Lately the dog food world has been as obsessed with buzz words as us gluten-free-clean-eating humans. The latest trend? A limited ingredient diet. It’s especially popular with pups prone to allergies, since eating less ingredients generally means less food sensitivities. But is the diet necessarily better for your dog? We turned to Nancy Welborn, a veterinarian and assistant professor at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine to answer your questions about the latest canine eating craze:
What does “limited ingredients” really mean?
It’s a simple diet with fewer ingredients that pet owners typically use for dogs with allergies. It could mean that there's only one protein or grain source, Welborn says. The limited diet could also feature some unique protein sources, like rabbit, or carbs like sweet potatoes, which pups might not have been exposed to previously. For example, a limited ingredient label could read: Deboned duck, peas, fish oil, pumpkin and dried chicory root.
What are the benefits of this diet?
Limited ingredient dog foods are really made (and marketed) for pups who are prone to allergies. The diet is supposed to help minimize symptoms that come from food sensitivities like itchy skin, infections and stomach issues. Some claim that it can improve digestion and improve energy levels.
Are there any downsides?
“If owners begin feeding these foods without veterinary recommendation, they are exposing the pets to multiple sources of proteins and/or grains which may cause problems down the road,” explains Welborn. The best way to determine allergies is to take your dog to the vet to check them out and do an an elimination diet (eliminate foods one-at-a-time to figure out the source of the problem). Plus, being on a limited ingredient diet doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re feeding your dog a better diet. The key, Welborn says, is to assess the protein, vitamin and mineral levels in the foods, making sure they’re balanced, complete and high quality.
So is it worth it?
For some dogs, a limited ingredient diet is the solution to their problems. But a limited ingredient diet by definition doesn’t necessarily equate to a higher nutritional quality diet, Welborn says. (Remember when it seemed like every human switched to a gluten-free diet to be “healthier,” even if they weren’t gluten-intolerant?) Often, you can get many of the same benefits that are attributed to this diet—better digestion, less allergies, more energy—by feeding your dog unprocessed food with higher quality ingredients (not necessarily ‘limited’.)
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.