The goal of hypoallergenic dog food is to provide optimum nutrition without creating additional health problems for a dog with food allergies.
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The Elimination Diet
The first challenge facing you after your dog is diagnosed with a food allergy is determining a diet that your dog can eat safely. You can determine this by feeding your pet an elimination diet that provides new sources of protein and carbohydrates that your dog has never eaten before.
For many years, lamb and rice were key components of an allergy elimination diet because they were not commonly found ingredients in commercial pet food. In the 1990s, pet food manufacturers began marketing lamb-and-rice diets, so other protein sources, such as fish, venison, rabbit or duck, need to be explored.
Unusual carbohydrate sources, such as sweet potatoes or oats, are often paired with the new protein source because sometimes it`s the carbohydrates that cause an allergic reaction in sensitive dogs.
Don`t Add Treats!
When feeding your dog the elimination diet, stick to it. Don`t allow your dog to chew on rawhides or eat commercial treats. You may even have to change his heartworm medication temporarily in order for the diet to help your veterinarian determine which ingredients in your dog`s current diet are creating the allergic reaction.
In most cases, the elimination diet becomes the dog`s new diet if it does not cause an allergic reaction. You may need to purchase your dog`s new diet from your veterinarian`s office, or you may be able to buy it from your pet supply store. Many owners prefer all-natural or organic diets because they are less likely to contain chemical additives that may cause problems in sensitive pets.
Hydrolyzed Protein Diets
After a food allergy diagnosis is confirmed, some owners opt to feed their dogs a newer type of hypoallergenic diet: the hydrolyzed protein diet. Manufacturers of these diets, which are available from veterinarians, alter the dietary protein molecules to make them too small to create an allergic response by a dog`s immune system.
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If you have the time and interest, you may be able to create a home-cooked diet for your allergic dog. A good homemade diet should contain hypoallergenic protein and carbohydrate sources, along with some vegetables, vitamins and minerals. Work closely with your veterinarian to ensure that the diet you create is complete and balanced for your dog. Most veterinarians recommend trying a commercial diet first and resorting to a homemade diet only if your dog doesn`t respond well to the commercial diet.
Some owners find their allergic dogs` clinical signs are alleviated by feeding a raw diet to their pets. Such diets typically contain raw meat, bones and organs. If you choose to feed this type of diet to your dog, work with your veterinarian to ensure it`s nutritionally complete.