Dogs/Possible food allergies causing itching
My dog Sam is a lab mix (not sure what he's mixed with - we adopted him from the pound last year, but we almost think there's a little border collie in there) and is about 2 years old. Ever since we got him, he has had very thin fur - the white patch on his chest looks pink because the fur is so thin. When we first got him, he had some clear skin irritations, but they cleared up in the first few days. We fed him Pedigree, and he did pretty well on it (we had fed our other two dogs that for years and years - both eventually died of cancer in their teens... but one of them, Molly, did have a lot of skin problems requiring courses of antibiotics over the years), but Sam still tended to be generally itchy, and still had very thin fur.
Recently, a coworker and I were talking about switching to grain-free diets for our dogs. I wondered if maybe the grains in his Pedigree caused some kind of allergic reaction that caused his itchiness (and maybe even had been the source of Molly's problems as well). Because my daughter was getting ready to bring her dog - a lab as well - to come live with us while she deploys to Afghanistan, I was not sure I could afford totally grain-free food to feed to both dogs, so I found a food instead that was wheat, corn, and soy free - figuring they were the most common allergens, and so maybe it was a good compromise. We spent a week making the transition from the Pedigree and his new food, and didn't see much of a change (didn't expect to, because I know these things take time - but he wasn't any itchier either), but I realized that if I was going to do that with his food, I should also do that with his treats, so I found some treats (again, trying to find something I could afford to sustain) that were corn, wheat, and soy free, but they did have a lot of oats and barley. We started the treats around the same time that we went to 100% of the new food. That's when he started getting itchier and itchier and itchier! After researching oat allergies, I thought maybe the problem was the oats in the treats, rather than the food itself, so we discontinued the treats for him. However, it has been almost a week, and that increased itchiness has not eased up. In the same time, though, my daughter's dog arrived - so I'm sure he's dealing with extra stress as well. (Sorry this is so complicated - that's why I'm asking for your help, though!) Now it's time to buy more dog food, and I'm trying to figure out: should I transition back to the Pedigree, where he was only a little itchy, and hope it doesn't get any worse as he gets older; or should I stick it out with the new food (It's Berkley & Jensen holistic food) a little longer to see if he starts to improve when all the chaos dies down? I have been trying (to remember) to give him fish oil every day to try to help with his skin. It seemed to help Molly, but she also had switched to canned food by then because of the other health issues our old dogs were having, so maybe it was just not eating those other allergens anymore.
I really want to do the right thing for these dogs - but also something I can sustain, both financially and labor-wise (because we also have some complicated cat-feeding issues in our household... but that's a different sob-story!).
Any advice you could give me on this would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this saga!
Thanks for the complete information, that helps me to give you a little better direction.
First of all, stay far and away from any of the Pedigree and other commercial dog foods like Iams, Science Diet, Purina brands, Beneful just to name a few. Stay far away from any foods or treats that contain the wheat, corn, by-products, gluten's, chemical preservatives, artificial coloring's, animal fat, animal digest, peanut hulls just to name a few.
It's great that you are doing your research. Most people don't know to do this and just trust the bag of food when it says complete nutrition for my dog or cat for that matter.
You were right when you suspected that the bad type grains, wheat,corn, soy are destroying your dogs health. These are the top allergen products used in dogs food. They weaken the immune system and cause the skin and coat issues, cancers and many other health issues.
Cancer is the number one killer of dogs over two years old. Half the dogs over 10 will die from some sort of cancer. These are most all caused by the improper diet.
Dogs were never meant to eat a cooked food diet. This is NOT their species appropriate diet. This is NOT the way nature intended our dogs to eat and thrive.
The cooked and bagged foods were all made for our convenience, not their best health.
The best diet by far for any dog or cat is the raw food diet. This provides the needed high moisture content, the live nutrients that are missing from dry and canned foods and that's the main reason for so many diseases.
There are many commercially made raw foods for pets that make feeding this type of diet very easy. They grind bones and organ meats into the mixture to make them complete.
You would do very well by learning all you can about feeding a raw food diet. Your pets will regain health and live longer because of it.
We feed exclusively raw food to our dogs and cats and they are extremely healthy. We take in foster dogs that we rescue from kill shelters. Many of these dogs come with severe health issues. We transition them to a grain free premium diet and then into a raw based diet and they heal just fine. We then go on to find them good homes and work with the people and their diets.
Of course feeding raw is not for everyone. If you do not feed raw, then you must give a few extra supplements to help make the diet more complete.
For your situation, transitioning to a grain free diet is the best to start with. A lower cost very good grain free food brand is from Taste Of The Wild. Look them up and find a store in your area.
As dogs get older, they just don't need any grains in their diet. Grains can cause inflammation and that makes the joints worse. Dogs just don't need any grains.
Make sure you get them a different protein than what they have been on. Usually the commercial brands all use chicken so get something completely different. Taste Of The Wild has multiple flavors.
Make sure at least half of their diet is in premium grain free canned food. Dogs need high moisture diet. No dog should ever be on a dry food only or even mostly diet. Their natural diet is meat and that is around 70% moisture. Dry foods have little moisture. Dogs on dry only will actually live in a mild state of dehydration.
This will effect their internal organs over time and of course their skin and coat.
For the VERY important supplement and the number one thing you can add to your dogs diet is enzymes and probiotics. These are critical and they do not do well without them.
They get these naturally in a raw food diet but these vital nutrients are destroyed when you cook foods. Most people don't know this and their dogs and cats go without and will suffer in the long run.
A good one we carry in our store is from Animal Essentials. They have a product that contains both enzymes and probiotics in one powder. Just sprinkle some on each meal and they will get the most out of anything they eat.
The enzymes help break down the foods far enough so they get the most nutrition from the foods. The probiotics help nourish the colon with good bacteria and help transport vitamins and minerals.
Without these vital nutrients in the diet, undigested foods build up and a toxic colon can become a disease place.
Several other things you can do for the skin and coat. Switch them to a lamb based food for a while. This has a higher amount of EFA's than other meats. They needs these good fats.
Adding canned sardines to their diet will also help nourish the skin and coat.
As for cost, you need to look at a per feeding cost. Your cheaper commercial foods like Pedigree contains high amounts of grains. So you need to feed much more of this food to get any kind of nutrition in your dogs.
The grain free foods will go further because you will be feeding a lot less. So when you look at the per feeding cost, it's usually a bargain to go with premium foods. Plus your dog will be healthier for it.
Your dogs may have gotten worse when you transition for a while. This is common. They may take up to a month or longer to get rid of all the bad crap out of their system.
Just make sure you are feeding some moist foods and adding the enzymes and probiotics. These are critical and help the transition.
You can also add other things like fresh veggies and fruits, table scraps as long as there is not wheat or corn in them.
Fresh foods are always better for us and only makes sense they are better for our animals. The more processed the foods are, like dry foods, the less healthy they are for them and us.
Cottage cheese, a little yogurt, sweet potato's, eggs are all good occasional treats and additions to the diet.
Variety is king. Keep changing things up in their diet. The more you do that the stronger their digestive system is. The digestive system is the heart of the immune system. So the stronger the digestive system, the stronger the immune system will be.
Like I said, they may and often do get some worse before they get better. But you have to go through it for their good health.
Keep up the good research. I know there is a lot of information out there and everyone has their opinions. You have to wade through them and see what makes the most sense and try it.
Just remember, the more natural a species diet is to their DNA makeup, the more healthy they will be. It just makes sense.
My wife and I did write a book on dog foods and supplements, it's available on Amazon.com in a kindle format and paperback.
If you are interested in reading more about our opinions, you can check them out at the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Dog-Food-Decoded-Healthy-ebook/dp/B008LX6WGY/ref=sr_1_2?ie
I know this has been a lot of information and you probably will have more questions and/or need clarification on some things.
Please feel free to respond back to this same question and ask away, I'll try to help as much as I can.