A hypoallergenic diet is becoming increasingly popular with vets and dog owners alike.
The findings of adverse reaction to commercial dog food, in the recent years, have given rise to the awareness of hypoallergenic diet for dogs.
What is hypoallergenic diet?
The hypoallergenic diet is specially prepared diet mainly comprised of proteins, carbohydrates and the essential fatty acids. This kind of diet is made with minimum or no additives.
Venison (meat obtained from wild mammals that are hunted), rabbit, mutton, lamb, turkey, duck, fish, rice, potatoes, peas, and vegetable oil (like corn oil) are some of the popular ingredients that are included in hypoallergenic diets.
Is hypoallergenic diet necessary?
First and foremost, to find out if the hypoallergenic diet is necessary, you have to know if your dog is allergic to the food it is being fed and how severe the allergy gets.
Food may not be the only source of your dog’s allergies. They may have many other allergies and all these could be piled up.
Sarcoptic mange, flea bites and other parasites are main allergy contributors in dogs. Airborne allergies also contribute to some extent.
Unlike popular belief, food is not the main cause of canine allergies. Food allergies rank third behind fleas and non-contact allergies; which is just 10% of all the canine allergies. However, food gets more blame whenever allergic reaction is seen on dogs.
Itchy skin, rashes, red blood spot, patches of hair loss throughout the body are some of the signs of allergic reaction of food on dogs.
The most common allergens in pet food are beef, chicken, dairy products, eggs, soy, corn, wheat, food colorings, fillers, proteins like glycoprotein etc.
Food allergies occurs when a dog’s immune system by mistake identifies a particular food ingredient as harmful and creates antibodies to fight the food thinking that it is the invading enemy.
These kind of allergenic food when combined with or altered by internal chemicals, initiates the immune system to attack the usually harmless substance called allergens.
So first the cause of allergy has to be identified. If you know the cause of allergy is due to the food they eat then certainly hypoallergenic diet is helpful.
Starting a hypoallergenic diet…
After being treated for all the possible known allergy contributors, if the problem still persists then the hypoallergenic diet can be set up as a trial diet.
Allergic reaction due to food doesn’t just happen overnight. It could be months or years the dogs might be eating the same food without any trouble.
In order to find out which food is allergic to your dog, the trial diet has to be used continuously for certain period to diagnose the allergens.
It might be best to consult your local vet before putting your dog in certain kind of diet. Some hypoallergenic diet can be expensive so it would definitely be wise to have a vet find you easier and cheaper alternatives.
The trial and elimination method…
The most popular method to diagnose food allergies is to use the trial diet and elimination method. The trial diet must be fed for at least 10-13 weeks. Hence, home cooking is a good option while preparing food for the trial diet.
To have a balanced diet, vitamins minerals and essential fatty acid must be used. Diet must be about 33 percent protein, 65 percent carbohydrate and 2 percent fatty acid.
In this trial period, no commercial treats should be fed. Milk bones, raw hides, heart and flea medication should not be given.
If you need to give treats, treats based upon the hypoallergenic diet itself is the best way to go. Hard boiled eggs, fresh veggies and fruits, boiled sweet potato, frozen fruits and veggies are always the better options to commercial treats.
While on the trial diet, if the irritation and itchiness stops completely, then the regular diet should be given again for about 10 days. If the irritation returns then it is confirmed that the regular dog food is the cause of the irritation. After the diagnosis then the hypoallergenic diet can be used to feed the dogs.
Some of the popular hypoallergenic diets for dogs are:
Canned Tuna in water and potatoes – They are popular as they are less irritating than other food.
Lamb and rice diet – Studies have confirmed that home cooked lamb and rice diet is one of the best options to treat dogs with irritating skin due to adverse reaction of food.
Venison and potato – This is the most popular hypoallergenic diet. Mammals that are hunted are novel source of protein and potato is good source of carbohydrate.
Rice and eggs mixed – Rice and eggs is a cheap option as the ingredients are pretty affordable and this recipe can be easily made at home. However, some dogs could be allergic to eggs.
Commercial diets – There are also commercial hypoallergenic diets available but they can be quite expensive. These commercial diets are made from hydrolyzed proteins where the protein molecules are broken down into molecules which are too small to excite the immune system. Some examples of these diets are Z/D, EXclude and CNM HA diets.
Do you know any other hypoallergenic diet that can be fed to dogs with food allergies? Please don’t hesitate to share it with our readers in the comment section below: