Pet owners speak for their pets when it comes to pet food choices, which is why deciding what to feed your dog is a very personal and important decision.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs are natural omnivores and need more than just meat to stay healthy. Fruit, vegetables, and other protein sources provide essential vitamins and minerals that your dog can’t get through eating meat alone. That said, meat is a great source of protein – with chicken being one of the prime ingredients used in pet food.
It’s easy to see why; chicken is nutritious, relatively affordable and dogs really seem to love the taste. With all that in mind, why would you even consider a poultry-free diet for your dog? Let’s investigate...
Why shouldn’t I feed my dog chicken every day?
The main reason is, just like us, our canine companions can suffer from food intolerances and food allergies. In fact, while any food, additive or substance may be responsible, chicken along with red meat, dairy, eggs and wheat are the most common causes of food allergies for dogs
When choosing chicken-free food for your dog, there are a few things you need to know:
What are the signs of a food allergy?
While the overall percentage of dogs with food allergies is relatively low
, it’s important to recognize the usual signs and symptoms. Food allergies in dogs vary but you should consult your vet if your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms:
Chronic ear and foot infections
Gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or diarrhea
Lack of energy
In some rare cases, a severe reaction resulting in anaphylaxis can occur
Food allergy vs food intolerance
The symptoms of a food allergy and food intolerance may appear similar but there are actually some major differences.
Food allergies result when the immune system mistakenly believes the food your dog has eaten is harmful. In an attempt to defend the body against these substances, the immune system releases a surge of chemicals, including histamine, which causes an allergic reaction affecting the skin and/or the digestive tract.
Food intolerance is related to your dog’s inability to digest certain foods. It can cause an upset tummy and in more severe cases vomiting and diarrhea. Food allergies tend to involve the skin and/or the GI system, whereas food intolerances are often limited to digestive problems. Lactose intolerance is very common in dogs.
Aside from food sensitivities, there are many other causes of digestive disorders in dogs. Most dogs like to eat everything in sight. So if he is otherwise behaving normally, dietary indiscretion could be the culprit i.e. when your dog gets into the trash and eats something he shouldn’t. That said, it’s a good idea to consult your vet for a proper diagnosis.
Causes of food allergies in dogs
There is some evidence to show that genes play a role in food allergies for dogs
. In some cases, a predisposition for allergies can be passed from parent to pup, and certain breeds are more likely to develop allergies than others. While male dogs are just as likely to develop a food allergy as female dogs, most food allergies begin when the dog is about a year old and can develop at any time during the course of your dog’s lifetime. For a dog to become allergic to a food, they have to have been previously exposed to it.
Diagnosing food allergies in dogs
There are many causes of food allergies and sometimes finding what ingredient triggers the food allergy takes time. There are not any reliable diagnostic tests for diagnosing food allergies.
If your vet can’t find any other medical problem relating to your dog’s symptoms, they’re likely to recommend feeding them a hypoallergenic diet for eight to twelve weeks
. This is also known as a food elimination diet. The main types of a hypoallergenic diet include – A Novel Protein Diet and Hydrolyzed Protein Diet.
Novel Protein Diet
– This diet contains a single protein source that your dog has never tried before, otherwise known as a novel protein and a single form of carbohydrate. Your dog will not be allergic to the ‘novel’ protein as they have not previously been exposed to it and food allergies in dogs usually develop over time.
Limited Ingredient Diet
- This diet can also be a novel protein diet – and is made up of a limited number of carefully selected ingredients so it’s easier for your vet to pinpoint exactly which food is the cause of your dog’s allergy problems.
The purpose of trying a novel protein diet is to see if the symptoms go away. To be sure that the original food was actually causing the symptoms, you have to reintroduce it to see if the symptoms recur. It is also possible to determine exactly what foods are the culprit by gradually adding back pure protein sources to the food trial diet and observing for a reaction. If no itching occurs within 2 weeks, then the pet is not allergic to that protein. When a food allergy is confirmed with the elimination diet, you can investigate other diet options that might work. Some people don’t want to risk the symptoms recurring so they never confirm and just continue to feed a special diet long term.
– A home-cooked meal can also be a novel protein diet as described above. With time, care, and the right ingredients, a homemade diet may alleviate your dog’s food allergy. Just make sure that you discuss all your food choices with a veterinarian as it’s essential that your dog’s diet meets all his nutritional requirements.
Hydrolyzed Protein Diet
– For this diet, the protein and carbohydrates are broken down into small enough pieces so that the immune system no longer reacts to them. Hydrolyzed proteins are also used to manage gastrointestinal issues such as inflammatory bowel disease
and support healthy digestion.
Treatment for food allergies in dogs
If your dog is experiencing a skin reaction, such as redness, swelling or itching, omega fatty acids such as those found in fish oil
have been shown to be beneficial to skin health.
But before anything else, the best treatment for dogs with food allergies is to avoid whichever ingredient your dog is allergic to. In cases where your dog is allergic to chicken, the good news is there are plenty of dog foods without chicken available.
What should I feed my dog besides chicken?
When it comes to filling up their food bowl, dogs need the right balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. If your dog has a chicken allergy, consider a dog food with limited Ingredients or look for a recipe that features one of 6 protein sources from the list below.
While you should never feed your dog raw or undercooked salmon, canned salmon dog food or kibble is very high in omega fatty acids which are paramount to a healthy immune system. It may also reduce inflammation while helping to promote healthy skin and coat. Salmon is one of the common sources of protein recommended for hypoallergenic diets.
Rabbit dog food is high in protein and low in fat, making it an excellent alternative to chicken for dogs with allergies or sensitive stomachs. It contains essential amino acids to help repair tissue damage and support a healthy immune system. For a nutrient boost, delicious treats containing rabbit liver are rich in iron, magnesium and zinc.
Beef is a healthy source of fats and protein for canines and can be an excellent substitute for dogs who cannot tolerate chicken. It has a good balance for all the essential amino acids to help support strong muscles and provide energy. For dogs who suffer from allergies, consider choosing a premium brand of beef dog food with high-quality ingredients that are gentle on the stomach.
If your dog has bundles of energy, lamb contains just the right amount of dietary fats to keep your dog in high spirits and feeling at his best. It’s also an iron-rich protein source with B12 and essential amino acids to maintain a healthy immune system. What’s more, with its rich smell and flavor, lamb can be a great chicken-free alternative for dogs who are fussy about food.
Like chicken and rabbit, turkey is lean meat and highly digestible protein source for dogs. It is full of vitamins and minerals, including the antioxidant selenium which is an essential nutrient for keeping your dog healthy. While turkey is considered poultry, its nutrient properties are very different from chicken making it a safe protein choice for chicken-sensitive dogs.
For a limited ingredient formula…
Canidae® PURE limited ingredient formulas
offer your dog a well-rounded meal that’s been crafted with their health and well-being in mind. Each recipe is made using a limited number of wholesome ingredients that are easily recognizable. Our PURE dog food range contains just a few simple ingredients to support dogs with sensitive stomachs. Developed in partnership with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, each bite is packed full of premium ingredients. Filler-free, with no artificial flavors or artificial preservatives, just complete & balanced goodness. Discuss transitioning your dog to Canidae’s delicious recipes today!