if you buy in bulk. These listed prices are current on Amazon.
Lamb and Apple: $4.60/lb for a 25-lb bag
Duck and Pear: $3.25/lb for a 25-lb bag
Pork and Squash: $3.17/lb for a 25-lb bag
Mid-price, high-quality: Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet
The Wellness Simple line of foods uses both whole single protein and meat meals (meat meal is a low cost, high protein ingredient created by cooking all the water out of the meat) along with good, recognizable ingredients. The result is a quality food at a medium price point.
Lamb and Potato: $2.37/lb for a 22-lb bag
Duck and Oatmeal: $2.11/lb for a 22-lb bag
Turkey and Potato: $2.11/lb for a 26-lb bag
Salmon and Potato: $2.29/lb for a 24-lb bag
Budget-friendly: Just 6 by Rachel Ray Nutrish
Limited ingredient food that won’t break the bank! What are the six ingredients, you ask? Lamb meal, brown rice, ground rice, beet pulp, chicken fat, and chicken meal. Meat meal provides concentrated protein. In higher quality (read: more expensive) foods, meat meal is more frequently seen further down the ingredient list to boost protein, not as the primary ingredient.
That being said, this is a very affordable, grain-free, limited ingredient food that is likely available at your local grocery story or box pet store.
Rachel Ray Nutrish “Just 6”: $1.08/lb for a 28-lb bag
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Featured image: Chanchai Boonma | Dreamstime.com