Best Dog Food for Allergies in 2019 – Reviews & Buying Guide

Does your dog have frequent, but mysterious, skin or stomach issues? Food allergies might be the cause. Unfortunately, it’s relatively common for dogs to develop an allergy to the food they eat every day.

Fortunately, your pet doesn’t have to suffer from uncomfortable allergies. Finding new food is often the best treatment. Our complete guide below has everything you need to know about dog food allergies. Plus, we’ve also listed the five best dog food products for dogs with allergies.   

What are Dog Food Allergies?

Dogs can be allergic to certain foods, but it’s a bit different than a person with a food allergy. For example, if a person with a peanut allergy eats just one, they’ll experience an immediate reaction. However, dogs typically develop food allergies over time.

Your dog can become what’s called “sensitized” to the food they’ve been eating for years. Sensitization means the dog’s immune system misidentifies certain foods as a harmful invader. An allergic reaction is the unwanted immune response.  

Food allergies often develop slowly. After all, your dog can’t tell you his skin is mildly itchy or his stomach slightly upset. But symptoms worsen as the dog continues to eat the food. Dogs often seem to develop a food allergy overnight — but the condition has actually been developing for a while.

What are the Signs of a Food Allergy?

Generally, food allergies cause skin issues, gastrointestinal problems or both. Common symptoms include:

  •       Chronic gas
  •       Chronic diarrhea
  •       Hair loss or patchiness
  •       Excessive foot licking
  •       Itchy rear end
  •       Chronic ear inflammation
  •       Frequent vomiting
  •       Frequent ear scratching

Some dogs will have skin issues, others just stomach problems – while some unlucky pooches will have both and even more.

Unfortunately, symptoms of a food allergy often mimic the symptoms of many other illnesses. Diagnosing an allergy is often a relatively slow process of elimination.

Consult with your vet if your dog displays any of the above symptoms. Of course, visit the vet earlier if symptoms are severe. But even mild symptoms should be checked out if they persist for about a week.

Food allergies don’t go away on their own. Once an allergy develops, the dog will be allergic to that specific food for life. You’ll need to identify the allergen as soon as possible so your dog can start feeling comfortable again.

What Causes Food Allergies in Dogs?

Experts don’t exactly know why some dogs have food allergies. Some research suggests the use of antibiotics during an early age might play a factor. About 10% of all dogs suffer from food allergies.

Many pet owners are surprised to learn grains are rarely the issue. Occasionally, grains or plant-products might cause an allergic reaction – but proteins are actually the most common cause of food allergies in dogs. Dogs can be allergic to any combination of:

  •       Chicken
  •       Beef
  •       Lamb

These proteins have no special properties. Rather, they’re some of the top ingredients found in most types of dog foods. Regular exposure to these proteins leads to sensitization in certain dogs.

What is Allergy Free Dog Food?

Here are some descriptions you’re likely to see:

  •       Grain-free
  •       Gluten-Free
  •       Hypoallergenic
  •       Hydrolyzed

You’ll find many companies advertising “grain-free” foods as a good choice for pets with allergies. While there’s nothing harmful about grain-free foods, grains don’t cause many food allergies. Grain-free foods usually don’t help dogs with a protein allergy.  

Avoid “gluten-free” dog food. Aside from a rare condition found in certain Irish Setters, dogs practically never have gluten allergies. Gluten-free dog food is basically just a fad with no benefits for dogs.

Foods labeled “hypoallergenic” have benefits, but the term is often misunderstood. Dogs can still be allergic to ingredients in hypoallergenic food.

Most hypoallergenic foods contain proteins like duck, venison or even something as wild as kangaroo. The idea is dogs with an allergy to a common meat, like chicken or beef, will be able to better tolerate a meat they’ve never eaten before.

Hydrolyzed diets are relatively new. A special process breaks the protein down into smaller compounds. These aren’t just smaller bites; the proteins are smaller on a molecular level. Hydrolyzed proteins trick the immune system, allowing food digestion without triggering an immune system response.

How are Food Allergies Diagnosed?

Food allergies are diagnosed by a process called a dietary elimination trial. It’s easy to do but does take some time to complete. Note that it should only be performed under your vet’s supervision.

First, place your dog on a simple diet consisting of just one protein, one carbohydrate, and necessary nutrients. The protein will be either be something your dog has never eaten before or it’ll be hydrolyzed. Your vet will help determine the specifics.

You’ll then feed your dog this diet for a month. It’s important that specific food is the only thing your dog eats during this stage.

Ideally, your dog will show signs of improvement. But the trial isn’t over yet. For the next stage, you’ll switch back to your dog’s original food. If your dog starts to display symptoms again, an allergy is likely the issue.

Next, you’ll return to the new diet. The dog’s symptoms should again disappear. Now you’ll reintroduce ingredients from the old food one at a time. For example, if the first ingredient in the old food was chicken, you’ll add chicken to the dog’s new diet. You’ll continue adding individual ingredients until the allergen is identified.

Many people simply stop the trial at the first sign of improvement with the new diet. But doing so doesn’t tell you much about your dog’s potential allergies. Reintroducing the allergen eliminates the possibility of seasonal allergies or some other cause.

Dogs suffer from many of the same types of allergies as people do. They can have hay fever and other seasonal issues. Symptoms are often similar to those caused by food allergies. That’s why the food elimination trial is so regimented. Other potential allergens must be eliminated as a cause of the problem.  

Don’t forget about clean water. Of course, dogs don’t develop allergies to water. But dogs are messy. Bits of food often wind up in their water bowl. Dogs wind up with additional exposure to the food they’re allergic to whenever they take a drink. Change your dog’s water often – ideally after every use – when in the middle of a dietary elimination trial.

So, what kind of foods should you choose for a dog with a potential food allergy? Here’s a look at our five favorites:

ImageProduct NameRatingPrice
DJI Mavic Pro1. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Dry Dog Food4.2Check Price
DJI Mavic Pro2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Dry Dog Food4.3Check Price
DJI Mavic Pro3. Blue P.S. for Dogs 100% Hypoallergenic Dog Food4.3Check Price
DJI Mavic Pro4. P.S. for Dogs 100% Hypoallergenic Dog Food4.3Check Price
DJI Mavic Pro5. Instinct Raw Boost by Nature’s Variety3.6Check Price

1. The Honest Kitchen Human-Grade Organic Dog Food

Dog food so healthy you can eat it yourself. The Honest Kitchen makes human-grade dog food, which is the FDA standard for the food we eat every day.

The dog food formula is 100% organic. It’s a healthy solution if your dog is allergic to preservatives, by-products or artificial additives.

Instead, the food contains either free-range chicken or ranch-raised beef. Other ingredients include organic vegetables.

All ingredients are dehydrated, which seals in vitamins. Each bite of food is nutritionally dense. A ten-pound box makes 40 pounds of fresh dog food.

Pros & Cons

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Pros
  • 100% Organic Human-Grade Food
  • Main protein is free-range chicken or ranch-raised beef
  • Dehydration process seals in nutrients
  • Contains no by-products or preservatives
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Cons
  • The mushy texture might be unappealing to dogs
  • The bag isn’t resealable

2. Purina Beyond Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Purina’s Grain Free foods take a back-to-basics approach. They contain no grains, gluten or by-products. Instead, the number one ingredient is beef, which is packed with protein and easy for dogs to digest.

All Purina products are backed by cutting-edge nutrition science. A team of veterinary and animal nutrition experts carefully craft each formula.

Their grain-free food is best for dogs with food allergies. The simple list of ingredients makes the food a good choice for dietary elimination trials. You can easily identify any possible allergens.

Pros & Cons

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Pros
  • Grain-free
  • Simple, natural ingredients
  • Contains no by-products
  • Effective for identifying food allergies
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Cons
  • The bag must remain sealed tight, or food can go stale

3. P.S. for Dogs 100% Hypoallergenic Dog Food

The term “hypoallergenic” doesn’t really mean anything, but that’s okay because there’s still a lot to like about this food from P.S. for Dogs. It’s designed specifically to help dogs with food allergies.

The main ingredient is human-grade New Zealand lamb. Not only is human-grade the highest quality meat, but it’s also less common than chicken or beef. As discussed earlier, eating a new type of protein can stop a food allergy.

P.S. for Dogs is dedicated to treating dog food allergies. They’re a family-owned company with a variety of allergy-fighting pet products.

Pros & Cons

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Pros
  • Human-grade lamb
  • Minimal ingredients
  • Knowledgeable manufacturer
  • Effective for identifying food allergies
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Cons
  • Kibble can be dry (you can add water)
  • Small bag

4. AvoDerm Natural Dog Food

You won’t find another dog food with these ingredients. AvoDerm starts with duck as the main protein – supplemented with avocados, garbanzo beans, and peas.

Each ingredient is carefully selected. The omega in the avocados promotes overall good health and a shiny coat. Garbanzo beans and peas are used as carbohydrates so the food can stay grain and gluten-free.

Its pressure cooked to ensure each bit of kibble is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Each bite delivers maximum nutrition. Plus, limited ingredients help diagnose potential allergens.    

AvoDerm dog foods are available with beef, turkey, lamb or duck as the main ingredients. The company says the foods suit rotation feeding. You can give your dog different flavors each day without causing stomach upset. Normally, this isn’t a recommended method of feeding, so check with your vet first.

Pros & Cons

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Pros
  • Duck, avocado, and beans provide unique health benefits
  • Pressure cooking process seals in nutrients
  • Limited ingredients helpful for dietary elimination
  • Effective for identifying food allergies
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Cons
  • Few experts recommend rotational feeding

5. Instinct Raw Boost by Nature’s Variety

Raw diets have benefits, but they’re difficult to implement at home without doing a lot of research. Nature’s Variety wants to make raw pet food diets more accessible with their Instinct Raw Boost formula.

Each recipe contains protein mixed with bites of freeze-dried raw meat. No special preparations are required. Protein options include cage-free chicken, grass-fed lamb or USA-raised beef.

While they certainly emphasize the raw aspect, it’s only a small part of the recipe. However, the kibble is high in protein with no grain, corn, by-products or artificial ingredients.

Pros & Cons

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Pros
  • Great source of high-quality protein
  • Includes freeze-dried raw meat
  • Contains no grain, corn or by-products
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Cons
  • Proteins are all common meats (not great for protein allergies)

Our Favorite Product

Our number one choice is AvoDerm Natural Dog Food. At first, we were a bit thrown by some of the ingredients. It’s not every day you find a dog food with duck, avocado and garbanzo beans.

But the unusual ingredients have big benefits. Dogs with a protein allergy need food with a protein they’ve never eaten before. Duck usually fits the bill.

The same idea applies to Garbanzo beans and peas. They’re a unique alternative to grains. AvoDerm is a solid option for dogs with both grain and protein allergies.

We also like that it has avocado. It helps improve skin and hair health. Many allergies result in skin itchiness and hair loss, but the omegas in the avocado provide effective relief.

However, we do want to caution against rotational feeding. Experts recommend against frequently switching your dog’s diet. Dogs aren’t like people. They don’t get bored with eating the same thing every day. Stick to either the lamb, chicken or beef type. Don’t switch foods unless you’re trying to diagnose a potential allergy.

Dogs love to eat, but food allergies are no fun. Fortunately, finding a food your dog can enjoy is usually simple and easy.