With so many different dog food brands on the market, shopping for hypoallergenic dog food for a dog with allergies can feel a little overwhelming. The expense of grain-free foods can make feeding your allergic dog a challenge, and that’s without factoring in the cost of rarer proteins like venison or bison. In this article, we’ll cover common problem foods for dogs, and explore the best hypoallergenic dog food options available in the UK.
What is my dog allergic to?
When dogs eat something they’re allergic to, their immune system responds with symptoms like itchy skin, sneezing, and a sensitive stomach. If you think your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction, and you’ve ruled out other common causes, having them tested for dog 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 most common allergens are nearly all proteins.
The most common causes of food intolerance or allergies:
Food allergy testing for dogs
There are commercial skin and blood allergy tests on the market, and your vet may recommend starting there. The most thorough way to discover which foods your pet is allergic to, however, is an elimination diet.
The process goes like this, according to Dr. Susan Wynn, a veterinary nutritionist, in an interview with PetMD.
“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 vet, 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.
The best limited-ingredient dog food for allergies
If cooking for your pup is out of the question, then buying them pet food that doesn’t trigger an immune response is the easiest option. We’ve rounded up some of the best hypoallergenic dog food available in the UK.
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 dog food. While a lot of these options are expensive, buying hypoallergenic dog foods might save you money on repeated vet visits. You may also be able to find these foods at your local natural pet shop at a different price.
Prescribed by vets, this hypoallergenic dog food contains hydrolysed protein—which means the protein is broken down molecularly so there’s nothing left of the allergen—as well as antioxidants, and phosphorus to help support healthy kidney function. Though it isn’t cheap, it is effective at reducing allergy symptoms including itchy skin and an upset stomach, and it also helps maintain an ideal body weight. It’s worth noting that it might be cheaper to buy online than at the vet.
Here’s another hydrolysed dog food that’s stocked by vets. The carbohydrate source has also been purified, making it less likely to trigger allergies. And if all that wasn’t enough, they’ve added omega-3 fatty acids which are a natural anti-inflammatory!
Your vet may also recommend Hill’s dog food. That said, the D/D version is a highly processed food with some unrecognisable ingredients that may be off-putting to some pet owners. The upside is that 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 food allergens. The D/D formula is grain- and soy-free, using a single protein source. The Z/D ULTRA formula, however, uses hydrolysed protein. Prices will vary.
You can find some of the product range here.
This limited-ingredient formula comes in four single protein varieties. A whopping 50% of the recipes contain the featured animal 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 ridiculously high-quality food. You can shop around for deals, especially if you buy in bulk. These are the options available:
With real chicken as the primary ingredient in this recipe, Purina’s limited-ingredient dog food recipe was formulated by in-house nutritionists to include nine natural ingredients plus vitamins and minerals. This food doesn’t include any poultry by-product meal, wheat, soy, or corn. It’s also one of the more affordable hypoallergenic dog food options on our list.
This hypoallergenic dog food is described as being suitable for sporting and working dogs which implies that it contains more calories, so you might prefer another hypoallergenic dog food if your dog’s prone to packing on the pounds. It doesn’t contain wheat and is suitable for adult dogs. The following options are available:
This chicken and sweet potato grain-free formula doesn’t contain any artificial colours or flavours, diary, wheat or soy. It does, however, contain other ingredients such as kelp, cranberry, herbs, and yucca extract which some dogs may be allergic to. Like many hypoallergenic dog foods, you just have to keep an eye on any added ingredients because the more there are, the less sure you’ll be about whether you’ve identified the one causing the issues. Options available:
This grain-free dog food includes a single source of fish protein as well as the carbohydrate powerhouse, sweet potatoes. Formulated to provide complete, balanced nutrition for adult dogs, Natural Balance’s limited-ingredient dog food makes it easy to identify your dog’s sources of protein and carbohydrates. These are the flavours available (they also have separate versions for small breeds):