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Dogs loves dinnertime. All of the tail wags, happy jumps, and little whines all say just how happy they are to chow down after the food is served. But afterward, maybe you notice them acting a little different. Maybe they seem a little extra itchy or their potty habits seem off. You did recently change their dog food—could that be the reason?
Turns out, yes, a new dog food recipe mights be the cause for your dog’s allergies to start flaring up. In fact, it’s not that uncommon for dogs to be allergic to one or more of the ingredients commonly found in dog food. “The most common food allergy which afflicts dogs is the protein source,” says Dr. Michelle Burch, a Veterinarian and Veterinary Consultant with Safe Hounds Pet Insurance. “The most common allergies include beef, chicken, lamb, and wheat.”
So, if you notice that your furry buddy is having a bad reaction to their food, it’s worth talking to your vet to see what may be causing the issue. “Pets diagnosed with a food allergy will need ongoing, appropriate dietary restrictions,” says Burch. “A family who can maintain nutritional restrictions will find their dog has an excellent prognosis.”
After your dog’s issue has been diagnosed, here’s our list of some of the best dog foods for allergies to consider.
Best Overall Dry: Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Duck & Oatmeal Recipe
Key Ingredients: Duck, oatmeal, peas, ground rice, potato protein | Flavors: Duck and oatmeal, turkey and potato, lamb and oatmeal, salmon and potato | Package Size: 26 pound bag
Formulated for dogs with food allergies or sensitive stomachs
Good for dogs with beef or chicken allergies
Not suitable for dogs with grain or pea allergies
If you’ve noticed that your furry friend’s has a hard time with foods that contain beef, chicken or lamb, this limited ingredients dry dog food might be just what they need. This single-protein dry food is specifically formulated with allergy-prone dogs in mind to help give them more of the nutrition they need and less of the ingredients that can upset their system. Wellness also makes versions of this limited ingredient diet for small breeds (view on Amazon) and maintaining a healthy weight (view on Amazon).
Best Overall Wet: Hill's Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Canned Food
Key Ingredients: Chicken broth, turkey, carrots, pork liver, rice | Flavors: Turkey and rice, salmon and vegetable, chicken and vegetable | Package Size: 12.5 ounce can
Contains both grains and proteins
Supplemented with key nutrients
Still has some chicken ingredients
Most dogs love wet food, and you can buy it either as a dense paté or as a thick stew. This recipe from Hill’s Science Diet comes as a rich stew that can be given alone for dinner or deliciously poured over dry food. This highly-palatable recipe is designed specifically with sensitive tummies in mind. Turkey is the lead protein instead of chicken, but there are still some chicken ingredients. It's also supplemented with a number of key nutrients, including vitamin E, vitamin B12, and vitamin D3.
Best Budget: Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Key Ingredients: Lamb, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, egg product, lentils | Flavors: Lamb, venison, bison, smoked salmon, wild Boar, roasted fowl, angus beef, trout, turkey | Package Size: 5, 14, or 28 pound bag
Peas and sweet potatoes for additional nutrients
Designed for all age groups
Many flavor options
Large kibble size may not be suitable for small breeds
There is a lot of great dog food available, but higher prices can sometimes be hard to swallow if you’re on a tighter budget. This food is not not only more affordable, but still uses ingredients that are suitable for many dogs with allergies. Taste of the Wild is a family-owned, U.S. brand that offers several different protein sources to choose from, like venison, bison, lamb, and salmon. So, there are plenty of alternatives in case your doggy shows a reaction to a certain type. However, the ingredient list does include egg and a number of fruits and vegetables, which means if your dog has a negative reaction to the food, it may more difficult to determine which ingredients are causing it.
Best for Senior Dogs: Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Natural Senior Dry Dog Food Turkey & Potato
Key Ingredients: Deboned turkey, oatmeal, brown rice, potatoes, peas | Flavors: Turkey and potato | Packaging Size: 4 or 24 pound bag
Limited ingredient list
Peas and pumpkin promote healthy digestion
We all want our pets to have a long, healthy life and a big part of that is changing their diet to match their needs as they get older. The older a dog gets, the important healthy digestion becomes, and this blend of Blue Buffalo turkey and potato is designed to do just that. Using turkey as the primary ingredient gives your senior doggy the protein boost that they need while avoiding the ingredients like chicken and beef that are common sources of allergies. This recipe also contains omega 3 and 6 fatty acids that help overall skin and coat health.
Best for Skin Allergies: Hill's Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Dog Food
Key Ingredients: Chicken, brewers rice, chicken meal, yellow peas, cracked pearled barley | Flavor: Chicken | Packaging Size: 4, 15.5, or 30 pound bag
Widely backed by veterinarians
Goes a long way to improving their skin and coat
Dogs may not like the taste
If your dog is scratching themselves a lot more than usual or having other skin issues, may recommend making an adjustment to their food. Hill’s Science Diet has been one of the most trusted brands of dog food and has the recommendation of countless veterinarians behind it. This particular blend is made with chicken as the primary ingredient and doesn't require a prescription. It also contains vitamin E, as well as omega 6 fatty acids that are good for your dog’s skin.
Best for Grain Allergies: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
Key Ingredients: Deboned salmon, chicken meal, peas, pea protein, menhaden fish meal | Flavors: Salmon | Packaging Size: 4.5, 11, 20, or 24 pound bag
Additional vitamins and nutrients
Sweet potatoes are a source of healthy carbs
Grain-free diets may not be best for every dog
It’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog’s allergies. They may recommend changes to their diet that remove foods that could flare up their allergies, like grains or poultry. But being grain-free doesn’t mean that this recipe is all protein either, it also features sweet potatoes and peas to help give your active doggy that extra boost of energy. Blue Buffalo also offers similar grain-free recipes for all life stages, including puppies, adult, and senior dogs.
Best for Chicken Allergies: Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet with Healthy Grains Real Salmon & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
Key Ingredients: Deboned salmon, salmon meal, brown rice, oatmeal, barley | Flavors: Salmon and brown rice | Packaging Size: 4, 12, or 22 pound bag
Limited ingredients list with no chicken
Contains supplemental vitamins
May not appeal to picky eaters
Some dog foods that don’t mention chicken on the front of the package may still contain chicken by-product hiding in the ingredient list. For dogs who are the most sensitive to chicken, even these by-products may cause an allergic reaction. Merrick’s limited ingredient diet is a good option for those dogs. This dry dog food is created using nine key ingredients including salmon, brown rice, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes—and most importantly no chicken or chicken by-product. It's also free of soy, corn, wheat, and eggs.
If your dog is experiencing food allergies it’s very likely to be from the protein source, which is why we recommend a limited ingredients recipe like Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Lamb & Oatmeal Dog Food (view at Chewy) as our best overall dry dog food. Another good option is a salmon-based recipe like Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet with Healthy Grains (view at Chewy) for a successful, irritation-free mealtime.
What to Look for in Dog Food for Allergies
One of the first things you should do when buying a new dog food is to really look over the ingredients. Especially in dog foods that don’t advertise themselves as limited ingredients, it’s possible for all kinds of protein by-products to be present in your dog’s food—even if it’s not explicitly mentioned on the front of the bag. There may be more hiding in the ingredients list than you’d think.
Signs of an Allergic Reaction
When looking for the perfect dog food, it’s important to first know what an allergic reaction looks like.
“Symptoms of a food allergy can affect multiple organ systems in your dog, but the skin tends to be the most affected,” says Burch. “Skin symptoms include severe itching along the face, paws, rear, and underbelly. Other signs can include fur loss from around the eyes, repeated ear infections, and secondary skin infections.”
When you know the signs of an allergic reaction to look out for, you will be able to better pinpoint what’s causing their discomfort.
A dog's food allergies can be very hard to nail down sometimes and it may take more than just switching up their food to find out what they are allergic to eating. “Dogs diagnosed with a food allergy may need to be fed a prescription diet,” explains Burch. She explains that prescription dog foods follow a strict protocol to produce the dog food. If your dog is extra sensitive to a certain ingredient, prescription food may be your best bet to ensure there's no cross-contamination with other proteins.
Are grain-free foods better for dogs with skin allergies?
When considering what dog foods are best for skin allergies, it is recommended to try changing up the protein source first before going completely grain-free. This is because current research shows a possible link between some heart disease and certain ingredients that appear in a higher concentrations in grain-free dog foods.
“I currently do not recommend feeding grain-free food to dogs due to the increased risk of developing nutritional dilated cardiomyopathy,” says Burch. “If you are interested in providing a grain-free diet to see if your dog responds positively to skin allergies, I recommend speaking with your veterinarian before switching.”
Can I test my dog for food allergies at home?
There are a few home test kits for allergies but they may not be as effective at determining your dog's allergies. “I do not recommend using blood, hair, or saliva tests for food allergies,” explains Burch. “These products can have a high number of false positives and negatives.” The best way to test your dog’s allergies is through an at-home food trial under the guidance of a vet, so you can monitor the ingredients in your dog’s food and how they react to it.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
Steven Rowe has experience caring for two nervous, picky-eating beagles. When he noticed that his dog started to chew his front paws after mealtime he tried out different proteins and discovered his little guy had a chicken allergy.
When writing this article, he chose products based on what he feeds his own tummy-sensitive doggos, his personal experience with the products, customer reviews, product ingredients, and recommendations from veterinarians.