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With so many dog food brands and formulas on the market, shopping for hypoallergenic dog food can be a challenge. It’s also expensive, as proteins like bison, venison, and duck—often part of hypoallergenic formulas—typically cost more. In this article, we take a look at the options, from the best affordable hypoallergenic dog foods to the premium formulas available. Let’s start with some basics about dogs and their food allergies.
What Is Hypoallergenic Dog Food?
Hypoallergenic dog food is dog food that’s made with a simple set of ingredients and a novel protein not typically found in most commercial dog foods. The ingredient list will usually be short and composed of foods pups are less likely to have encountered—with vegetables like potatoes and meats like duck, venison, or even kangaroo.
Food made from a short list of uncommon ingredients helps pet parents avoid their pup’s usual triggers. It can be enormously helpful, but you probably won’t have much luck pulling just any bag of “hypoallergenic” food off the shelf. In order to know which hypoallergenic dog food to buy, you first have to have a good understanding about what your pet is allergic to—or at least where you’d like to start testing.
What Are the Most Common Allergens in Dog Food?
When dogs eat something they’re allergic to, their immune system can respond with symptoms such as itchy skin, sneezing, and a sensitive stomach. If you think your dog is having an allergic reaction and you’ve ruled out other common causes, testing them for dog food allergies is a good first step. With some data in hand, your vet or a veterinary nutritionist can help you figure out how to make your dog feel better.
Food allergies and intolerances in dogs are most often genetic, passed down from parents to pups. Dogs with food allergies aren’t able to digest certain proteins (and the most common allergens are nearly all proteins). Once you know what proteins your dog is allergic to, you can choose a hypoallergenic dog food that excludes those proteins—putting an end to your pup’s symptoms.
When it comes to allergies, these are the most common problem foods for dogs:
Figuring Out Your Dog’s Allergies
So how do you identify the allergens responsible for your dog’s symptoms? The gold standard is a veterinarian-conducted skin or blood allergy test—they can be life-changing tools for pups with severe cases. But they’re also usually pricey, which has led to a growing market of at-home dog allergy test kits, not all of which are reliable.
The most thorough and most affordable way to find out which foods your pet is allergic to is an elimination diet.
With an elimination diet, you’ll choose an ingredient in your pet’s food to cut out. Most pet parents choose to start with a protein, since that’s statistically more likely to be the culprit. For example, if your dog’s current diet includes chicken, you’ll switch to a hypoallergenic dog food that has no chicken and relies instead on another protein, like salmon or duck.
Then you’ll wait and watch for a period of six to eight weeks to see if your pet’s allergy symptoms go away. If they don’t, you’ll move on to the next ingredient on your list and repeat the same process. It can be both time-consuming and complicated, which is one reason it’s nice to involve your vet from the start; an experienced professional can help you avoid time-consuming mistakes and understand the data you’re getting.
Once you’ve determined your dog’s allergens, the next step is to choose a healthy diet free from problem foods. There are several routes to follow.
- Buy a veterinarian-prescribed food. These limited-ingredient foods are available from your vet or through a pet food store like Chewy. You’ll need to give the prescription, or your veterinarian’s contact information, to the store so they can verify the order and ask any necessary questions.
- Make your own dog food from scratch. If your pup has an outrageous number of allergies that make it hard to find commercial options, this is one way to control the ingredients your dog consumes. We’ve got some healthy dog food recipes and some great dog food recipe hacks to make cooking for your dog less of a chore—but it’s still important to do your homework and consult with your vet before you take your pup’s nutrition into your own hands.
- Purchase hypoallergenic commercial dog foods formulated with limited ingredients. We have a list of foods from the best brands below.
The Best Hypoallergenic Dog Food
Buying your pup pet food that doesn’t trigger an immune response is one of the easiest ways to work around your dog’s food allergy. We’ve rounded up some of the best dog food that is hypoallergenic, including two budget-friendly formulas. These limited-ingredient diets (often abbreviated as LID) will help you keep track of what your dog is—and isn’t—eating.
Hill’s d/d formula is one food your vet is likely to recommend to begin addressing your pup’s food allergies. It’s a basic dog food that’s hypoallergenic to help get your dog’s health back on track. The grain- and soy-free d/d recipes—you have a choice of venison, salmon, or duck—each use a single protein source. You can also find wet versions of some of those recipes.
This Blue Buffalo Basics dog food boasts a single source of animal protein (in this case, salmon, plus other options) as well as easy-to-digest carbohydrate sources, making it a good option for dog food that is hypoallergenic. It’s balanced with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that promote healthy skin and has a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that promote a healthy immune system. Made with high-quality ingredients that are gentle on your dog’s stomach, this salmon and potato recipe has no chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, or eggs.
Ollie is a great option for pet parents looking for fresh dog food with limited ingredients. Their recipes feature single animal proteins (we tried the chicken, but they also offer beef, turkey, and lamb for dogs with chicken sensitivities) and are free of common allergens such as corn, soy, or wheat. The foods are formulated by a veterinary nutritionist. And all ingredients are clearly listed on their site, revealing a balance of vitamins, minerals, and fibers for digestion. You can even let them know about your dog’s allergies in their onboarding quiz before trying out a recipe.
Ollie Subscription Dog Food
With recipes formulated by veterinary nutritionists, Ollie dog food is a good option for pet parents considering hypoallergenic diets, as well as fresh dog food delivery.
The Wellness Simple line of foods (available in both wet and kibble formulas) uses both whole single proteins 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 high-quality dog food that’s hypoallergenic at a medium price point. You can get it in lamb, turkey, salmon, and duck.
Purina’s limited-ingredient dog food recipe was formulated by in-house nutritionists to include nine natural ingredients, with chicken as the first ingredient. This food has no wheat, soy, or corn; it’s a pretty affordable hypoallergenic dog food.
Salmon is the first ingredient in this hypoallergenic dog food recipe that’s made from only eight whole-food ingredients, with the addition of vitamins, minerals, and a mix of probiotics. The simple formula is designed to be easy for your pup to digest and includes foods like sweet potatoes and peas for complete nutrition—minus an upset stomach.
This grain-free formula is made with a limited list of ingredients, including a novel source of high-quality animal protein: duck. Packed with nutritious ingredients and supplemented for balanced nutrition, this recipe is highly digestible and completely free from corn, wheat, soy, and artificial additives.
With salmon as the single source of animal protein along with easily digestible carbohydrates, this recipe is grain-free and gluten-free. This simple hypoallergenic food provides your dog with important amino acids, vitamins, and minerals without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids help keep your pup’s skin healthy and coat shiny.
This dog food that is hypoallergenic includes a single source of animal protein (chicken) as well as the carbohydrate powerhouse (sweet potatoes)—otherwise, it’s grain-free. Formulated to provide complete, balanced nutrition for adult dogs, the limited ingredients here make it easy to control your pup’s sources of protein and carbohydrates.
This limited-ingredient food won’t stress your budget. What are the six ingredients, you ask? Lamb meal, brown rice, ground rice, beet pulp, chicken fat, and natural pork flavor. Meat meal provides concentrated protein, making this a very affordable grain-free, limited-ingredient, hypoallergenic food.
This popular limited-ingredient and grain-free dog food recipe leads with salmon and replaces grain fiber with sweet potatoes, along with peas and beets. You can also find American Journey LID dog food that’s hypoallergenic in turkey, duck, lamb, and venison versions.
American Journey LID Hypoallergenic Dog Food
Free of grains, this popular limited-ingredient leads with salmon as its main protein source, but you can also find versions with turkey, duck, or lamb.
Getting your dog’s allergies under control can be a challenge. Dog food that is hypoallergenic, with limited ingredients and single sources of animal protein, can help. Below are additional articles on treats, shampoos, and testing that may further soothe an itchy, irritated pup.