When it comes to allergies and hypersensitivities that affect dogs, food is one of the most common. As is the case in humans, allergic reactions occur when a dog’s immune system overreacts to a protein or complex carbohydrate found in a certain food group, creating new antibodies to fight against a substance that it would usually tolerate.
Perhaps paradoxically, food allergies in dogs usually manifest themselves after prolonged exposure to a certain type, form or brand of food that has traditionally not caused your furry friend a problem. When this happens, finding a new type of food that does not cause a reaction can be tricky. Luckily, this is where hypoallergenic dog food can help.
However, what is hypoallergenic dog food? What types of dodgy diets are hypoallergenic? Is this form of food always grain free? And how expensive is it? In this handy guide, we tell you everything you need to know about hypoallergenic dog food, focusing on insect-based dog food that may be the paw-fect solution for your hypersensitive pup.
What does hypoallergenic dog food mean?
To put it simply, the term ‘hypoallergenic dog food’ refers to any food - meat-based, insect-based, or plant-based - that has been designed for dogs who have experienced allergic reactions to other forms of regular dog food. As discussed above, while food-related allergies can cause adverse effects to a dog’s physical and mental health, hypoallergenic dog food replaces the proteins your dog’s immune system has been conditioned to attack with unique proteins that are not recognised by their antibodies as being antigens.
Hypoallergenic dog food diets, therefore, offer a variety of unique protein sources. This is to say, these types of food contain proteins that are not recognised by the dog's antibodies, which means there is a reduced possibility of allergic reactions.
What makes dog food hypoallergenic?
As different brands use food made from different blends of ingredients and protein sources, there is no one list of essential ingredients that needs to be followed in order for a food to be officially considered hypoallergenic. However, as a rule, truly hypoallergenic dog food should include a single or limited number of novel protein sources, and/or hydrolysed protein sources and/or selected carbohydrate sources. Also, they should not contain a high level of artificial colourings, chemicals, flavourings or preservatives.
Although dogs are now domesticated animals, when feeding your pup, it is worth thinking about what they would be eating in the wild. With this in mind, feeding your furry friend a diet made up of natural and wholesome ingredients is best - this is a mantra adopted by most manufacturers of hypoallergenic dog foods.
As touched above, as well as not containing any nasties such as artificial colourings and preservatives, the secret to producing a hypoallergenic food for dogs is ensuring the all-natural ingredients are high in sources of unique proteins. Specifically, these proteins should be ones that are not recognised by a typical dog's immune system, helping to ensure that their antibodies do not react to them and cause an allergic reaction.
Although meat and fish-based hypoallergenic foods are available, insect-based dog food is becoming an increasingly popular choice for pet owners looking for dietary alternatives for their food-sensitive pups. For example, here at Percuro, our entire range of entovegan dog food makes use of gentle and soothing ingredients like chicory and chamomile, as well as naturally hypoallergenic insect proteins.
Is hypoallergenic dog food grain-free?
Not all hypoallergenic dog food is grain-free. While it is true that grains can cause allergies/intolerances in some dogs, this would be very rare and the chance that your dog is allergic to an animal protein is much larger. This is to say, while grain-free food can minimise the risk of reactions, in itself it cannot be considered hypoallergenic. For this reason, there is a difference between hypoallergenic and totally grain-free dog food.
Indeed, some hypoallergenic dog food brands create products that actively contain grains. For example, here at Percuro, our all-natural, novel inspect protein dog food contains lots of nutritious ingredients, including the highly digestible and nutritious superfood grain naked oats.
How much is hypoallergenic dog food?
Unsurprisingly, hypoallergenic dog food does tend to be more expensive than regular, mid-range alternatives. This is because the high-quality ingredients needed to create these foods are more expensive for manufacturers to source and work with. However, depending on the brand and type of product you opt for, there are certainly a number of very reasonably priced hypoallergenic dog foods on the market, including Percuro.
At the end of the day, if your four legged friend does suffer from allergies and/or intolerances, it’s important to consider that although hypoallergenic food may be pricier than traditional alternatives, in the long run, they might actually save you money on repeated visits to the vet and prescribed medication.