How to Choose the Best Dog Food for Allergies
Dogs that suffer from allergies struggle to maintain good quality of life. Allergies can be inherited from the dog’s parents and can be environmental or food-related or even a combination of the two. Unfortunately, pinpointing the specific allergy causing the reaction in a dog can be quite difficult, and in the case of environmental allergies, it often is impossible to avoid even if identified.
Though some tests can be conducted by veterinarians to help determine allergens that affect a dog, they are not always conclusive, leaving owners feeling frustrated. Today, there are several medications dogs can take to help alleviate the symptoms of allergies. These can help provide relief from constant itching, irritated skin, hot spots and more, but are most effective when combined with a change in diet and often carry very serious side effects.
Allergies, whether to food or an environmental stimulus, are often first evidenced by a rash or irritation of the skin. This can take some time for an owner to notice depending on the length of the dog’s coat. Since dogs do regularly groom themselves, it can be difficult for an owner to determine if the dog is simply cleaning its body or is licking to soothe its inflamed or itchy skin.
Some of the most commonly seen issues associated with allergies in dogs include:
- Out of season itching
- Skin rashes or infections
- Inflammation of the face or within the ears
- Difficulty breathing
- Digestive disturbances
- Redness and swelling of the ears, paws, and/or bum
Sometimes allergies bypass the skin altogether and are expressed through gastrointestinal distress which results in vomiting or diarrhea. More severe allergic reactions are often accompanied by poor appetite and lack of energy.
Since many allergies are directly related to food, it is important to switch the dog’s diet to a formulation that has limited ingredients. The best dog foods for allergies are free from some of the most common allergens including corn, wheat, and soy.
Many veterinarians also recommend the use of an elimination diet, a homemade food that is based on a singular protein accompanied by a very restricted number of additional ingredients. The purpose of this type of food is to pinpoint what foods the dog can eat without fear of ill effects to the skin or stomach.
Oatmeal baths can help bring some relief to inflamed or itchy skin. In addition to this, feeding the dog fish oils or rubbing the affected areas with coconut oil can help alleviate some discomfort and promote healing.
For dogs with very severe reactions or that see only nominal relief from symptoms through a change of diet, it is a wise idea to visit a veterinarian who can help to address the problem. Some dogs cannot be treated through diet and supplements alone and will require a medication to find permanent relief from the ill effects of allergies.
When selecting a diet for dogs that suffer from allergies, it is always a good idea to choose a food that contains a novel meat-based protein. Unusual proteins are meats that the dog has not been introduced to in the past. This typically means that an unfavorable immune response has not been seen, and thus, the protein is less likely to cause an allergic reaction in the dog.
Among the rare proteins to consider for dogs with food allergies are:
Choosing the Correct Calorie Count for Dog Foods for Allergies
The amount fed of the best dog food for allergies is as important as the nutrition that goes into each bag. Overfeeding a dog can easily lead to weight gain, and thus, free feeding should be strictly avoided to prevent this problem from occurring.
To determine how much food a dog should receive, it is a good idea to consult the suggested serving sizes listed on the bag. These can be used as a starting point and adjusted until the dog’s appetite is satisfied by the portion size given, and its weight is easily maintained.
Adult dogs require a high quality diet that contains a minimum of 18 percent protein and 5 percent fat while puppies do best on a food comprised of 22 percent protein and 8 percent fat.
Dietary Requirements for Dog Foods for Allergies
One of the biggest priorities expected of the best dog foods for allergies is an emphasis on ingredients that are natural and of the highest quality. Human grade foods are best. Any diet to support relief from food allergies should not contain artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or filler foods that could contribute to negative immune responses and the development of recurring sensitivities.
Protein is of the utmost importance in any diet for dogs with allergies. Whole meats are best with novel proteins such as rabbit, elk, kangaroo, rabbit, or fish being the ideal choices. Meat meals are also acceptable, but by-products and plant-based proteins are common allergens. Foods containing them are best left on the shelf.
However, it is important to note in dogs that are highly allergic to both food and environmental triggers, meat meals are not the optimal choice. Since meat meals are essentially extremely concentrated sources of meat products, they can be subject to various different stimuli during their processing. This exposure may further exacerbate an existing allergy as it is impossible to know what alternative items the meal may have come in contact with during manufacturing.
Dogs with food allergies can greatly benefit from a diet with a limited ingredients list. The fewer items contained in a food, the less likely a dog will have an adverse reaction to it. If a dog does respond poorly to a limited ingredients diet, it is far easier for a family to determine which ingredient caused the problem when the list of items found in a food is quite small.
Many dogs express sensitivities to grains. For this reason, a grain-free diet that focuses on highly digestible, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables is highly recommended for dogs with allergies. These types of foods support excellent digestion and also help with the development of strong immunity to fight disease.
Healthy fats play a vital role in any well-rounded diet for dogs but are particularly important for dogs with allergies. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids support good coat and skin health. These are best obtained from animal sources such as oily fish. Chicken fat also has excellent health benefits to offer but should only be fed to dogs that have not expressed any sensitivity to poultry.
Digestive supplements can be of great benefit to dogs suffering from allergies. Among the best to look for are prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.
Apple cider vinegar and coconut oil are two ingredients that have a soothing effect on tender tummies. Foods containing either of these items are highly desirable for dogs with allergies.
Things to Look for in the Best Dog Food for Allergies
Here is a basic list of the most important things to look for in the best dog food for allergies:
- Whole meat or meat meal proteins heading up the ingredients list
- Prepared without the addition of chemicals, flavorings, fillers, or mystery ingredients
- Enriched with probiotics and helpful supplements
- Meets AAFCO nutritional requirements for a complete and balanced food
- Contains healthy amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to support coat and skin health
- Is based on a novel meat protein