The Ultimate Guide to Hypoallergenic Dog Food

Hypoallergenic Dog Food

Hypoallergenic Dog Food

Do you have a dog that suffers from food allergies? If so, you’ve likely struggled to find the right hypoallergenic dog food. With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to choose one that will truly agree with your pup.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about hypoallergenic dog food. We’ll define what makes a food truly hypoallergenic, examine the most common food allergies in dogs, and provide reviews and recommendations for the top brands. By the end, you’ll be fully equipped to select the perfect hypoallergenic kibble or wet food for your allergy-prone pooch.

What Makes a Dog Food Hypoallergenic?

The term “hypoallergenic” gets thrown around a lot in the pet food industry, but not all so-called allergy foods are created equal. For a food to rightfully claim to be hypoallergenic, it needs to meet some key criteria:

Limited Ingredients: True hypoallergenic dog foods only use a small number of novel, or unusual, protein sources that your dog is unlikely to have developed an intolerance or sensitivity to in the past. This usually means only one or two proteins like salmon, duck or rabbit.


No Common Allergens: Ingredients that commonly trigger food allergies in dogs like beef, chicken, soy, wheat and corn are strictly avoided. Other potential irritants like preservatives, colors and flavors are also left out.

Easily Digestible: The proteins and carbohydrates in hypoallergenic foods are highly digestible so they are less likely to cause an inflammatory response. The nutrition is also easier for sensitive stomachs to absorb.

Proven Track Record: Leading hypoallergenic brands will have scientifically studied their formulas and been proven effective through clinical trials with allergenic dogs. Anecdotal success stories alone don’t qualify a food.

Unless a dog food meets all of these criteria, you can’t be fully certain it will actually avoid triggering your pup’s food allergies. When shopping for a hypoallergenic kibble, look for labels that clearly define limited ingredients and call out common food triggers omitted from the formula.

The Most Common Food Allergies in Dogs

There are a few main proteins and ingredients that commonly cause food allergies or sensitivities in our canine companions. Knowing which ones to avoid in your dog’s diet can help narrow down your hypoallergenic dog food options.

  • Beef: As one of the most commonly used meat fillers, beef is a frequent culprit. Symptoms include itchy skin, gastrointestinal upset, recurrent ear infections.
  • Chicken: Another very common protein that dogs often develop intolerances to. Watch for digestive issues, red irritated skin, asthma-like symptoms.
  • Pork: While less ubiquitous than beef or chicken, pork is in many mixed-protein foods and seasonings. It can trigger similar reactions.
  • Soy: Soy is additive in many commercial pet foods as a protein filler. Soy intolerances present with skin rashes, vomiting, diarhea.
  • Wheat: Found in many grain-based dog foods, wheat is a top food sensitivity. Look for scratching, skin flakes or hot spots with wheat.
  • Corn: As a common carbohydrate filler, corn sensitivity shows up as itchy skin, vomiting or gastrointestinal distress.
  • Dairy: Both cow’s milk and dairy products like cheese can cause food intolerance reactions in some dogs like diarrhea and vomiting.

If your dog exhibits any of the above symptoms which recur or worsen after eating, it’s a good sign they may have a food intolerance that requires a limited ingredient or novel protein hypoallergenic diet. Keep reading for diet recommendations.

Top Hypoallergenic Dog Food Brand Recommendations

Now that you understand what truly qualifies as a hypoallergenic dog food and the most common food allergies, here are some of the best researched and reviewed limited ingredient brands to consider:

1. Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d

  • Protein sources: Duck, chicken
  • Fewer than 6 ingredients total
  • Clinically proven through dermatological studies
  • Veterinarian recommended
  • Easy to find at vet offices and pet stores

Hill’s z/d sets the gold standard for hypoallergenic dog foods. Its simple limited ingredient formula of duck and chicken has been shown to reduce skin symptoms in 90% of allergen-positive dogs. It’s a vet trusted brand.

2. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein

  • Protein source: Hydrolyzed protein
  • Ultra limited single protein
  • Specially processed protein breaks down molecules
  • Highly digestible for sensitive stomachs
  • Clinically tested through allergy trials

Royal Canin’s Hydrolyzed line goes beyond limited ingredients to a fully pre-digested protein source. This makes it viable even for dogs with severe food allergies. It often succeeds where other limited ingredient diets fail.

3. Purina Pro Plan HA

  • Protein sources: Single lamb or salmon
  • Less than 10 total ingredients
  • Purina’s research resources for ongoing studies
  • More affordable than prescription brands
  • Good option for dogs with intolerances vs. full allergies

Purina’s HA line provides novel limited protein options at a lower cost. It uses either salmon or lamb as the sole protein and avoids the most common food sensitizers. The formula continues to be improved based on Purina research.

4. California Natural Salmon & Pea

  • Protein sources: Salmon, pea protein
  • Limited plant-based carbohydrate
  • For dogs sensitive to meat-based proteins
  • Novel protein sources from wild-caught salmon
  • Hypoallergenic whole food kibble option

California Natural offers a whole food hypoallergenic option if your dog can’t tolerate typical meat-based proteins either. The salmon and pea protein formula provides gentle nutrition with minimal ingredients.

5. Fromm Gold Urban Carnivore

  • Protein source: Single source of rabbit
  • Limited to 10 total ingredients
  • Family owned company, all natural foods
  • Novel protein choice for sensitive dogs
  • Holistic grain-free kibble recipe

From provides a rabbit-only option for serious food allergies. With its commitment to quality nutrition and limited ingredients, it can succeed where chicken, beef and other common proteins cause issues.

Additional Tips for Managing Food Allergies

While selecting a proven hypoallergenic diet is key, there are some additional tips that can help optimize outcomes:

  • Slowly transition foods over 10-14 days to prevent digestive upset.
  • Bathe your dog at least once a week to help alleviate itchy skin symptoms.
  • Consider trying a hydrolyzed protein diet if regular limited ingredient foods don’t resolve issues.
  • Track symptoms daily in a journal to identify any non-food triggers or chronic irritations.
  • Consult your vet about allergy testing like intradermal skin tests or blood IgE tests if diet changes don’t help.
  • Don’t allow people to sneak your dog extra foods which could re-expose them to allergens.
  • Clean all dishes, beds and surfaces weekly with pet-safe cleaners to remove dander and residue.
  • Be patient, as it can take 4-6 weeks on a novel diet to see noticeable improvements.
  • Use anti-itch sprays, medicated baths or oils if symptoms flare up during the adjustment period.

With strict diet management and environmental controls, the vast majority of dogs with food sensitivities can achieve relief on a carefully selected hypoallergenic kibble or wet food. Consistency is key—but it’s worth it for a happily healthy pup.