We all want the best for our labrador. We want them to be healthy and happy and we try to give them everything they need to make that happen.
But sometimes there are things outside of our control. Labradors suffer from health issues just like humans do, and often this can’t be helped.
Allergies are just one of the things that can have a negative effect on your labrador’s comfort. It can be difficult to know what to do when your labrador is suffering from allergic reactions.
That’s why I’ve put this article together. To try and talk through some symptoms of common allergic reactions and to offer ideas for a change in your labrador’s diet as a potential source of relief.
I’m by no means a veterinary expert, but my own labrador had such strong allergies that for a period when he was young he was unable to walk without pain.
This was almost entirely solved by a strict alternation to his diet. So I have personal experience of seeing a labrador going from horrible discomfort, to healthy and happy, all from a dietary change.
I hope this article helps you, and your labrador.
Exactly which dog food is best for your labrador depends on their food allergy, so I have listed quite a few below. I would recommend looking at Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain-Free dog food first. It excludes most of the common allergens and comes in various different flavors, so you should be able to find a version that is suitably different from your labrador’s current dog food.
In a hurry?
You can take a look at Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain-Free on Amazon here
You should also read the rest of this article to see my other recommendation as well as a guide to finding the right food for a labrador with allergies.
Allergies in labradors are common
Allergies in labradors are not uncommon, so don’t think that there’s no help. There are lots of different foods and medication which can help relieve your labrador, or virtually clear up the symptoms entirely.
In fact, health issues, in general, are not uncommon in labradors, they will often have skin irritation and issues with their ears.
I would always recommend that you properly insure your labrador from the day you get them because the odds of you needing it are probably higher than you might think.
Thankfully, the good news about allergies being common is that there is plenty of specialist food designed for dogs with allergies. I’ve listed my recommendations later in the article.
But now, let’s take a closer look at allergies themselves and what can cause them.
What are food allergies in labradors
Labradors can have an allergic reaction to food as a result of the immune system being hypersensitive to an allergen.
Allergens are the substances that cause the allergic reaction and cover a range of different possibilities, including pollen, and foods.
For food-related allergies, the responsible allergen is usually proteins. These are found in meat or plant-based ingredients in their diet.
When the proteins are broken down, the immune system misidentifies them as a threat, resulting in an allergic reaction.
Labradors don’t necessarily have allergies from birth. Most will manifest themselves before the age of one, whilst some labradors will develop allergies at older ages.
Therefore, it’s important to note that just because a labrador has been enjoying a certain food in the past, don’t mean that it isn’t the cause of a sudden allergic reaction.
What are the most common food allergies for labradors
Because food allergies are usually caused by proteins there is a large range of foods that can commonly cause allergic reactions.
These are just some of the main foods which labradors often develop an allergy for.
Labradors can actually develop an allergy to pretty much any food. When labradors eat the same food for years on end they are more likely to develop an allergy to one of the ingredients in that food.
But they can also develop allergies to foods they may only have occasionally. Labradors are able to develop allergies for fruit and vegetables as well as the protein-heavy foods which I’ve laid out above.
So if your labrador is showing signs of an allergic reaction, you should be suspicious of any food they may be eating, even treats, or something they find in the garden.
The more closely you can monitor their diet, the quicker you will be able to identify the problem food.
How can I spot a labrador allergy
Just because a certain food makes a labrador ill doesn’t mean they are allergic to that food.
There are two main negative reactions a labrador might have to food, an intolerance, and an allergy. These are not the same thing.
Intolerance can be identified by digestive issues, such as a reaction to lactose.
Allergies are an immune response, often identified by skin issues.
Here are some of the main symptoms of allergic reactions for labradors.
Symptoms for labrador allergies
- Itchy skin
- Dry or flaky skin
- Itchy paws (paw biting)
- Itchy eyes (constant scratching on grass and carpets)
- Hair loss (especially around eyes)
- Red skin (especially obvious on the tummy and under the hind legs)
There are other less common symptoms of allergic reactions too such as eye discharge, red eyes, ear infections and vomiting.
Usually, the first signs of an allergic reaction will be skin related. If left untreated the itching can turn to raw skin and pain for the labrador.
Will changing diet help my labrador’s allergy
There’s a good chance it will.
Dietary allergies are common in labradors. It’s also common for labradors to develop an allergy to food which they regularly eat over a long period, so their daily dog food should be the prime suspect if they start to show signs of an allergy.
There have been many dog foods developed for dogs with allergies. These foods are called hypoallergenic dog foods.
They essentially work by removing the common foods which labradors often have allergies to.
It’s important to note that not all hypoallergenic food will have the same ingredients, some will still contain foods that your labrador might be allergic to.
Therefore, it makes sense to check the ingredients list of your current dog food, and then try to find hypoallergenic food which is very different from it.
If the fist hypoallergenic dog food you try doesn’t work then don’t give up, it might just still contain an ingredient your labrador is allergic to, try another food with another different list of ingredients.
Most importantly, when changing your dog food, make a note of any ingredients that still appear in the new and old food as that will help you identify what else you need to try if the reactions still persist.
Always consult with your vet
Before I delve into which hypoallergenic foods I would recommend for your labrador, it’s important that you always consult with your vet if you think your labrador has an allergic reaction to food.
Not only will they be able to advise you on any additional treatment that might be needed, but they will be able to confirm whether they agree with your belief that your labrador has a food allergy.
Labradors can have other, seasonal allergies. Just like humans they can, for example, be allergic to pollen.
Therefore, I would always recommend talking to your vet first, before you start to think about changing your labrador’s diet.
Your vet may also be able to provide you with short-term treatments such as anti-inflammatory creams which can help soothe your labrador’s discomfort whilst you identify the cause of the allergy.
How to find allergy-free (hypoallergenic) dog food
It’s actually quite simple to find foods for labradors with allergies.
There are lots of hypoallergenic dog foods on the market. They might not be quite so accessible in your local store but in the age of the internet, you should be able to find something online which will work for your labrador.
Keep in mind that hypoallergenic food works by removing common allergens from its ingredients.
That means that even hypoallergenic food could still contain something that your labrador is allergic to.
My own labrador had food allergies and we had to change his food twice before we found one which worked.
My advice would be to look at the ingredients list of their current food, then search for a hypoallergenic alternative with as few of those ingredients as possible.
Note down which ingredients appear in both their current and new food.
If the problems still persist after your labrador is on their new diet then change the food again to a different hypoallergenic option. This time make sure it contains none of the ingredients you noted down previously.
This process of elimination should mean you’re able to find a dog food that’s right for your labrador.
Dry dog foods for labradors with allergies (kibble)
There are loads of limited ingredient dog food out there that still offer everything your labrador needs for a balanced diet.
They won’t all be suitable for your labrador as some may still include your lab’s allergen as an ingredient.
Hopefully, by showing you a range of dog foods, you should be able to find one which seems suitable for your labrador.
If you’re not sure where to start, look at your labrador’s current dog food and try to find one without the main ingredients. i.e. if your labrador currently eats a chicken-flavored kibble, look for a duck or lamb limited ingredient dog food.
Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain Free (Salmon)
This is a great product for labradors with allergies. What makes it so good is it eliminates a huge number of common allergens so there’s a high chance your labrador will be able to eat it.
Instinct dog food only contains one protein source and one vegetable. This dog food doesn’t contain grain, dairy, eggs, chicken, beef, fish, sweet potato, potato, chickpeas, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or preservatives.
They also make a lamb version too which excludes all of the above ingredients as well as fish, so if your labrador already eats a dog food containing fish and is having an allergic reaction then you may want to try the lamb version instead.
The reviews for both are great and the ingredients list seems ideal for labradors with food allergies. I think there’s a great chance either the lamb or salmon version will be suitable for most labradors with food allergies.
You can take a look at Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain-Free dog food on Amazon here.
Natural Balance Limited Ingredients Large Breed (Lamb & Brown Rice)
Natural Balance produces a large array of limited ingredient pet foods. I’ve selected this one, particularly because this is especially for larger breeds.
Natural Balance has a good reputation and a stack of strong reviews. They have a sensible selection of dog food which should help many labradors with food allergies.
This lamb meal & brown rice variation is high in protein and fiber as well as having healthy amounts of calcium, phosphorus and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. That’s especially helpful as omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation caused by allergic reactions.
It’s a great choice as it doesn’t contain a whole host of common allergens, including chicken, beef and corn, so if your labrador has a food allergy there’s a good chance this food will avoid it, whilst offering them everything they need for a balanced diet.
You can take a look at the Natural Balance Limited Ingredients Large Breed on Amazon here. (I noticed in the reviews that there was a comment saying they have started using chicken as an ingredient, I can’t find any evidence of this and their ingredients list doesn’t state chicken)
Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient (Salmon & Potato)
Wellness produces natural, limited ingredient dog foods with a single protein source and easily digestible carbohydrates. Their foods contain no fillers or additives.
Wellness Simple includes no wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, gluten or meat by-products. It’s a good choice to try on labradors with food allergies as it doesn’t include a large chunk of the most common allergens.
It’s a salmon food, great for giving your labrador protein whilst staying away from the chicken and beef flavors which can often cause allergies.
The only drawback is the more intense smell you get from using fish as the main ingredient. Of course, if it stops your labrador’s allergic reactions then it’s a small price to pay, but it’s worth being aware so you’re not surprised when you first open up the package!
You can take a look at Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient dog food on Amazon here.
Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet (Duck)
Nutro produces a range of limited ingredient dog foods. I’ve chosen the duck option to try and bring some variety to this list and help you find a dog food suitably different from the one you currently use, but this product also comes in venison, lamb and salmon versions.
The duck version is made with duck and lentils, it avoids many of the most common allergens such as chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy and dairy.
This product should have an excellent chance of being allergy-friendly to your labrador due to the limited ingredients, none of their range contains more than 10 main ingredients and they have a stack of great reviews from happy dog owners saying their dog has now recovered from their allergic reactions after switching to this food.
If your lab already eats duck based food then I’d recommend trying their salmon version.
You can take a look at all the versions of Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet dog food on Amazon here.
Nature’s Recipe Grain Free (Salmon)
This is a high-quality kibble which comes in a range of flavors. All the options eliminate corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meal, artificial colors and flavors from the ingredients which should help labradors with allergies.
Whilst the Salmon version doesn’t contain chicken directly on the ingredients list, it does include poultry fat. This could be chicken and for that reason, I would not recommend this food if your labrador already eats a chicken-based food and is having allergic reactions.
Otherwise, with its long list of eliminated ingredients and easy to digest design this dog food may be suitable for some labrador with allergies and could be particularly useful for those who have difficulty digesting food in addition to their allergy.
You can take a look at Nature’s Recipe Grain Free dog food on Amazon here.
Diamond CARE Specialized Diets (Salmon)
Diamond specializes in dog food that targets various health issues, such as allergies, sensitive stomachs and obesity.
Their sensitive skin version is targeted at dogs with allergies which cause inflammation and rashes on the skin.
It uses limited ingredients with a single protein source (Salmon). They have also made it highly digestible so it’s a good choice for any labrador that has a sensitive stomach.
The food contains no chicken, beef, gluten, corn, wheat or filler and includes lots of healthy Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly useful as they help to reduce inflammation caused by an allergic reaction. This can continue to be useful even if your dog is not getting allergic reactions from their daily food because there’s always a chance they might find a bit of dropped food or receive a treat from someone else that will flare up their reaction.
The reviews for this product are great and there are lots of reports that it has cleared up ear infections and skin issues, both of which are common effects of an allergic reaction.
You can take a look at Diamond CARE Specialized Diets dog food on Amazon here.
CRAVE Grain Free High Protein (Salmon)
This Crave dog food is free from grain, corn, wheat and soy, all common suspects for allergic reactions.
It’s a protein-rich recipe, containing a huge 34% protein with fish as the main source.
This dog food does contain chicken meal chicken fat and lamb, so it would not be suitable to try if your labrador currently eats a chicken or lamb based dog food and is suffering from a food allergy.
Whilst it doesn’t eliminate as many allergy-causing foods as some others on this list, Crave does contain a very good ingredients list, offering high protein dog food with a quality list of ingredients.
If you suspect your labrador may be allergic to grain, corn, wheat or soy then this one could be a good option.
You can take a look at the CRAVE Grain Free High Protein dog food on Amazon here.
Wet (canned) dog food for labradors with allergies
You may want to treat your labrador to a tasty wet dog food. Well don’t worry, they come in limited ingredient versions too! So hopefully your lab can still enjoy the taste and texture of wet food.
Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Wet Food
I already mentioned wellness in the dry food section but they also have a great limited ingredient wet food option.
It’s a lamb and oatmeal dog food, using lamb as the single protein source. This dog food contains no chicken, beef, fish, corn, gluten, wheat, soy, fillers or artificial additives.
It excludes the majority of common allergens so it should be a good choice for your labrador. Of course, if your current dog food contains lamb then you should avoid this one, but if not then there’s a good chance this will work for your dog.
It has great reviews from lots of owners of dogs with allergies, noting how it’s the only food their dog has been able to eat, so if the ingredients are sufficiently different from your current dog food, and you want to be able to continue giving your dog wet food then this is a great product to try.
You can take a look at Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Wet Food on Amazon here.
Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Grain Free Wet Food
This wet dog food comes in various flavor options which is great if you’re trying to find a food different from what they currently eat.
This canned food comes in duck, lamb, turkey and whitefish varieties.
They contain no chicken, by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, dairy or eggs. So there’s a great chance that your labrador will be able to eat one of these versions of wet food.
Take a look at the current main ingredient of your labrador’s food. If it’s fish then try the Blue Buffalo duck wet food, if it’s lamb then try the whitefish or turkey version.
It’s gotten great reviews from owners of dogs with allergies and sensitive stomachs and looking at the ingredients list I think there’s a good chance one of their versions will work for most labradors with allergies.
You can take a look at Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Wet Food on Amazon here.
Finding the exact allergen can be difficult
As I said at the start of this article, I’m not a veterinary expert. But I have owned a labrador who was very allergic to certain foods and we had to find one that worked.
From that experience, some of my main advice would be to not worry too much about finding out exactly what your labrador is allergic to. The main thing that matters is finding out what they’re not allergic to!
In truth, we never really found out exactly what our labrador was allergic to, but we did find a dog food that he could eat without having a reaction, and we stuck with it.
It took two attempts, the first food we switched to didn’t work and that’s when he got really uncomfortable, thankfully the next one did.
So if your first attempt is unsuccessful then don’t worry too much, just check which ingredients crossed over from their original food to their new food and find another dog food without those ingredients.
I’m sure that eventually you will find a dog food that works.
Of course, you should always consult with your vet if you suspect your labrador has a food allergy, and you should certainly talk to them if changing to a limited ingredient food doesn’t seem to be working.
At the very least, they will be able to recommend an anti-inflammatory cream which should really help alleviate the discomfort for your labrador short term, until you can find a food that works for them.