An elimination diet can help you know what type of food allergy your dog is suffering from.

Understanding Elimination Diets

When a dog suffers from allergies, it can be a challenging experience for both the pet and its owner. Allergies can cause a range of symptoms, including itchy skin, ear infections, and digestive issues. Rather than just jumping to the conclusion that your dog is allergic to chicken (which might be true as many dogs have developed allergies to chicken because of its overuse in the pet industry), there is a more systematic approach to determining what your dog is actually reacting to. One of the most effective methods for identifying food allergies in dogs is through an elimination diet. This blog post will explore what elimination diets are, how they work, and the potential problems that can arise if the diet is not followed correctly.


What is an Elimination Diet?

An elimination diet is a structured approach to identify food allergens by systematically removing potential allergens from the dog's diet and then gradually reintroducing them. This process helps pinpoint which specific ingredients are causing adverse reactions.


How Does an Elimination Diet Work?

  1. Consultation with a Veterinarian: Before starting an elimination diet, it's crucial to consult with a veterinarian. They can provide guidance and ensure that the diet is balanced and nutritionally complete.
  2. Choosing a Novel Protein and Carbohydrate: The diet typically begins with a limited ingredient food that contains a novel protein (one that the dog has never eaten before) and a novel carbohydrate. Common choices include duck and potato, venison and sweet potato, insect protein and sweet potato, or prescription hypoallergenic diets.
  3. Strict Adherence to the New Diet: The dog must eat only the chosen elimination diet food for 8-12 weeks. This means no treats, table scraps, flavored medications, or supplements unless they are part of the prescribed diet. Often vets will allow for grain free treats made from a novel protein, for example, Jiminy’s crunchy treats.
  4. Monitoring for Improvement: During this period, the owner should closely monitor the dog's symptoms. Any improvements in the dog's condition can indicate that the eliminated ingredients were causing the allergic reactions.
  5. Reintroduction of Previous Foods: After the elimination phase, individual ingredients from the dog’s previous diet are gradually reintroduced one at a time. Each ingredient is fed for a specific period (usually about two weeks) while monitoring for a return of allergy symptoms.
  6. Identification of Allergens: If symptoms reappear after reintroducing a specific ingredient, that ingredient is likely an allergen. The process continues until all potential allergens are tested.


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Problems Caused by Not Following the Elimination Diet

  1. Inaccurate Results: One of the biggest issues with not adhering strictly to the elimination diet is that it can lead to inaccurate results. Even small amounts of an allergenic food (even something as small as a training treat or food scrap) can trigger symptoms, making it difficult to determine which ingredients are causing the allergy.
  2. Prolonged Symptoms: If the diet is not followed correctly, the dog may continue to experience allergy symptoms, prolonging their discomfort and potentially leading to more severe health issues like chronic ear infections or gastrointestinal problems.
  3. Nutritional Imbalance: An improperly conducted elimination diet can result in a nutritionally unbalanced diet, which can impact the dog’s overall health. It’s essential to follow the veterinarian’s recommendations to ensure the dog receives all necessary nutrients.
  4. Frustration and Stress: Inconsistent adherence to the diet can cause frustration and stress for both the dog and the owner. The longer it takes to identify the allergen, the longer the dog suffers, and the more the owner may feel overwhelmed by the ongoing symptoms and dietary restrictions.
  5. Increased Veterinary Costs: Non-compliance with the diet can result in more frequent veterinary visits and additional diagnostic tests, increasing overall healthcare costs.


Tips for Successfully Following an Elimination Diet

  1. Commitment and Consistency: Ensure that everyone in the household understands the importance of the diet and follows it consistently. Educate family members about the risks of giving the dog treats or table scraps.
  2. Careful Reading of Labels: Be vigilant about reading ingredient labels on all dog food, treats, and supplements to avoid accidental exposure to potential allergens.
  3. Clear Communication: Communicate clearly with your veterinarian about any challenges or changes in your dog’s symptoms during the elimination diet. They can provide guidance and adjust the diet if necessary.
  4. Record Keeping: Keep a detailed diary of your dog’s diet, including the foods reintroduced and any symptoms observed. This record will be invaluable in identifying the specific allergens.



Elimination diets are a powerful tool for identifying food allergies in dogs, but their success depends heavily on strict adherence. By following the diet meticulously and working closely with a veterinarian, owners can help their dogs find relief from allergy symptoms and enjoy a healthier, happier life. If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, consult your veterinarian to develop a tailored elimination diet plan and commit to following it for the best results.


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