Chicken Free Dog Food for Dogs with Food Allergies
- Is Chicken Good for Dogs?
- Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance in Dogs
- Dog Food Without Chicken
- What is Chicken Meal in Dog Food?
- Chicken Meal vs Chicken By-Product
- Factors to Consider When Choosing Chicken Free Dog Food
Food allergy in animals occurs when the immune system wrongly identifies the protein in food as a threat instead of a food item resulting in an immune response. If your dog is found to be allergic to chicken, it is best to exclude it from its meals. In this article, we will explain chicken free dog food, poultry allergy, comparison of chicken meals and by-product as well as factors influencing the choice of chicken free dog food.
Is Chicken Good for Dogs?
The answer is yes. Your dog may develop various health issues such as skin damage or hair loss if it has a protein deficiency. Chicken is a cheap and great source of animal protein for dogs, either as a treat or main meal. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, chicken breast consists approximately 26 grams of protein and more than 2 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving. It also has high content of phosphorus, selenium, iron, and potassium.
Before serving your dog with cooked chicken, it should be deboned to avoid gastrointestinal tract puncture or choking since the bones splinter easily. Pet owners also need to be careful if serving raw chicken in case of bacterial or salmonella infection.
It is also important to note that chicken is one of the top 10 ingredients that causes allergies so be alert if it causes any skin or gastrointestinal symptoms in your dog.
Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance in Dogs
Food allergy and food intolerance in dogs are different even though symptoms are relatively similar. A food allergy affects the dog’s immune system and is usually caused by an over-reaction to a protein present in the food. Protein can be found not only in meat but also in vegetables and grains.
On the other hand, a dog’s food intolerance is an unusual reaction to a specific ingredient not associated with the immune system. For example, lactose intolerance is a type of food intolerance due to poor digestion. People or dogs with lactose intolerances either have low levels or absence of the milk digesting enzyme lactase.
Is Your Dog Allergic to Poultry?
One of the easiest and non-invasive methods to test food allergy is to conduct a saliva test on your dog, either using a home kit or by visiting your veterinarian. This test measures antibodies of the common food allergens to pinpoint the source of irritation in your pet.
The most accurate way of diagnosing food allergy is through an elimination trial. To ensure its accuracy and effectiveness, the dog should not be fed with food ingredients that it had eaten in the past, including treats and supplements. It is best to try with a combination of different grain (carbohydrate source) and meat (protein source) than its previous diet, such as oatmeal and kangaroo.
The veterinarian may also suggest feeding your dog with a hypoallergenic diet for eight to twelve weeks. The food is made of hydrolyzed proteins that are already broken down into small pieces thus immune cells will not bind to them to start an immune response in your dog. Examples include rice diet and beef.
All the common allergens listed in the chart below should be avoided to narrow your dog’s diet to the essentials. After being on the basic diet for one or two weeks, you can then reintroduce the new food, one for each week. During the reintroduction of the new food, you should monitor any changes to the dog's skin condition to rule out food allergies.
Source: Dog Naturally Magazine Inc
When a dog’s immune system overreacts to an unwelcome protein, which can be a poultry protein present in its food ingredient, it is said to have a poultry allergy. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, poultry refers to birds, like chickens or ducks which are bred for their eggs and meat.
When poultry allergy happens, your dog will experience symptoms like itchiness on skin or around the ear, or infections. Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting, or both types of symptoms, after ingesting poultry products are also common signs of allergies. Reactions to the skin are usually more concentrated around the toes, below the front legs, face, and groin. Sometimes, excessive scratching by the pets as a result of allergy can make them experience hair loss or ear inflammation.
Dog Food Without Chicken
The two main rationales for introducing chicken free dog food is due to poultry allergy or intolerance and to ensure the dog receives appropriate nutritional balance.
Other sources of protein to consider as an alternative to chicken include
What is Chicken Meal in Dog Food?
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), chicken meal is rendered (cooked at high temperature) chicken meat which is dried and grounded, containing clean flesh, skin and/or bone that can be made into kibble. Chicken meals do not contain heads, feet, intestines or feathers.
However, the high moisture content in the raw chicken makes it difficult or too watery to be shaped into kibbles.
Is Chicken Meal Bad for Dogs?
No. Chicken meal and chicken essentially contain the same components, which are flesh and skin. The only difference is that chicken meal is in dry form while chicken is in wet form.
Chicken meals are full of protein which helps in muscle growth and increases immunity in dogs. Moreover, it has a natural content of glucosamine that helps dogs to remain active by keeping their joints healthy.
Chicken Meal vs Chicken By-Product
Chicken by-product refers to grounded and rendered, clean parts of the carcasses of slaughtered chicken, for example, intestines, neck, feet and undeveloped eggs, but not including the feathers unless in an amount that is unavoidable during processing.
By comparison, chicken by-product is packed with nutrients but does not contain the meat itself like in chicken meals. Thus, chicken by-product is a cheaper alternative to chicken meal.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Chicken Free Dog Food
High quality, premium dog food usually has a high price. Premium products are not always necessarily better. It is more important to choose chicken free dog food that meets your dog’s nutritional diet needs.
The three stages of life in dogs are puppy, adolescent and old age. Dogs need different nutrition at each stage.
Since puppies are still growing and building their immune system, they require high animal protein and higher calorie count than adult and senior dogs. It is also easier to identify food sensitivities or allergies at a young age and introduce a special diet accordingly.
When a puppy enters the adolescent stage, the calorie intake and animal protein should be reduced to prevent them from being overweight. Some dogs may also develop sensitivity towards food at this stage.
It is more difficult to feed senior dogs with the correct type of food without poultry as some of them turn into picky eaters. They require food which is high in protein, fatty acids and fiber but has lower calories.
Dog’s Breed and Size
Large dog breeds have different nutrient requirements compared to smaller dog breeds. Due to their higher energy needs and larger body mass, larger breeds need food with more protein content.
Besides that, the speed of growth for large bones is influenced by optimized levels of calcium, vitamin D, fat, and phosphorus. Furthermore, small breeds may find it easier to eat bite-sized treats.
The ingredients list of packaged dog food will indicate whether the food is meat-based or vegetable-based. It is best to choose food that is meat-based and rich in protein.
Some of the less healthy ingredients that you may want to avoid since they have no nutritional value and only add more calories include
- Dyes or artificial colourings
- High sugar
- High salt
- Other solvents and preservatives such as BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin, and propylene glycol
Besides chicken, other common allergens are egg, wheat, beef, dairy, soy, lamb, fish, pork, and rabbit. It is vital for you to monitor your dog whenever you introduce these allergens to it and should be done singularly so that it is easier to pinpoint the allergen given, in case of allergy.
In short, chicken is one of the best sources of protein to be included in your dog’s diet due to the vast nutrients it contains. However, if your dog is allergic to this poultry, it is best to opt for chicken free dog food or other sources of meat.