Limited Ingredient Dog Food
There are several reasons you might want to feed your dog a limited ingredient dog food. Some dogs need to eat a limited ingredient food because they have food allergies or food intolerances. In these cases, foods with fewer, carefully selected ingredients can be less likely to trigger a reaction from the dog. Other people prefer to feed their dogs a limited ingredient diet because they want to avoid the kitchen sink approach that many dog food companies take when formulating foods. They like a simpler dog food with what they hope are healthy ingredients. These are both valid reasons for choosing a limited ingredient dog food.
What does “limited ingredient” mean?
If you ask a canine nutritionist or a veterinarian about limited ingredient diets, they will probably tell you that a true limited ingredient diet for a dog is one that utilizes a single protein and one carbohydrate. These are usually ingredients that the dog has not eaten before because the original purpose of limited ingredient diets was to help identify the source of a dog’s food allergies. For example, under the advice of a veterinarian, an owner would conduct a food trial with his dog. A dog with a food allergy would stop eating his normal food and be put on a diet with one protein and one carb. The protein was often a novel protein or “exotic” protein so the dog would not have an allergic reaction to it. (A dog has to be exposed to a protein more than once before he can have an allergic reaction to it. So, if he has not eaten a particular protein before, he can’t be allergic to it.) Over the course of weeks, if the dog had no adverse reactions to the protein and carb, the vet and the owner would slowly begin to add individual ingredients to the dog’s diet to see if the dog reacted to them. This is how allergens are determind for dogs who have food allergies. It starts with the strict limited ingredient diet.
However, for many owners, if their dog is having a food intolerance or some kind of allergic reaction to a food, they will try to guess at the source of the problem. This can have mixed results. You are often better off working with your vet to determine exactly what your dog is allergic to or to identify his food intolerances. On the other hand, there are so many different dog food choices today that you can try different foods until you find something that your dog can comfortably eat, but it might take longer than if you took your dog to the vet and used a food trial approach. It might be more expensive, too, since you will probably be buying a lot of expensive dog foods and your dog may not be able to eat some of them.
“Limited ingredient” in the market place
You should also be aware that “limited ingredient” has a different meaning for many dog food companies than it does for your veterinarian. If you look at the label of many limited ingredient dog foods you will notice that they often have just as many ingredients as regular dog food. There’s not much that is “limited” about them. Sometimes they may have one meat protein – but not always. For instance, they might have duck as the main meat ingredient but also include “poultry” in some form, so this wouldn’t even count as a food with one unique source of meat protein. “Poultry” could include turkey or chicken, too. A dog that was sensitive to these other kinds of poultry could react.
It’s not unusual for limited ingredient dog foods to include the “condiments” as they as called in the pet food industry – added vitamins and minerals. However, some limited ingredient dog foods even include “botanicals” (berries, parts of flowers, herbs) and fermentation products. They can use peas as a source of carbohydrates, which are often difficult for dogs to digest even when they don’t have known digestive issues. If you are trying to feed your dog a limited ingredient diet because of food intolerances or food allergies, these would be dog foods to avoid. You won’t know if some of these unnecessary ingredients might cause problems for your dog.
Limited ingredient foods
Dog foods that appear to be good limited ingredient diets include FirstMate (they have a variety of formulas); California Natural’s Pure & Simple is another food to consider with only a few main ingredients, though the protein content is not very high. They do have some grain free formulas with higher protein. Read the labels carefully for the carb sources and percentages, especially the nutrient analyses. Natural Balance also has a number of limited ingredient diets. Again, check the labels and watch the protein percentages. Instinct from Nature’s Variety also has several limited ingredient diets.
One last word concerns exotic proteins. If your dog has problems eating common meat proteins such as chicken, beef, and lamb, to name a few, there are many options among dog foods today. You can find dog foods with duck, rabbit, and venison, for example. It’s a good idea to try to leave the seriously exotic proteins alone, especially at first. For one thing, the more exotic the protein, the more the food will cost. If you want to feed your dog emu or something really odd, you’re going to have to shell out a lot of dollars for it – which really becomes a consideration if you have a large dog. Secondly, your dog’s allergy may not stop with the first few proteins he encounters. He can become accustomed to his emu and develop an allergy to it, too. If your dog becomes allergic to even the most fantastic proteins, you will eventually run out of things you can realistically feed him. Keep this in mind when you are choosing foods for your dog. Leave your dog and yourself some dog food options for the future in case he develops more allergies. Choose rabbit before you try the kangaroo.