Allergies can be baffling when your pet can’t pipe up to explain what’s bothering them, and the term also covers a range of possible causes and symptoms that can be difficult to diagnose. Many pet parents might notice their dog’s skin is sensitive when their precious pup starts scratching or biting at their fur, for example, but are mystified as to whether this is caused by fleas, pollen or something else.

Or perhaps a pet is suffering with chronic digestion problems and regularly vomiting or producing loose stools. Upsetting for all concerned, but is it caused by a food allergy and if so, which foods should your dog avoid?

Often, a pet’s diet at the root of many health issues like these and choosing the right food is vital to help your dog.

So how do pet parents address allergies without making a dog’s dinner of it?

Much like in humans, the answer for dogs is often complex when allergies are concerned and there is a difference between allergies and intolerances. A food allergy involves the immune system and is usually triggered by a response to a protein. A food intolerance is an abnormal response to an ingredient but it does not involve the immune system.

Digestion problems and intolerances are becoming more and more common in dogs, but feeding a simple, digestible diet high in complex carbohydrate, using wholegrains such as brown rice and maize but also potato and buckwheat, can help. Beware of treats and overfeeding which also contribute to digestive problems.

If sensitive skin is a problem for your pet, the best approach to maintaining good skin health is to choose the right food. Natural wholesome foods high in complex carbohydrates will help your pet ditch the itch.

If you need to identify specific dietary intolerances for your dog, the most effective way is to try an elimination diet for 6-8 weeks. It can be daunting, but is an accurate way of discovering what might be causing a pet to have problems. Burns Pet Nutrition offers a free helpline service from its friendly and knowledgeable team of nutritionists, who can give bespoke free advice and support to pet owners, stockists and veterinary nurses and vets on diet and pet health, including managing an elimination diet.

Another difficulty in identifying intolerances or allergies in a dog’s diet is that many mass-market pet foods don’t state the exact ingredients on the labels. They might list ‘poultry’ for example, but this doesn’t tell you if your pet has been eating chicken, turkey or duck. It’s advised to introduce a new protein or carbohydrate that your dog has not tried before, like pork, egg or potato.

One option for this method is to try a fully homecooked diet for your prized pooch, using a combination such as chicken and rice or fish and potato, but this can be time consuming and may not give your pet a balanced diet.

An alternative is to choose a pet food for your dog that uses just one meat ingredient rather than several different ones. Every ingredient on the list should be named, so avoid anything that just states ‘cereals’ or ‘meat and animal derivatives’ as you won’t be sure what your pet is actually eating. The ingredient list should be short with as few ingredients as possible to complement the elimination diet.

Burns Pet Nutrition produces several types of hypoallergenic natural foods, with each range having minimal ingredient profiles, designed by veterinary surgeon and acupuncturist John Burns to avoid dogs reacting badly to foods. The company was launched by John Burns in 1993, with the idea of providing natural, healthy pet food modelled on a homecooked diet and was the first UK business to bring chemical-free pet food to market. John worked around the clock to find a natural alternative to chemical preservatives in pet food, eventually discovering that Vitamin E and rosemary oil could be used to preserve food. Burns made the switch to chemical-free pet food, setting the industry standard for others to follow.

Burns products are now on the shelves at over 6000 stockists worldwide and the company employs over 140 people across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Burns Pet Nutrition remains a family company, with John still at the helm 25 years on. The company’s priority remains simply that all pets should consume a natural, healthy diet based on homecooked food, allowing the pet’s body to get on with what it does best.

The Burns ranges are particularly suited to sensitive pets with allergies and intolerances making it a convenient and reassuring choice for pet parents looking to minimise the chance of their dog suffering chronic health issues or allergic reactions. 

The Burns Free-From Range uses duck, potato and buckwheat as the principle ingredients, which is useful for introducing new ingredients to many dog’s diets.

If sensitive skin is the problem, Burns Sensitive Fish & Wholegrain Maize contains Omega fatty acids to keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy and support its joints.

For dogs with a sensitive digestive system, Burns Sensitive Pork and Potato is a popular favourite with proven results.

  • You can call Burns Pet Nutrition for advice on allergies and your dog’s diet via their free helpline: 0800 083 6696 or LiveChat service from its team of expert pet nutritionists.