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Step-by-Step Dog Food Allergy Elimination Diet

January 29, 2012

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Allergy Elimination Diet Instructions

Fat, allergic Shih Tzu is missing fur on his back

Fat Allergic Shih Tzu

It’s a diet to figure out food allergies by process of elimination.  This process takes a total of 17 weeks, at a minimum.  This means you and your family will commit to the plan for at least 4 months.  That’s 4 months of feeding a “safe” diet like an expensive hydrolyzed protein diet or a novel protein diet.  (You can consult your veterinarian regarding local options for your country.)

Allergy Elimination Diet Goal

The goal of your allergy elimination diet is to only feed special diet and special treats in order to help the body clear out it’s reactivity.  Allergies are unforgiving.  Therefore,  you must even replace flavored heartworm preventatives with alternatives per your veterinarians instructions.

The Phases of Clearing Food Allergies from your Dog’s System

Phase 1

Gradually Switch to “safe” diet over 1 week:

-75% old food, 25% new food for 2 meals,
-50%-50% for 2 meals,
-25% old, 75% new for 2 meals.

Phase 2

After your pet is eating 100% special diet, start counting 8-12 weeks.

If the itchiness and allergy symptoms go away after 8 weeks, then you may start Phase 3.  If you still see symptoms, or you are uncertain, schedule a recheck with your veterinarian and continue the special diet for 4 more weeks (a total of 12 weeks).

Phase 3

After the symptoms have subsided, you must confirm it was a food allergy by feeding a meal of the old, original diet.  If the symptoms return within 72 hours, then you have confirmed food allergy!  Go back to the special diet for a week and then start Phase 4.

“The most commonly skipped step of the allergy elimination diet process is the feeding of the old, regular food at the end of the 8-12 weeks in order to confirm an actual food allergy,” says Doc Truli.  “Without this step, you have not diagnosed food allergy.”

Phase 4

You will now enter the final phase in which you test an ingredient each week in order to discover a list of “safe” and “allergic”  ingredients for your pet.

“You become allergic to what you’ve eaten the most,” says Doc Truli.

Because you become allergic to what you have eaten the most, the instruction given here are for allergic dogs in the United States and Canada.  If you are in Australia (the third-largest group of VirtuaVet readers are form Australia), then you must use “lamb” instead of “beef” in Week 2.  Lamb is a common dog food allergy in Australia, whereas beef is common in the US because of the availability to the food manufacturers.  If you are a fisherman or live in a fishing coastal town, then you may want to test “fish” on Week 6. Adjust your experimentation according to your dog’s feeding history.

Detailed Instructions on How to Discover Which Foods Your Dog is Allergic To

Week 1

You feed Chicken the first day of the week with the allergy diet as a base.  You wait 3 days and write down any allergy symptoms you see.  Then feed only the allergy diet to reset the body and clear out the reaction for the rest of the week.

Week 2

You feed Beef the first day of the week with the allergy diet as a base.  You wait 3 days and write down any allergy symptoms you see.  Then feed only the allergy diet to reset the body and clear out the reaction for the rest of the week.

Week 3

You feed Corn the first day of the week with the allergy diet as a base.  You wait 3 days and write down any allergy symptoms you see.  Then feed only the allergy diet to reset the body and clear out the reaction for the rest of the week.

Week 4

You feed Soy the first day of the week with the allergy diet as a base.  You wait 3 days and write down any allergy symptoms you see.  Then feed only the allergy diet to reset the body and clear out the reaction for the rest of the week.

Week 5

You feed Egg the first day of the week with the allergy diet as a base.  You wait 3 days and write down any allergy symptoms you see.  Then feed only the allergy diet to reset the body and clear out the reaction for the rest of the week.

Bring It All Together in a “Safe” List

When you are done, you will have a “safe” list and an “allergy” list and you can start reading pet food labels and looking to find affordable foods you want to feed to your pet.

Most people keep a pet on the allergy diet to avoid the time and trouble of the whole allergy elimination diet process, but if you can stick it out, you will save tons of money over your pet’s lifetime and prevent your pet from becoming allergic to the allergy diet!

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Erin permalink
    March 24, 2018 11:10 am

    Thank you for these great thorough instructions for the elimination diet. It’s difficult to go through the process but with solid information I was able to keep myself on track in turn giving my dog the best care. If anyone feels overwhelmed by the process, get through 2 weeks and it becomes a habit. As it turns out for my GSD, he loves the home cooked food so much that we use it as a treat instead of store bought stuff. He is having tremendous luck with a great dog food as well. All the information compiled from all the research I was forced to do has helped me understand what constitutes good nutrition for my dogs. I have grown very tired of the marketing from vets (especially) and food companies alike. Just so thankful there are people out there willing to share their experiences and knowledge out of nothing more than being good people. Thank you.

    • August 29, 2018 10:37 am

      Dear Erin,
      Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad I could help. My German Shepherd eats home-cooked food, too!
      -Dr Truli

  2. Crystal Ursin permalink
    March 18, 2018 2:06 pm

    My dog has IBD, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and the vet believes it’s from food allergies, his symptoms are chronic vomiting after drinking water. We have him on a Hydrolyzed diet for a few weeks to see if it really is food allergies. Can this Elimination diet work for his problems too? There is no itching, redness, or other skin problems, just the vomiting. Thanks!

    • August 29, 2018 10:40 am

      Dear Crystal,
      The Hydrolyzed diet is often used as the hypoallergenic base. You should have a recheck with your veterinarian to confirm that your dog is better enough to possibly start an elimination diet to create a “do” and “don’t” food list. Your veterinarian can help you predict if your dog might have a nasty relapse, or needs the diet faster or slower, and how long it might take your dog, and what signs in your particular dog to watch for to decide if the process is working.
      -Doc Truli

  3. Hannnah permalink
    November 15, 2017 12:51 am

    So when you reintroduce foods one at a time you feed the 1 ingredient only on the first day of the week? Just trying to clarify since it says day four you give the allergy diet again. But what about day two and three of the week? Only allergy diet or do you give the 1 ingredient with the allergy diet and days two and three of the week as well? Thank you.

    • November 26, 2017 6:12 pm

      Good point. No one, in 21 years has asked me to clarify that! Yes, 1 meal with the “test” ingredient and then the base hypoallergenic diet for 7 days. It is thought to take up to 72 hours for a food delayed-hypersensitivity reaction to appear and up to 3 days for it to go away. And most of Earth time runs in 7 day weeks, so do 1 ingredient weekly and record the results, let the potential reaction clear and then try another ingredient. You could, theoretically, start another food after 3 days if you see no reaction. But these things can be hard to interpret, and after all that time spent clearing the system, you do not want to be unclear about your observations and get confusing results.

      Thank you for the close reading! I hope that helps.

  4. September 23, 2017 5:18 pm

    I just bought a bag of Royal Canin Hydrolized Protein Dog food. I am going to feed this to my dog for 8-12 weeks and then slowly introduce possible food protein allergens to her meal for 1 day of each week and wait to see her scratch and move on to next protein food. I understand all of this and the concept. However, what if she eats the Diet Elimination Food for 12 weeks and she’s still scratching herself raw? Do I assume it’s not food and must be from outside?

    • October 10, 2017 9:12 am

      These are excellent questions that the veterinarian who prescribed the Royal Canin diet or their trusted, knowledgeable nurses should be able to answer. My first thought is, no allergy elimination diet is going to work if there are fleas. I always recommend prescription, professional flea control even if you “never see a flea.” Also, if there are infections like bacterial, yeast, ringworm, etc on the skin, then the itchiness could be compounded and the food will not clear all. Even dogs that have been on tons of meds for the skin over the years often need one more round of antibiotics and special shampoo along with the allergy elimination diet because they have grown another infection because the allergies let it happen.

      Your trusted local veterinarian is there to guide you in these matters. If they are not, then ask for a referral to a veterinary dermatologist.

  5. Mr P permalink
    October 27, 2016 1:06 pm

    So how does one know the volume of single protein or carb to give an 85 lb AM bulldog who eats 2x/day? Also, if we want to do salmon & sweet potatoe . . . is canned salmon ok? Or is salmon tucked into other traditional foods he may have eaten to boost the omega 3’s

    • October 28, 2016 9:45 am

      Good questions:
      Hire a veterinarian trained in nutrition to design a balanced recipe for your dog. Or have you veterinarian work with a specialist. and are 2 that consult with your vet.

  6. P. Wheeler permalink
    December 27, 2015 10:02 am

    We are starting an elimination diet for our labrador. Does the novel food have to be from one source only(eg all venison-and-potato, or can it be duck-and-pea treats and venison-and-potato kibble)? Thanks for your clear instructions.

    • January 7, 2016 12:34 pm

      Good question!
      If you are trying to determine what food allergies you are dealing with, the less ingredients the better. Plus, kibble usually has lots of hidden ingredients and fresh cooked food temporarily to identify allergies is clearer to tell what is happening. Plus, imagine your pet eats A, B, C, and D treats and food ingredients and gets itchy, which was it? If your pet eats A and is not itchy, then A is generally non-reactive, then try B. Of course, each pet is different. If you have health issues like sensitive stomach, pancreatitis or anything else, this should always be guided by your veterinarian that knows your pet.


      -Doc Truli

  7. June 27, 2013 12:57 am

    Thanks for the info about doggie diets…my shih tzu mix has allergies and I’m going to try this with her.

    • June 27, 2013 9:06 pm

      Dear Madison,
      You are welcome. I encourage you to seek a local vet you trust to help you implement the diet effectively. It could save you lots of doubt and time.
      -Doc Truli

  8. January 29, 2012 5:10 pm

    Reblogged this on epicpoocher and commented:
    This is a great read for Dog Owners.

    • Natalie permalink
      February 19, 2018 2:24 pm

      In phase 3 you say to feed a meal of the old diet. When you say meal do you mean one protein ingredient from her old diet or her old original kibble? Her old diet kibble consists of three different proteins (turkey,salmon and duck) and many other ingredients so should I feed her old kibble or just one ingredient from her old kibble? Also, when you say one meal do you mean one time only? I feed her twice a day AM and PM so would it be only once or twice for that day? My vet felt she may have food allergies due to ear infection and also she does not express her anal glands naturally. I have seen results in her ears but not the anal gland issue.

      • August 29, 2018 11:05 am

        Dear Natalie,
        You should have your veterinarian or a boarded veterinary dermatologist help your with your specific questions. You should only do this under veterinary guidance as there are millions of possible health variations you might be unaware of as a pet owner.The article is a written out guideline in general because many veterinarians do not explicitly write it out for their clients. It is not meant to replace your veterinarians advice.

        That said, the article means 1 meal of the old food. This is to confirm that there actually are food allergies. This is the missing step when most people do an allergy elimination diet and the dermatologists make it very clear to the vet they teach that this step is critical to the diagnosis of food allergy. Of course, the point is the symptoms will come back from 1 meal and then you have to deal with that!!! A recurrence of ear infection or IBD flare-up or whatever the problem was is awful. You should have veterinary help assessing whether the risk is worth it for your pet and you need to have help on hand to deal with it.

        I use Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine to help ears and anal sacs. You can search for a veterinarian trained in TCVM at under resources and find a practitioner. It is a worldwide search.
        -Doc Truli


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