The 5 Best Dog Foods for German Shepherds with Skin Allergies

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Finding the best dog food for German Shepherds with skin allergies can feel like a maze!

You turn left, you swing right…

And BOOM!

All the flashy marketing and bright labels are shouting for your attention!

It’s no wonder you feel so overwhelmed.

But getting your German Shepherd the food they need for their sensitive skin doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

It’s easier than you think to give your dog the relief they so desperately want…

Because I’m going to show you exactly how to buy the best dog food for a German Shepherd with skin allergies to soothe itchy, sore skin and ease your anxiety.

Let’s get started!

What is the best dog food for German Shepherds with skin allergies?

Avoiding ingredients that flare up your German Shepherd’s skin is your main priority when selecting the best dog food for them.

The best dog food for German Shepherds with skin allergies avoids common ingredient triggers, like beef, dairy, or gluten while encouraging skin health. A German Shepherd’s skin allergies go hand in hand with digestive issues and might be worsened if your dog’s digestive system isn’t properly functioning. Foods with probiotics can help reduce allergies and intolerances while increasing nutrient absorption to maintain a healthy skin barrier. These skin-loving diets soothe itching and scratching and help to play an essential role in the management of allergies and sensitivities.

Sounds impressive, right?

The only problem?

Picking the right food from the neverending aisles of product and in-your-face pet food marketing!

Instead of worrying, here are the best dog foods for German Shepherds with sensitive skin and allergies, shortlisted for your convenience.

Best Dog Foods for German Shepherds with Skin Allergies

A variety of commercial pet foods with limited and different protein sources are available for helping to manage skin allergies at home.

These commercial pet foods:

  • are convenient
  • contain novel protein sources
  • are nutritionally balanced and complete

Review this list and compare it to your German Shepherd’s known allergies to help find the best choice for your dog.

Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Salmon & Potato Formula Dry Dog Food

Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Salmon & Potato Formula Dry Dog Food

Best Food for German Shepherds with Allergies

Wellness Simple Salmon and Potato Recipe is a limited-ingredient, grain-free dry food formulated with only five, specially-selected main ingredients.

The Simple ingredients include a single source of protein and aids in a shiny, healthy coat and supple skin. With natural probiotics, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and taurine in a complete meal, your dog will love the tasty fish flavor.

Essential Benefits

  • Formulated with natural probiotics to soothe sensitive stomachs and food intolerances.
  • Incorporates a single source of protein with easily-digestible carbohydrates for decreased stomach upset.
  • Crafted to encourage whole-body health by supporting digestive function and promoting a healthy coat and skin.
Discover an easily digestible formula!

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Lamb & Brown Rice Formula Large Breed Dry Dog Food

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Lamb & Brown Rice Formula Large Breed Dry Dog Food

Best Limited Ingredient Grain-Inclusive Dog Food

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food, Lamb & Brown Rice Large Breed Formula is a gluten-free, yet grain-inclusive dry dog food designed for dogs that are intolerant to common protein sources.

While still giving consumers the choice of including grains, without gluten, the fiber in brown rice helps maintain your dog’s healthy digestion. Brown rice aids in bowel regulation, while the larger kibble size helps keep teeth clean and strong.

Essential Benefits

  • The chicken-free formula uses real lamb as the first ingredient for sensitive dogs.
  • The grain-inclusive formula is gluten-free, for those owners looking for a grain-inclusive, limited ingredient diet.
  • Kibble is designed for large breed jaws and teeth to encourage large breed dogs to eat slower, reducing stomach gas and stomach upset.
Find more info on the gut-loving grains!

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Large Breed Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog Food

Hill's Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Large Breed Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog Food

Best Vet Recommended Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Large Breed Chicken & Barley Recipe is specifically designed for adult, large breed dogs over 50 pounds.

Featuring real chicken first the veterinarian recommended diet contains prebiotic fiber to support a healthy microbiome for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Added beet pulp increases the fiber and encourages firmer, more regular stools.

For those who can’t afford prescription diets, this research-backed dog food is an inexpensive quality alternative for German Shepherds.

Essential Benefits

  • Blended nourishing prebiotic fiber assists in stool quality to make cleaning up less stressful.
  • Highly digestible ingredients for optimal nutrition that’s gentle to sensitive stomachs.
  • Vet recommended formula.
Get started on a vet-approved allergy food today!

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Formula Turkey & Potato Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Formula Turkey & Potato Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo’s Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Formula is a tasty diet created with fewer ingredients for dogs with food sensitivities.

This limited-ingredient diet recipe contains a single animal protein source and includes pumpkin and easily digested carbohydrates. Prepared with BLUE’s exclusive LifeSource Bits to support your dog’s health and wellness. This combination of uniquely selected antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins is hand-picked by veterinarians and animal nutritionists.

Essential Benefits

  • The recipe is gluten-free for sensitive tummies that are easily upset by regular dog food.
  • Limited-ingredient turkey-based dog food that is not only healthy but appetizing to your pet.
  • Made without artificial flavors or preservatives to reduce chemical allergic reactions.
Try the limited ingredient formula!

Tuscan Natural Simply Pure Lamb Meal Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food

Tuscan Natural Simply Pure Lamb Meal Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food

Tuscan Natural Simply Pure Lamb Meal Dry Dog Food is a hypoallergenic formula that’s made with humanely-raised grass-fed lamb meal as the first ingredient.

This single protein source helps dogs with allergies and sensitivities who are unable to tolerate more commonly used proteins. Crafted with antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil for healthy skin and coat, this grain-inclusive formula is sustainably-farmed.

Essential Benefits

  • The hypoallergenic, easy-to-digest formula helps reduce food sensitivities for fewer stomach issues and skin allergies.
  • Added olive oil delivers essential monounsaturated fatty acids that support shiny skin and coat.
  • Simple, limited ingredients for dogs with skin allergies and intolerances that are prone to stomach upset.
Your hypoallergenic food awaits!

Best Dry Dog Foods for Skin Allergies in German Shepherds Comparison Chart

Best Dog Foods for German Shepherds with Skin AllergiesMain ProteinSingle animal protein source?Is it grain-free?Is wheat-free?Is it gluten-free?Includes omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids?
Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Salmon & Potato Formula Dry Dog FoodSalmonYesYesYesYesYes
Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Lamb & Brown Rice Formula Large Breed Dry Dog FoodLambYesNoYesYesYes
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Large Breed Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog FoodChicken* Please note while not a novel protein, it’s the only AAFCO food with researched food trials.NoNoYesNoYes
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Formula Turkey & Potato Recipe Adult Dry Dog FoodTurkeyYesYesYesYesYes
Tuscan Natural Simply Pure Lamb Meal Limited Ingredient Dry Dog FoodLambYesNoYesYesYes
The best dog foods for German Shepherd with sensitive skin generally avoids known common allergens.

German Shepherd Puppies and Skin Problems

German Shepherd Puppies and Skin Problems
German Shepherd puppies sometimes have sensitive stomachs and need easily digested food to help.

Even German Shepherd puppies might develop skin problems as a result of food allergies.

They can suffer from stress from leaving their mother and litter, upset stomach from a change of foods, or allergies from new irritants in their home.

So, what’s the solution?

Changing to a food that’s more suited to their sensitive puppy skin could help them to itch and scratch less, improve bowel movements, and decrease dry skin.

The Best Dog Food for German Shepherd Puppies with Skin Allergies

The Best Dog Food for German Shepherd Puppies with Skin Allergies
German Shepherd puppies can also experience the discomfort of skin allergies.

If you own a German Shepherd puppy you’ll want to feed a dry kibble dog food that is specially formulated for sensitive skin and stomach, has limited ingredients, or is created for gentle digestion. It’s a better practice to provide a large breed puppy with a nutritionally complete sensitive kibble for them to avoid any imbalances during their crucial growing time.

Dry kibble is the easiest to feed your puppy due to convenience, price, and the polishing effects on your puppy’s teeth for dental health. But, if your puppy prefers, you can moisten their food with warm water to soften the dry kibble into a mush to make the texture more enticing.

Purina Pro Plan Development Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Large Breed Dry Puppy Food

Purina Pro Plan Development Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Large Breed Dry Puppy Food

Purina Pro Plan Development Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice With Probiotics Large Breed Dry Puppy Food is research-backed with food trials for dogs with sensitivities.

Specially made for large breed puppies under 12 months old, delicious salmon is the main ingredient. And fish is known for not only its appealing tastes but its high rate of digestibility for dogs.

This makes for easier digestion and fewer upset stomachs to stress about.

Essential Benefits

  • Highly digestible salmon is a protein-rich recipe and easy on little bellies.
  • Created with oat meal to aid in calm digestion.
  • Contains DHA from fish oil for healthy brain development.
  • Probiotics support sensitive immune systems and create more balanced gut bacteria for smoother elimination.
Give your sensitive puppy easier digestion!

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Puppy Grain-Free Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Puppy Grain-Free Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food

If you’re looking for a limited ingredient diet for your German Shepherd puppy, then you’ll be happy to know that Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Turkey Recipe Grain-Free Puppy & Adult Dry Dog Food is formulated with only a single animal meat source for 30% crude protein in every bowl.

Loaded with probiotics to support your growing puppy’s digestive and immune health, as well as omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.

Essential Benefits

  • The single animal protein formula has turkey as the first ingredient for dogs allergic to chicken and chicken meals.
  • With specially-formulated probiotics that help support a healthy gut and immunity — exactly what puppies with skin allergies need.
  • The multi-stage life cycle formula is good for puppies who are transitioning to purely adult foods.
See the healthy limited ingredients for yourself!

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Puppy Grain-Free Salmon Recipe Dry Dog Food

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Puppy Grain-Free Salmon Recipe Dry Dog Food

Is your German Shepherd puppy highly sensitive to grains and corn?

Then, give the limited ingredient nutrition he needs with this Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Puppy & Adult Dry Dog Food.

Loaded with probiotics to support digestive health, the salmon-only formulation contains omegas to decrease itchy skin and improve your puppy’s coat.

In fact, it’s got no grains or anything artificial for highly sensitive puppies.

Essential Benefits

  • Salmon as the first ingredient for easier digestion on sensitive bellies.
  • Lower in carbs for owners looking to increase protein levels in their dog’s diet.
  • Made without chicken, eggs, peas, corn, wheat, soy, pea protein, or artificial colors and preservatives to avoid common allergens.
Try the high-protein chicken-free benefits!

German Shepherd Puppy Dog Food for Skin Allergies Comparison Chart

Best Dog Food for German Shepherd Puppy with Skin AllergiesMain ProteinIs it a single animal protein source?Is it wheat-free?Is it gluten-free?Benefits
Purina Pro Plan Development Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Large Breed Dry Puppy FoodSalmonNoYesNoVet-recommended puppy food that’s passed dog feeding trials for puppies with sensitive skin and digestion.
Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Puppy Grain-Free Turkey Recipe Dry Dog FoodTurkeyYesYesYesCrafted with a single animal protein source for puppies who are allergic to chicken.
Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Puppy Grain-Free Salmon Recipe Dry Dog FoodSalmonYesYesYesA limited ingredient diet that’s grain-free, gluten-free, and contains no corn to reduce food intolerance in highly sensitive puppies with skin problems.
Look for limited ingredients to help ease skin issues in your German Shepherd puppy.

German Shepherd Puppy Allergy Supplements

German Shepherd Puppy Allergy Supplements

German Shepherd puppies with sensitive skin do well with salmon oil added to their daily diet.

PetHonesty Anti-Scratch Salmon Oil Turkey Flavored Liquid Allergy Supplement for Dogs is a liquid oil supplement that’s easily added to your puppy’s food. It may even entice a picky eater to finish their meal down to the last morsel!

But that’s not all…

Research shows that omega fatty acid oils are beneficial to help soothe inflamed skin and add moisture to combat itching and scratching.

How awesome is that?

If your puppy is very picky you may need to gradually add in the oil to get them used to the taste. Or, you can give them an allergy supplement with a chewy texture, such as PetHonesty Allergy Skin Health Salmon Flavored Soft Chews Skin & Coat Supplement

Stay away from multi-vitamins for puppies as your dog’s dry kibble is complete and balanced. Any additional vitamins and minerals in a concentrated form could cause joint damage during growth due to a calcium or phosphorus imbalance.

I know that’s a lot of information to take in…

But stick with me here and you’ll learn lots to help manage your German Shepherd’s itchy skin.

What are the most common dog food allergies for German Shepherds?

the most common dog food allergies for German Shepherds
Food allergies are most common to proteins — not grains.

In German Shepherds, the most commonly reported food allergies are beef, dairy, wheat, chicken,  and egg. All of these ingredients have been very prevalent ingredients in commercial diets over the past three decades, and pets tend to be allergic to proteins that have been in their diet for months to years.

Many people don’t suspect food allergies as the cause of their German Shepherd’s itching because their dog has been fed the same food all its life and has just recently started showing symptoms. However, German Shepherds can develop allergies to a substance over time, so this fact does not rule out food allergies.

German Shepherd Dogs carry a higher rate of genetic predisposition to skin allergies. While food allergies can develop at almost any age, allergies tend to develop in middle-aged dogs (source).

It is important to note, however, that not all commercial foods have been adequately tested in dogs with known food allergies.

The quickest way to determine your dog’s cause of allergic reactions is a visit to your veterinarian.

Keep in mind that in order to see benefits from a diet to help with skin allergies the effects can take up to 8 to 12 weeks. 

Other Food Allergens

Other Food Allergens
I know it’s frustrating, but your dog could experience allergies to a number of different ingredients.

Although proteins are generally a bigger trigger for skin allergies in German Shepherds than other ingredients, there are a large number of other potential food allergens.

Common food allergens in German Shepherds:

  • beef
  • dairy
  • soy
  • wheat
  • oats
  • eggs
  • chicken
  • pork
  • yeast
Some GSDs are allergic to dairy and are lactose intolerant.

Dairy is another ingredient that may cause skin allergies to worsen or induce stomach sensitivity. Some dogs are lactose intolerant and dairy may be to blame for their red, itchy, and scratchy skin.

Lactose intolerance may also cause your German Shepherd bouts of bloating, flatulence, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea after ingestion of dairy or milk products.

Do grains cause skin allergies in German Shepherds?

Do grains cause skin allergies in German Shepherds?
Beef is more likely to cause allergies in your German Shepherd rather than grains.

No, grains don’t generally cause skin allergies in German Shepherds. Grains are actually less common causes of allergies than animal products, despite the opposite being widely reported on the internet.

Corn is responsible for only about 4% of allergies.

However, wheat grains are reported as a food allergen in 13% of dogs.

Although grains are a less common cause of skin allergies it’s a good practice to check the dog food you’re buying for any wheat ingredients to avoid this known allergen.

Adverse Food Reactions in German Shepherds

Adverse Food Reactions in German Shepherds
Does your German Shepherd have a true allergy or a more common intolerance to certain dog foods?

A recent study published in BMC Veterinary Research Journal discovered that German Shepherds are at a high risk of developing adverse food reactions (source).

But, what some owners call a “food allergy” is more appropriately termed an “adverse food reaction” from a clinical standpoint. 

Adverse food reactions in dogs are generally divided into two categories:

  • Food allergy
  • Food intolerance

Let’s take a quick look at each so you can better help your dog with their skin problems.

Food Allergy

A food allergy involves an immune system response to specific proteins in your dog’s diet. German Shepherds with food allergies may have gastrointestinal signs (diarrhea and vomiting), skin problems (redness, itching, secondary skin infections, and ear infections), or they could experience both. 

Thankfully, true food allergies in German Shepherds are very rare. Less than 1-3% of dogs experience a clinical food allergy (source).

Food Intolerance

On the other hand, food intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system. For example, lactose intolerance (a reaction to dairy products) and fat intolerance (some dogs develop diarrhea when fed a portion of food or treat that is high in fat).

Food intolerances are somewhat common and can result in diarrhea, vomiting, or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Less commonly, but still possible, food intolerance can cause skin problems.

When you change your dog’s food more than just the ingredients are changed – proteins, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, digestibility, and amounts of other nutrients or supplements may have also changed.

These changes can all affect your dog’s digestion. This makes it a challenge to solve your German Shepherd’s skin issues.

A quicker way to determine food allergies is to get an inexpensive food intolerance test to help eliminate the root causes of intolerances or allergies.

What protein sources are best for a German Shepherd with skin allergies?

What protein sources are best for a German Shepherd with skin allergies?
If your GSD has allergies, then choosing novel proteins may help.

Food allergies in German Shepherds are usually to a specific protein in the food. This is commonly gluten, beef, or dairy.

Food allergy treatments generally involve avoiding the offending protein. Diets based on novel (unusual) proteins might help provide allergy relief for itchy skin problems.

Novel protein diets include a single protein source that your dog has never eaten before and. therefore, hasn’t developed an allergy. Examples of novel proteins include venison, duck, salmon, and whitefish. Some novel proteins are even more exotic — such as kangaroo.

Novel proteins include:

  • whitefish
  • salmon
  • duck
  • venison
  • kangaroo

These meats are usually found in hypoallergenic diets for German Shepherds to reduce inflammatory skin and keep sensitive stomachs soothed.

Hypoallergenic Diets for German Shepherd Allergies

Hypoallergenic Diets for German Shepherd Allergies
Allergies develop through exposure and can appear at any time.

Most hypoallergenic diets include proteins and carbohydrates that your dog hasn’t had before to reduce possible allergens. As beef, dairy, and wheat are responsible for 80% of food allergies in dogs, you should avoid feeding these products (source).

Novel protein sources used in hypoallergenic diets include pork, salmon, duck, and kangaroo. Carbohydrate sources can include potatoes, peas, yams, sweet potatoes, and canned pumpkins.

Although the quickest and best way to determine which foods your German Shepherd may or may not be allergic to is through affordable at-home allergy testing, in many circumstances your GSD may suffer from a food sensitivity as opposed to a true allergy.

In these cases, commercial hypoallergenic diets may resolve or lessen skin allergies in German Shepherds (source).

Protein Sources in Hypoallergenic Diets

Novel ProteinsCommon Allergen Proteins
whitefishbeef
salmoneggs
ducksoy
venisonpork
kangaroochicken
Novel Proteins versus Common Allergen Proteins

Premium Dog Foods and German Shepherd Skin Allergies

Premium Dog Foods and German Shepherd Skin Allergies
Cheap foods are not the way to feed a German Shepherd.

Another familiar misconception is that German Shepherds are only sensitive to poor-quality, commercial dog food. But, if they are allergic to an ingredient, it doesn’t matter whether it is in premium food or the cheapest brand on the market.

While the quality of the premium dog food is better for a German Shepherd’s diet and nutrition, the allergy source is still the same in both foods.

One advantage to buying premium foods for your GSD is that you generally need to feed less of the food because of the quality of the ingredients.

Skin Allergy Supplements for German Shepherds

Skin Allergy Supplements for German Shepherds

There are two commonly recommended supplements for German Shepherds with dry, itchy skin.

They are:

  • Omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids
  • And allergen supplements for seasonal flare-ups

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega Fatty Acids
Omega fatty acids are helpful in about 20% of allergic dogs.

Omega fatty acids are necessary for supporting your dog’s healthy skin and aid in a shiny coat. These fatty acids have mild anti-inflammatory effects on the skin and are beneficial to decrease skin dryness. They’re reportedly helpful in about 20% of allergic dogs and are not harmful when given per the manufacturer’s instructions. There are virtually no side effects.

Given their effects on skin problems and low rate of side effects, it’s worth it to include them in your German Shepherd’s diet (source).

There are numerous combination products manufactured for dogs, available in capsule, powder, liquid, or chewable tablet form. Fatty acids work to help reduce allergic skin inflammation and itching, but dogs with other medical conditions such as high cholesterol or clotting problems shouldn’t take them.

A preferred choice of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is PointPet Omega 3, 6 & 9 Skin & Coat Dog Supplement. This supplement is easy to administer in a tasty chew and has no fishy odor. 🐠

If your dog tends to have skin allergies more frequently at certain times of the year then a seasonal allergy supplement is helpful to reduce skin problems. PetHonesty AllergySupport Salmon Flavored Soft Chews Allergy & Immune Supplement for Dogs is a great choice for seasonal support for itchy German Shepherds.

Allow 4 to 12 weeks time to see effects from either supplement treatment.

Raw Diets 

Raw Diets 
Raw food diets are difficult to balance nutritionally.

Recently, there’s been a trend toward raw-feeding and proponents of the diet usually included references to its “natural” ingredients or is “evolutionary correct.” But these statements are not backed by science (source).

Don’t take my word for it…

You can see the official statement by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association for yourself.

Unfortunately, raw feeding is risky, especially for German Shepherds with skin problems.

Dogs with allergies are already susceptible to pathogens due to their compromised immune systems. Raw meats and proteins carry bacteria that are harmful to not only your dog but to yourself and your children. 

Even impeccable cleaning of work surfaces, or freezing of the raw meat first, won’t prevent your dog from transferring the bacteria and pathogens in the raw meat through their saliva.

These pathogens are left all over the house, putting you and your family at risk of illness. If you do have your heart set on raw feeding, then please take the time to get your German Shepherd an at-home raw food intolerance test to understand the best raw food diet for their health.

Raw Diets and German Shepherd Puppies

Raw Diets and German Shepherd Puppies
Raw food diets are potentially harmful to your German Shepherd.

Raw food diets are difficult to balance and carry many risks for German Shepherd puppies.

There are an increasing number of studies that show serious concerns for nutritional imbalances and health risks to dogs, especially growing puppies.

Here’s why this is important…

One research study found that 6-week-old large breed puppies who were fed bones and raw food (BARF) diet from about 3 weeks of age experienced malformation in their bones – a detrimental condition for large breed dogs.

Another study specifically looked at German Shepherd puppies fed raw meat and rice that subsequently developed hyperparathyroidism, a condition that causes osteoporosis, weakness, and bone and joint pain.

Unfortunately, raw food diets for German Shepherd puppies are difficult to manage.

Homemade Diets

Homemade Diets for German Shepherds
Homemade diets for your German Shepherd are a temporary measure for treating your dog’s allergies.

Homemade diets are another way for you to control the ingredients in your dog’s food.

Keep in mind that these diets are time-consuming to make, difficult to balance, and may not provide the right level of nutrients for long-term nutrition.

For this reason, using a homemade diet is often a temporary measure until the best dog food diet is identified. 

Alternative Holistic Treatments

Alternative Holistic Treatments

Some owners would prefer to forgo long-term use of prescription medication for their dogs when treating allergies. 

In this case, holistic allergy treatments are useful for treating skin problems. Look for a holistic practitioner who uses classical homeopathic treatments for allergies in pets for natural alternatives to clinical drugs.

In some cases, the holistic pet practitioner might be able to rebalance the immune system and provide relief to unresolved skin issues.

Rotating Your German Shepherd’s Diet to Reduce Food Allergies: The Facts

Rotating Your German Shepherd's Diet to Reduce Food Allergies: The Facts
Rotating your German Shepherd’s food can make food allergies difficult to pinpoint later.

A familiar misconception that continues to circulate is that rotating between several different diets will prevent food allergies in your German Shepherd from occurring.  There is no evidence to support the practice of feeding different diets and switching up your dog’s diet to prevent allergies.

In fact, this technique can backfire if a food allergy is suspected and the pet has been fed a large number of diets with a large variety of different ingredients.

Think I’m exaggerating?

As part of treatment for food allergies, your veterinarian may ask you to place your dog on a diet with ingredients your GSD has never eaten.

If you’ve frequently changed your dog’s diet, it can make food elimination diets overly difficult. And finding a suitable novel (untried) diet to use for a diet trial will not only take longer and cause you and your dog more stress but cost more money to sort out.

Symptoms of Allergies in German Shepherds

Symptoms of Allergies in German Shepherds
An itchy German Shepherd might have skin allergies.

The most common symptom of a skin allergy is incessant itching. But, skin allergies can cause a range of symptoms in a German Shepherd.

These may include:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Excessive licking (this may be a specific part of the body, or all over)
  • Sores
  • Red, irritated or flakey skin
  • Biting or chewing the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Shaking their head (particularly with ear itchiness and discomfort)
  • Rubbing of ears or face
  • Rubbing or scooting on surfaces

With severe skin allergies in German Shepherds, you’re not only managing the discomfort and distress of the allergic reaction but also the more severe risk of secondary infection.

Besides food, have you considered your dog might have other allergies to manage?

Other Allergies in German Shepherds

Other Allergies in German Shepherds
Your dog can have other allergies besides those to foods they eat.

One or more different things can cause an allergy in your German Shepherd. 

Allergens are categorized into three main groups. Within each group, your GSD might have an allergy to something very specific but, generally, the groups overlap. This means your dog might have an allergy to things from one or all of the three main groups.

The main groups are:

  • flea allergy
  • food allergy
  • and atopic dermatitis

Flea Allergy

Some pets are allergic to the saliva of fleas which gets injected into the skin when they bite.

This is the most common type of allergy for dogs and can cause scratching, chewing, and nibbling.

You might notice little red spots, called papules, that your GSD itches and bites, making the skin look more inflamed and irritated.

Food Allergy

A food allergy is a reaction to a particular protein or food chemical a dog ingests. Food allergies may arise even when your dog has been eating the same food for months or years. 

Food allergies manifest in the skin, causing owners much concern as the dog experiences daily discomfort and pain. 

Any dog that is considered to be itchier than normal could have a food allergy.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is essentially a reaction to an allergen in the environment.

It’s comparable to asthma or hay fever in people.

Environmental allergens might present seasonally, for example, reactions to pollen, or could stay present all year round, for example, dust mites in the house.

For seasonal atopic dermatitis, German Shepherds might only itch when the allergen is in abundance in large enough quantities to trigger a reaction. Dogs might rub their eyes, sneeze, or cough when experiencing the trigger. 

Common Areas of Allergies

Areas of Allergies in German Shepherds

German Shepherds show allergies in many common areas on their bodies.

For example, the ears, eyes, and belly.

Changing their diet can help these allergies, but it’s good to know the possibility of additional allergens and their effects on your German Shepherd.

Just think about it.

If you change your German Shepherd’s food and they don’t show skin improvements, there may be other allergies involved for you to watch out for.

Here are other areas of concern that your German Shepherd might experience when having an allergic reaction.

Areas of ConcernExamples
Eyes, nose, throatSneezing, watery eyes, discharge
Lower airwaysCausing asthma
SkinCausing itchy skin, eczema, ear infections, hotspots, paw-licking
BowelCausing chronic diarrhea
Does your German Shepherd have itchy, red, irritated skin or other allergy symptoms in any of these areas?

What You Need to Know About German Shepherds with Skin Allergies and Their Dog Food

What You Need to Know About Dog Food for German Shepherds with Skin Allergies
Follow the 5-step process below to buy dog food for a German Shepherd with sensitive skin and allergies.

True medically diagnosed food allergy in German Shepherds is quite rare.

But, food intolerances and sensitivities might be the culprit to your dog’s itchy, red skin.

And that’s why buying the best dog food for German Shepherds with skin allergies is so important.

5 Steps to Buying Dog Food for a German Shepherd with Sensitive Skin

  1. Commercial hypoallergenic dog foods with novel proteins may help manage and even treat skin problems and discomfort.
  2. It’s not as easy or simple as finding the food that’s causing the allergy, and a veterinarian monitored elimination food trial might be necessary.
  3. Grains have a lower rate of causing a dog’s skin allergies, but many dog foods with novel proteins include grain-free options as a consumer preference.
  4. German Shepherds can develop food allergies at any age and have a genetically higher rate of occurrence, but other factors may also contribute to their skin issues like fleas, environmental factors, or seasonal allergies — remember that food is not the only culprit.
  5. Ensure your dog is taking omega fatty acid supplements to increase their healthy skin layer and provide an extra layer of support and care.

With the right game plan, the best dog food for German Shepherds with skin allergies can give your dog the relief they so desperately need.

More importantly, you’re helping them feel comfortable in their own skin.

Additional Resources

Axelsson E, et al. The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet. Nature 2013;495:360-364

DeLay J, Laing J. Nutritional osteodystrophy in puppies fed a BARF diet. AHL Newsletter. 2002;6:23.

Kawaguchi K, Braga IS, III, Takahashi A, Ochiai K, Itakura C. Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism occurring in a strain of German shepherd puppies. Jpn J Vet Res. 1993;41:89–96.

Lloyd, D. Diagnosis and management of adverse food reactions in the dog. Proc World Small Animal Vet Assoc World Congr 2006.

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