Skin sensitivities and ailments are common in dogs, but you can fight back against this pesky problem and help your dog feel and look his best.
One way is by selecting a food designed for dogs with sensitive skin.
Below, we’ll explain ways some dog foods seek to help skin problems, list the most common canine skin ailments, and share a few of our favorite foods for dogs with sensitive skin.
Best Dog Food for Sensitive Skin: Quick Picks
Looking and feeling great tastes even better with this fresh food option, featuring a meat-forward mash customized to your dog’s dietary needs.
This crunchy kibble was designed by animal nutritionists for skin and coat health with high-quality ingredients rich in omega fatty acids.
While budget-friendly, this skin and coat-focused food doesn’t skimp on quality, containing ingredients for nose-to-tail health like probiotics and fatty acids.
The 12 Best Dog Foods for Sensitive Skin
The right food can do wonders in combating skin sensitivities in dogs. Here are some of our favorite options, including fresh foods, kibbles, and more.
About: Nom Nom is a fresh food option customized to your canine’s unique dietary needs, whether he’s suffering from skin issues or has a turbulent tummy. The savory mash features real meat and vegetables and is prepared using gentle cooking methods to preserve nutrients, taste, and texture.
- Veterinary nutritionists formulate recipes to ensure balance
- Delivered right to your door, frozen and pre-portioned for convenience
- All recipes meet AAFCO standards for all life stages
- Made in the USA with US-sourced ingredients
Options: Available in Beef Mash, Chicken Cuisine, Pork Potluck, and Turkey Fare.
Ground Pork, Russet Potatoes, Green Beans, Squash, Kale...,
Cremini Mushrooms, Dicalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Natural Flavor, Vinegar, Citric Acid, Fish Oil, Taurine, Choline Bitartrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Niacin, Manganese Gluconate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Cholecalciferol, Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement
- Can be formulated without allergy-triggering ingredients
- Many parents reported improved skin health and a shiny coat after making the switch
- Customized to your dog’s unique dietary needs and activity level
- Taste and texture earn high marks from dogs
- This food is much pricier than kibble
- Requires refrigeration
2. Blue Buffalo True Solutions Perfect Coat
About: Blue Buffalo True Solutions Perfect Coat features a balanced blend of omega fatty acids, real fish, and grains for nourishing your dog’s skin and fur from the inside out. The food also leaves out common sensitivity triggers like chicken, corn, and eggs, helping your scratchy sniffer feel his best.
- Probiotic blend for digestive health
- Formulated by animal nutritionists and veterinarians
- Includes Blue’s antioxidant-packed LifeSource Bits
- Made in the USA with globally-sourced ingredients
Options: Available in Salmon Recipe.
Deboned Salmon, Salmon Meal, Oatmeal, Brown Rice...,
Barley, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Canola Oil, Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Peas, Pea Protein, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Fish Oil, Potassium Chloride, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Salt, Pumpkin, Dried Chicory Root, Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, DL-Methionine, L-Threonine, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Tryptophan, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Taurine, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Sulfate, Biotin, L-Lysine, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenite, Rosemary oil
- Formulated by canine nutrition experts to address skin and coat health
- Doesn’t include common trigger ingredients like chicken or eggs
- Added probiotics aid in gut health
- Some dogs don’t care for Blue’s LifeSource Bits
- More protein options would be ideal
3. Spot & Tango Unkibble
About: Skip the ingredients that make your mutt itch with Spot & Tango’s Unkibble, an air-dried twist on kibble containing wholesome ingredients like fresh, human-grade meat and produce. It’s catered to meet your dog’s unique dietary needs (including sensitivities) and comes with a custom scoop to make mealtime more convenient.
- Air-dried using gentle methods to preserve taste and nutrients
- Vet-formulated recipes designed to be balanced
- All recipes meet or exceed the AAFCO standards for all life stages
- Made in the USA with US-sourced ingredients
Options: Offered in Cod & Salmon, Beef & Barley, and Chicken & Brown Rice.
Cod, Salmon, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, Sunflower Seeds...,
Tapioca, Strawberries, Carrots, Spinach, Parsley, Rosemary, Kelp, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Flaxseed Oil, Choline Chloride, L-Tryptophan, L-Threonine, Organic Zinc Proteinate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Organic Selenium Yeast, Vitamin E Supplement, Beet, Tomato, Broccoli, Carrot, Spinach, Orange, Cherry, Cranberry, Strawberry, Apple, Blueberry, Pumpkin, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin B12, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Rosemary Extract, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Pyridoxin Hydrochloride, Folic Acid
- Simple ingredient list is easy to skim for triggers
- Offers the quality and taste of fresh foods in an affordable, shelf-stable package
- Most dogs go gaga for the flavor
- While cheaper than fresh-food options, it’s still on the pricey side
- Subscription-based plans aren’t everyone’s favorite
4. Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient
About: Stick to the basics with Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient, a canned pate wet food made with a short list of high-quality ingredients, as well as skin-nourishing omega fatty acids and fiber-rich prebiotics for digestive support. Serve it as a complete meal or offer it as a tasty topper to kibble.
- Single-protein recipes made specifically for dogs with sensitivities
- Contains oatmeal as an easily digestible carbohydrate source for energy and satiety (a grain-free version is also available)
- Meets AAFCO standards for adult maintenance
- Made in the USA using internationally-sourced ingredients
Options: Available in Duck & Oatmeal and Lamb & Oatmeal. Also offered in grain-free Turkey & Potato.
Duck, Vegetable Broth, Oatmeal, Ground Flaxseed...,
Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Chicory Root Extract, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Beta Carotene, Magnesium Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate, Cobalt Proteinate, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid
- It’s a limited-ingredient dog foods that’s great for dogs with food allergies
- Rich in fatty acids for skin and coat health
- Flavor is a hit with most doggos
- Oatmeal is great for dogs with a sensitive tummy
- Limited protein options
- Carrageenan is a controversial ingredient some pet parents like to avoid
5. Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat
About: Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat is a budget-friendly way to give your pup’s skin the extra support it needs to look and feel its best with omega fatty acids from salmon, flaxseed, and chia seed. It also features probiotics for gut support, providing even more bang for your buck.
- Real salmon sits at the top of the ingredient list
- Doesn’t contain corn, wheat, soy, or chicken
- Meets AAFCO standards for all life stages, including the growth of large-breed dogs
- Made in the USA with globally-sourced ingredients
Options: Comes in a single salmon-based recipe.
Salmon, Fish Meal, Potatoes, Lentils, Peas, Pea Flour...,
Canola Oil, Dried Yeast, Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dl-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, L-Carnitine, Kale, Chia Seed, Pumpkin, Blueberries, Oranges, Dried Kelp, Coconut, Spinach, Carrots, Papaya, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium animalis Fermentation Product, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid
- Affordable pricing lets you address skin issues on a budget
- Loaded with omega fatty acids from multiple sources for skin support
- Contains prebiotics and probiotics for digestive support
- Pickier pups don’t always love it
- Diamond has had past recalls that make some pet parents wary (though none since 2013, as of December 2022)
6. Canidae PURE Limited Ingredient
About: Canidae PURE Limited Ingredient is a solid grain-free dog food for canines with grain sensitivities and skin issues, as it only features ten key ingredients. A healthy blend of fatty acids supports your dog’s skin and coat, while glucosamine and chondroitin give his joints a helping hand.
- Real fish or meat is always the first ingredient
- Doesn’t contain any corn, soy, or wheat
- Added taurine supports heart health
- Made in the USA using internationally-sourced ingredients
Options: Grain-free options include Salmon & Sweet Potato, Bison, Lentil & Carrot, Duck & Sweet Potato, Lamb & Pea, Chicken, Sweet Potato & Garbanzo Bean, Lamb, Goat & Venison, Wild Boar & Garbanzo Bean, and Chicken, Lentil & Pea. Specialty recipes like Puppy, Senior, and Healthy Weight are also available.
Salmon, Salmon Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Lentils...,
Sweet Potatoes, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Canola Oil, Potatoes, Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols, Zinc Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Zinc Proteinate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product
- Grain-free recipe is ideal for dogs with grain sensitivities
- Great selection of proteins, including unique ones like wild boar and bison
- Features glucosamine, chondroitin, and probiotics
- Pricing is steep
- Some recipes feature mixed proteins, which can be a concern for dogs with allergies
7. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet
About: Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet is loaded with fatty acids to support your puppy’s skin and coat, while the limited-ingredient recipe makes avoiding triggers easier. Offered in grain-free and grain-inclusive recipes, it has taurine for heart health and several sources of fiber for digestion.
- Real meat or fish is always the first ingredient
- Meets AAFCO standards for all life stages, including the growth of large breeds
- Small kibble size made specifically for puppy mouths
- Made in the USA with global ingredients
Options: Available in Salmon & Brown Rice, Lamb & Brown Rice, Chicken & Brown Rice, and Grain-Free Duck & Potato.
Salmon, Menhaden Fish Meal, Brown Rice, Brewers Rice...,
Rice Bran, Canola Oil, Oat Groats, Flaxseed, Brewers Dried Yeast, Natural Flavor, Salt, Salmon Oil, Dl-Methionine, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Thiamine Mononitrate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Choline Chloride, L-Threonine, Citric Acid, Mixed Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract
- Limited ingredient foods are ideal for puppies with dietary sensitivities
- Good source of skin and coat-supporting omega fatty acids
- Most puppies are big fans of the flavor
- More novel protein options would be nice
- On the pricey side
8. Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care
About: Nourish your senior’s skin and avoid problem ingredients with Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care, a limited-ingredient recipe with only one protein: turkey. Its fatty acid blend supports your fur friend’s sensitive skin and helps with his brain and eye health as he matures, while added probiotics aid in digestion and help soothe sensitive stomachs.
- Doesn’t include wheat, soy, corn, eggs, or dairy
- Contains glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support
- Includes Blue’s antioxidant-rich LifeSource Bits for immune health
- Made in the USA with ingredients from around the globe
Options: Senior Recipe is offered in Turkey & Potato.
Deboned Turkey, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Potatoes, Peas...,
Turkey Meal, Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Pea Protein, Canola Oil, Fish Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Pumpkin, Dried Chicory Root, Direct Dehydrated Alfalfa Pellets, Flaxseed, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Salt, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, DL-Methionine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Sulfate, L-Lysine, Biotin, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenite, Rosemary Oil
- Limited ingredient list and ample omega-3s are ideal for dogs with known skin issues and sensitivities
- Several owners report an improvement in canine skin and coat appearance
- Added glucosamine and chondroitin support your senior’s joints
- Lack of protein options for this senior-specific recipe is a bummer
- LifeSource Bits aren’t a hit with every pup’s palate
9. Wellness Simple Limited-Ingredient
About: Avoid your dog’s triggers with Wellness Simple Limited-Ingredient, a dry kibble whose shortened recipe sticks to the basics while still providing skin-supportive fatty acids. Designed for dogs with food sensitivities, it doesn’t include many of the most common allergens like eggs, dairy, or soy.
- Has glucosamine for joint health
- Offered in grain-free and grain-inclusive recipes
- Includes prebiotics and probiotics for gut health and regularity
- Made in the USA with ingredients from around the world
Options: Offered in Lamb, Turkey, Salmon, Duck, Healthy Weight, and Small Breed.
Lamb, Lamb Meal, Oatmeal, Peas, Ground Rice, Millet...,
Ground Flaxseed, Canola Oil, Tomato Pomace, Natural Lamb Flavor, Chicory Root Extract, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract
- Limited-ingredient recipe makes avoiding your dog’s trigger ingredients easier
- Good assortment of proteins to choose from
- Great mix of bag sizes, ranging from 10.5 pounds to 40 pounds
- More expensive than most kibbles
- Some dogs weren’t big fans of the taste
10. Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d
About: Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d is specially formulated by animal nutritionists and vets for dogs with sensitive systems using a single protein and limited ingredients for focused, no-fuss nutrition. It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids for skin support and antioxidants for bolstering the immune system.
- Top recommended brand by veterinarians in the U.S.
- Uses novel proteins to avoid common allergens
- Doesn’t contain soy protein
- Made in the USA with globally-sourced ingredients
Options: Available in Potato & Venison, Potato & Duck, and Potato & Salmon.
Potatoes, Potato Starch, Venison, Potato Protein...,
Soybean Oil, Coconut Oil, Powdered Cellulose, Pork Liver Flavor, Dicalcium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Fish Oil, Potassium Chloride, Glyceryl Monostearate, Calcium Carbonate, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, DL-Methionine, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Magnesium Oxide, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene
- Designed by a team of animal nutritionists and vets for dogs with skin sensitivities
- Kibble size and shape work great for dogs big and small
- Novel protein selection ideal for dogs with allergies
- One of the most expensive kibble options
- Requires a prescription from your vet to order
11. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein
About: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein is a hypoallergenic dog food that features hydrolyzed soy protein chemically altered to be digested by your dog without causing an immune response like skin itching or inflammation. This allows dogs to enjoy some common allergens without suffering from itchy skin. It also has fiber-rich prebiotics for a belly boost.
- Veterinary-prescribed and recommended for dogs with skin issues
- Single carbohydrate source to reduce the chance of adverse reactions
- Rich in fatty acids that promote healthy skin and coat
- Made in the USA with internationally-sourced ingredients
Options: Available as a dry food and a wet food.
Brewers Rice, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Chicken Fat...,
Natural Flavors, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Monocalcium Phosphate, Vegetable Oil, Sodium Silico Aluminate, Fish Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharides, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Dl-Methionine, L-Tyrosine, Taurine, Dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate, Niacin Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Acetate, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Choline Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Copper Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Marigold Extract, Magnesium Oxide, Rosemary Extract, Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid
- Excellent choice for dogs with multiple protein allergies
- Many pet parents report an improvement in skin and digestive health after making the switch
- Small, round kibblets suit dogs of all sizes
- Steep price tag
- Requires a veterinary prescription
12. Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach
About: Have a super-sensitive sweetie who battles skin and stomach issues? You may want to give Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach a try. Formulated with easy-to-digest ingredients that are designed to care for your canine’s outsides and insides, this salmon-based kibble is a great option for dogs who need something to support their skin and digestive health.
- Made with omega-3-rich salmon and fish oil
- Relatively limited ingredient list to help avoid triggers
- Contains glucosamine to support your dog’s joints
- Features natural prebiotic fiber to help nourish proper gut flora
Options: Available in dry and wet versions.
Salmon, Rice, Barley, Canola Meal, Fish Meal...,
- More affordable than some other skin-soothing dog foods
- Made with nutritious grains
- Full of inflammation-fighting fish oil
- Most dogs appear to love the taste
- Oddly, this digestive-support recipe doesn’t include any probiotics
- Technically a multi-protein recipe, making it a poor food for dogs with some food allergies
How Are Dog Foods for Sensitive Skin Different?
Regular dog foods suit most doggos, but sometimes your fur kid needs a little support in the skin department. He may have allergies or other sensitivities that require special care.
This is where dog foods designed for sensitive skin come in.
So, how are they different? Well, that depends on the recipe.
Some lack common allergens.
Some skin-sensitive recipes skip common allergy triggers like certain proteins (chicken, beef, eggs) or grains, including corn, soy, and wheat. This makes avoiding problem ingredients easier for pet parents with a pup suffering from food allergies. That doesn’t mean these ingredients are harmful to dogs, just that they’re not compatible with dogs who experience sensitivities to them.
Note that meals made from problematic proteins can also cause problems. Chicken meal, for example, may cause problems for dogs with chicken allergies.
Some feature limited ingredients.
Many “regular” dog foods feature dozens of ingredients, while those focused on skin health often have a relatively brief list of ingredients. Limiting the ingredient list makes avoiding possible irritants to your dog’s system easier. It also makes elimination diets much easier for you to navigate as a pet parent if you’re unsure what protein source is causing your dog’s skin woes.
Additionally, most dog foods for sensitive skin avoid things like artificial flavors, which are not only unnecessary, but potentially irritating to your dog’s skin.
Note that limited ingredient lists can also help dogs with sensitive stomach in some cases.
Some have hydrolyzed proteins.
Proteins are what triggers food allergies in dogs. Animal-based proteins, including beef, chicken, eggs, and dairy, are the most common triggers, but plant-based proteins can also cause an allergic reaction in (relatively rare) cases.
Some dogs are allergic to multiple proteins, even those from exotic sources like pork or trout. For these sensitive sniffers, the only answer may be hydrolyzed proteins that are chemically altered not to trigger an immune response, allowing your pup to eat without an uncomfortable reaction like itching.
Some have lots of omega-3s.
Omega-3 fatty acids nourish your pup’s skin and coat by providing moisture to keep itchy, dry skin at bay, especially during the winter. Fatty acids can come from fish, mussels, flaxseed, or chia seed. Dog foods for skin and coat health are typically rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote healthy skin.
Some dog foods for sensitive skin also contain a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, but these are present in most dog foods and not difficult for your dog to obtain from his diet. In fact, too many omega-6 fatty acids can trigger inflammation.
Some have probiotics and/or prebiotics.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and fungi that can help balance your barker’s gut flora, potentially reducing skin and coat issues caused by an overgrowth of certain bacteria. They can also have the bonus of creating firmer poops, especially in dogs with allergies, intolerances, or other issues common to dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Prebiotics (sometimes called prebiotic fiber) is also included in some foods and serves as food for the beneficial bacteria.
Symptoms of a Canine Skin Issue
Skin problems aren’t one-size-fits-all in dogs and present differently depending on the type of problem and its root cause. Some can be super obvious, while others may present subtly.
Signs of a skin condition in your dog include:
- Repeated licking or chewing
- Dry, flaky, or scaly skin
- Skin redness
- Dull coat
- Sores or lesions
- Hair loss (thinning or balding)
- Hot spots
If you notice these symptoms in your dog, it’s time for a vet visit.
What Are Some of the Most Common Skin Ailments Dogs Get?
Skin ailments are frustratingly common in dogs, affecting some breeds – like pit bulls, bulldogs, and Labs – more often than others. .
The most common skin issues in dogs are:
- Environmental allergies and seasonal allergies: Caused by contact with an irritant triggering an immune response, these allergies present as itchy or inflamed skin, most often around your dog’s face, feet, chest, and belly. Environmental allergy triggers can include just about anything from pollen to smoke, and many occur seasonally.
- Food allergies: If you notice your pup itching, licking, or pawing at his face, ears, feet, or backside, an allergy to something in his food may be to blame. Proteins are most often to blame, with beef, eggs, and dairy at the top of the list.
- Ringworm: This funky-named fungus isn’t actually a worm, but a fungus that’s highly contagious to other pets and people. Signs include a circular patch of thinned hair or baldness with a red or crusty appearance.
- Folliculitis: These inflamed hair follicles usually occur in conjunction with another skin malady like allergies or mange and present as sores or bumps.
- Yeast infection: This yeast overgrowth is often found in the ears, groin, or feet and causes red, itchy skin with a distinct smell that many liken to corn chips.
- Dandruff: This white flakiness can signify many things, including a diet low in fatty acids, infection, or thyroid issues.
- Flea infestation: Flea bites are a real pain to pups, causing relentless itching, but for pups with flea allergies, it can be unbearable, leading to intense chewing or licking. Signs include unexplained dark spots in your dog’s fur (flea dirt), itching, skin redness, and hairlessness.
Treating your dog’s skin issue requires a thorough exam from your vet and may involve an elimination diet or medication. If you suspect any of these illnesses, arrange an appointment promptly to help your pup feel his best again.
How to Pick a Dog Food for Sensitive Skin
Picking the best dog food for your canine’s skin issue starts with a vet visit. You can’t begin your woof on the path to wellness if you don’t know what’s causing the problem, as many things can cause itchy, flaky, or sore skin.
Through diagnostics and sometimes guided food testing, you and your vet can determine the problem and work out a solution, which may involve switching your dog’s diet.
Selecting a dog food for sensitive skin is similar to finding a good choice for any dog:
- Stick to U.S. or western-made foods. These nations have the strictest standards for pet food safety, including manufacturing and sourcing ingredients.
- Look for high-quality, whole protein at the top of the ingredient list. Unlabeled “meat meals” that don’t identify the protein are a no-go. However, properly labeled meat meals (such as “chicken meal”) are not a problem, provided that they’re not made from an ingredient that triggers your dog. In fact, properly labelled meat meals are usually high-quality proteins.
- Make sure it suits your dog’s life stage. Canines require different nutrient levels throughout life, with a growing puppy’s needs differing vastly from those of a senior floof.
- Get your vet’s approval. Skin issues are tricky, so always speak with your vet to ensure the food you’re eyeing will work with your dog’s unique needs.
Follow your vet’s guidance when switching your dog’s food. Too abrupt of a shift can cause digestive upset, but if allergies or sensitivities are to blame for your dog’s skin troubles, the guidelines may be different.
Best Dog Foods for Sensitive Skin: FAQ
Sensitive skin issues can be tricky to address, and they cause many owners to have questions. We’ll try to help you by answering some of the most common questions owners have below!
What foods are good for dogs with sensitive skin?
It depends on the reason your dog has sensitive skin. If your dog’s sensitive skin is due to environmental allergies, your choice of food won’t have any effect on his skin. However, if your dog has sensitive skin due to food allergies, he’ll likely enjoy some relieve by switching to a food that is made without any of the ingredients he’s allergic to.
Additionally, some dogs seem to exhibit reduced skin itchiness and sensitivity after switching to a diet that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
What is in dog food that causes itchy skin?
Often, dogs whose itchy skin is caused by their food are suffering because their food contains something they’re allergic to. Chicken, beef, and eggs are a few of the most common triggers in dogs.
Foods may also cause itchy skin if they’re deficient in some ingredients. For example, some dogs may exhibit itchy skin if they’re not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids.
What foods should dogs with skin allergies avoid?
It depends on what ingredients your dog is sensitive or allergic to.
You’ll typically need to work with your vet to implement an elimination-challenge diet, which involves removing most common triggers from your dog’s diet until the skin issues clear up. Then, you’ll slowly add ingredients back to your dog’s diet to identify the one that’s causing the problem.
From there, you can then select foods made without the triggering ingredient.
What food helps itchy dogs?
It depends on why your dog is experiencing itchy skin. If your dog’s itchy skin is caused by environmental allergies, food selection won’t address the problem very much.
However, if your dog’s itchy skin is caused by a food allergy, you can pick a food that doesn’t contain the offending ingredient. You may also find that foods with lots of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids provide your pooch with some relief.
Are homemade foods good for dogs with sensitive skin?
Generally speaking, we caution owners to avoid making their dog’s food at home — it is simply too challenging to properly balance the nutritional content and requires the help of a veterinary nutritionist.
Instead, we encourage owners to opt for one of the commercial dog foods designed to help soothe your dog’s skin.
Finding the right food for your sensitive pupper can take time and patience, but when you find the perfect fit, you’re rewarded with a happy, healthy companion.
Does your dog have sensitive skin? What food works best for him? Have you found a food that helps address his skin issues (and maybe even an upset stomach)? Have you tried any on our list?
Let us know in the comments below!