There are days in veterinary practice when it feels like nearly all of the appointments are for itchy dogs. And I am sure many of you have booked vet appointments for one or more of your itchy, allergic dogs. Why are so many dogs allergic? The truth is we don’t know. Is it their diet? In some, but not most cases, it is the diet. What is the best dog food for itchy, allergic dogs? Research suggests that the answer is not commercial hypoallergenic dog food. Why?
Over-the Counter Hypoallergenic Diets: Not What They Seem
During my latest research I found a study that was conducted on four brands of over-the-counter venison based dry dog food. Venison is considered a novel protein and is used extensively for the diagnosis or treatment of food allergies. Using a sensitive testing method, the researchers discovered that these foods also contained protein from soy, poultry and beef. These protein sources are known to be common food allergens for dogs. Sadly, these proteins sources were not included in the ingredient list. Unsuspecting owners that purchased these foods for their allergic dogs would be very disappointed with the results.
Veterinary Formula Hypoallergenic Diets: Not Any Better
In a recent blog, I detailed a study that revealed that nine out of eleven veterinary hypoallergenic diets were contaminated with protein from sources not listed on the food label. The inclusion of more than a single source of protein means the diet is not truly hypoallergenic. These more expensive diets are not a better guarantee of a truly hypoallergenic dog food.
Homemade Hypoallergenic Dog Food: The Reliable Choice
The best way to test or treat a dog suspected to have food allergies is homemade dog food. That was the conclusion of the researchers in the veterinary diet study. They felt homemade diets offered a more controlled, limited ingredient alternative. You can choose a single, novel (not commonly used in commercial dog foods) protein source like bison, duck, goat, ostrich, pork, rabbit, tuna or salmon. Quinoa, potato, sweet potato and even rice are considered by dermatologists as hypoallergenic carbohydrate alternatives. Add the necessary essential oils with a balanced vitamin and mineral supplement and Voila, a truly hypoallergenic homemade dog food diet with only 4 ingredients. Fish oil can even be added to the diet. The DHA and EPA omega-3’s in fish oil help relieve the itchiness by reducing the inflammation created with the allergic condition.
~Dr Ken Tudor
The Dog Dietitian