Keeping dogs out of vets since 2011

Allergies in Dogs – Part 4 What to do: Hypoallergenic Dog Food

Now That You’re Getting to Grips with the Cause of Your Dog’s Predicament, What Does a Hypoallergenic Dog Food Look Like?!

Now that you understand what to take OUT of the diet in order to alleviate the symptoms of what you are seeing on the surface, next you need to know what to put IN to the diet to both repair and nourish him in the future.

Enter hypoallergenic dog food. Hypoallergenic essentially means very unlikely to cause a problem in your dog. It’s important to rehighlight what you learned in section 1 here and that is single protein dry foods, often sold under the pretence of “hypoallergenic” (despite having hundreds of ingredients and chemicals!) are absolutely not recommended. Ricci et al. (2013) looked at 12 limited ingredient commercial foods intended for use in food elimination trials for dogs with adverse food reactions. Ten of the 12 foods studied contained ingredients of animal and fish origin that were not listed on the label. Please go back to Section 1 if you need more convincing on this crucial point.

A dry, ultra-processed diet is likely the cause of your dog’s issues and a fresh, homemade raw dog food is the only answer. We’re going to keep it really simple as we don’t yet know which proteins might be causing him problems. We are going to feed him a simple, hypoallergenic dog food, one made on fresh meat, bone and some veg. From that point, we will carefully conduct an exclusion diet, this is the process of cycling carefully through each meat protein over time, asking the body what it is OK with and what it doesn’t like. This is a cheap and easy but highly definitive way of finding out exactly what is bothering your dog and what to avoid in the future. And, needless to say, he is going to ADORE his new meat-filled regime.

Note: It is important to keep up whatever pills you have been prescribed for the short term and please finish any courses of antibiotics that your vet has invariably prescribed up to this point. You can start very slowly coming off steroid or NSAID tablets from day 3. Slow is key, for example if on one tablet, reduce by a quarter every two days. We don’t know where we are as long as these tablets are in there shutting the immune system off. It’s our warning simple. We’re now going to work with the body, which is the correct road to recover.

Picking the Right Protein to Start Off With is Crucial…

We need to find a safe meat protein that works for your dog. You have three options to determine this:

  1. You no doubt have been making a mental list of all the stuff that hasn’t been. So have a good think there, is there a meat that doesn’t cause his issues? Turkey? Duck? Pork? Lamb? Unless you know they’re OK we usually leave out chicken or beef as so many dry foods are based on these proteins. If his gut is shot there is a chance it’s leaky and if that’s the case we might be sensitive to that protein (and many other proteins that were in the mix, on purpose or otherwise). If you know one or two options then you start with them. That’s your hypoallergenic diet. Simple as that.
  2. Many of you may already have conducted a food allergy test and you’re sitting there with a NASA-esque list in your hand of possible food allergens in your dog. These tests have issues but still if the protein is NOT on that list, it’s a good place to start.
  3. If you want to wing it, which is very doable, simply pick a meat that you think your dog hasn’t had yet. Pork? Duck? Lamb? Goat?! 

Picking Your Meats…

You are going to begin by making a broth. This means you need meat and bones from that same animal. So, a broth of all turkey bits, or lamb, or pork, etc. 

For the meats you want the good stuff. Best you can afford. Organic if possible (it just eliminates more potential issues). But it’s not vital. You are looking for meat on the bone as you are about to make bone broth with it. You can use your local butcher or supermarket or perhaps easier still (certainly if you’re in Ireland or the UK) or use an online raw dog food supplier like Paleo Ridge or the Dogs Butcher. 


To make a turkey broth you could simply go out and buy a whole organic turkey (ideally with all the giblets inside). You would roughly chop it up and away you go. Or a whole duck. 

To make 5kg of lamb mix: Pick up 3kg of Paleo Ridge lamb necks (3kg), 1kg og lamb hearts (1kg) and 1kg of lamb tripe (1kg). If you can find a little lamb liver (250g) pop that in too. If that works, you’re in the UK Paleo do a lamb complete in the Paleo Plus range

If you wanted to make 5kg of a duck mix, you’d pick up 2kg duck carcass from the Dogs Butcher (add in a bag of duck feet, duck gizzard and duck wings while you’re there too!). If that works, Paleo Ridge have a great, single protein complete duck mix if you need. 

The above diets are simple, nutritious. We are hoping the very first one we try works, he eats is and he doesn’t have any of his symptoms. We want a few weeks of good health before we move on. However, it might not work first time, be ready for that. I usually tell folk to get two types of meat. Work with one and have the te not always the case. Prepare yourself for that. hypoallergenic diet for your dog as we can get at the moment (meaning they’re unlikely to cause a reaction). They are also infinitely better than any dry food and easily half the price. Remember every patient is different so one diet may work well for some and not for others, it’s the nature of the disease.

Bits You can add to help settle and soothe their troubled gut…

Try not to add any other food ingredients at this time as it may fudge the results, but a couple of natural supplements might help here. First is good quality omega 3 (you want the refined stuff, high in EPA & DHA). If he has gut problems you can add some chamomile for digestion (make a strong cup of tea and add a few tablespoons to your broth) and some slippery elm which helps restore his gut lining. Our product BioFunction8 is based on these two organic herbs and a couple of other inclusions that would work well here too.

There are three other things you need to pick up. They are:

  1. Canine Probiotics. You can read up more about canine probiotics here but the short of it is your dogs gut flora is going to be in complete disarray and they run the show in there. Pick up canine probiotics (don’t use human ones, we eat different food). Find some here on Amazon
  2. Colostrum is the yellow liquid that comes before breast milk. It is full of goodies that can help repair your dogs damaged gut lining, most notably here is a whole lot of IgG and growth factors.
  3. Certain supplements can help strengthen the gut lining, such as l-glutamine which is an amino acid that occurs naturally in your body and is synthesised in your muscles. It has a range of functions but studies show it plays a crucial role in healing the gastro-intestinal tract.

Make sure they’re getting chlorine-free water for the whole process…

Water from your tap contains chlorine and chlorine is there to kill bacteria. Your gut flora will be washed in the very same “disinfectant” and are not going to appreciate it. Thus, as an extra special step, consider what water you are giving him. Rainwater is good. Distilled water (boiled and cooled) another. Filtered water is better but not all filters remove chlorine. A cheap and efficient way of removing chlorine from their water is with charcoal sticks. Keep a big 2L bottle of water (at room temp) with one of these sticks inside it. 

Save money by “reactivating” the charcoal by boiling it for 10mins and letting it dry. Once spent, they make excellent fertiliser. Cheap to buy, you’ll find a good variety on Amazon.  

charcoal sticks can be used as a water filter


Day 1 No Food

Starve Pups for one meal, Starve Adults for two meals. The gut needs to be purged of all the possible junk inside. To achieve this, do not feed the dog and leave out fresh water (boiled and then cooled) with a nice dollop of local honey and good quality salt dissolved into it.

Day 2 – 14 Ideally Begin on Broth

If you suspect it’s not too bad, feel free to start on the raw. It usually works fine. However, I have to assume your dog’s gut is currently in a bad way. Years of repeated abuse from ultra-processed food and drugs to suppress symptoms can leave many, particularly the white-coated breeds, with something akin to leaky gut. This is where their gut has deteriorated to the point that little gaps have developed through which food proteins and bad bacteria can pass. This is bad news as they can now enter the bloodstream partially but not completely digested. So we treat all gut sick dogs the same way. It’s no harm and likely very beneficial, as you will soon see.

Bone broth is amazing at fixing those little holes. There are copious amounts of studies and articles on bone broth online, we don’t need to get into it too much here. In essence, the process of broth extracts vital nutrients from bone and cartilage, notably collagen, proline, glycine, arginine and glutamine. These babies have a variety of serious health benefits from boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation and are central to repair. For fixing leaky gut, nothing can get near them.

a pot of bone broth for dogs

To make your broth, simple put your meat and bone pieces into a very large pot and cover with water, boil and then simmer for 12hrs or so. Over time the fat will float to the top and the meat and bone likely separate on the bottom. When cool, simply remove the cooked bones and bin. The rest is your dog’s dinner.

How much do you feed? Well, let him guide you. Start with largely the juice to ease him into it. He’ll adore it. You’ll have an idea of how much mix you used at the start. Let’s say 5kg of meat, bone and veg. Assume 1/4 of it was bone which you bin. So he has 3.6kg of food there (water excluded). Well, if your dog needs 2.5% of his body weight per day (use our handy online raw dog food calculator to help you here) and he weighs 10kg (22lbs), then you know he needs 250g (0.6lbs) of this per day. Or, in other words, he has nearly 14 days of food there. Something like that, it’s not an exact science at this point. If he’s ravenous, give him more! We’re happy he’s eating (and holding it in).

Day 7: Think About Coming Slowly Off Any Immuno-Suppressing Drugs

Disclaimer: While it pains me to say it I must pre-empt this part with “always talk to your vet first before doing anything with his medications”. However, I urge you to consider who you are paying for advice. Remember the situation you are in. If your vet consistently recommends ultra-processed food and drugs for your dog and they are not recovering you might suspect they have not received a day’s worth of canine nutrition information worth a lick. You need to find a natural vet in your area, at least one that supports this way of doing things, and have them hold your hand through the process. Print out this article, show it to them and get their opinion on each step.

Remember, that slow and steady is the way to come off those drugs. I mean, if we get him down from 1 tablet to a half over the course of the week that is GREAT news. You are saving money and his kidneys. If you drop it another quarter and he flares up, go back to where you were. Too soon, we’ll try again in a few days.

Studies of humans show that steroids can hammer your vitamin D content. Vitamin D is crucial to the whole process so consider picking up some Vitamin D and adding it to your dog’s diet. Dose according to body size is fine (or, if you want to be technical, 300-500 IU per day for a 20kg dog)

Day 15: Start Moving Him Off Broth and Onto the Real Deal

Studies show that it can take 5-8 weeks for a change in diet to really pay off. However, in our experience, the majority of dogs with recurring skin or gut conditions, particularly the later, start to see improvements from Day 3 or 4 of this broth diet. Runny bums can often dry up by now. Poos ideally should be firm and not so smelly. The redness on his skin might be easing but will not disappear for weeks. If the eyes were weeping they might have stopped by now.

At this point, I’d be moving him onto the real deal. Simply cook your broth less. If you left it on for 12hrs, simple leave it on for 6hrs the next time (and make slightly less of it), then 3hrs the next time, slowly acclimatising his gut to the new raw protein. Soon he will be eating, loving and thriving upon his new single protein raw dog food mix (find a good range of single protein complete mixes from Paleo).

If you are new to raw feeding please first read our article on everything about raw dog food in 10mins, it will explain how to store it, introduce it and how much to feed.

If, for some reason, he never settled from day 1, where everything was awful with him really from the start, drugs or not, and each day he was no better, I would stop with that broth and move back to the food he was on previously for a week. If there is no safe option you need make up your next broth quick. It’s unlikely to happen twice.

Note: There is a known process in healing where the body gets better in stages. So, they may have a good day or two and then there’s a splurge of diarrhoea or outbreak of a skin condition or his eyes weep, etc. If you see this remember what you have learned from Section 1-3. These organs are exit points for toxins. The body is emptying the bin. While we don’t want him in any discomfort, of course, you may need to try ride it out a little. It shouldn’t last more than a day. Two tops. Stop feeding dogs with diarrhoea (get some tips on dogs with diarrhoea here) and we’ll slowly reintroduce his food after 24hrs.

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I now do 1 to 1 Zoom consultations. Nutrition. Health. New pup.
A photo of Dr. Conor Brady of Dogs First

Day 21: If his skin is bad, Think About Some Skin Healing & Immune Boosting Supplements…

To alleviate some of the food intolerance symptoms that are being displayed, we recommend introducing natural anti-inflammatories into the diet. These are best introduced on Day 5 or after, so we can see if the simple diet is working or not. I wouldn’t pop them in until I can see improvements as, should he deteriorate after they go in, I know they’re the cause and not the diet.

One of the most powerful anti-inflammatories you can make at home is Golden Turmeric Paste. There is a lot of solid scientific evidence behind it, and it really works. We strongly recommend introducing it into the diet. Do a Google and see how many people and dogs benefit from it.

If your dog is suffering bad itch, maybe check out our article on Itchy Dogs. There are lots of ideas and remedies in there. 

Week 6: Now That He’s on the Mend we Need to Conduct an Exclusion Diet to Find out What was Causing all the Trouble…

We hope over the last few weeks your dog has gotten steadily better. He should be happier, more vibrant but calmer and whatever issues he had should have eased to a considerable degree. Now he’s on the mend you’re only half way there. We have only now established a base diet, a meal that we know he can safely eat and thrive upon. But that is just one meal. We still need to find out what is OK for him to eat and what will set him off. The process is simply and it involves an exclusion or an elimination diet.

Once your dog has had a few blissful weeks of not shitting his pants we must challenge him with one new protein every month. We add a new meat protein to his base diet and simply wait for a reaction. If his symptoms reappear then we look back over the last few days and are able to see what caused it! Simple, eh? All the best methods are. Unlike blood tests or painful pin pricks, an exclusion diet is simple, pain-free, cost-free and very definitive.

If there is a reaction, stop adding the new protein, take a note in your diary and return to the baseline diet for a week or two for the dog to recharge.

Test one new protein each month until you have a nice long list of meats that your dog is happy to eat and those that he can’t. Even if he can’t right now, over time, as his gut re-balances, I bet he might be able to down the line.

You never ever test wheat though, assume it is the problem. It has no place in the feeding of carnivores.

And that’s it. Told you it was easy. Sincerely hope it helps folks. All the very best with their recovery.


Need Some Help?

I now do 1 to 1 Zoom consultations. Nutrition. Health. New pup.
A photo of Dr. Conor Brady of Dogs First

From a doctorate in animal behaviour and nutrition to years in guide dogs and the last seven year inside and out of the pet food industry, I have spent a lot of time building up my knowledge. My articles are free to the public and with now 200k readers per month, they seem to be helping. While it’s clearly a passion of mine the fact remains, I can’t do this and a steady job at the same time. Without a salary or fancy sponsorship, I am left trying to monetise my site as much as I can without pushing on you horrible adverts for car loans and crap pet products. One way I do this is to offer consults to those needed some extra help. I also sell a few supplements and track some links to products I recommend that I don’t stock. Now I’m putting a donation button at the bottom of my larger articles. If the info therein helped you in any way, fixing your dog where repeated vet visits have failed, and you feel you’d like to give me the price of a cup of coffee (€3), please free to do exactly that! If you’re strapped and can’t afford it, I can totally sympathise, you’re free to read on, no questions asked. We’re glad to have you on board spreading the word regardless.

Many thanks and continued good health to you and your pets.

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