What does hypoallergenic mean?

What does hypoallergenic mean?

Hypoallergenic is a word used a lot in the pet food industry. But what does it actually mean?

Just like humans, dogs can be allergic or intolerant to a variety of foods, grasses, dust, fleas – the list goes on! And with allergies and intolerances come a range of issues such as sickness, skin rashes and itching, ear infections, swelling, stomach pain, wind and diarrhoea. So if your dog suffers from any allergies or intolerances, hypoallergenic food can be a great choice.

Hypoallergenic simply means less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Molecules in food that can become allergens are intact proteins or glycoproteins (a form of protein that contains sugar residue that assists with important processes in the body such as helping the immune, digestive, and reproductive systems). There are a wide variety of hypoallergenic dog foods and treats and they are created in a number of ways.

Novel protein sources

Common protein sources found in commercial dog food includes beef, soy, chicken, turkey and egg products and these are proven to provoke an allergic response in dogs with food allergies. Foods that contain a protein source not commonly used in dog foods, such as veal, fish or venison, increases the chance of the dog not having consumed that protein source before. Meaning the protein isn’t recognised as an allergen by the dog’s body. Feeding these ‘novel proteins’ minimises the chance of an allergic reaction.

Hydrolyzed protein diets

To combat a dog’s immune response to the proteins in it’s food, these protein sources can be chemically modified by hydrolysis so that the dog’s body doesn’t recognise them as allergens. This technique breaks down the proteins intopolypeptideswhosesmaller size avoids stimulating the gut’s immune response. This method aims to avoid an immune response in dogs that have consumed the protein source before (as a whole protein) or have reacted to other protein types.   

Limited ingredients

When choosing a dog food or treat, look at the ingredients. Treats with lots of different ingredients in them are more likely to cause your dog issues if they have any allergies or intolerances. It’s also been found that some dogs are affected by multiple ingredients in their diet so it’s also a good idea to choose food or treats with only one protein source, e.g. fish, and one carbohydrate source, e.g. potato.

Addition of beneficial nutrients

There are certain nutrients that, when added to a dog’s diet, can help alleviate the symptoms of an allergic reaction. These include Omega 3 fatty acids,Vitamins A and E, andzinc.

Omega 3 has an anti-inflammatory effect so helps counter any inflammation caused by an allergic reaction. It also helps maintain healthy skin which can be damaged by allergic reactions. Adding Vitamin A also helps skin damaged by an allergic reaction as it helps with skin maintenance, cell growth and hair growth. Fish is an excellent source of both Omega 3 and vitamin A.

Vitamin E is another important nutrient in a dog’s diet as it helps with immune health and protects cell membranes from damage caused by an allergic reaction. Zinc’s role in the diet is to help maintain skin and coat health and to moderate any immune reactions.

By choosing food and treats for your dog that are hypoallergenic, you can help avoid any nasty allergic responses and help your dog feel healthier and happier. It’s also a great idea to avoid artificial flavourings and colourings and opt for all natural ingredients to give your dog a healthy boost.