Does your dog lick his paws for hours? Does he scratch constantly, have constant ear infections or diarrhea and flatulence? Then this may be due to a feed allergy. Hypoallergenic dog food can help you get to the bottom of the problem and solve it.
What is hypoallergenic dog food
Manufacturers of hypoallergenic dog food have different formulas on offer. What they all have in common is that they are easily digestible and contain only one type of protein. Most often, meat from exotic animals or insect protein is used for this purpose.
This is because it is crucial to treat food allergies by using a protein source that your pet has not had contact with. Only then you can be sure that he could not develop allergy yet.
In addition to monoprotein, the majority of hypoallergenic dog foods contain peas, potatoes or sweet potatoes as a source of starch instead of grain or rice. Because your dog can also be allergic to carbohydrates. That’s why most brands of hypoallergenic dog food rely on just one type of plant here, too. In this way, as many allergens as possible are excluded.
The content of dog food for allergy sufferers
All ingredients are prepared so that they are easily digestible. Furthermore, unnecessary additives such as preservatives, fillers or added sugar are avoided.
A typical recipe for this feed may look like this:
- Insect protein
- Sweet potato
- Pea starch
- Brewer’s yeast
- Algal lime
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Nutritional additives
Insects in particular are a high-quality and, above all, rare source of protein. Most dogs have not had contact with it, unlike beef, chicken or turkey. Other suitable meats are horse, kangaroo or duck.
Hypoallergenic dog food and food allergy
About 10 to 15% of all dogs are affected by allergic reactions and allergies. In about 1 to 5% of cases, a feed allergy is the cause, and the trend is increasing. The most common allergy triggers in dogs are beef, lamb, chicken, eggs and dairy products. Reactions to wheat, soy, pork and corn are less common.
The best and most sustainable therapy for an allergy is to avoid the triggering allergens. Hypoallergenic dog food with only one protein source can be the solution. It can make your dog’s allergy symptoms subside. It can also help you in the diagnosis with the help of a so-called exclusion diet (elimination diet).
How does a food allergy develop in dogs?
Food allergy is the third most common allergy in dogs and cats after flea bite allergy and atopic dermatitis. The immune system reacts to harmless substances with skin problems, chronic gastrointestinal problems or with a combination of both reactions. These substances, called allergens, are mostly proteins found in dog food or treats.
The symptoms of feed allergy are caused by the immune system identifying certain ingredients as “hostile” and developing antibodies against them. These then fight the allergen and cause the respective reactions on the skin or in the digestive tract. The struggle in your dog’s organism then manifests itself in the annoying and unpleasant symptoms for you and him.
The more often your dog has contact with a particular protein, the more likely it is to become sensitized to it. Therefore, the allergic reaction and feed intolerance can appear even after years. Even long after your dog has tolerated the protein without problems.
By the way, the brand of the feed itself does not matter. This is exclusively about the protein sources used in each case. That’s why just changing brands doesn’t usually benefit you and your dog with a food allergy. You already have to change products and use a different protein source.
What is a food mite allergy?
A variant of food allergy is food mite allergy. The allergic reaction in this case is not to a food component. But the allergy arises on the mites and their feces. The symptoms are almost identical and manifest themselves in itching, skin inflammation, loss of fur and gastrointestinal problems.
If you suspect a food mite allergy, there are two possibilities: Either you feed your dog canned food or you make sure that the dry food is not infested with mites. To do this, you can use airtight feed garbage cans or freeze some of the feed.
Feeding hypoallergenic dog food as dry food also makes sense: at least before opening the food bag, it is guaranteed to be mite-free.
The food allergy in dogs – first symptoms
Chronic itching is one of the first and most common symptoms of food allergy. Paws and face, ears and auricles are particularly often affected. Often, but by no means always, the itching spreads. Then your dog also scratches, bites or licks his belly, armpits and groin. In the long term, this leads to redness, inflammation and eventually loss of coat.
If you notice these symptoms in combination with problems with digestion such as diarrhea, vomiting or flatulence, the suspicion of a food allergy is very obvious. Especially if these symptoms do not disappear even after the classic rice with chicken diet.
Feed allergy diagnostics
The diagnosis of food allergy is first a purely tentative diagnosis that your veterinarian will make based on your information about the symptoms and the dog’s diet. Definitive detection, for example via a blood test, is not possible.
Your veterinarian will recommend that you do an elimination diet to identify allergy triggers. Whenever possible, feed your dog only one source of protein, such as rabbit, venison, lamb or duck. In addition, there is a source of carbohydrates and few vital additives. This may be potatoes or parsnip.
This is where the hypoallergenic dog food comes in. Because the advantages here are clearly in the few ingredients, but which are optimally tailored to dogs and their needs. Usually the same formula is available as wet food or dry food.
With manageable ingredients and the choice of a single, uncommon protein source, hypoallergenic dog food is best suited for exclusion or even elimination diets. The important thing to remember when choosing a food is that your dog has never eaten this protein before. Only then he is certainly not an allergy sufferer.
How long can hypoallergenic dog food be given?
In the exclusion diet, you must feed the hypoallergenic dog food for a longer period of time. Your dog must eat only these ingredients, this variety and nothing else during this time. Not even as a treat or by accident.
It can take up to 8 weeks before you and your vet see the first results: The itching subsides, the skin looks better, the digestion normalizes. Now you know that these carbohydrates or proteins are not the cause of the problems.
If you see real success and your dog is clearly better, comes the so-called provocation phase. Your dog gets to eat his original dry food or cans again. If the symptoms reappear, a feed allergy is considered proven.
Now you have a choice: you can continue to feed the hypoallergenic dog food permanently and have a treatment for your allergy sufferer. Or you test gradually in consultation with your veterinarian, which types of meat your dog tolerates without problems. You will need patience for this, but you will gradually receive information about all the allergies as well as any grain intolerance.
You can resort to the various diet foods and ready-made variants like hypoallergenic dog food. These are usually declared as complete feeds. This means they contain all the ingredients dogs need for intestinal health.
What can dogs with food allergies eat?
If your dog is an allergy sufferer, the question is easier to answer, what he is not allowed to eat. That’s all he’s allergic to. Besides food, you need to watch out for treats, leftovers from the table or things that are tasty for him that are lying on the street. You are best advised to feed hypoallergenic dog food and give this as a treat as well. Many manufacturers offer their hypoallergenic foods as dry foods, wet foods and even treats.
If you know exactly what your dog tolerates, you can also make your own dog cookies. For example, you can bake hypoallergenic wet food into reward cookies in baking mats. Or check out our recipe ideas to see if there’s one your dog will tolerate. If you don’t want to rely on dry or canned food, you can use the information about your dog’s allergies to make up his own food ration. So you have the certainty to feed only what your dog tolerates well.
However, you must make sure that it contains everything your dog needs in terms of additives. You shouldn’t underestimate the extra time involved and keep in mind that allergies last for the rest of a dog’s life. Hypoallergenic dog food is therefore the easier option for most dog owners:inside.
What meat is suitable for dogs with allergies?
If you put together your own food ration, for example in the form of BARF, the choice of the right meat is crucial. You must use animals to whose protein your dog does not react with allergic reactions. Before you cook for him yourself, you should have already found out whether your darling is allergic to poultry, fish or cereals as part of the exclusion diet.
Often suitable rather rare species of animals such as horse, goat, rabbit or kangaroo. So basically you are using the ingredients that are also processed in hypoallergenic dog food. It is important to use only one or at most two types of meat, if possible. Because once a protein source is identified as an allergen, your dog will react to it. And that’s for life.
So the fewer varieties you use, the more choice you have in the event of a new allergic reaction.
What is the difference between “Hypoallergenic” and “Anallergenic”?
In hypoallergenic dog food, one source of protein and one source of carbohydrate are processed in canned or dry food. Thus, the feed contains few ingredients and is easily digestible. This reduces the risk of an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients.
Anallergenic food goes one step further. The protein is hydrolyzed. This means that it is broken down in such a way that the immune system no longer recognizes it. With this it also does not react allergic. An additional effect of this method is even easier digestibility. This is especially important if your dog is struggling with digestive issues rather than skin symptoms.
You should choose Anallergenic dog food if you cannot find hypoallergenic dog food with suitable ingredients for your dog. How effective this special feed is, however, is controversial. There are conflicting results in different studies. 10 to 40% of dogs allergic to a particular protein still have symptoms even in the hydrolyzed form. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian or a dog nutrition expert.
What is the best hypoallergenic dog food?
The best hypoallergenic food is the one your dog tolerates well. It does not contain ingredients that cause him allergic reactions such as itching, ear infections or digestive problems. In addition, of course, the food must taste good to him.
Since hypoallergenic is not a legally protected term, you should carefully check the food of your choice for its composition. Decisive for your dog are the ingredients. The hypoallergenic food should contain as few of these as possible and avoid preservatives, colorants, fillers, grains and sugar.
If you’re convinced by a food, that’s not quite enough. Because your dog must of course also agree with it and eat the food permanently with pleasure.
Hypoallergenic dog food – the solution to a big problem
Food allergies are a major challenge for dog owners throughout their dogs’ lives. This is because even the smallest amounts of allergens can cause allergic reactions. Hypoallergenic dog food is a great relief. It helps you to give your dog a food that he can tolerate even without allergic symptoms.
At the end of the day, it’s trial and error. First, you need to find out what your dog is allergic to in the first place. The different formulas of the manufacturers for hypoallergenic dog food help a lot.
Once you have found the right food, you can feed it permanently. This will give your dog a stress-free and healthy life.
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