Does your dog have itchy ears and an itchy rear? This may mean they have a dietary allergy! Itchy ears, paws, and rump are three of the most common signs of a dietary allergy. If you’ve been wondering what has been making your four-legged best friend so itchy, there’s a good chance that they’re having a reaction to the protein in their food and treats. Switching your dog to a single-protein diet using a novel protein may be the solution to your dog’s incessant scratching, gassy tummy, or other allergy symptoms.
If you’re wondering which proteins are best for your dog with allergies, check out our list. Plus, we have some tips and tricks that can help you better understand your dog’s needs.
Identifying a Seasonal Allergy vs a Protein Allergy
Many pet owners are surprised to learn that their dog's skin and coat can be affected by digestive allergies. However, it can be difficult to identify if a dog is experiencing environmental allergies versus dietary allergies.
Unlike seasonal allergies which often rise with certain pollen levels, dietary allergies stick around. Dietary allergies also come along with digestive issues such as gas, a gurgly tummy, and diarrhea.
To verify if your dog has a protein allergy or an environmental allergy, you will want to rinse their paws after time outdoors and provide them with a prescribed flea preventative medication. If your dog’s symptoms persist, you will want to try an elimination diet or switch them to a single-protein diet using a novel protein.
Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerances
Most people use “allergy” and “intolerance” interchangeably when referring to their dog's inability to digest certain ingredients. This is not a big deal because intolerances and allergies often cause similar or identical symptoms and can be treated by eliminating the irritant from your dog’s diet.
However, if you’re curious as to what the difference is between the two, it’s simple: With an allergy, a dog’s immune system kicks in and reacts with histamines, resulting in discomfort. With a food intolerance, the dog's digestive system cannot process the ingredient and reacts by evacuating the ingredient and digestive discomfort.
The Most Common Offenders
Proteins are the most common offenders when it comes to dogs’ dietary allergens and intolerances. These proteins (according to the BMC Veterinary Research) include:
- Beef (34%)
- Dairy Products (17%)
- Chicken (15%)
- Wheat Gluten (13%)
- Soy (6%)
- Lamb (5%)
- Egg (4%)
- Pork (2%)
- Fish (2%)
“But My Dog Has Been on the Same Food for Years…”
One unique phenomenon that many dogs experience is the development of an allergy (or intolerance) to an ingredient they’ve enjoyed for years without issue. This is often because the allergens build up in a dog’s system over years and the body can no longer effectively respond.
The Problem with the Most Popular Dog Foods
All it takes is a quick glance at an ingredient list to understand that most dog food recipes come with an epic-length list of ingredients. When you look a little closer, you’ll find that many of these ingredients read like a buffet of artificial preservatives and fillers. This can make identifying exactly what your dog is eating (and allergic to) a massive feat.
And while the long list of ingredients poses a problem, having multiple protein sources is an additional challenge. Keeping in mind that many veggies and legumes contain protein, it can be difficult to find a single-protein source diet for your dog at the supermarket.
The Best Protein Options for Dogs with Allergies
If your dog is struggling to digest their food, you may want to switch them to a single-protein diet or go through the process of an elimination diet. You will want to select their protein carefully. By choosing an uncommon protein, you’re more likely to help your dog get over their symptoms more quickly. Where should you start? Here are some of the best proteins for dogs with allergies:
1. Grubs AKA Black Soldier Flies Larvae
Black soldier flies (BSF) are a form of insect protein, and BSF-based foods and snacks have become a favorite among dogs with digestive issues. Because this protein source is so new, there’s little-to-no chance that your dog has eaten it before unless they’re already enjoying Vroomies. Grub protein is also highly palatable to our canine companions and the scent is similar to a dog’s favorite treat: peanut butter. So, don’t be surprised if you switch your best friend to grubs, and they lick their bowl clean!
Plus, grub protein is packed with benefits! For example, it’s rich in essential amino acids to keep your dog healthy and energetic!
And grub protein is by far the most sustainable, ethical protein on the market. If you’re curious about this option, you can anticipate this protein becoming more widely available in dog foods over the next few years.
While duck is becoming more popular in supermarket dog foods, this ingredient is still considered a novel protein. Because of its availability, it’s more affordable than some other novel protein options. Additionally, duck is a lean protein that’s rich in amino acids and iron. This makes it ideal for supporting muscle and heart health.
You may find your dog hopping with joy when you switch them to kangaroo dog food. Kangaroo tastes delicious to dogs, and it’s rich in iron and zinc (while being low in fat). This results in a protein that supports your dog’s immune system, coat health, and skin while providing them with energy to burn.
Like grubs, kangaroo is also considered more environmentally friendly and more ethical than other proteins. This is because the kangaroo population in Australia grows too fast for nature to keep up with, and kangaroos get to live their lives free-ranging.
Venison is just another way of saying “deer meat.” With similar properties to kangaroo, this protein choice will leave your dog feeling ready for the day. Additionally, many people consider venison an ethical meat option since deer overpopulation in the U.S. can have a devastating effect on the ecosystem if left unchecked.
Rabbit may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of dog food, but if your dog has tried most other protein options and still struggles with digestive issues, it’s a great choice! Not only is rabbit one of the more rare proteins on the market, but it also is a great source of B vitamins to support the nervous system and cell growth.
Additionally, rabbit tends to have a more compact carbon pawprint than other proteins because rabbits are highly efficient in converting calories to body weight, and they reproduce at a rapid rate.
Transitioning Your Dog's Diet
As your switching your dog to a new food, keep in mind that a gradual transition is best. Switching without a slow introduction can result in an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.
What Else Can Dog Owners Do?
Using limited ingredient recipes for your dog’s food, snacks, and treats is one of the best ways to keep track of your dog’s diet. Be sure to choose healthy dog snacks that contain the same protein as your dog’s primary diet. This makes the most of your dog’s single-protein diet. Additionally, check your dog’s medications and toothpaste for protein-based flavorings that could cause your dog to have a flare-up.
If you notice no changes in your dog’s allergy symptoms three weeks after switching their protein, they may be allergic to another ingredient. After proteins, carbohydrates are the next most common culprit. Opting for an elimination diet can help you better identify the allergen.
Considering a Home Cooked Diet for Your Dog?
If you want greater control over your dog’s diet, a homemade diet can be a great solution. However, if you decide to put your chef’s hat on and make your dog’s dinner, be sure you check with your vet first. Many dogs wind up with nutritional deficiencies due to dietary imbalances from homemade foods. Your vet can provide you with guidance and even a supplement to ensure your dog remains healthy.
Better Protein = A Happier Life for Your Do
Switching your dog to a single-protein diet, designed for their health and needs will result in a boost in your dog’s energy and mood. So, be prepared for fun adventures and your dog having a new leash on life. If you’re looking for the ideal healthy snack to keep your dog’s energy-levels high without causing an upset tummy, Vroomies are made with grub protein and other superfoods!