Dog foods featuring a limited number of ingredients have become quite popular with pet parents, and even some veterinary professionals, during the past five years. For some dog parents, feeding a limited-ingredient dog food helps them manage their canine companion’s finicky digestive system or itchy skin. Still others are committed to following a “clean eating” lifestyle for themselves and want to feed their four-legged family member similarly. Both are valid reasons for choosing a limited-ingredient dog food.
What is a “limited-ingredient dog food?”
While the answer may seem obvious — it’s one with a small number of carefully selected ingredients — the definition will likely vary depending on whom you ask. But according to Pet MD, there is no regulatory definition for “limited-ingredient diet,” which is why you’ll find dog foods containing a wide range of ingredients promoted as having a limited number of ingredients.
Historically, veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists consider limited-ingredient dog foods — or maybe more appropriately, hypoallergenic or limited-antigen dog foods — to be made with only one protein source and one carbohydrate source. That’s because veterinary professionals originally used these foods to help identify the causes of their patients’ food allergies.
The definition of a limited-ingredient diet used by pet food companies, however, varies from one company to the next. Some companies’ limited-ingredient foods may contain one to two protein ingredients, such as rabbit, venison or hydrolyzed salmon, and one to two uncommon carbohydrates, such as green peas or sweet potatoes. Still other pet food manufacturers’ limited-ingredient products simply use fewer ingredients compared to their standard kibble formulas. And now some companies are offering foods made from very simple recipes of four to nine ingredients.
Limited-ingredient dog foods may also be grain-free foods, with companies replacing grains as a source of carbohydrates with ingredients such as potatoes or peas. Diamond CARE Sensitive Stomach Formula for Adult Dogs features egg and potato proteins as its protein-providing ingredients and potatoes as a carbohydrate source. Diamond CARE Sensitive Skin Formula for Adult Dogs uses hydrolyzed salmon and peas for its protein and carbohydrate ingredients, respectively.
Most importantly, limited-ingredient foods provide all of the essential nutrients that dogs require and are formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition, despite being made from a limited number of ingredients.
Is a limited-ingredient diet right for your dog?
If your dog has digestive system or skin issues, they may benefit from a limited-ingredient food. That’s the primary reason why many pet parents turn to this option. However, it’s important to work with your veterinarian to determine whether a limited-ingredient food is right for your furry friend. Your veterinarian can help determine what food ingredient may be causing your dog’s adverse food reactions or if another health issue is the underlying cause.