Best Dog Food for Skin Allergies? Stick to Hypoallergenic Brands

best dog food for dogs with allergies

When I first became a pup parent to my Golden, I trusted my breeder’s recommendation of dog food insisting that Royal Canin was the best. I had my pup only 2 weeks and he began to experience itchy skin and developed a sensitive stomach. It was heart wrenching to see him suffer and not knowing what to feed him. So I decided to research an alternative and looked up multiple sites and the consensus was to seek a limited ingredient diet but with all the right nutrition levels. That was no easy task! There was some serious debating surrounding food allergies vs. food intolerance and found that most hypoallergenic dog foods contained a high carb to protein ratio and commanding a high price.

I hope our research and personal experience will give you a head start based on the information and results we've found over the years and which seemed to have worked for our Golden, a breed that is more allergy-prone than other breeds. Let's get started!

In a hurry? Quick Look at the 6 Best Hypoallergenic Dog Foods

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

Understanding Allergies

Out of all the different types of allergies that dogs can suffer from, about 10% of them are food related. That’s why it is important as owners to be careful what we feed our furry companions if we want them to live a long and healthy life. Inexpensive dog food brands often contain a lot of harmful ingredients that cause allergic reactions in dogs.

Clearing up a dog’s allergy symptoms can really be as easy as changing the food they eat to a better brand, making sure to take a close look at the ingredients before buying. You should remember that the higher an ingredient is on the list, the more of that ingredient there is in the dogs’ food.

Luckily, a lot of information is available on the types of foods that tend to trigger allergies in dogs and how to find out what is really contributing to a dog’s allergies.

It is never fun for as pet parents to watch our pets suffer from allergy symptoms. Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint what is causing the dog’s allergies, and it can take some time until the problem is resolved. That’s because a lot of allergy symptoms can also be related to other health concerns. Diagnosing a dog’s symptoms as allergies usually requires ruling other causes out first.

Dogs can develop allergies at any age. The main symptom that is seen in most dogs with food allergies is itchy, dry skin and loss of fur. You should pay close attention if your dog spends a lot of time scratching their anus, face, ears, feet, and legs. Frequent ear infections and gastro-intestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting are two other common indicators of food allergies in dogs.

Common Food Culprits

There are several well-known food culprits that are responsible for most food related allergies in dogs. A few of the main ones are corn, wheat, and soy ingredients. Others include common protein sources like beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, and fish. Unfortunately, it just happens that these ingredients are frequently found in commercial dog food, especially inexpensive brands.

Luckily, there are plenty of grain-free dog food options that don’t contain wheat, corn, or soy products. Several premium dog food brands offer unique protein options like duck, rabbit, venison or kangaroo and limited ingredients to avoid common allergy triggers. Brands like Wellness, Blue Buffalo, and Nature’s Variety focus on using fresh, healthy, sustainable ingredients instead of fillers and chemicals that have no business in a dog’s diet.

Distinction between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance?

Food allergies and intolerances in dogs are both unpleasant, but there is a distinction between the two that you should be aware of. Food allergies result in a reaction from the immune system and can affect several of the body’s organs, like the skin, heart, liver, and bowels. Food allergies can be life threatening and produce a long list of symptoms.

In comparison, a food intolerance is usually much less severe and limited to one area. Food intolerances generally lead to digestion problems in dogs like bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea but not much more. If you notice your dogs’ sensitivities are mostly related to their digestion, you can try to isolate the ingredient causing the intolerance and adjust your dogs’ diet accordingly.

Food allergies can require more work to identify and fix. Since allergies are often worse and can lead to a lot of issues if they are left untreated, you should consult with your vet and act quickly when you first suspect that your pup is suffering from allergies.

Food Trials and Elimination Diets

A food trial is a two-step process for pinpointing the source of a dog’s allergies. Putting a dog on an elimination diet is the first step of a food trial, followed by provocative testing.

Starting with an elimination diet, you must feed your dog only hypoallergenic dog food for 12 weeks. This means no chew toys, other treats, flavored medication, table food, or food of any kind. It can be hard for some owners to keep their dogs on such a strict diet, especially if they are usually liberal with feeding their dog scraps and treats. The truth is that it will be a lot healthier for dogs this way and it will make identifying the allergy source much easier.

To choose a suitable hypoallergenic dog food, you should find a source of protein that you dog hasn’t been exposed to before. Lamb is a popular option, but since it is more common in dog food now it can also be a cause of allergies. Rabbit and kangaroo are two other, less common options. The second main ingredient in hypoallergenic dog food is generally a source of carbs like rice, oats, or potato.

You should keep your dog on this hypoallergenic food until their allergy symptoms disappear completely. Once your dog is doing better, you should slowly start to re-introduce ingredients into your dog’s diet to test what might be causing the allergies. This way, owners can avoid that food in the future and regain the ability to feed their dogs other acceptable foods. Some dogs have food allergies that are severe enough that owners need to make them home-cooked meals, which should to be carefully planned with the help of a veterinarian.

Reviews of the Best Dog Foods for Sensitive Skin and Stomach

#1 Blue Wilderness 

best dog food for allergies

Blue Buffalo Wilderness is a 100% grain free, holistic dry dog food that provides dogs with a natural diet based on the omnivore diet of wolves. This blend is high in protein, with salmon as its main source because it is less common in dog food and therefore less likely to trigger allergies.

What I like most about this food is its decent protein levels with three quality sources at the top of the ingredients list which only gives it more credibility as being one of the best dog food for dogs with allergies that doesn't compromise on nutrition.

Like all Blue Buffalo recipes, Wilderness contains special LifeSource bits formulated with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to cover all of dogs’ health needs. BLUE proudly uses only the best ingredients in their recipes, with no chicken or poultry by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors.

Some of the main ingredients in this blend are deboned salmon, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, cranberries, and blueberries. Blue Wilderness is made with a precise blend of carbohydrates for energy and protein for healthy muscle development. Calcium and phosphorus are present in this blend to give dogs strong bones and teeth, while glucosamine is used to promote healthy joints. It’s easy to see why I recommend this formula for your dog as the best dog food for skin allergies.

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#2 Acana Singles

best limited ingredient dog food

Acana is produced by Champion Petfoods, a Canadian food manufacturer that also make Orijen. That bodes very well, as I consider Orijen one of my top-rated foods and something I’m very happy to feed my dog with.

This review is for the Duck and Pear flavor which is a grain free, limited ingredient dry dog food that uses duck as its single source of unique animal protein. Since duck is rarely used in dog foods, it is less likely to trigger allergic reactions. Animal lovers will be pleased to hear that this dry dog food recipe uses only cage-free Canadian duck, with a balance of 50% duck ingredients and 50% healthy fruits and vegetables. This is what you would expect to see rom such a reputable company which prides itself on using quality and fresh ingredients.

This recipe is infused with freeze-dried duck liver to give dogs more of the flavor that they love. Acana is great for dogs from all types of breeds and ages (that includes puppies).   Some of the main ingredients in this blend include Bartlett pears, whole pumpkins, chicory, and ginger root.

The ingredients included in this recipe are specially selected to support dogs’ healthy digestion and help make sure that their stools are nice and firm. Owners who have dogs with allergy symptoms including loose stools, frequent bowel movements, and itchy fur have seen almost immediate improvements after switching their dogs to Acana. This is a pricier formula if you can afford it and is by far one of the best dog food for allergies.

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#3 Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient 

best dog food for skin allergies

Wellness Simple is a family-owned brand that uses limited ingredients specially chosen to avoid causing allergic reactions, sensitivities, or intolerances in dogs. This recipe’s two main ingredients are salmon for protein and potato for carbohydrates. 

I'm not overly impressed that potatoes are included so high up on ingredient list, especially since they are reported to being a common food allergen. 

This recipe though should be easy to digest, due to the addition of prebiotics and probiotics so that's good for dogs with gastro-intestinal problems.  Flaxseed is great for your dogs’ skin and coat health and canola oil as its source of healthy fatty acids.

What’s more, they are attentive to using Omega fatty acids which promotes healthy heart and if that wasn’t enough, the array of vitamins and minerals is plentiful.

Wellness Simple makes it on the hypoallergenic dog food list because it is grain free, with no meat by-products, dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, corn soy, or artificial colors and flavors. This is a good choice of dog food for sensitive stomach and skin allergies due to the limited use of ingredients that's worth a try.

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#4 Nature's Variety Instinct Limited Diet

low fat hypoallergenic dog food

Nature’s Variety Instinct is a grain free, limited ingredient dry dog food that uses turkey meal as its only source of animal protein. To avoid triggering allergies, this recipe doesn’t include any of the common food allergy culprits such as corn, wheat, soy, beef, chicken, dairy, eggs, gluten, potato, or fish. You should feel confident feeding this blend to dogs with food allergies.It's all life stages, so suits a puppy, adult or senior dog.

Nature’s Variety is a trusted dog food brand that specializes in all natural raw pet food and it's another good safe bet! They offer their customers a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so customers who aren’t happy with their dog’s food can return the unused portion and the receipt for a full refund or replacement.

On top of using only the best ingredients, the Instinct recipe includes Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to help give dogs shiny coats and healthy skin. The kibble is coated with green tea extract to give it a unique taste that dogs love. You can feel even better knowing that Instinct donates over 1 million meals to dogs via its partner, Best Friends Animal Society. Now that’s hypoallergenic dog food brand with a conscience. If you are looking for the best limited ingredient dog food reading the rave reviews this brand receives, you won’t go wrong if you want to test it on your pup.

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#5 Nutro Natural Choice

Best dog food for sensitive skin

Nutro Natural Choice Venison flavor is a limited ingredient diet recipe that is specially designed to reduce the main food allergies symptoms that dogs suffer from, including bad digestion, itchy skin, and poor coat health. Nutro uses New Ζealand venison meal as its source of unique animal protein that is not used by most dog food brands. This is great to see, as it gives me confidence that the manufacturer is putting in some effort and differentiating themselves unlike so many other big companies.

One thing I am not seeing in this food brand are fruits and vegetables and thus lacking in the natural occurrence of vitamins and fiber. They do however substitute sunflower oil for lineolic acid this is great for promoting healthy skin and coat and that’s a solid ingredient.

Nutro’s Natural Choice recipe is fortified with highly soluble fiber to ease digestion and antioxidants to promote a healthy immune system. We that see that vitamins and minerals have been added to make sure that dogs with allergies and sensitivities are having all their dietary needs met.

The company ensures owners complete satisfaction or their money back. As an owner, it is reassuring to see that. This dry dog food is also recommended by veterinarians for dogs with allergies. Your dogs’ symptoms should improve significantly after switching to Nutro. Numerous owners claim that even the pickiest of dogs love this hypoallergenic dog food brand.

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#6 Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet

hypoallergenic puppy food

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets is made with lamb meal as its unique source of protein and brown rice as its source of carbohydrates to provide dogs with energy throughout the day. This dry kibble is great for dogs with allergies, regardless of their age or breed. Natural Balance is made with highly digestible ingredients that won’t cause stomach issues in sensitive dogs. There are no by-products to be found.

Natural Balance focuses on providing dogs with complete nutrition while limiting the ingredients that they are exposed to and avoiding artificial flavors, colors, bleached ingredients, and preservatives. Canola oil is used as this blend’s source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which help give dogs healthy skin and a shiny coat.

Natural Balance is a trusted pet food brand that has been around since 1989 tied to actor Dick Van Patten. They state they make sure that dogs’ safety is a top priority by testing all of their dog food for nine known contaminants before they are distributed and sold to customers. They too offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on their products.

It’s another good choice for the money and you won’t find any trouble locating it either as it’s for sale all major pet food stores.

Overall another great choice of dog food for dogs with allergies for your arsenal that you can try on your puppy also since the formula is suitable for both. 

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Conclusion

Dog allergies can be tricky. Sometimes it takes owners switching from brand to brand until they find something that works. The thing is, if you know how dog allergies work and stick to a strict food trial starting with a 12-week elimination diet, you can find the source of your dogs’ allergies and clear up those symptoms.

All the brands mentioned above use unique protein sources and carbohydrates that are less likely to trigger allergies in dogs and would work well in an elimination diet. Most of these recipes are suitable for all breeds and ages since they focus on whole, natural ingredients to give dogs the best nutrition possible.

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