How to Put Your Dog on a Limited Ingredient Diet

Three Parts:Picking a Limited Ingredient DietUsing a Limited Ingredient Diet to Identify AllergiesGradually Introducing a New Diet

Sometimes dogs become allergic to the foods that they eat every day. This allergic reaction usually consists of skin irritation and inflammation, but can also include digestive problems. In order to identify what is giving your dog these problems, it's best to put your dog on an elimination diet.[1] To eliminate all possible allergens, you will need to feed your dog a limited ingredient diet consisting of ingredients that it has never eaten before.[2] This will help you identify the troublesome ingredients your dog was eating and get it onto the path of better health.

Part 1
Picking a Limited Ingredient Diet

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    Discuss diet changes with your veterinarian. If your dog is having health issues, it's best to consult with a veterinarian about possible causes. In the case of skin irritation, your veterinarian can rule out causes other than diet before you begin an elimination diet.[3]
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    Figure out what foods need to be eliminated. The purpose of a limited ingredient diet is to eliminate allergens from your dogs diet.[4] Look at the ingredients of your dog's current food and any food that it has previously eaten. All of the ingredients in these foods need to be avoided.
    • If you no longer have the packaging of a food you previously fed to your dog, you can look the ingredients up online. Most large dog food companies have their ingredient lists posted online.
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    Pick out a limited ingredient food. Go to your local pet store and look at all of the limited ingredient diet options. Most limited ingredient diets consist of only two ingredients, a protein and a carbohydrate. These are usually unusual proteins and carbohydrates, so it is likely that your dog has not eaten them before.
    • In addition, most limited ingredient diets are grain free, keeping out common allergens including wheat, corn, and soy.[5]
    • Some common proteins in limited ingredient diets include duck, turkey, lamb, [6]

Part 2
Using a Limited Ingredient Diet to Identify Allergies

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    Feed your dog only limited ingredient diet. In order to get to the bottom of a food allergy issue, you need to eliminate all possible allergens from your dog's diet. This means keeping it away from all foods it has previously eaten.[7]
    • Do not give your dog treats or even oral medications while you are feeding an elimination diet. The goal is to be strict about your dog's eating to that you can find the source of the problem.
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    Gradually reintroduce the previous food. Once your dog's health issues have cleared up, meaning its irritated skin or digestive problems have gone away, you will want to reintroduce the previous food to verify that it was the cause of the problem. If the health problems resurface, then you know that the cause of the problems was the initial food you were feeding your dog.[8]
    • Do not expect skin problems or digestive issues to clear up quickly. It may take several months on a limited ingredient diet to clear up all of your pet's health problems.
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    Do specific testing. If you want to know what exactly your dog is allergic to, not just that it was generally allergic to its previous food, then you need to do some additional testing. While still feeding a limited ingredient diet, you will need to add the individual ingredients of the dog's previous food back into its diet to find the culprit. Each ingredient is given to the dog for several weeks so that its possible effects can be seen.[9]
    • Dogs are usually allergic to common proteins such as beef, chicken, eggs, and to common grains, such as wheat, corn, and soy. You should start your testing with these ingredients.
    • Many dog owners do not do this kind of specific testing, instead opting to simply avoid the specific dog food that was making their dog sick.
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    Discuss your dog's future diet with a veterinarian. Many dog owners decide to keep their dogs on a limited ingredient diet indefinitely after they find that it clears up their dog's allergies. However, it is important to discuss this with a veterinarian so that you are sure that the limited ingredient diet fulfills all of your dog's dietary needs.

Part 3
Gradually Introducing a New Diet

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    Introduce the new food gradually. It is important for a dog's digestive health to gradually introduce new food. If you were to switch a dog's food completely in just one meal, your dog would have a very hard time digesting it and it could make your dog very, very ill.[10]
    • Bacteria in your dog's digestive system help to digest its food. With a sudden change in diet, the existing bacteria may not be able to digest the new food, causing an upset stomach and other digestive problems.
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    Mix one part of the new food to three parts of the old food. This should be the mix you use for the first couple days. Having only a small amount of the new food in your dog's diet will allow its system to gradually adjust to the new ingredients.[11]
    • It can be tempting to switch a dog's diet over completely if you have run out of its old food and don't want to buy any more. However, it is worth buying a small bag of the dog's old diet just to assure that it does not have adverse reactions to a sudden change.
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    Increase the percentage of new food over the course of a week. After a couple days of a one to three ratio of new food to old food, increase the amount of new food so that you are feeding your dog half and half new and old food. Feed this amount for several days.[12]
    • Then increase the amount of new food for a few day once again, so that you are feeding three parts new food and one part old food.
    • Finally, you can switch entirely to the new food after a week of gradual introduction.

Article Info

Categories: Feeding Dogs