In this day and age it is not unusual for our pets to suffer from the same types of allergies that we do ourselves. Most of the allergies in dogs and cats come from fleas but assuming that you keep your cat treated for these then the next likely culprit is environmental including house dust, mites, mould and pollen. However, these aside food allergies count for many of the digestive and some of the skin problems with our pets.
Our own dog, Sam developed a lick granuloma, which is a skin lesion usually located around the elbow or wrist area of a front leg. He was only about a year old and it was shortly after he had moved to an adult food and I was using treats to train him.
A lick granuloma is a thickened, oval and hairless red area of skin, which the dog will continually lick making the condition worse until it can become ulcerated. Although the condition has been linked to boredom and stress in dogs it can also be a result of an allergy.
It took several months and a number of different tactics for me to isolate the culprit. In Sam’s case he was allergic to something in his training treats. The majority of dogs may have no problem with this particular brand which happened to be Markies, but like humans animals are very individual and ‘one dog’s meat is another dog’s poison’.
For some animals it can be any number of chemicals in grooming products and flea prevention concoctions including the collars.
When I talk to my parent’s generation and ask them about what they fed their dogs you will find that their healthy and allergy free pets were fed on scraps from the table. Whatever was good enough for the family was good enough for the dog or cat. It is only in the last forty years or so that pet food has become such a huge business.
In the end I cooked food each week for Sam and his lick granuloma cleared up and he always had bright eyes and a glossy coat he then moved onto a higher raw food diet. It is a bit of chore but to be honest if you make it a once a week job and freeze portions it is probably less time than going to the supermarket for it. He ate all sorts of offal from the butchers including a heart which lasted a couple of weeks for about £2 – he loved the smell of Basmati rice (of course he did) and he also had some vegetables – carrots were his favourite. In addition he would have cut up sausage for his treats, pigs ears, calcium chews and the one thing he would walk over burning coals for – extra mature cheddar! Oh and he inherited my love for ice-cream but only had occasionally to his disgust as milk for dogs is not recommended.
On the subject of rice and dogs.
There are two main standards of rice – Human grade and feed grade which is what is usually put in commercial dog food. The feed grade is what is left over after human rice products are manufactured and usually has picked up chemicals and toxins during the process. Arsnic being one of the toxins that can be found it this grade.
If you use a high quality rice, and Basmati is actually more flavoursome than normal rice and has a distinctive aroma (attractive to dogs) due to 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline in amounts around 12 times more than normal white rice. Rice and chicken is used also for dogs who have suffered stomach upsets as it helps absorb the moisture in the intestine.
This is another reason why I would not use dry pet food and here is couple of articles that might clarify that opinion.
The debate about dried pet food should really be a lesson for us all when we look at our levels of processed foods and the solution is the same for your pet as for us when we have an allergy problem except we can be a little more rigid with a pet.
Some of the symptoms of an allergy.
If you dog or cat is exhibiting some of these symptoms such as scratching, frequent vomiting, stomach upset, and urinary tract infections (evident by very frequent peeing and whining as it burns) then you need to look at the food you are providing them with, including tinned and dried.
If you have eliminated other reasons for the problem such as fleas then you can start your pet on a hypoallergenic rotational diet. Like us your pet could be reacting to the preservatives in dried food or to the most common allergens such as beef, dairy products (cats can be prone) chicken, wheat, corn and flavoured vitamins. Most of these are common ingredients of dried and canned foods.
Use a protein that your dog or cat does not normally eat. Lamb is expensive but is the least likely to cause an allergy. You can serve raw with some boiled rice if your dog is particularly active. Keep to the lamb only with rice for at least 12 weeks (even if your pet gets fed up and wants a change) and monitor improvements. Make sure the pet has plenty of water to flush out their system. After that initial period re-introduce other proteins such as raw chicken and beef, individually for 5 to 7 days at a time and see if one of these causes a reaction. If none occurs then re-introduce any dry food that you were using and monitor the response.
Typically when I conducted this elimination diet for Sam it was the last thing on the list that I re-introduced that had been the problem and it caused a reaction within three days.
Ideally your pet, dog or cat will be safe eating the much the same food as you do but raw (although I tended to freeze offal in meal sizes as it can get a little smelly, particularly the hearts). Moderate carbohydrate such as rice, protein and some vegetables .. there are a few things that a dog should not eat in great quanitities if at all and that includes wheat, milk, (although Sam did eat some cheese) cooked bones are not healthy and as you will see from the link at the end of the post.. onions and grapes.
And a very important message is, please do not feed your dog chocolate. It contains a poison to dogs called theobromine and in large quantities it is toxic to a dog’s central nervous system. Dark chocolate contains more than milk chocolate but both can cause possible fatal harm to your pet.
Follow the money!
Some interesting statistics show how the eating habits of our pets have changed over the last thirty years or so. The pet food industry in 2012 in the United States was worth $7 billion and in the UK about £2.8 billion!
Sixty years ago when the majority of pets were fed from the table and with scraps the expenditure on pet food was virtually zero.
Let me pose a question since Africa is such a food starved continent. If we all fed our pets in the same way that our parents did that $10 billion or so would feed an incredible amount of people and our pets might well be somewhat healthier.
More information on Fleas
On the subject of fleas – over the counter products can be loaded with chemicals that can cause an adverse reaction in your pet that can be fatal. I used organic and natural products and Sam had a garlic tablet in his dinner each day and if his breath was anything to go by it was largely effective!
Here is an interesting article about the life cycle of the flea – both male and female and there are a few surprises such as the female laying eggs not on the pet but in the cracks in your floorboards! Also some tips on natural and organic products.
And on the subject of a more holistic approach to feeding and treating our dogs… you might find this site very interesting.
I hope you have found the post interesting and please feel free to share.. thanks Sally.