Dogs sometimes have food sensitivities, evidenced by chronic itching, ear infections or other health problems. Feeding your dog a homemade, hypoallergenic diet is one way to address and resolve food sensitivity issues.
What is Hypoallergenic Food?
Merriam-Webster defines hypoallergenic as "having little likelihood of causing an allergic response." Indeed, there are no absolute guarantees that a specific food won't cause a reaction, however as with many things in life, there are certain foods that carry a high risk of causing reactions, and some that don't.
When creating a hypoallergenic menu for your dog, the key is to patch together proteins, fats and carbs that pose little risk, while simultaneously avoiding known offenders.
What to Avoid
Certain foods are known to be high risk. These include wheat gluten, corn, soy, and even beef. Unfortunately, many of these are found in dog food. Exposure to mold, spoiled food, chemicals and toxins can cause sickly reactions. Unfortunately, dog foods are not held to the same standards as human foods, therefore pet parents run a risk of their dog ingesting these items in commercial dog foods. Removing these from your dog's diet is a valuable first step.
What to Replace With
Removing known offenders cleans up your dog's diet, while allowing you to watch for improvement. As you take away the bad, replace with the good, adding small amounts of one ingredient at a time so you can monitor your dog's reactions. Try foods like chicken, turkey, fish, fresh vegetables, fruits and oils like salmon oil or coconut oil. Use fresh, quality foods as you take away any known allergy-producers, chemicals, and potentially contaminated or moldy items.
Creating the Menu
Generally, it is recommended that a dog's diet consist of at least 50 percent animal protein. So make meat the centerpiece. Fruits, veggies, and starches like rice and potatoes can make up about a quarter of the diet. To top it all off, add healthy fats and oils to your dog's diet. Using oils with essential fatty acids not only offers extra nutrition, but helps fight inflammation and improve skin condition--much needed for an itchy dog.
Getting used to a new diet takes time, and so does the healing process. If your pup has been chronically ill, it might take a few weeks for him to detox, and for you to see results. Introduce new foods slowly over a month or two, transitioning in a way that is gentle to your pup's body. With your help and the right food, he can come back to his old, healthy self.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.