As unusual as it sounds, chicken is the number-one protein allergen found in dog foods, and the fact that it’s the most common ingredient is no coincidence. Also on that list is beef, wheat, and fish—sound familiar? Even the foods most limited in their protein options typically include three: chicken, beef, and (usually) salmon.
Food allergies develop when a dog’s immune system is exposed to a particular ingredient and eventually becomes overly sensitive to it. Dog foods and treats are often loaded with these popular proteins, so if a dog’s body decides chicken or wheat is no longer welcome, you might notice itching and other skin issues, hair loss, diarrhea, and even vomiting. An allergy only forms if a dog is exposed to the allergen more than once, so even after years on the same food it’s not unusual for these symptoms to suddenly appear. Don’t panic, though—trial and error helps determine the source of the allergy, but there are a host of simple foods out there to keep your dog comfortable and symptom-free.
Note: Your vet should be able to help you through the process of hunting down a food allergen. While it can be a slow and frustrating ordeal, discovering the cause will make a world of difference to your dog and you. Don’t lose hope!
“Limited Ingredient” is about to become a permanent phrase in your vocabulary. If you see this printed on your dog food bag, it means exactly what it says: this food limits the number of ingredients your dog is exposed to in order to prevent allergy flare-ups or upset tummies. I quickly discovered that shepherds are prone to sensitive stomachs when I adopted my dog. She grew accustomed to diarrhea during her first days home before I realized she wasn’t just adjusting to a new life in a new place. I immediately began the switch to a limited ingredient food and watched as her poop firmed up (it’s okay, we can always talk about poop here, no shame) and she began to come out of her shell.
Natural Balance is phenomenal with their Limited Ingredient Diet recipes and protein options, including duck, bison, venison, and even a vegetarian formula for dogs with just about every protein allergy in the book.
We’re all out to find a little more bang for our buck, or at least more bang per pound of food. You can purchase a 24lb bag of Blue Basics for only $45—less than $2 per pound of grub, and they don’t sacrifice quality for the price. The Basics line is full of limited ingredient recipes, and my favorite by far is the grain-free turkey and potato. Remember when I said wheat is another ultra-common food ingredient and an even more common allergen? That’s why grain-free foods were born. Turkey is also one of the rarest proteins found in dog foods and as such is likely not causing your dog’s allergies. It’s a win-win!
This food also touts pea fiber and pumpkin for A-plus digestion (and poops), and Omega 3 & 6 to keep skin itch-free and your pup’s coat soft and shiny. Other popular allergens you won’t find here: corn, soy, dairy, or eggs.
Instinct is the next best thing if you’re not up to feeding genuine raw foods. Besides dealing with the ick factor of raw meat, you need to be extremely careful about what you serve. Unlike a nutritionally-balanced bowl of dry food, you’re responsible for ensuring proper amounts of all the necessary nutrients are included in each meal. In other words, it’s a bit more complicated than it may seem. This dry food has all the nutritional goodness of RAW raw without the hassle, and it’s the only limited ingredient food with freeze-dried raw in every kibble.
This bag contains 1 (count ’em) animal protein, and 1 (let’s say it again) veggie per bag, where a lot of times you’ll find multiple proteins and vegetables in your dog’s food. That significantly reduces the risk of symptom flare-ups and keeps mealtimes crazy simple.
Simple is pretty much the best word in the world when it comes to feeding an allergy-prone dog. Wellness is proud to boast that their limited ingredient formulas contain only a single animal protein in each bag, along with probiotics, prebiotics, and flaxseed for healthy skin. They DON’T contain animal by-products, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, or artificial colors or preservatives.
Dry kibble isn’t for everyone, and my dog can certainly tell the difference when she finds something like this in her bowl. The Honest Kitchen’s food comes in boxes filled with dehydrated ingredients—you just add the appropriate amount of warm water, stir, and let the food absorb it before serving. Go for the Duck & Sweet Potato, Turkey & Parsnip, or Fish & Coconut (they use pollock) to lessen the risk if your dog may have a beef or chicken allergy. You’ll find a seriously limited ingredient list here, and every bite is human grade.
Zignature can brag about something most other dog foods can’t: their limited ingredient recipe is free of all the usual grains, glutens, and corn, but it also has zero chicken. As chicken is the number one potential protein allergen, a super-sensitive dog would likely find some relief on a chicken-free food. That’s why turkey is still one of my favorite proteins, and I’ll say it a thousand times. If you really want to get technical, turkey’s also a great source of riboflavin and phosphorous, and is low in saturated fat. We can definitely put our hands in the air for this one.
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