When you catch your precious pup itching, scratching, biting, and otherwise seeming miserable, consider that your cuddly canine is showing symptoms of a food allergy. You might have already figured out this part, and if you’re looking for ways to prepare delicious homemade hypoallergenic dog food for your furry friend, we’ve got you covered.
Keep in mind, though, that it’s not easy to recommend specific foods until you do an elimination diet for your pup and figure out which food items trigger symptoms. However you can implement a special diet to find out, and then work with your vet to formulate nutritionally balanced, hypoallergenic dog food meals to keep your pet symptom-free, happy, and healthy.
Are Dog Food Allergies Really a Thing?
Food allergies and sensitivities affect dogs more than you would probably think. Just like us humans, when a dog gets exposed to an allergen its immune system starts to overreact. This response triggers the production of antibodies to certain foods and other items your dog would normally tolerate.
Your pup’s body often mounts an allergic reaction to one component of a food, such as a protein or complex carbohydrate. It takes time for your pet’s body to produce these antibodies, so allergies and sensitivities often don’t show up until Fido has been exposed to the item, such as a certain brand or type of store-bought food, for quite some time.
In dogs, allergy symptoms typically include itchy skin or tummy troubles such as gas, diarrhea, or vomiting. You might also see more subtle changes in your pet’s behavior such as low energy, weight loss, hyperactivity, or aggression.
Typical Allergy Triggers
Dogs love proteins, but this is one of the most common allergens in their diet. The offenders include beef, chicken, lamb, eggs from chickens, soy, and wheat gluten. Each time your pet feasts on a meal containing these ingredients, if they’re allergic, antibodies react and trigger an immune response such as skin itching.
Just about any dog food ingredient can trigger a reaction, including other food additives and substances, but protein usually tops the list of common allergens. If your pup’s food is triggering symptoms from an allergy or sensitivity, you may start to see itchy skin on your dog’s ears, paws, stomach, or rear end.
Your pup may also develop skin hives, also called urticaria, at any point from six to 24 hours after consuming a trigger food. You can see hives on a short-haired dog but may need to feel for them on dogs with longer fur. These itchy spots cause discomfort for your pet, which leads to biting, scratching, hair loss, open wounds, and possible infection. However, if your pup keeps getting paw or ear infections, this could indicate a food sensitivity, rather than an allergy.
Your canine might experience tummy trouble with gas, diarrhea, and possible vomiting. Some dogs also experience swelling of the eyelids, lips, or ear flaps.
How to Help Your Furry Friend
It’s a natural reaction to look for ways to help when you see your dog suffering. However, you can’t start a hypoallergenic diet until you have narrowed down the possible offenders in your pup’s past menu. The best way to test and diagnose your dog’s food allergy is to conduct a food elimination trial. This involves feeding a hypoallergenic diet for eight to 12 weeks, and then adding back food items one by one until you figure out which ones trigger a reaction. You may also want to explore the best dog food for allergies and see which one works best for your pooch.
Sadly, Fido will have to lay off the dog treats, table scraps, supplements, vitamins, and even heartworm preventatives during the elimination diet, so that you can remove all possible allergy causes. You also need to ensure that the elimination diet foods do not include any foods that your pup has eaten in the past.
Discuss your dog’s condition with your vet, and if you’re not having any luck with the elimination diet, see if your vet thinks that an allergy blood test, called a serum IgE test, makes sense to shed more light on your pet’s possible allergens.
Common-Sense Precautions for Homemade Dog Food Recipes
The only way to treat your pet’s allergies is to avoid trigger foods. Severe reactions may require medication, but most dogs get relief from symptoms with a hypoallergenic diet. If your dog is allergic to one substance, other dog food allergies may develop in the future. Also, be on the lookout for non-food allergies, such as grass, fleas, or atopy, which is an allergy to inhaled substances.
Making homemade dog food gives you the freedom to try various food items, and easily change up your dog’s diet if needed. Before you start seeking out recipes for gourmet, homemade dog food, take note of the following common problems with homemade dog food. Heeding these tips will keep your dog from becoming sick due to its new diet.
- Using raw or undercooked meat, which can cause E. coli or salmonella poisoning
- Including ingredients that sound great but are very toxic to dogs, such as raisins, grapes, garlic, onions, macadamia nuts, the sweetener Xylitol, or any products that contain Xylitol such as sweetened peanut butter
- Changing your dog’s food abruptly, which can cause digestive problems
- Feeding the same meal repeatedly, with minimal ingredients and missing important nutrients
Talk to your vet about any changes you make to your dog’s diet, especially if your pet has any medical conditions. They can help you in understanding dog nutrition and building nutritionally-balanced meals that will keep your dog happy and begging for more.
Proper Nutritional Value
When preparing hypoallergenic meals for your dog, as long as the food meets your dog’s nutritional needs, it’s not important whether you make or buy the food. However, home-prepared dog food often lacks many of the key nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy.
According to vets at Tufts University’s Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, the majority of homemade dog food recipes lack important nutrients . In other words, don’t take home-prepared hypoallergenic dog food recipes lightly. Heed this advice especially if you want to feed homemade dog food to your puppy. Most vets strongly advise using store-bought food until your dog grows older and has fully developed.
You can find hundreds of hypoallergenic dog food recipes from various sources, and some sources have more credibility than others. Here’s one tip: A quality, nutritionally complete homemade dog food recipe includes precise amounts of each ingredient, such as 100 grams of baked chicken breast and 45 grams of boiled, mashed sweet potatoes. These precise amounts indicate that the recipe ingredients and amounts were calculated specifically to ensure that the outcome was nutritionally balanced and complete.
The recipes should also have some type of added dog vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, calcium, iron, essential fatty acids, and zinc. While it sounds ideal to supply all your dog’s nutrition in the form of whole foods, this goal is not realistic or achievable, and pet foods must have concentrated supplements added to make up the gap in nutrition.
You can get an idea of how to calculate and formulate your dog’s hypoallergenic homemade dog food recipes by using a nutrient-balancing food calculator. Before buying any vitamins or other additives for dogs with allergies, ask your vet which supplements make the most sense for your specific pet’s health, age, weight, and other factors.
Many of the pet nutrients on the market don’t contain enough of the right vitamins and minerals to complete a homemade dog food diet, so you may need to obtain more concentrated supplements directly from your vet.
Homemade Hypoallergenic Dog Food Recipes:
The following two recipes can give you an idea of the types of ingredients and proportions you’ll need to supply your own dog food and keep your pup well-fed and healthy. The recipes include different options so that you can avoid any food items that trigger symptoms in your pet.
Recipe #1) Cooked Chicken and Veggies
Try this simple homemade dog food recipe from Founders Veterinary Clinic for canines weighing 20 pounds. Cut in half for 10-pound pups, and double for 40-pound dogs.
- 1/4 lb. skinless, cooked chicken
- 1 cup rice, cooked
- 1 cup carrots & peas
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/4 teaspoon potassium chloride (salt substitute product, such as Nu Salt)
You can make substitutions of boned fish for the protein source, and potato for the carbohydrate. They recommend adding bonemeal powder or calcium citrate to prevent your canine from developing a calcium deficiency. The site also recommends a daily canine multivitamin.
Recipe #2) You Choose: Protein, Carbs, and Fats Options
For this recipe, you can choose any protein such as dark chicken meat, lamb, pork, turkey, eggs, or beef as long as you keep the same proportions in the overall recipe.
For carbohydrates, choose from white rice, pasta, brown rice, sweet potato, peas, barley, oatmeal, or corn.
Cook any meat or grains before using them. You can add either cooked or uncooked vegetables.
Fiber options include bell pepper, carrots, baby spinach, green beans, broccoli, or squash. Limit these fibrous veggies to no more than 10% of your pet’s total diet.
For dogs weighing up to 15 pounds:
- 3 oz. cooked protein (beef, chicken, eggs, etc.)
- 1 1/3 cups cooked carbohydrates (rice, peas, barley, oatmeal, sweet potato)
- 1 tablespoon vegetables, cooking optional (carrots, green beans bell peppers, etc.)
- 1-2 teaspoons fat (vegetable oil)
For dogs weighing 30 pounds:
- 4.5 oz. cooked protein (beef, chicken, eggs, etc.)
- 2 cups cooked carbohydrates (rice, peas, barley, oatmeal, sweet potato)
- 1.5 tablespoon vegetables, cooking optional (carrots, green beans bell peppers, etc.)
- 2-3 teaspoons fat (vegetable oil)
For dogs weighing 60 pounds:
- 8 oz. cooked protein (beef, chicken, eggs, etc.)
- 3.5 cups cooked carbohydrates (rice, peas, barley, oatmeal, sweet potato)
- 3 tablespoon vegetables, cooking optional (carrots, green beans bell peppers, etc.)
- 3-5 teaspoons fat (vegetable oil)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Can I Feed My Hypoallergenic Dog?
This is a tough question to answer until you have tracked down the items that could be triggering your pup’s allergic reaction. Often, certain proteins cause allergy symptoms, so you could try feeding different proteins such as lamb, salmon, pork, or bison. Talk to your vet before switching, because abrupt diet changes can cause your dog to have stomach issues. If you choose to make your hypoallergenic dog food at home, ask your vet for nutritionally balanced recipes to keep your pup healthy and vibrant.
Does Homemade Dog Food Help with Itching?
Homemade dog food on its own will not stop your dog’s itching, unfortunately. Speak with your vet about starting your dog on an elimination diet to narrow down any possible allergy-triggering foods. Then work with your vet to create some homemade dog food recipes that exclude these ingredients, while including all of the components to keep your dog healthy, happy, and itch-free.