If your dog suffers from allergies, you’re probably used to feeling helpless and stressed as their symptoms come and go.
There’s nothing worse than seeing your furry friend in pain, but did you know the solution for treating their allergies once and for all might be as simple as adjusting their diet?
Below we take a look at the different types of sensitivities that may be affecting your pet, and explore the best dog food for allergies.
What’s causing my dog’s allergies?
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from a range of allergies.
There are atopy allergies (pollen, mould, dust), contact allergies (grass, laundry detergent, bedding), flea allergies and asthma. Allergies to foods such as beef, chicken, fish, corn, wheat, soy, eggs and dairy are also common.
Again, like humans, some dogs will sneeze and itch and have red, irritated eyes, while others will suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, hair loss, raw skin, an upset tummy and ear infections. Symptoms will vary, but they all impact your pet’s quality of life.
Treatments such as steroids, antihistamines or allergy shots may provide temporary relief, but they’re essentially band-aid solutions that don't address the root cause of the problem. Some treatments also come with harsh side effects.
To get to the bottom of the issue, it’s important to pinpoint the trigger of your dog’s allergic reaction. This is easier said than done (unfortunately!), as they could be allergic to something simple like one protein or food ingredient, or there could be multiple allergies at play.
Your vet can test for allergies, including environmental and food, but another effective way of figuring out the problem is a ‘limited ingredient diet’, which is something you can do at home.
What’s a ‘limited ingredient diet’?
If you suspect your dog’s allergy is a result of a food sensitivity, a limited ingredient diet will help to determine and eliminate reactions from common pet food ingredients such as corn, wheat, soy, and some animal proteins.
To follow the diet effectively, you need to stop feeding your dog any processed foods and only give them a single protein source for 4-6 weeks - ideally one they’ve never eaten before (we call this a ‘novel protein’), like rabbit, pork, goat, kangaroo, crocodile, duck or venison. Novel proteins are less likely to cause an allergic reaction, which will alleviate the painful symptoms your dog has been experiencing and give their digestive system time to rebalance and rebuild a healthier foundation.
If symptoms dramatically improve, you can slowly introduce the old diet again (one protein at a time) and see what happens. For example, if your dog has been eating venison for 6 weeks, and then reacts badly to eating beef, you'll know what the trigger is (in this case, beef) and can eliminate it from your dog’s diet completely.
A limited ingredient diet is a simple approach, but it requires commitment from the whole family - that means no sneaky leftovers or treats!
What’s the best dog food for allergies?
If you’re up for the challenge of a limited ingredient diet, you’ll be pleased to know ZIWI has done the work for you - our recipes contain only the ingredients your dog needs to thrive (96% fresh meat, organs, seafood and bone).
To ensure the protein is one they’ve never tried before, you could start with our Venison recipe. Many pet guardians have found success with venison in a limited ingredient diet to overcome their pet's allergies - plus your dog will love the taste!
During the elimination phase it’s important to stick to a single protein (don’t go mixing chicken, venison, beef and other proteins) and avoid any additional ingredients such as grains, potatoes, starches or sugars.
To keep your furry friend happy and occupied, you can also give them dog bones from the same animal protein. The ZIWI Venison Hoofer goes nicely with the Venison air-dried recipe, for example, and is the perfect chew to keep your dog’s pearly whites clean and fresh.
To illustrate the power of a limited ingredient diet in action, we caught up with Ashleigh Macpherson who has recently switched her parents’ dog, Hades, to a ZIWI diet to try and relieve some of his painful skin issues...
“My parents’ dog, Hades, has experienced flaky skin, hotspots, and general coat dullness his entire life. When his symptoms got to the point where his skin was raw and bleeding, the vet suspected it was related to a chicken allergy - so we decided to try the ZIWI Lamb recipe.
“The results speak for themselves! There has been a significant difference just one month has made to Hades’ skin and quality of life. His hotspot has 95% healed, his coat is shiny and full, and he no longer suffers from irritations or flaky skin.
“Hades loves his food and can’t wait to dig into his bowl of ZIWI Peak in the mornings. He’s also reduced his ‘dog smell’. My parents have been amazed at the transformation and are going to keep Hades on ZIWI Peak now that they see how happy he is.”