Food allergies can be troublesome for both you and your canine. Not only do they cause digestive problems, but they can also irritate your pet’s skin, causing scratching and even secondary infections.
Allergies can also be very confusing. Adult dogs can often develop allergies in the middle of their life for no apparent reason. Plus, since many food allergies appear as skin problems, it can be challenging to figure out that it is your pet’s food — not an environmental factor.
Luckily, you don’t have to spend very much or look very far to get your canine an appropriate hypoallergenic dog food. Your vet should be a massive help on this endeavor, but there are some things you can look out for, too, when choosing the best dog food for your canine.
Talk to your vet
Your vet is your best source of information on your canine’s food allergies. They can help you figure out what exactly your pet is allergic to based on your particular situation and the food they’re currently eating.
Your pet might have multiple food allergies, which can make finding the right dog food quite tricky. Sometimes, commercial dog food might not even be available to fulfill your pet’s unique requirements. In this case, your vet may provide you with prescription dog food that you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise.
Understand what’s in healthy food
Dog food is not a carefully regulated market, so it is essential to scrutinize any dog food you purchase for your canine. Even if you’re mostly concerned about food allergies, it is crucial to choose nutritionally complete dog food for your dog.
An easy way to do this is to look for the AAFCO statement on your bag of dog food. Typically, this statement is located underneath the nutritional information on the back of the dog food container. However, it can be placed anywhere, so be sure to give the bag a good look over.
You can also check out the macronutrient content yourself, though you will have to convert the “Guaranteed Analysis” located on the dog food package into the “Dry-Matter Basis” to do this. You can do this easily with an online calculator. According to scientific studies, you want a food that is high in both protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates. There are helpful resources that scientifically calculate and review the dry matter macronutrients to help you decide which is the best hypoallergenic dog food.
Select the right hypoallergenic food
There are two main types of dog food for dogs with food allergies: limited-ingredient diet and hydrolyzed protein diet.
If you already know what your dog is allergic to and your canine has only one or two allergies, a limited ingredient diet that doesn’t include the allergen is preferable.
Some vets will recommend an elimination diet to figure out what your dog is allergic to, though sometimes it might be obvious or discoverable through other methods. If you need to try an elimination diet, limited-ingredient dog food is the way to go.
Hydrolyzed protein is treated food that has had the amino acids it contains broken into smaller chunks. These smaller amino acids are less likely to provoke an immune response and upset a sensitive stomach. If your dog has many different allergies, this might be a more straightforward option than finding a food free of all their allergens.
Consider vitamins and minerals
On top of avoiding allergens and choosing the right macronutrient content, you should pay attention to the vitamins and minerals included in each dog food as well.
Food allergens often cause skin and coat problems in dogs. Typically, an allergic reaction causes red, itchy skin, which then causes the dog to scratch and bite. Eventually, scratching and biting can cause hair loss, bleeding, and sores. In severe cases, your dog might further irritate their skin so much that their sores can develop secondary infections, which require vet treatment.
When you switch your dog’s food, it will likely take a little bit for their skin to get back to normal. The correct vitamins and minerals can help speed this process along. In particular, studies have found that zinc and methionine improve canine skin health.
You should consider getting a dog food that is high in these ingredients if your dog has particularly bad skin problems. Furthermore, many dog breeds that are prone to allergies are also prone to skin problems. If your dog falls into this category, definitely consider purchasing them a dog food with zinc and methionine.