The 7 Best Dog Foods for Allergies
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The 7 Best Dog Foods for Allergies
According to veterinarians, food allergies and sensitivities are not nearly as common as many owners believe. Try telling that to someone when their dog is itching and scratching in the middle of the night!
If you have a dog that seems to have a food allergy or food sensitivity, you probably know how hard it can be to find dog foods that help the situation. We can help you find the best dog foods for allergies.
If you know your dog’s triggers, there are some good dog foods for allergies. Depending on your dog’s allergy or sensitivity, your dog may be able to eat a wide range of foods as long as you avoid certain ingredients.
Keep reading to learn more about the best dog foods for allergies.
How can you tell if your dog has a food allergy or food sensitivity.
Signs of a food allergy:
- Itching (aka pruritus)
- Itchy paws
- Hot spots
- Skin rashes
- Scaly and/or oily skin
- Pigmented skin
- Leathery skin texture
- Eye discharge
- Red eyes
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
- Secondary yeast or bacterial infections (aka pyoderma) of the skin or ears
A small percentage of dogs will also have chronic gastrointestinal issues associated with their food allergies:
- Diarrhea with or without blood and/or mucus in stool
- Straining to pass stool
- Abdominal pain
Common allergens for dogs
According to studies, beef is the most common allergen for dogs.
- Dairy products
Many people will probably be surprised by the items on this list and the order of the ingredients. Grains in general, and wheat and corn in particular, are often blamed for allergies. But they are not the worst offenders.
Allergens in the canine population change over time. This list might look different in 20 years. Ingredients that are used more often in dog foods will be more likely to elicit allergic reactions in dogs in the future. For example, many dog foods today use chickpeas as an ingredient. It’s possible that in the future, chickpeas could become an allergen for some dogs simply because so many dogs are eating them.
What all of this means is that the best dog foods for allergies can be very specific for an individual dog. What works for one dog might not work for another dog.
Foods for dogs with allergies
If your dog has food allergies or sensitivities (also called food intolerances), you have several different options.
- Prepare your dog’s food yourself. This is an option but it’s difficult. (I have done this. It’s hard.) The upside is that you can control every single ingredient so you can make sure that your dog is not eating any allergens. The downside is that it’s a real chore. Maybe not at first but after months and years, it can wear you out. Especially when you always have to buy less common meats or other ingredients for your dog and prepare them. In addition, it’s not always easy to make sure your dog is getting a nutritionally complete and balanced diet.
- Buy a veterinary diet for dogs with allergies through your veterinarian. This option can work for many dogs. The number one drawback for many people is the cost. Diets that require a prescription from your veterinarian are often very expensive. However, this is sometimes the only option for dogs with some allergies. Many of these foods are hypoallergenic. They may contain hydrolyzed protein. The protein used (whatever it is) is broken down into such small molecules that your dog’s gastrointestinal system can’t even react to it. So, no allergic reaction.
- Buy over-the-counter limited ingredient diet (LID) dog foods. Limited ingredient diets generally have one kind of protein and one carbohydrate source. For that reason they are supposed to be better for dogs with allergies. You have to be careful when buying these foods, however. They may be called “limited ingredient” but they often contain lots of ingredients. Some of them also seem to have more than one protein and one kind of carb. So, check the ingredients to make sure they are suitable for your dog. If you know your dog’s allergens and you find a LID food that works for him, this kind of diet can be a good choice.
At a Glance Best Dog Foods to Buy for Allergies:
We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
The Top 7 Best-Rated Dog Foods for Allergens Reviewed
- Protein: 25% Min
- Fat: 12% Min
- Fiber: 5% Max
- Calories: 3,487 kcal/kg or 446 kcal/cup on an as fed basis
- Features natural probiotics, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, glucosamine and taurine.
- Includes a single-source of protein that is expertly balanced with easily-digestible carbohydrates.
- Crafted to encourage whole body health by supporting digestive function and promoting a healthy coat and skin.
- Contains a significant number of plant-based ingredients and some of the protein comes from plants instead of meat.
Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Salmon & Potato Formula Dry Dog Food is often recommended as a good food for dogs with allergies and food sensitivities. Salmon and salmon meal are the first ingredients. While fish is an allergen for some dogs, it is less likely to cause a reaction than many other animal proteins. Salmon is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids that dogs can utilize. Salmon is the single source of animal protein in this food.
Most dogs can also eat potatoes as a source of carbohydrates, which are used in this food. In addition, this food uses added probiotics and chelated minerals to improve digestion.
- Protein: 26% Min
- Fat: 16% Min
- Fiber: 4% Max
- Calories: 4,049 kcal/kg, 467 kcal/cup
- Made without corn, wheat or soy or artificial colors or flavors
- Natural prebiotic fiber nourishes specific intestinal bacteria for digestive health
- Fish Oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids for joint health and mobility
- Salmon is the first ingredient
- Antioxidants for a healthy immune system
- This food was formerly Purina Pro Plan FOCUS. Some people are not happy about the change and the new formula.
- Contains barley, rice, and oatmeal so it may not be a good choice if you don’t like grains.
Purina Pro Plan is a well-known brand and this food has been very popular for dogs with sensitive skin and stomach issues. This is a new formula. Most reviews are favorable though some people have prefer the older formula.
Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food features salmon as the first ingredient. It contains no corn, wheat, or soy. And, it has no artificial colors or flavors. It includes fish oil and natural prebiotics that are good for your dog’s skin and digestion.
This food does contain barley, rice, and oatmeal – all healthy grains. However, if your dog is sensitive to any of these grains, this food would not be a good choice.
Requires vet authorization.
- Protein: 14% Min
- Fat: 13% Min
- Fiber: 3% Max
- Calories: 371 kcal/cup
- Gluten Free, Grain-Free, Pea-Free, Chicken-Free
- Helps improve digestion & stool quality
- Visible improvement in skin & coat
- Helps maintain a healthy skin barrier
- Supports a healthy immune system
- Don’t even look at the ingredients. You will hate them.
- This food is high in potatoes and low in protein.
We have selected this food as a “premium pick” because it requires a veterinarian’s authorization. It’s also pretty darn expensive. You probably won’t be buying this food for your dog unless he really, really needs it. You need to consider this prescription diet as just that: a prescription. This food isn’t a regular dog food. Many people would object to the low protein percentage and some of the ingredients otherwise.
With all that said, this food gets excellent reviews from customers who say that it has really helped their dogs. Some 95 percent of customers on Chewy.com say they would recommend this food to others – very high marks. Seventy-five percent of reviewers give the food 5 stars.
If you’re at your wit’s end with your dog’s allergies, talk to your veterinarian. This kind of food could be the answer.
BEST FOR TOY BREEDS
Requires vet authorization.
- Protein: 22% Min
- Fat: 14% Min
- Fiber:6% Max
- Calories: 3653 kcal/kg, 376 kcal/cup
- Made with hydrolyzed protein for adult dogs under 22 lbs with food sensitivities.
- Helps reduce skin and GI reactions that may be a result of sensitivities to common proteins found in pet foods.
- Promotes a urinary environment unfavorable to the development of both struvite and calcium oxalate crystals.
- This food requires veterinary authorization so it is more expensive.
- Royal Canin has had some supply issues. However, they are in the process of building a new manufacturing plant in the U.S. so that may solve some of their problems.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Small Breed Dry Dog Food is formulated for small and toy dogs with food sensitivities. The food utilizes hydrolyzed soy proteins so your dog’s digestive tract can absorb them without having any reaction to them. (This is one case where soy proteins are a good thing to use in a pet food.) Since the proteins are hydrolyzed, they are too small for your dog’s immune system to react to them.
The food alson contains optimal amounts of B vitamins and amino acids to reinforce your dog’s skin barrier. Other ingredients help reduce the risk of struvite and calcium oxalate crystal and stone formation in your dog’s bladder.
Royal Canin also designs their kibble to be small and appropriate in texture for the mouths of small and toy dogs to help with tartar control.
BEST FOR SMALL BREEDS
- Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Lamb & Brown Rice Formula Small Breed Bites Dry Dog Food
- Protein: 23% Min
- Fat: 14% Min
- Fiber: 4% Max
- Calories: 3,600 kcal/kg, 370 kcal/cup
- Real lamb is the first ingredient in this complete and balanced recipe.
- Grain-inclusive brown-rice formula is gluten free.
- Essential amino acids help maintain your little dog’s strong muscles.
- Smaller kibble size is formulated especially for small breeds.
- The protein percentage is lower than many dog foods and the rice/carbohydrate content is high.
Natural Balance is well-known for producing dog foods suitable for dogs with allergies and food sensitivities. Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Lamb & Brown Rice Formula Small Breed Bites Dry Dog Food features rice so it’s considered to have “grain,” though it is gluten-free. However, if you prefer a grain-free dog food, Natural Balance offers many other formulas which are grain-free.
At one time, lamb was considered to be a novel protein. You could give your dog lamb or dog food with lamb without any fear of an allergic reaction. Today, lamb has become a fairly common meat protein used in dog foods so some dogs are allergic to it. However, it’s still not as common as an allergen as beef, chicken, dairy products, soy, etc. This lamb and rice limited ingredient diet formula can be a good choice for many dogs. Or, you could try another one of Natural Balance’s recipes with a different meat protein.
Somewhat expensive compared to other brands
High protein content may not be good for dogs with kidney problems
Small breed dogs have very fast metabolisms which means that they burn through calories more quickly than larger breeds. A high-protein and high-fat recipe like this Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe is a great choice because it provides for these needs while also being made with high-quality ingredients.
This formula is made with both fresh chicken and chicken meal to ensure high levels of protein with healthy fats like chicken fat and flaxseed oil for essential fatty acids. It also contains chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption and probiotics for digestion. Plus, it is made in a smaller kibble size for your small-breed dog’s small mouth.
BEST DRY FOOD FOR LARGE DOGS WITH ALLERGIES
- Protein: 20% Min
- Fat: 12% Min
- Fiber: 6% Max
- Calories: 3,476 kcal/kg, 349 kcal/cup
- Deboned salmon is the first ingredient.
- Limited-ingredient dog food with essential proteins and carbohydrates to help meet your dog’s energy requirements.
- Free from chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy and eggs.
- Does not contain poultry by-product meals, artificial flavors, or preservatives
- This is a grain-free formula that is high in peas.
If you have a large dog, you know that it comes with some special issues. Toys have to be bigger. Doggy beds are bigger. Trips to the vet cost more. And, your dog eats more. It’s great to look at some of the super expensive cans of wet dog food people can buy for their toy dogs but, let’s face it. That would just be a snack for your dog. If you have a large dog, you almost have to feed kibble. If you have a large dog with food allergies, it’s good if you can find one that doesn’t cost a fortune.
One dry dog food that we like for large dogs is Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Formula Salmon & Potato Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food. This isn’t a cheap food but it is more affordable than some other foods. It’s a limited ingredient diet that features deboned salmon as the first ingredient. It also contains salmon meal. Plus, it has no chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, or eggs. If your dog is allergic to those ingredients, this food could be a good choice.
This is a grain-free food so it does contain a lot of peas (in different forms), if that is a concern for you.
BEST GRAIN-FREE DRY FOOD FOR DOGS WITH ALLERGIES
- Protein: 32% Min
- Fat: 14% Min
- Fiber:5% Max
- Calories: 3,560 kcal/kg, 459 kcal/cup
- Grain-free and free of soy, wheat, corn and other fillers for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
- Contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
- Fortified after cooking with Canidae’s HealthPLUS blend of probiotics, antioxidants and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.
- Made from a simple, whole food recipe at Canidae’s Texas facility.
- This is a grain-free formula and it contains higher amounts of peas and lentils, if that is a concern for you.
Our choice for the best grain-free dog food for dogs with allergies and food sensitivities is CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food. This Canidae formula is not just grain-free. It’s also free of soy, wheat, and corn. And it contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
In addition it contains a special bend of probiotics, antioxidants and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to help your dog’s digestion and skin health.
Salmon is the first ingredient and it’s loaded with fish.
As you can tell, the best dog food for your dog will depend on his particular allergy or food sensitivity. There are some common allergens (beef, dairy products, chicken, wheat, soy, lamb, corn, egg, pork, fish, and rice) but some dogs can also have reactions to unique ingredients.
Once you know your dog’s allergens or sensitivities, you might start off feeding a prescription diet. Many people transition to feeding a limited ingredient diet after a while.