February 13, 2023 3 min read

What is an elimination diet?

An elimination diet or exclusion diet is used to identify which food(s) your pet can consume without adverse effects and symptoms. 

It involves restricting your pet to a single protein for a length of time (a minimum of 4 weeks) to monitor the response to that ingredient/protein before introducing a new one. An elimination diet allows the body and immune system a much-needed break and enables you to start fresh so that you can identify the problem ingredient  for your pet which is not easy to do when feeding a variety of different ingredients at once.

Elimination diets are meant to be short-term and used as a diagnostic tool and not as a long-term diet. Protein rotation is very important when raw feeding once you’ve identified which proteins work well for your pet. 

When to do an elimination diet.

If your pet is experiencing constant and unrelenting allergy symptoms such as skin & ear infections, itching, rashes, etc. an elimination diet may be the best way to identify and eliminate their food triggers. Though skin, blood, and saliva allergy tests are available, they are not always reliable for diagnosing food allergies especially when their bodies are already inflamed.

What is the difference between a food allergy and an intolerance?

Although the symptoms can be very similar, allergies and food intolerances are not the same. The main difference is that allergies involve the immune system so when a pet is exposed to an allergen, they have an immune response causing inflammation and allergy symptoms.  A food intolerance is when a pet’s body doesn’t process an ingredient well but could still be included in the diet in moderation/rotation in the future. 

Again, protein rotation is key not only so that pets get a variety of nutrients, but because pets can build an intolerance to proteins & foods they areconsistentlyexposed to. E.g. If your dog always eats chicken for meals, over time they may develop protein intolerance to chicken and start showing allergy symptoms. Rotating proteins eliminates the chances of overexposure to a single protein source. 

How to do an elimination diet with your dog or cat. 

Elimination diets take time and discipline and you must be truly committed to get the most accurate results. It’s important to be strict with this trial and not offer anything outside of the plan as even a small treat can affect the results. 

They usually begin by feeding your dog a single-protein diet for ideally 8-12 weeks. It is suggested to choose a novel protein (one that your dog or cat hasn’t had much exposure to such as Pure Rabbit). It is also suggested that you do not add anything extra at this time. This length of time may seem quite long, but it allows your dog to detox from previous food(s) and adjust to the new protein and will also allow time for allergy symptoms to appear or disappear. 

After the first protein trial, you can start to introduce a new protein to your pet’s diet and stay on that single source for the same duration. Repeat the process until you have determined which ingredients are problematic for your pet. 

**If you are considering an elimination diet, speak with your vet or holistic pet nutritionist before starting.**