Hypo allergenic diets for recurrent ear infections

Good Morning

I have just joined the forum, so hello to everyone.

My 4 year old lab - Roo is constantly getting ear infections, caused by yeast. He has had his ears thoroughly cleaned under anesthetic, Various courses of steriods, ear washes and drops. The vet now is recommending a food elimination diet and has recommended Royan Canin HP,Purina Pro Plan HA, and Hills Z/D/ Looking at the reviews on here, they aren’t great. He is currently fed Butchers wet food, grain free, which he loves.
Looking at trying Fish 4 Dogs or Barking Heads Fish n Delish. I would welcome any suggestions.

Thank you

Hello and welcome to the forum Ruby 2020. I have friends who are experienced Labrador owners and I understand that this is a common problem with the breed. One of them currently has a Lab with the same issues.

I have a dog (not a Lab) with skin problems and malassezia so I know how difficult it is to find a solution. I eventually took her to see a specialist which was enormously helpful and the dog has been in remission for some time. We automatically blame food but it could be something else, environmental or genetic. The difficulty is discovering what is causing the problem and how best to ameliorate it.

Prior to seeing the specialist the vet put my dog on one of these hypoallergenic diets and it made no difference whatsoever, despite a lengthy trial of almost three months. Like you, I was reluctant but I thought it was worth a try. It can be a useful to try an elimination diet with veterinary support. As you say, they are not particularly wholesome but they can be helpful in the short term. You have to make your own mind up about it. Sometimes owners have an idea what the dog cannot tolerate. In my dog’s case I suspect legumes and white potato.

Dr Karen Becker recommends a low carbohydrate diet. You suggested two products, both dry but the problem with many dry foods is that they are usually high in carbohydrate. There are a few high quality ones that are in the low/average bracket.

When my dog had malassezia she also (latterly) got it in her ears but I was able to clear it up quickly because I had already cleared it on her body. I had to bath her using Malaseb and the treatment was very intensive for quite a while. Diet wise, I changed her onto fresh cooked food which the dermatologist had approved. It contains many good vegetables, is low/average carbohydrate and has turmeric in it. I stick with just a few flavours which I know she tolerates.

I think it’s a good idea to make the diet as simple as possible and to know exactly what it contains. If you are able to cook for your dog it might be worth a try. My dermatologist gave me a handout and this is what she advises, starting with very limited ingredients. This has to be done properly and we have some useful links in the home cooking section. I buy a commercially prepared fresh cooked food but it can be expensive for large dogs. A good quality raw complete could be worth considering because they tend to have a high fat content but low carbohydrate.

If your vet can do a skin scraping he or she might be able to identify if your dog has excess yeast elsewhere in the body and if this is the case it needs to be treated. Dogs scratch and reinfect themselves. Regular washing of feet might be worth considering. Some people use dilute Hibiscrub for the purpose.

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It’s difficult to recommend a food but as an owner of a dog with allergies , whilst you are going through the elimination diet route, my advice would be to buy the best you can afford but make sure you have a limited ingredients list. Avoid any food that gives a generic description such as “oils & fats” or “cereals “. Also, don’t just alter the food, if you feed treats then choose wisely with them too. If your dog does have food allergies, the rating will factor but what will be more important is that you get a food that suits your dog. Good luck! It will be a stressful time but please persevere.

Thanks for the replies so far. Our lab only suffers with the ears. His coat is in excellent condition.
The vet recommended changing his diet due to the frequency of the problems with the ears. With a diet elimination diet, i understand that this involves treats etc.

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An elimination diet is better than trying different foods and might be worth a try. If you do start one be aware that it is a long process and your dog might not respond immediately. Patience is necessary, along with close observation. As mentioned, try to stop your dog from scratching around his ears if you can.

Changing his diet should help, also a great product for his ears is Thornit powder (or Clearit powder same ingredients) …Its great stuff google it for reviews and check it out.
Keep the ear hair trimmed and put a tiny pinch of Thornit powder in the ear, then rub the back of the ear so they don’t shake it straight out.


It pains me to hear the vet recommending those foods as a potential treatment. Most days, I feel the urge to bang my head against the wall.

Without knowing which proteins you are feeding in the Butcher’s grain free, it is difficult to suggest a culprit.

I do know that Butcher’s use Chicken and Beef in their grain free wet food. In any grain free recipe that appears to be causing an issue, these are the first two I would definitely eliminate.

Please also check what treats you are giving, if any. Make sure there are no, grain filled Bonio type products, fatty digestives like gravy bones or less than useful tooth cleaning chews. Most of the time these products are plain nasty and completely undo the benefits of your grain free diet.

Good luck,


Oh and Ruby… ignore the use of the word Hypoallergenic. It is the most abused word in the pet industry.

Thank you for the helpful replies - much appreciated. I have read that chicken and beef are often cited as potentially being the cause of intolerance so it may be a starting point to eliminate these. The trouble is that there are also non meat ingredients that can cause problems.

David has written a useful blog about prescription diets here. I don’t see them as a treatment but rather a tool in the process of an elimination diet. When I used one on my dog I didn’t view it favourably and had no intention of keeping her on it long term. I am lucky that I found a fresh cooked food diet that works but I still can’t be 100% sure whether intolerance was the problem. By observation I know that she has no intolerances to any meat, poultry or fish.

If a hydrolysed protein food is not acceptable it’s useful to look for foods that have very simple recipes. Practically speaking, it’s easier to use quality wet food because they tend to have fewer ingredients. Unfortunately they can be expensive for a large dog such as a Labrador.

This type of issue is very difficult to solve and while diet is always blamed, it could be due to something else.

Most of these prescription foods contain ingredients that are known allergens. For that reason, I would suggest they are not a good starting point.

In certain circumstances, there is a place for hydrolysed proteins, it is just a shame that manufacturers bulk them out with nasty, feed grade, grains.

Over the last three years of being involved with hundreds of skin and ear issues, eliminating chicken has solved the majority. I have even seen a GSD bleed from its skin because of a reaction to chicken. My own GSD, that is now RIP, would fire a jet of yellow watery poo if any chicken, other than truly organic chicken, was introduced to him.

I have had customers with £3K yearly insurance premiums, because of recurrent ear infections and shocking vet practices, solve their problems by eliminating chicken, after speaking with me.

Chicken is an excellent protein, but SOME dogs just don’t tolerate what us humans to do it.

Possibly the other thing to consider is allergy to storage mites. They are associated more with dry, cereal based dog foods but can occur in grain free. Might be worth considering a trial of wet grain free, raw or fresh cooked dog food.

From what I am reading, he is on Grain Free wet from Butchers.

Thank you for the replies, yes our lab is on a wet food, grain free Butchers. However looking at the ingredients for all the varieties, chicken is the main ingredient. I will be looking at other feeds which only contain one protein. Not keen on the vet’s suggestions as he is not showing any other symptoms .

Thornit powder works amazingly well on ear infections
Take a look at the REVIEWS on this site …I always use it when grooming my dogs over the years and have never had any ear problems. Also great for itchy paws or hot spots


My pet have the same problems.