Dogs love to eat and most dogs will scarf down whatever you put in front of them. Unfortunately, your dog’s stomach may not like everything he eats as much as he does. In the same way that humans can be sensitive or allergic to certain foods, so can your dog.
Dog food allergies and sensitivities are more common that you might think. Food allergies account for roughly 10% of all allergies in dogs and they can cause a wide variety of symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal upset to skin problems and chronic ear infections. Dogs can develop allergies to virtually any meals ingredient, but the most common dog food allergies are beef, dairy, wheat, eggs, chicken, soy, and pork.
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from a food allergy or sensitivity, you should consult your veterinarian. He will likely suggest an elimination diet in which you start feeding your dog food made with a novel source of protein and carbohydrate – that is, ingredients he hasn’t eaten before. It also helps if the recipe has a limited number of ingredients because it will reduce the potential for a reaction.
To give you a place to start your search for this kind of food, here are our top ten picks to get the best dog food for sensitive stomachs:
Best Dog Food for a Sensitive Stomach – Reviews & Top Picks
#10 Dogswell Nutrisca Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Dogswell Nutrisca Limited Ingredient Dog Food is an affordable option compared to many premium brands, but it still offers balanced nutrition. It is supplemented with chicken fat for energy and essential fatty acids plus flaxseed and salmon oil. Every recipe is supplemented with chelated minerals as well, for optimal nutrient absorption.
Pros: high-quality animal proteins, grain-free carbohydrates, plenty of healthy fats, salmon oil for omega fatty acids, fiber for healthy digestion, chelated minerals for nutrient absorption
Cons: contains some chicken ingredients, no probiotics
#9 Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Each recipe in the Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Dog Food line of products is made with a limited number of main ingredients. Products are supplemented with omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, plus fiber for healthy digestion. Every recipe is highly digestible and designed to provide high-quality nutrition for all breeds.
Pros: high-quality animal proteins, digestible carbohydrates, blend of omega fatty acids for skin and coat, fiber for healthy digestion, supplemented with chelated minerals
Cons: some recipes list carbohydrate first, contains some plant protein, plant-based protein as the main source of fat, not all are grain-free
#8 The Honest Kitchen Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Honest Kitchen Limited Ingredient Dog Food comes in several flavors, including a 6-ingredient recipe featuring cage-free turkey. This formula is free from corn, wheat, and soy and also GMO ingredients, by-products, and artificial additives. It includes parsnips, navy beans, coconut, and pumpkin for fiber and nutrients with chelated minerals and vitamin supplements for nutritional balance. It may take some time for your dog to get used to the texture, and you’ll have to rehydrate the food before feeding, but it can be difficult to beat this brand for quality.
Pros: dehydrated food is close to raw for nutritional quality, only 6 main ingredients, high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient, gluten- and grain-free, no artificial additives or fillers, made with human-grade ingredients in human food facilities
Cons: needs to be rehydrated before feeding, very expensive, some dogs are sensitive to poultry
#7 Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain and Potato Free Dog Food
Within the Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain and Potato Free line of dog food, protein options include lamb, chicken, salmon, duck, and turkey. Each recipe is available in both dry and canned food form, so you can choose the one that best suits your dog. Rest easy knowing that every recipe contains plenty of animal protein, healthy fats, and digestible carbohydrates as well as essential nutrients.
Pros: single source of animal protein, no more than 8 key ingredients, grain-free carbohydrates, chelated minerals for optimal absorption, high in protein and healthy fat, fiber for healthy digestion
Cons: some recipes contain chicken ingredients, main source of fat is plant-based, no probiotics
#6 Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dog Food
Every recipe in the Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dog Food line is free from dairy, eggs, potato, corn, wheat, and soy and also artificial additives. Each formula features a single source of animal protein and one vegetable with beneficial supplements as needed. Kibbles are coated in freeze-dried raw powder for a boost of nutrition and flavor as well.
Pros: single source of protein and vegetable, limited number of main ingredients, coated in freeze-dried raw powder, free from common allergens, gluten- and grain-free, highly digestible, chelated minerals
Cons: recipes include plant protein, main source of fat is plant-based, very expensive
#5 Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Dog Food
The Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Dog Food line of dog food contains both dry food and wet food options. There is a small-breed and a healthy-weight formula along with both grain-free and regular options. Every recipe is supplemented with chelated minerals in addition to dried fermentation products for probiotic support.
Pros: single source of animal protein, highly digestible carbohydrates, plenty of healthy fat, chelated minerals for optimal absorption, probiotics for healthy digestion
Cons: plant-based fat as the main source, somewhat expensive
#4 Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Dog Food
Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Dog Food is made with 10 ingredients or fewer, plus natural flavors and vital supplements. These products are designed to not only meet your dog’s nutritional needs, but to nourish his sensitive skin as well. Each recipe is rich in protein and healthy fats with plenty of soluble fiber for healthy digestion.
Pros: high-quality animal protein as first ingredient, several protein options to choose from, made with 10 main ingredients or less, grain-free carbohydrates, supports healthy skin and coat, chelated minerals for maximum absorption, natural flavor
Cons: contains potato ingredients, contains some plant protein, main source of fat is plant-based
#3 Canidae Grain-Free PURE Dry Dog Food
In addition to high-quality animal proteins and digestible carbohydrates, each Canidae Grain-Free PURE Dry Dog Food recipe contains healthy fats, natural flavors, vitamins and minerals, and probiotics. This combination of supplements ensures healthy digestion and maximum nutritional absorption. Out of the 11 different recipes, there are options for puppies, adults, and small breeds so you can easily choose the recipe that best suits your dog’s needs.
Pros: Premium animal proteins as first ingredient, grain-free carbohydrates, no more than 10 primary ingredients, supplemented with nutrients and probiotics, age- and size-specific options available
Cons: some recipes contain chicken ingredients, main source of fat is plant-based, very expensive
#2 Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Each Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Dog Food recipe is made with a single source of animal protein and supplemented with healthy fats and digestible carbohydrates. The Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Dog Food line features over a dozen limited ingredient products, both dry food and wet food, for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Plus, every recipe is clear of corn, wheat, and soy ingredients.
Pros: single source of animal protein, grain-free digestible carbohydrates, supplemental fiber for healthy digestion, blend of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, LifeSource Bits for nutritional balance
Cons: some plant-based proteins, main source of fat is plant-based
#1 Zignature Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Zignature Limited Ingredient Formula dog food is packed with protein and supplemented with grain-free carbohydrates like chickpeas, lentils, and peas for fiber and nutrients. Every recipe is supplemented with chelated minerals to ensure maximum nutritional absorption with vitamin supplements for nutritional balance. These recipes are highly palatable and full of natural flavor your dog will be sure to love.
Pros: hypoallergenic animal-based protein as first ingredient, gluten- and grain-free carbohydrates, no chicken or eggs, high in protein and healthy fat, supplemented with chelated minerals and vitamins
Cons: very expensive, contains some plant proteins, no probiotic supplements
What Kind of Dog Food is Best for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs?
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from food allergies or sensitivities, you should change his diet. Dogs can technically develop an allergy to any food ingredient and the longer you feed him a specific ingredient, the higher the risk that he’ll become sensitivity to it.
But what do you do when your dog develops a food allergy or sensitivity?
The first step is to take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out other potential causes for his problem. Dogs react to food allergies and sensitivities in a slightly different way than humans, so if your dog’s symptoms are largely gastrointestinal, it might not be related to his food. In most cases, dogs with food allergic reactions develop chronic skin problems and recurrent ear infections.
If your veterinarian confirms that your dog’s issues are related to his food, the next step is to change what you’re feeding him. The best thing you can do is switch to a restricted ingredient diet (LID) made with a novel source of protein and carbohydrate. As was mentioned earlier, a novel ingredient is simply one your dog hasn’t had before.
For example, if you’re currently feeding your dog a chicken- or turkey-based dog food product, you might try switching to one made with fish or lamb. If your pet’s food contains a blend of different proteins, you might need to go with something a little less common like venison or rabbit. For carbohydrates, novel sources may include oatmeal, chickpeas, or sweet potato.
In addition to thinking about the type of ingredients in your dog’s new food, you also have to think about the number of them. The more ingredients there are in your dog’s food, the more potential there is for him to develop a reaction. Limited ingredient diets are made with a lower number of main ingredients than typical dog food for exactly this reason – to reduce the risk of triggering a reaction. These formulas are still supplemented with vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial additives, but the primary ingredients are usually limited to 5 to 10 proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Tips for Transitioning Your Dog onto the New Food
Once you’ve chosen a new dog food recipe for your dog, the hard work is over. The next thing you have to do is transition him onto it.
Your dog’s digestive system is already stressed due to the allergy or sensitivity, and that means you don’t want to make things worse by suddenly changing his diet. Start by mixing 25% of the new food with 75% of your dog’s old food and maintain that for a day or two. It’s normal for your dog to experience a little diarrhea or soft stools during this time, but if your dog develops nausea or vomiting you may want to check with your veterinarian.
After a day or two mixing the new food in at a 1-to-4 ratio, blend 50% of the new food with 50% of the old food for a few days. From there, mix 75% of the new food with 25% of the old food for some days. As long as your dog’s stomach seems to be settling down, you can then start feeding him 100% of the brand new food at every meal.
Dogs are creatures of habit so, as much as they may love to eat, some dogs will be picky when it comes to changing their diet.
There are some simple things you can do to make your dog’s new food more appealing such as:
- Drizzling the meal with a little chicken or beef broth (so long as your pet isn’t sensitive to these ingredients).
- Take some of your dog’s favorite treats and stir them into the mix.
- Buy a canned version of the new food and spoon a little of it over top of the dry food.
It may take some time, but your dog will eventually get used to his new diet and you’ll be able to determine whether the switch is beneficial or not. Pay attention to your dog’s digestion on the new diet and monitor him to see if his symptoms start to disappear. It can get up to 12 weeks for an elimination diet to come into full effect, so be patient!
Once your dog’s symptoms are completely resolved, you have a few options.
One option is to simply keep feeding your dog the limited ingredient diet. So long as he isn’t having a reaction and you can afford to keep feeding it, this may be the best way to go.
Another option would be to slowly introduce potential allergens (one at a time) until you’ve identified the problem. This is an option if you don’t already know which specific ingredient is the cause for your dog’s symptoms If you go this route, you can choose an affordable dog food free from the offending ingredient once you’ve identified it and then transition your dog onto that.
A Word of Caution
If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with a food allergy or sensitivity, he may recommend something called a prescription diet. Prescription dog food is simply dog food formulated to address specific health or nutritional needs. Some brands that offer doctor prescribed diets include Royal Canin, Purina, and Hill’s Science Diet.
Before you follow your veterinarian’s advice and start feeding your dog one of these products, take a closer look. First and foremost, you’ll notice that prescription diets from these brands are very expensive – comparable to the price of a traditional adult dog food diet from one of the premium brands. Second, you’ll observe that the ingredients list is filled with low-quality ingredients.
Many prescription dog foods are made with corn, wheat, and soy ingredients – things like corn gluten meal or whole grain wheat. Don’t let the words “whole grain” fool you because corn, wheat, and soy-based ingredients are never a good choice for dogs. They are simply not on par with other components in terms of nutritional value and they have a high risk for triggering food allergies and sensitivities on their own.
It is better to choose a high-quality dog food with limited ingredients (particularly ingredients your dog isn’t sensitive to) than to overpay for a prescription diet of lower quality.