What Is Hypoallergenic Dog Food?

So your vet has confirmed that your dog is allergic towards certain foods. Do you quickly pounce on the first hypoallergenic dog food that you can find? No.

Is there a secret formula in hypoallergenic dog food that sets it apart from all other dog foods? No.

This article clarifies what the term hypoallergenic really means, and how you can go about choosing the right kind of dog food which will ‘hypo’ your dog’s allergies. It also discusses methods for identifying what food your dog is allergic to, and more.

Hypoallergic dog food
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What does hypoallergenic mean?

The word is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘having little likelihood of causing an allergic response.’ Hypo means low, reduced or below normal. Hyper means high, above normal or increased.

Therefore, the term hypoallergenic in ‘hypoallergenic dog food’ suggests that this food is less likely or will not trigger an allergic reaction when a dog eats it.

This means the ingredients in it do not contain allergens, which are what a dog reacts to if it is allergic to these ingredients. Dogs can become allergic at any age even if it has been eating the same food for months or years.

Can a dog suddenly become allergic to his food?

Yes. A dog that has been exposed to the same type of food for a period of time can suddenly become allergic to it.

What are the most common symptoms of food allergies in dogs?

One of the telltale signs is when your dog is constantly scratching but does not have fleas. Other symptoms include

  • swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids or earflaps;
  • itching in the paws, stomach, rear end or ears;
  • digestive issues such as gas, vomiting and diarrhoea;
  • sneezing;
  • runny eyes;
  • chronic ear or paw infections (repeated infections may be a sign of a food sensitivity instead).

Food allergy and food sensitivity are not the same thing. An allergy triggers an immediate immune system response. Food sensitivity doesn't but it is a gradual reaction to an ingredient.

Differentiate between diarrhea and soft or loose stool in dogs to decide if your buddy is having an allergic reaction to the food served and read more on how to firm up dog poop to help it feel better. 

For more detailed information on skin allergies, read Dog Food For Skin Allergies - What You Need To Know About Symptoms, Causes And Hypoallergenic Diet.

What ingredient in dog food causes allergies?

When it comes to food, the most common culprits are:

  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Egg
  • Dairy products – milk, cheese, yoghurt
  • Soy

Less common ones include:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Yeast
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Oats

That being said, anything can cause an allergic reaction in dogs.

How do I know what my dog is allergic to?

The most accurate method of discovering this is through the dietary elimination trial. There are two schools of thought regarding this method.

  1. Feed a hypoallergenic diet for 8 to 12 weeks as a food trial
  2. Isolated ingredient and relapse method

Method 1: Feed a hypoallergenic diet for 8 to 12 weeks as a food trial

The principle of this method requires the elimination diet to not contain any ingredients that the pet has eaten in the past. Aside from its meals, this includes treats, supplements and heartworm medicine (in the form of edible blocks). 

Method 2: Isolated ingredient and relapse method

The diet may be either purchased through the vet or prepared at home. It should consist of only a few ingredients, i.e. only one protein and one carbohydrate with essential fats, vitamins and minerals. The protein and carbohydrate should not be totally new to the dog. Alternatively, it can be a hydrolyzed dog food.

Aside from those mentioned above, there should be no other addition such as treats or supplements during this period of treatment. After at least a week or two, if the dog shows a marked improvement, it is put back on its old diet for a few days.

If the allergic reaction surfaces, this confirms an allergy towards its old diet. This process is repeated one more time to solidify the findings. Then, a different set of ingredients is used in the elimination diet.

How quickly do food allergies show up in dogs?

Hives or urticaria can pop up 6 to 24 hours after a dog eats something it is allergic to. If it is a short-haired breed, these itchy red bumps are easier to see.

What is the best allergy test for dogs?

There are two types of blood tests. The first is called RAST or radioallergosorbent test. It can be used to ascertain whether a dog is allergic to certain antigens. The other type is the serum IgE test. However, there is some contention on the effectiveness of these tests.

What meat is best for dogs with allergies?

Interesting fact: Do you know that protein deficiency in dogs can cause hair loss and damage in skin? Novel proteins are best, as your dog has not been exposed to them and therefore would not be allergic to it. You can try giving dogs novel proteins such as fish, pork, kangaroo, crocodile, duck and venison. Chicken is  an excellent source of protein, as well as the most inexpensive choice. However, if your dog is allergic to it, you will have to consider other proteins or chicken free products for its meals. Read more on Chicken Free Dog Food for Dogs with Food Allergies.

Is salmon good for dogs with allergies?

Yes, salmon is safe for dogs. In fact, it is a common ingredient in high-quality dog foods. This might be a good alternative if your dog is allergic to more common sources of protein.

Does grain-free dog food help with allergies?

A grain-free diet consists of popular grains such as rice, soy, wheat and corn. Several studies have shown that overall grains had the least adverse skin reaction in pets compared to animal proteins.

Nonetheless, some dogs suffering from skin allergies have shown noticeable improvement after being put on grain-free diets.

Is sweet potato good for dogs with allergies?

Yes. Pumpkin is also used as a fibre and carb subsidy for grains. Sweet potato and pumpkin are also rich in microfibre as well as vitamins and minerals.

What is the best hypoallergenic dog food?

Hypoallergenic dog food is usually free from meats and carbs which are commonly known to trigger allergic reactions. Some brands also exclude soya, colouring and artificial preservatives.

Some proponents claim that novel proteins are the cure-all, but the truth is that even dogs can end up being allergic to novel proteins after prolonged consumption. Feeding them exotic meats does not prevent allergies entirely.

The best hypoallergenic dog foods should be as organic as possible. This is to eliminate the possibility of reactions to remnant steroids, antibiotics and other chemicals in the meat or other ingredients.

Gently cooked dog food

Examples of dog foods which can be treated as hypoallergenic include Pet Cubes’ Gently Cooked range and Raw range. There is a wide range of novel protein options to choose from: pork, duck, kangaroo, venison, crocodile.

You can also read more on the freeze dried vs flash frozen dog food. They are essentially raw and fresh dog food that undergoes different preservation methods to promote their shelf life. 

Besides that, consider the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) diet for puppies and dogs. It mirrors the raw dog food that they eat before domestication. The BARF diet ratio improves the health of the dog by maintaining its ideal weight while decreasing its sensitivities and digestive issues. 









All of these products do not contain grains and they are made from high quality ingredients. The brand even comes with a Premium Mix option where owners can let their dogs try out different proteins – venison, crocodile and kangaroo.


Pet owners should study the labels on dog food packaging carefully. One should not simply purchase the food simply because it has the words ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘for sensitive dogs’.

There could be ingredients hidden in the formula, especially common in dry foods. Although the main ingredients are stated as pork meat, it may also contain chicken fat and chicken meal further down in the list.

Finding out exactly what your dog is allergic to will not be a shortcut process. Aside from blood tests, the best strategy is none other than dietary elimination trials. It may take you weeks or longer to pinpoint the problem. Allergies cannot be cured; they can only be allayed.