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.
Hypoallergenic Dog Food Ideas, Pick One to Start on
If you are new to raw feeding please first read our article on raw dog food, it will explain how to store it, introduce it and how much to feed. Once that’s done, we’re ready to begin.
For the meats below, you can either use your local butcher or supermarket (think about it, you can buy whole turkey for €3/kg – compare that to your ridiculously over-priced “hypoallergenic” dry foods!) and feed them meat on the bone (this is best but can be a bit scary for newbies) or buy a plain meat and bone mince from your favourite raw dog food supplier. More tips here on all that. Importantly, try use organic meats where possible, less chemicals which we know can cause problems. Remember to check your organic sources, ideally by seeing it yourself. There are some horrible, devious people out there in that department.
Many of you at this point may be coming to the table with a NASA-esque list of possible food allergens in your dog as a result of a blood test. These tests are a useful (if expensive and borderline-unnecessary) guide as to what meat protein might work and what might not. Go by it, for sure but take solace and know that these tests are not definitive and, better still, once we fix him up he’ll likely to be able to return to those proteins no problem. For now, you must pick a meat not on your list. Simply replace one of the meats below with something not on your list (likely something like venison or rabbit).
For everyone else, it’s pot luck but definitely try starting on a meat that he has not yet had in dry food form (hence you don’t see a chicken or beef hypoallergenic diet underneath, we are assuming dry food has already ruined them for your dog).
For the veggies (you don’t have to include them but dogs with troubled guts can appreciate the fibre) I would keep it simple, green and coarse, like broccoli or green beans (from frozen is fine, blitz in a blender) or maybe even squash (needs to be boiled first) though I like to keep the carb content down to a minimum as it’s sugar and sugar can fuel inflammation.
Turkey Hypoallergenic Dog Food
80% turkey meat and bone
5% Turkey Liver
15% blitzed raw vegetables
Duck Hypoallergenic Dog Food
70% fresh duck mince with bone in it
10% duck heart
5% duck liver
15% blitzed, raw vegetables
Fish Hypoallergenic Dog Food
70% Oily Fish; sardine, sprat, salmon OR if you can’t get any of that tins of tuna IN BRINE is fine (pour off brine)
30% Steamed Veg (we use more veg as the above it very fatty)
The above diets are simple, nutritious and as close to a 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.
Try not to add anything to the diets above as it will fudge the results, as you will learn later on. That said, feel free to supplement dogs with skin problems with cod liver oil capsules (1000mg capsule per 20kg of body weight). If he has gut problems you can add some chamomile for digestion (make a strong cup of tea and add a tablespoon) or some slippery elm, or both, but that’s about it.
What To Do
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 – Day 14 Begin on Broth
While all dogs should be fed a raw diet, we are going to assume that 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 (and one of the reasons I say you can’t blanket say you can start dogs with food intolerances on raw straight away as some can have leaky gut, so we treat them all the same way, no harm and likely very beneficial, as you will soon see).
Now, the body does not sit around and allow weird little proteins to do this as they could be foreign invaders and the bloodstream is the highway to the nerve centres, the brain and heart, and so it reacts accordingly. Or, in other terms, it freaks out. Without getting too far into it, the body initiates the immune system to round up and neutralise the invading particles. As all these immuno-soldiers race to the point of infection, you not only get inflammation at the gut (causing the patient uncomfortable side effects, something akin to Irritable Bowel) but it may also target these half-digested proteins “dangerous chicken” or “dangerous beef”. This is one way food intolerances can develop. The body simply targets all chicken or beef as the same and says to itself “if I even detect some of that going past now I’m going to send in the troops” and chicken or beef or whatever are off the menu, at least until we fix the holes in the gut but possibly forever more.
Bone broth is amazing at fixing holes in guts. 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.
To make your broth, simple pick up all the ingredients of one of the diets mentioned above (the diet you will be using for the next few weeks). For broth, you need to use meat-on-the-bone so best but a whole, organic turkey or duck and chop into lumps. Put the meat (and veg) mix into a very large pot and cover with water. Add a dash of Apple Cider Vinegar and leave on a low heat for 24hrs. 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 1/3 of it was bone which you bin. So he has 3.3kg 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 20kg (45lbs), then you know he needs 500g (1.2lbs) of this per day. Or, in other words, he has nearly 7 days of food there. Something like that, it’s not an exact science at this point. If he’s ravenous, give him some more!
As this point, I would also supplement the dog with three things:
- Canine Probiotics. You can read up more about them here, quite a long article perhaps, the short of it is your dogs gut flora is going to be in complete disarray and they run the show in there. You can pick up canine probioticss (don’t use human ones, we eat different food) on Amazon. I recommend Hyperbiotics as they bypass the gut acids and open in the intestines. Very clever.
- Colostrum is the yellow liquid that comes before breast milk. It is full of goodies that can help your dog now, most notably a whole lot of IgG.
- 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.
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.
If you spent a week on the broth, I’d be now thinking about slowly coming off any immuno-suppressants that were being used to reduce his inflammation as a week off dry alone should be having benefits. However, as long as the drugs are in there we don’t know where we are. We are now working with the body, letting it tell us what’s working and, more importantly, what’s not.
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. The process is simple. Cook your broth less. If you left it on for 24hrs, simply leave it on for 22hrs, then 20hrs, then 16hrs, then 10hrs, slowly acclimatising his gut to the new raw protein. Take 7-8 days to do it. Soon he will be eating, loving and thriving upon his new raw mix.
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. This can happen in some dogs and it suggests to me that you might try another diet for the broth from the above list
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.
Day 21: 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. Very natural topical stuff is fine at the moment but leave any internal products and supplements for a week or two. The most effective natural product for itch I have seen is Zesty Paws Allergy Bites. Check out those reviews on Amazon. But careful here with your exclusion diet, while it contains a lot of brilliant, effective ingredients, the problem is there is a lot of ingredients. This can scupper your elimination diet (below) where we want to keep ingredients to a minimum. And it’s beef based. So maybe hold off until you know where you are.
If he has a rash and it’s sore and weeping it might be what we call “Hot Spots“. You can treat these yourself too.
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 halfway 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 simple 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 pinpricks, 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.
I have spent a lot of time building up my knowledge. 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 always provided all my information free to the public, articles that I spend a lot of time putting together. 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 moentise 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 by tracking some of the links to products I recommend (where Amazon will give me 7% of your first purchase). Now I’m going to put a donation button at the bottom of my more helpful articles. So, if this 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.