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Health & Nutrition

Best Dog Food for Allergies: Your Pet Health Guide

March 15, 2023 - 11 minute read by The Team at Dr. Harvey's

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When your dog has an allergic reaction, it can be rather frustrating to determine the cause and the solution.

Dr. Harvey’s created this guide to help pet parents understand the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity, the common signs of an allergic reaction, and how to find the best dog food for allergies. You may have been prescribed an antihistamine or other allergy medication, but these are not sustainable long-term solutions because they do not address the underlying cause of the problem. It is very important to address your dog’s diet and find the best food for your dog with allergies.

Food Allergy vs. Sensitivity

When it comes to your canine companion's health, it’s important to know the difference between a food allergy and a sensitivity. The two share similar symptoms but have different causes.

An allergy results from a dog’s immune system perceiving a specific ingredient as a threat and creating a defense team to fight it. Food intolerance can cause a variety of symptoms including digestive upset, inflammation, and many skin-related reactions.

As mentioned, food allergies and sensitivities share similar symptoms, but sensitivities result primarily in digestive symptoms like gas, diarrhea, vomiting, and discomfort. These symptoms can appear rather quickly or develop over time, depending on how sensitive a dog is to an ingredient.

Common Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Food

A dog sitting on a couch

It is helpful to know the common signs of an allergic reaction in dogs. Some experience gastrointestinal symptoms when having an allergic reaction, but more often, allergy symptoms show on a dog’s skin. If you notice your canine companion is scratching more than usual at the face, feet, paw pads, ears, legs, or rear end, this could be a sign of an allergic reaction or a food sensitivity.

Other signs include:

  • Blisters around lips and chin
  • Chronic ear infections or crusty ears
  • Fatigue
  • Flaky Skin
  • Hair loss
  • Hives -Hot spots on the skin
  • Interstitial cysts (cysts between toes)
  • Licking feet
  • Red Belly
  • Runny eyes
  • Skin infections
  • Swelling of the face
  • Yeasty odor
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Common Food Allergens in Dogs

Depending on what you feed them, various ingredients may lead to allergies.Dogs sometimes develop sensitivities to certain proteins. This is most frequently caused by feeding only one protein every day. While this is not a true allergy, it can cause similar symptoms. This type of sensitivity is often relieved by rotating and feeding a variety of proteins, fruits, vegetables, and oils.That is why it is very important to rotate proteins. Never feed only one protein source to your dog day in and day out.

A container with beans in it

Here are four of the most common food ingredients found in commercial dog foods that may trigger allergic reactions in dogs.

1. Preservatives

Some dogs are highly sensitive to the preservatives used in kibble and canned dog foods. These foods are highly processed and contain preservatives including but not limited to:

  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)
  • BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
  • Ethoxyquin
  • Nitrates/Nitrites
  • Propyl Gallate
  • Carrageenan
  • MSG
  • Sodium Hexametaphosphate
  • Coloring Agents
  • Palitants
  • Corn
  • Propylene glycol

Be certain to read all labels very carefully when purchasing products for your allergic dog or when deciding what is the best food for your dog with allergies. It is a very good rule of thumb to avoid these ingredients when purchasing any dog food. This will help to maintain your dog’s health and promote optimal wellness and longevity.

2. Chicken

Some dogs develop a sensitivity to chicken if it is fed on a daily basis. Many food allergies develop by repeating the same type of food for long periods of time. These can be avoided by rotating protein sources frequently and feeding your dog a whole food diet.

3. Beef

It may come as a surprise for many pet parents, but an allergy to beef is very common for dogs. Since food allergies can develop when a dog eats one type of food for a long time, an allergy may form after your pup consumes a commercial food that contains a lot of beef. By rotating protein sources in your pet's food, you may be able to avoid this problem.

4. Wheat, Corn and Other Fillers

Many commercial dog foods use wheat, inexpensive ingredients like wheat and corn to make the food feel more filling, but contains little to no nutritional value. Some fillers can be relatively innocuous, meaning taking up space in foods so that less of a premium ingredient needs to be used, and costs can be cut. Because wheat has become such a common ingredient in dog food, it’s also becoming a common allergen.

How to Find the Best Dog Food for Allergies

Dr. Harvey’s understands that not all pet parents have the time or the funds to create home-cooked meals for their fur babies, which is why we offer healthy and allergen-friendly meals and supplements. When you’re comparing food for your pup, follow these tips.

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Look at Ingredients

Your number one task is to look at the list of ingredients in your dog’s food or food you’re thinking of trying. If you already know what your dog is allergic to, make sure not to buy any food with that ingredient. If you aren’t sure or want to offer a healthier option to your pup, here’s what to look for:

  • New sources of proteins: Beef is usually the go-to source of protein for pre-made food but may also cause a reaction, so look for something new. Other protein sources include turkey, fish, lamb, rabbit and venison. Because your dog has most likely not had these meats before, they are less likely to cause a reaction.

  • A limited list of ingredients: Food with a shorter list of ingredients is better because it’s less likely to contain something that may trigger an allergic reaction.

  • Grain-free: Some dogs do very well with Grain-Free diets. Grain-free dog food typically has fewer filler ingredients like wheat, corn, and soy, which can trigger allergic reactions. These ingredients are frequently genetically modified and sprayed heavily with pesticides. Be aware that grain-free doesn’t mean gluten-free, so be extra careful if you’re looking for gluten-free dog food.

  • Artificial colors: These additives can often cause stomach or skin problems in dogs, even without an allergy or intolerance. Common listings of artificial colors include Blue 2, Red 40, and Yellow 5 and 6. No preservatives (see partial list of preservatives in this article)

Read Everything Carefully

Take your time reading the ingredients of new potential dog food. Brands don’t have to share the quality of ingredients and can split up ingredients, so people don’t realize how much of a single ingredient is in the food.

For example, corn can be separated into ground, kibbled, flaked, and corn. When scanning the list, you might see one mention of corn and mistakenly believe the product doesn’t contain much of that ingredient. Corn is not well tolerated by dogs and should not be included in dog food and should absolutely be avoided in foods for dogs with allergies.

Also, remember that ingredients are usually listed by weight, meaning the food contains the most of the first ingredient listed. It’s important to recognize the first line of ingredients listed on your dog’s food.

Recognize the Value of Whole Foods

A bowl of food next to a bowl of vegetables

Not only are whole food ingredients healthy for dogs, but they taste better too! By avoiding processing and preservation, whole food ingredients maintain their original taste, making the food more enticing to a dog’s sense of smell and taste. Look for foods that are preserved by freeze drying and dehydration rather than chemicals,

Plus, whole foods retain all the natural nutrients that get lost when they undergo processing. As a result, they are better for dogs with allergies or intolerances and can help improve their overall health. It’s easier for dogs to digest whole foods, putting less stress on the body.

Add Oils to the Diet including Omega 3’s to your Allergic Dogs Diet

While all dogs benefit from the addition of Omega 3 oils, allergic dogs absolutely need these essential fatty acids to repair skin and other damaged tissue. Adding fish oil including Salmon, Krill, Mackerel, and Anchovy is critical for your allergic dog’s diet. In addition you can add coconut oil, flaxseed oil or olive oil to relieve itching and dryness of the skin and ears. Adding oils will help to reduce flaky skin, dandruff and dryness. These oils along with a whole food diet will help to reduce itching and inflammation.

Other Things to Consider

  • Dr. Harvey’s Emune-Boost supplement This all-natural supplement can be added to your dog’s meals and contains herbs that help support your dog’s immune system.
  • Dr. Harvey’s Healing Cream Dr. Harvey’s Healing Cream is a soothing blend of oils and herbs that can be applied topically to help with itching, hot spots, hives, rashes, and healing.

Dr. Harvey’s Makes Healthy Eating Easy for Dogs and Their Parents

A dog licking its paw

Finding the best dog food for allergies can be challenging for pet parents, but our goal is to make it easier. Dr. Harvey’s has a variety of tasty and healthy dog food options, including Allergy (Food for Dogs with Allergies), and base mixes like Veg-to-Bowl or Raw Vibrance where you add your own protein that are perfect for dogs dealing with allergies.

Featuring whole food ingredients along with vitamin and mineral supplements, Dr. Harvey’s Allergy allows pet parents to create delicious home-cooked meals without the work. You can choose Allergy food made from turkey or fish.

If you are looking for the best food for your dog with allergies and are wondering if Dr Harvey's Allergy food might work t for your companion, Dr. Harvey’s has a team of nutritionists that can answer your questions. Give it a try and provide your canine companion with a healthier menu option. Finding the right food for your dog with allergies can be challenging. Dr. Harvey’s helps pet parents find solutions to help their companions thrive.


Food for Dogs with Allergies

For ongoing relief from the inside out, avoid processed, additive laden-kibble and switch to our all natural, fresh, whole foods recipe.

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