Customers often ask us if our treats and food are hypoallergenic. Within the dog world, it’s a term that is used frequently but often not properly understood. Even vets have got in on the act by recommending hypoallergenic or prescription food to their clients but what does is actually mean and what is the benefit to your dog?
Table of Contents
- The definition of hypoallergenic – what does it mean?
- What is the difference between hypoallergenic and normal dog food?
- Intolerance or Allergy: What is the difference?
- What are common allergens for dogs?
- Is hypoallergenic dog food necessary?
- Why is hypoallergenic dog food so expensive?
- Are certain breeds of dog more prone to food intolerances?
- Is there official guidance on what constitutes hypoallergenic dog food?
- Is hypoallergenic just a buzz word?
The definition of hypoallergenic – what does it mean?
The term "hypoallergenic" refers to substances or products that have a reduced potential to cause allergic reactions. In the context of dog food, hypoallergenic dog food is formulated with ingredients that are less likely (not guaranteed) to trigger allergies or adverse reactions in dogs with food sensitivities, intolerances or allergies. However, it's important to note that there is no universally agreed-upon definition or standard for what constitutes hypoallergenic dog food, and individual dogs may still react differently to specific ingredients.
What is the difference between hypoallergenic and normal dog food?
Nothing. Dog food manufacturers often use the term hypoallergenic to describe a recipe that avoids some, or many, common food allergens for dogs. There is no difference between hypoallergenic dog food and normal dog food.
If your dog has a reaction to duck (for example) and you feed a duck based hypoallergenic food then your dog is still going to have a reaction. Always read the ingredients list on your dog’s food, regardless of whether it is labelled hypoallergenic or not.
Intolerance or Allergy: What is the difference?
The words intolerance and allergy are often (incorrectly) used interchangeably.
An allergy is usually an immune system response to a protein. Reactions can range from mild itching to severe, and in rare cases, even life-threatening responses. Fortunately, such severe reactions are uncommon in dogs, and they are more prone to experiencing intolerances instead.
An intolerance is where something upsets a dog’s digestive system, but there is no immune system response. There are six common symptoms of dog food intolerances.
- Gastrointestinal issues: This can include diarrhoea, vomiting, excessive gas, bloating, or frequent episodes of indigestion.
- Skin problems: Intolerances may lead to skin-related issues such as itchiness, redness, rashes, hot spots, or chronic ear infections.
- Chronic ear inflammation: Recurring ear infections or inflammation can be a sign of a food intolerance.
- Chronic or recurrent gastrointestinal upset: If your dog frequently experiences upset stomach, such as chronic diarrhoea or vomiting, it could indicate a food intolerance.
- Changes in appetite or weight loss: Food intolerances might cause a loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss in dogs.
- Behavioural changes: Some dogs may exhibit behavioural changes like restlessness, irritability, or hyperactivity due to food intolerances.
For dogs with allergies or intolerances, feeding a food labelled as ‘hypoallergenic’ can be helpful BUT only if that food avoids your dogs' specific allergen.
What are common allergens for dogs?
The most common canine allergens include (but are not limited to):
Remember, dogs can be intolerant to practically any ingredient, which is why it's important to ignore the word 'hypoallergenic' on the packaging and check the ingredients list to check it's suitable for your dog. What works for one dog does not work for another.
Is hypoallergenic dog food necessary?
No. Some of us sceptics believe it is a clever marketing ploy by dog food manufacturers to sell more of their product – in fairness, whoever coined the phrase has done a rather good job!
The manufacturer (or retailer) of your dog’s food should be able to help you find the best diet for your dog by discussing any intolerances your dog has and recommending the best recipe for your dog. Remember, one size does not fit all!
Why is hypoallergenic dog food so expensive?
Again, the sceptic in me believes that by labelling something ‘hypoallergenic’, dog food manufacturers are suggesting that it is a ‘cure all’ for your dog’s allergies and most pet owners want to fix any problem with their pooch, regardless of cost. However, many dog foods labelled as hypoallergenic are poor quality with questionable meat content which do not justify the price tag.
We believe that as long as your dog’s food is high quality, with a high fresh and dried meat content (50% and up) and avoids the ingredient that your dog has trouble with, there is no need for a hypoallergenic label.
Are certain breeds of dog more prone to food intolerances?
Yes. According to research, breeds predisposed to developing intolerances include Labrador Retrievers, West Highland White Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels. However, any dog of any breed (or mixed breeds) can be allergic.
To add to this list from our experience, many Bull Breeds (including French Bulldogs, XL Bullies, Staffordshire Bull Terriers etc) are extremely prone to sensitivities.
Is there official guidance on what constitutes hypoallergenic dog food?
No. There is no official certifying body or mandatory certification process that dog food manufacturers have to undertake to label their dog food as ‘hypoallergenic’ and this includes prescription dog food.
Is hypoallergenic just a buzz word?
Yes! The word doesn’t have any scientific basis but is now so popular in the dog food world that many customers believe it is super important that their pet’s treats and chews are labelled as such.
We much prefer talking to our customers about their dog’s needs and help them identify the right treats and chews for their pup. This includes questioning about any suspected intolerances or weird symptoms that can be an indicator that a particular ingredient may be giving your dog the upsets!
So there you have it, our roundup on hypoallergenic dog food and what it actually means (which is not a lot!). As always, if you have any questions or would like more information on how we can help find the perfect diet for your dog, please get in touch.
With Wags and Woofs,
Laura, Dolly & Reggie