You may have heard of exclusion or limited ingredient diets and wondered what they are or what they are for. We’re here to answer your questions.

What is an exclusion diet? 

An exclusion or limited ingredient diet is one where ingredients are being excluded, or taken out of, the diet. Often this is done when your pet is suspected to have a sensitivity to something, and to try to identify what is likely to be causing the sensitivity.

These foods often have a single protein, or meat source, and a smaller number of ingredients. This way if your pet is showing a sensitivity, it is easier to see the ingredients which they have eaten.

An example of this is itchy skin. If your dog is suffering from itchy and sore skin, and you suspect that an ingredient within their food may be the cause, an exclusion diet can be used.

Feeding an Exclusion Diet

Introduce exclusion or limited ingredient diets gradually, by increasing the quantity of this food whilst decreasing the quantity of their usual food. Once your pet is transitioned to the exclusion diet, you will need to maintain this for a few weeks to months. This allows any effects to your pet’s symptoms to be seen. There may be a difference more quickly, but this isn’t always the case.

Remember, whilst your pet is eating an exclusion diet, they should not be having different treats and titbits. This is because that this introduces more ingredients into the diet again. Introducing more ingredients makes identifying an ingredient which causes the sensitivity extremely difficult. Often one treat type, with a small number of ingredients can be fed, as this way you can still keep track of the ingredients.

It worked!

Your pet’s symptoms are not shown whilst on the exclusion diet. In this case it is then possible to gradually introduce more ingredients, one at a time. If symptoms start to show again, then you know that there is a sensitivity to this ingredient, and it can be avoided in future.

It didn’t work!

If your pet’s sensitivity symptoms remain, then rotate to another limited ingredient diet with different ingredients. It is possible that an ingredient which they are sensitive to could be included in the exclusion diet.

If exclusion diets are not helping, a hypoallergenic diet may be used. Look out for another Charlie’s rewarding Pet Nutrition blog post on this topic.

Your pet comes into contact with many things during the day which they have the potential to be sensitive to. For instance cleaning products in the house, and outside there are a multitude of plants and trees, not to mention the addition of things such as fertilisers or pesticides. It’s possible that the causes of your pet’s sensitivity are not based in their food. If their sensitivity is not improving when exclusion diets are used consider that there may be other elements of their environment which could be removed for a time to see if that causes an improvement.