Best Limited Ingredient Puppy Food

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If you just welcomed your new puppy home, you are probably really excited because are so many fun aspects of having a puppy around! Unfortunately, if you are looking for the best limited ingredient puppy food, your excitement has probably turned to worry. Here’s what you need to know…

Best Limited Ingredient Food for Puppies

#1 Pick

Wellness Simple Natural Grain-Free Limited Ingredient
335 Reviews
Wellness Simple Natural Grain-Free Limited Ingredient

These reviews speak for themselves:

  • “What a difference!!! Puppy is running around happy again, full of energy and can breathe.”
  • “Great for itchy skin and sensitive stomachs”
  • “The ingredients are simple but of exceptional quality and, most importantly, our puppy loves it! We highly recommend it!!”

Wellness limited ingredient diet was formulated to be easily digestible with fewer ingredients for dogs with food sensitivities, allergies or ingredient intolerances.

Upgrade Pick

Nulo Puppy Freestyle Limited + Grain Free
94 Reviews
Nulo Puppy Freestyle Limited + Grain Free

Puppy owners everywhere are going nuts for Nulo! Take a look:

  • “This was the best thing to ever happen to my puppy.”
  • “Definitely our new choice of food for our pups”
  • “The limited ingredient stopped my puppy’s very soft stools.”

This all natural limited ingredient diet from Nulo is perfect for your puppy’s digestive & immune health.

Budget Pick

Nature's Recipe Grain Free Easy to Digest
1,364 Reviews
Nature's Recipe Grain Free Easy to Digest

No added grains, corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meal, artificial colors or flavors.

Does your puppy vomit after eating his dog food?

Has she suffered from diarrhea inexplicably?

Do they scratch uncontrollably?

If so, you may be wondering if your poor fur baby can be helped by switching up its diet.

Food sensitivities and food allergies are no joke, especially for a puppy that is just starting to develop and grow. 

If you and your veterinarian have decided that a limited ingredient diet is best to get to the root of your pup’s digestive issues – you probably want to know what is the best one to give them.

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look into limited ingredient dog food diets. 

We hope to clear up any doubts or misunderstandings you may have so you can make the best decision for your pup. 

By fully understanding why a limited ingredient diet is helpful you can then understand what the best limited ingredient puppy food is for your pup.

Signs Your Pup Needs a Limited Ingredient Diet

Chances are you’ve noticed something that doesn’t quite seem right with your pup. 

Obvious symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea cause obvious alarm bells to go off, but have you noticed any of these other symptoms?

  • Itchy skin
  • Chronic or recurrent ear infections
  • Excessive scratching
  • Hair Loss
  • Recurring skin infections
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Yeast infections
  • Excessive gas
  • Weight gain
  • Anal gland issues

If you have noticed any of these symptoms, your first instinct is probably to book an appointment with the vet.

Follow your instinct!

It is never wise to just assume that your pup has a food allergy or food intolerance. A lot of these symptoms can signal other, more serious problems. It is always a good idea to rule out any other conditions that could exist.

After talking with your vet and concluding that your dog is otherwise healthy, you can discuss your plans for a limited ingredient diet for your puppy.

How a Limited Ingredient Diet (LID) Works

When you and your vet have decided that food sensitivity is the most likely culprit behind your puppies’ symptoms, it’s time to think about limited ingredient puppy food.

But first, it’s a good idea to understand why you would want to feed your pup such a limited diet.

Basically, when your pup has a food allergy or a food sensitivity, it is next to impossible to know exactly which ingredient in their dog food is causing them the reaction.

There are no allergy tests that will magically tell you what food your dog is having problems with. 

The only way to figure this out is to eliminate the most common offending ingredients found in commercial dog food. Then you can reintroduce them one at a time to see how your dog reacts. 

This can be a time-consuming process but is worth the energy if you really want to get to the root of what is causing your dog so much suffering.

The LID Basics

The purpose of a limited ingredient diet is to eliminate all offending foods from your pup’s diet.

Limited ingredient dog foods do this by sticking to (usually) ten or fewer ingredients.

They are typically made with no artificial preservatives, no food colorings (artificial or otherwise) and may or may not be grain-free.

They frequently use “exotic” meats like lamb, duck, turkey or even venison.

An ingredient list on a limited ingredient dog food may look something like this:

“Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, lentils, chickpeas, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried beet pulp, natural flavor, salt”

Notice that the food is offering just one source of protein from meat, two non – grain carbohydrates, and a source of fat (vitamin e is a natural preservative so the fats do not go rancid).

Fruits or other veggies are often added to bolster fiber and vitamin content.

Let’s say you don’t want to keep your puppy on a limited ingredient dog food long term.

Are you just trying to identify food sensitivities that your pup may have? If so, consider using a limited ingredient puppy food as part of an elimination diet.

How to do a Limited Ingredient Elimination Diet for Your Dog

Time needed: 120 days.

Warning: the limited ingredient elimination diet takes planning and dedication on your part.

  1. Try a limited ingredient dog food for six weeks

    Once you decide on a specific limited ingredient dog food (our picks above), offer it to your puppy for a minimum of six weeks. Carefully observe their reactions. Is their skin less itchy? Are they still vomiting? Has their diarrhea cleared up? If not, talk to your vet.

  2. Switch back to your old dog food

    If the symptoms clear up, you need to switch back to your old dog food. If your puppies’ symptoms return, you are on the right road to narrow down the offending ingredients. Compare and contrast the ingredients in the old dog food and the limited ingredient dog food. One or more of those ingredients that appear in the old food, but not in the new, has to be the guilty culprit.

  3. Switch back to limited ingredient dog food

    After six more weeks, try experimenting with your dog feed by adding in other foods that have the specific ingredients that you have identified as being a potential issue. You can do this by trying other limited ingredient puppy foods that include these ingredients and mixing them together. If the original feed didn’t have rice, for example, offer one that does.

  4. Add ingredients, one at a time

    If possible, try to add the potential offending ingredients one at a time. Mix the new feed with the old for a minimum of six weeks. This can be a challenge because it requires you to research different feeds and formulations to have control over the different ingredient combinations.

  5. Grains a go?

    If you see that your puppy can handle, for example, rice or other grains, feel free to look at other high-quality dog food options that are not necessarily “limited ingredient” but that offer all-natural, minimally processed ingredients that you have proven to be agreeable with your dog.

  6. Eliminate!

    If you re-introduce a potentially reactive ingredient and your dog has a negative reaction, be sure to eliminate it from the diet once again, and consider that particular food inappropriate for your pup.

By going through this process you will have more success in identifying which specific ingredients your pup has an allergy or intolerance to.

If you strongly suspect your puppy has food allergies or intolerances, this is the only way to positively identify the foods that are causing them harm.

Remember that most food intolerances are actually caused by proteins, so don’t forget to include protein sources in this trial. Put your pup’s gut to the test with different meat, fowl, and fish products.

This is time and energy-intensive. It can also be expensive.

But in the end, it is preferable to identify the real culprits that are causing your puppy harm instead of just shooting in the dark and making assumptions.

You might be surprised that your puppy actually has digestive issues with beef or chicken and not corn or wheat! 

The ultimate goal is to find a high-quality dog food that will work long term for your puppy.

Nutritional Needs for a Puppy

What you need to keep in mind when looking for the best limited ingredient puppy food is your puppy’s nutritional needs.

The protein, fats, and carbohydrates your puppy consumes provide the essential energy, vitamins, and minerals it needs for growing.

1. Protein

Proteins are a vital source of essential amino acids that your dog needs to be healthy. It’s good to note that proteins can come from both plant and animal sources.

Plant-based proteins are generally not as digestible and are more abundant in low-quality dog foods.

Puppies need a minimum of 9.7 grams (and up to 12.5 grams, depending on the breed) per kilogram of weight.

This protein should be high-quality and easily digestible.

If the proteins primarily come from a plant-based source, you will want to make sure he gets more grams of protein for each kilo of body weight. This will make up for the lower digestibility of plant proteins.

2. Fat

Fats are a fairly complex aspect of your puppies diet and fulfill complex nutritional needs.

They are the main source of energy your dog will consume and contribute essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. Fats also help in the assimilation of other essential vitamins.

Needless to say, fats are an important element in limited ingredient dog food and should be from a high-quality source. Flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil are common ingredients in limited ingredient feed.

Your puppy will need at least 5.9 grams of fat, per kilo of body weight, a day. (This can also be understood as 21.3 gr. Of fat per 1000 calories.)

3. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates contain sugars, starches, and fibers. According to the experts, carbohydrates are not exactly essential in a dog’s diet if they receive lots of fats and proteins.

All the same, during certain periods of a dog’s life, like when they are puppies, they can be really helpful for supporting your dog’s growth.

There are not actually strict guidelines on what percentage of carbohydrates your puppy should be eating in his diet.

When purchasing a limited ingredient puppy food, you must read the package to make sure it is certified as “complete and balanced” by the AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials.

This certificate ensures that the feed meets all of your puppies’ nutritional needs.

Grain-Free or No?

One of the biggest differences you will notice in different limited ingredient puppy foods is that some are grain-free and some are not.

What’s the difference?

Many pet owners find that some breeds of dogs have a high incidence of intolerance to corn and wheat ingredients in dog food.

These ingredients are very frequently used to bolster protein content while providing carbohydrates and fiber in standard commercial dog foods. They are inexpensive and widely available.

Some owners have reported amazing changes in their dog’s symptoms by switching to a grain-free diet.

Unfortunately, some veterinarians have also noticed some not-so-desirable consequences associated with grain-free feeding.

Lately, there have been a lot of reports of dogs that have developed certain dangerous heart conditions.

The one thing these sick dogs have in common? Grain-free and legume-rich diets.

Legumes are chickpeas, lentils, soy, or even peanuts that are found in grain-free dog food.

These legumes are highly nutritious. They offer carbohydrates, fiber, and protein in your dog’s diet and help them to feel full longer.   

These ingredients, while they add to the nutritional profile of the dog food can cause certain interactions in the digestive system that affects the digestibility and absorption of vitamins and minerals. They can also interfere in the formation of amino acids that your dog needs.

This seems to be an issue for some breeds more than others.

For veterinarians, it is an alarming consequence of well-intentioned owners feeding their dogs a grain-free diet over prolonged periods.

Oats, barley, and rye are considered good alternatives to wheat and corn if your dog shows signs of reactions to a legume-based diet or if you simply do not want to go grain-free.

Most dogs are not actually intolerant to grains. Your puppy may very well be. Through a limited ingredient diet, you can experiment with your dog’s diet to find out what works best for your pooch.  

Limited Ingredient Diet … Just Because?

Have you been researching what the best limited ingredient puppy food simply because you think it might be a good option for your dog? 

Is a limited ingredient diet only for dogs with odd symptoms and dietary sensitivities?

Of course not! These specialized dog foods can work for any dog!

Limited ingredient dog foods are really important for people trying to get to the root of their dog’s digestive issues. But if your puppy has never had any issues, and is perfectly healthy, you might still want to give a limited ingredient dog food a try.

If you are a health-conscious individual and personally consume a diet based on minimally processed whole foods, why would you not want to do the same for your dog?

A limited ingredient dog food can be a great option for your puppy. Feeding your dog the highest quality, real food ingredients is a great way to give your pup the best jump start on a healthy life. 

Make sure that you carefully observe your puppy to be sure that the diet is agreeing with them. Keep an eye out for any of the symptoms listed above. 

Related Questions

What are all those other ingredients in my (so-called) limited ingredient dog food?

So you excitedly pick up a package of limited ingredient dog food. You expect to see just a few ingredients on the list.

But, wait…. There’s a whole list of words there that you can barely pronounce! What?

That huge list of ingredients is sometimes referred to as “condiments” in the dog food industry. Basically, these are added supplements that guarantee your dog is getting the complete nutritional profile that it needs for optimum health. 

What is the best meat protein for a limited ingredient diet?

There is not really a “best meat” option. So-called “novel meats” like lamb, turkey, duck, rabbit, or even wild boar are widely available options to choose from in high-quality limited ingredient dog foods.

Some of these meats are good to try for a time to see if your dog suffers from an intolerance to beef or chicken ingredients. They tend to be “non-reactive” and are good options if you are focused on an elimination diet.

Unfortunately, they can be quite expensive to feed your pup long term. 
Salmon and other whole fish options are great if you are looking to boost your dog’s omega-3 intake. This will help them maintain a shiny coat.

If you are on a budget, chicken or beef options should be a perfectly healthy option for your puppy.

What are all those other ingredients in my so-called limited ingredient dog food?

What is the best meat for a limited ingredient diet?

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