In the past, it was common for us to feed our dogs any food without giving much consideration to the ingredients. Most of us would buy food that was on special offer in the supermarket or feed our dogs leftovers without realizing that there may be consequences. This haphazard approach to our pet’s diet often does the trick and our canine friends live a long and healthy life. However, we are now coming to realize that a change in dog food could resolve several health complaints in our four-legged friends.
We spoke to Raheela, who owns a pet shop in Glasgow.
Nowadays, there is an increasing trend towards higher quality dog food, in particular, dog food branded as ‘hypoallergenic’. Vets are even prescribing a change of diet to cure common ailments in pets. But what exactly is hypoallergenic dog food? Why might your dog need it, and how do you know which choice is right for your pet?
What is Hypoallergenic Dog Food?
Hypoallergenic means ‘relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction’. Hypoallergenic dog food is created to reduce and prevent the effects of food allergies in your dog.
Do Dogs Really Have Food Allergies?
Yes, dogs with food allergies are far more common than you may think.
When our dog has an allergic reaction to food it means that their digestive system has overreacted to a protein that they have eaten. As you know, proteins are found in meat products. You may not be aware that they can also be found in dairy, vegetables, and grains. Dairy, wheat, and beef are the most common problematic ingredients for pets.
Dogs also suffer intolerances and sensitivities due to unsuitable diets the same way we humans can. In the same way, we avoid artificial preservatives in our own diets, we should avoid certain ingredients in our dog’s food too. Some of the most popularly used ingredients to avoid include:
- White Flour
- Corn Syrup
- Propylene Glycol
- Artificial Colours
While these ingredients may not cause an allergic reaction, they can have adverse effects on long term health, coat quality, and energy levels. They can also cause sickness and stomach aches.
Symptoms To Look Out For
If your dog is suffering from any of the following symptoms, he or she may be suffering due to their current diet:
- Ear Infections
- Runny Eyes and/or nose
- Soft or runny stools
- Skin Problems
- Foot Infections
- Lackluster coat (hair loss)
- Sickness and Dihorea
- Soft or Runny Stools
Can You Prevent Allergies in Your Dog?
Yes and no. Allergies occur when your dog has been overexposed to one ingredient that does not agree with them. It is common for dogs to eat the exact same brand of food for years before an allergy presents itself. In theory, regularly swapping around flavors and ingredients in your dog’s food could help resolve or slow this issue. That being said, this could cause problems further down the line. If your dog starts to have a more severe reaction to food later, it will be much harder to find them a new or ‘novel’ food that they have never eaten before.
What is a Novel Ingredient?
A novel ingredient is one that isn’t generally used in pet foods. If you find that your dog is generally sensitive in terms of diet or has allergies it can be a good idea to buy food with a novel ingredient included. Chances are they have never eaten it before so will not have a bad reaction. Examples of novel ingredients in dog foods are; sweet potato, duck, and salmon.
How to choose Hypoallergenic Dog
If you or your vet suspect that your dog is suffering from allergic reactions or food intolerances it is time to make a change in diet. Your best bet is to opt for hypoallergenic dog food. With so many options available, how do you know which one is right for your companion?
It may be the case that your vet has brought your dogs allergies to your attention and recommended a particular brand of hypoallergenic dog food. In extreme cases, it may even be subscribed by your vet. If this is the case please remember that vets are often affiliated with certain brands. While it should be safe for your pet there is no harm in double-checking the list of ingredients before feeding this new food to your pet. It is also recommended that you do not purchase this directly from our vet in bulk as it is likely to be sold with a huge markup. A more financially savvy way is to buy one or two cans from your vet before purchasing it in bulk online.
Limited Ingredients Recipes
Focus on a limited ingredients list. When choosing dog food, you never want to pick one with more than ten ingredients, aim for under five. This will help ensure that your dog is only consuming high-quality foods and limits the risk of eating any of the unhealthy additives and preservatives that we mentioned earlier. There are loads of options with only two ingredients (a carbohydrate and a protein) for example chicken and rice, or beef and potato. If you are keen to know exactly what food your dog reacts badly to these can be used to carry out a process of elimination.
A lot of hypoallergenic dog food options contain novel ingredients. If you already know your dog is showing signs of severe allergy or you have struggled to find a food that works during a long process of elimination then focus on novel ingredients. Two ingredient options for novel foods include ‘duck and sweet potato’ or ‘salmon and butternut squash’.
Unfortunately, the terms ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘sensitive’ are not regulated so always read the ingredients list carefully. The front packing could say ‘Sensitive Dog Food with Salmon and Sweet Potato’. The ingredients list on the back may reveal that the product also contains beef, wheat, and MSG, which is useless if you are trying to avoid these ingredients.
Switching your dog’s food, whatever the circumstances, should always be done gradually. It is recommended that you consult your vet before making the change. As a general rule, the new food should be introduced by replacing 25% of their existing food for the first week, then 50% the second week, and 75% for at least four days.