Food Allergies: Prescription Dog Food Diet Alternatives
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The Vet's Corner

Food Allergies: Prescription Dog Food Diet Alternatives

by Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva

Prescription diet dog food has become a common solution for pet owners facing specific health issues with their fur babies. These specialized diets are formulated to address various medical conditions, such as allergies, obesity, kidney disease, and gastrointestinal disorders.

While prescription diets can be very effective for many health disorders, they might not always be the most suitable option for every dog or pet owner- especially when it comes to food allergies. In this article, we will explore some alternative approaches to dealing with your dog's food allergies without solely relying on prescription dog food.

What are Food Allergies?

In both dogs and humans, food allergies are caused by water-soluble glycoproteins with a molecular weight of >10,000 Daltons. Put simply, food allergies are typically to an animal protein.

In fact, the most common food allergens for dogs are1:

  1. Beef
  2. Dairy
  3. Chicken
  4. Wheat
  5. Lamb

What are Your Options?

If your dog has a food allergy there are two options of commercially available diets that can be fed. These include:

  1. Novel protein diets (over the counter and prescription options)
  2. Hydrolyzed protein diets (prescription only)

Novel Protein Diets

Novel protein diets are those that use “novel” protein ingredients - those that are not commonly used in pet food, and are therefore not on the list of common dog food allergens. These diets can be either prescription or over the counter, and the protein source can range anywhere from kangaroo to yeast. Novel protein diets were found to be appropriate for the long-term management of food allergies in dogs.2

Wild Earth dog food is an over the counter novel non-animal protein diet that uses yeast and potato protein, and is free from the top food allergens for dogs. Our high protein formula is also free from less common allergens such as pork, egg, corn, and soy, making our food a great option for food allergic dogs.

Hydrolyzed Protein Diets

Hydrolyzed protein diets are prescription diets created by breaking down the proteins into smaller components (peptides less than 12,000 Daltons) through a process called hydrolysis. This process reduces the allergenicity of the proteins, making them less likely to trigger an allergic reaction in dogs. Moreover, hydrolyzed protein diets were found to have a much lower chance of being mislabeled when compared to novel protein diets.3

These diets are a good option for those dogs with no diet history, such as rescued dogs, as well as those dogs who do not see symptom resolution on several novel protein diets.

Potential Drawbacks of Hydrolyzed Protein Diets

While hydrolyzed protein diets minimize the possibility of eliciting an allergic response in the body, and may be the best choice for many dogs, there are a few drawbacks to feeding them.

  1. Common Protein Source

Many prescription hydrolyzed protein diets utilize common protein sources, such as chicken and beef, which we now know are common allergens for dogs. Once these proteins are hydrolyzed to <10,000 Daltons they should not elicit an allergic response in the body. However, it was determined that 20-50% of dogs with food allergies will flare when fed partially hydrolyzed protein of the ingredient they are allergic to.4

  1. Allergenicity

While most prescription hydrolyzed dog foods contain protein sources which are hydrolyzed to <10,000 Daltons, there are those that are around 12,000 Daltons, which we know can still trigger an allergic response.

  1. Diarrhea

Hydrolyzed protein diets have a higher osmolarity, which means they tend to pull more water into the gut. This can result in softer stool and/or diarrhea.

  1. Higher Price

Prescription hydrolyzed protein diets often come at a higher price point than novel protein diets. Check out this comparison.

Wild Earth: A Novel Protein Diet Option

As you can see, Wild Earth offers a lower cost, over the counter novel non-animal protein option for food allergic dogs. Both our Performance and Maintenance formulas contain dried yeast as the main protein source, and are free from the most commonly reported allergens for dogs as well as those less common allergens. Plus– unlike bland hydrolyzed diets, our food comes in two mouth-watering flavors!

Take our quiz today to determine which of our formulas is best for your food allergic dog!


  1. ​​Mueller RS, Olivry T, Prélaud P. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats. BMC Vet Res. 2016 Jan 12;12:9. doi: 10.1186/s12917-016-0633-8. PMID: 26753610; PMCID: PMC4710035.
  2. Leistra MH, Markwell PJ, Willemse T. Evaluation of selected-protein-source diets for management of dogs with adverse reactions to foods. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Nov 15;219(10):1411-4. doi: 10.2460/javma.2001.219.1411. PMID: 11724180.
  3. Olivry T, Mueller RS. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (5): discrepancies between ingredients and labeling in commercial pet foods. BMC Vet Res. 2018 Jan 22;14(1):24. doi: 10.1186/s12917-018-1346-y. PMID: 29357847; PMCID: PMC5778722.
  4. Bizikova P, Olivry T. A randomized, double-blinded crossover trial testing the benefit of two hydrolysed poultry-based commercial diets for dogs with spontaneous pruritic chicken allergy. Vet Dermatol. 2016 Aug;27(4):289-e70. doi: 10.1111/vde.12302. Epub 2016 Jun 16. PMID: 27307314.

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