In this article, I’ll cover:
This article is the 5th part of my 5 part series about Allergies in Dogs. Here is the list for you if you have missed them:
- Allergies in Dogs [Part 1]: Symptoms, Causes, and Why you need to go with your gut
- Dog Food Allergies vs Food Intolerance: The big difference [Part 2]
- What Are Dogs Allergic To? [Part 3]
- Hypoallergenic Dog Diet: How To Do It at Home Better Than Any Kibble
- Part 5: This article
Once you have established a hypoallergenic diet for your dog (see part 4), you are hopefully seeing some positive results from this gentle, base diet. If so, maintain this diet for at least a month of undisturbed health, which gives your dog and you time to relax and recuperate.
After a month of good health, you will want to start testing your dog on new proteins to see what they can and cannot tolerate. This is called an elimination or exclusion diet.
The importance of an elimination diet for dogs
An elimination diet is a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating potential food triggers from your dog’s diet. The process involves removing commonly problematic ingredients (see part 3 for the top causes of food intolerance in dogs) and gradually introducing single proteins, one at a time, closely monitoring the dog’s response.
This helps to determine the specific ingredient which may be causing the intolerance and empowers you to tailor your dog’s diet to alleviate symptoms while healing the damaged gut at the same time.
The elimination diet can be a powerful tool for managing allergies in dogs. By using fresh food as the foundation of the diet, you can eliminate common allergens and provide a nutrient-rich, biologically appropriate diet.
The advantages of feeding a fresh food diet to dogs with allergies
When it comes to the elimination diet, fresh food offers several advantages. Firstly, it allows for better control over the ingredients included in the diet, minimizing the risk of hidden allergens. As mentioned in Part 3, commercial, ultra-processed dog food often contains fillers, additives, and grains that can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive dogs. By preparing fresh food at home, using a single protein at a time, you can carefully select high-quality, hypoallergenic ingredients tailored to your dog’s needs.
Additionally, fresh food diets provide a wide range of essential nutrients that support overall health and strengthen the immune system. This can be particularly beneficial for dogs with allergies, as a strong immune system can better cope with allergens and reduce the severity of allergic reactions.
How to carry out an elimination diet
So, you have removed the potential triggers (such as wheat etc.) and eased the burden on the immune system, your dog has been eating the base diet for at least a month and is also receiving some probiotics and other gut healing supplements, as detailed in part 4, and all is going well.
Now is the time to introduce a different protein; it’s time for a test.
- Where possible, introduce a novel, single protein, something your dog has unlikely eaten before, such as rabbit, ostrich etc. If this is not possible, try something such as duck. We want to avoid chicken and beef at this stage. Try to buy organic, pasture/grass-fed meats and avoid buying intensively reared meats.
- You may want to cook the meat lightly, as cooked food can ease the pressure on the digestive system. (only lightly cook)
- Introduce the new protein to the base diet, adding a pinch to the bowl daily for a week. Observe your dog for any negative reactions.
- If there are no adverse reactions to the new protein, hey presto, you now have another protein you can feed your dog. If there is a reaction, stop adding the new protein, take a note and return to the baseline diet for a week for the dog to recharge.
- Test one new protein each 2-3 weeks from this point until you have exhausted every ingredient you wish to add to your dog’s diet.
- It is vital to remember that these must be single proteins, no added vegetables, and even the treats need to match the protein you are trying at that time. See our article on homemade treats for some inspiration.
Don’t panic – the elimination diet is not for life!
It is important to remember that an elimination diet is not forever.
Of course, dogs need a varied diet, and more common proteins can be introduced, but this all takes time, and there is no “one size fits all” or specific timeline, and there may be some foods that your dog will never be able to tolerate, and that’s fine too.
Sticking to the food your dog tolerates is more important at this healing time. Be patient, as the hard work you’re putting in now will pay off later on.
We aim to discover which foods are causing your dog an issue alongside healing their gut, which will eventually lead to a diverse diet rich in all kinds of biologically appropriate fresh foods – which will support your dog’s overall health for life.
1. Will raw food stop my dog from itching?
While we advocate a diet of fresh/raw food, as we have explained previously, jumping straight to raw food for a chronically itchy dog will not be a magic fix. As stated in part one and our Canine Allergy Course – this is due to more complex issues.
Coming off the dry/canned, ultra-processed commercial foods and moving to raw/fresh food, using the elimination diet, and healing the gut will be the best first step forward to discovering what is causing your dog’s issues, not to mention more digestible and delicious for your best friend.
Dogs are individuals; what works for one may not work for another, but we can assure you that they are not likely to improve while eating a diet of ultra-processed meat meal, wheat, chicken feathers and rancid fats!
2. What type of meat is best for dogs with allergies?
As stated in this article, all dogs are individuals. While one dog may be able to eat lamb, for example, without any issues, this may send another dog running for the garden or scratching herself to distraction.
While in the elimination phase, as already mentioned, novel proteins may be a great idea, something your dog would not have eaten before, not even in the dizzying dry foods; some try goat, kangaroo and horse. The immune system is less likely to react to these as they would not have been presented with them before.
Avoid beef and chicken at this stage, as they are the top proteins likely to elicit a negative response in a sensitive dog.
3. Can food allergies cause yeast infections in dogs?
Absolutely! One of the most common causes of yeast infections is an undiagnosed and untreated allergy or sensitivity to certain foods. If you keep eating the problem proteins, your immune system will be on constant allergy, under constant siege.
Over time, chronic inflammation disturbs the gut and its ability to function. A shift in gut flora is the inevitable result.
This raging internal inflammation, coupled with a shift in gut flora, begins to materialize on the skin or in the ear, which swells and heats up, becoming itchy, agitating the dog, and upsetting the skin flora.
This yeast can grow exponentially with skin flora balance suffering, particularly when warm, wet, and well-fed.
In most cases, the dog is on a poor diet, usually (but not always) ultra-processed, chemically preserved (upsetting the gut flora), and almost always high in carbohydrates (cereal, potato, rice, fruit, etc.).
Yeast loves sugar/carbs and needs it to multiply – even more reason to get your dog off that carb-laden food.