Smorgasbord Pet Health – Allergies – Scratching, itching, sneezing – Industrial Pet food vs. Homecooked by Sally Cronin

Welcome to a new series of posts that focus on our fur family and their health.

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.

Home cooking.

In the end I bulk cooked food each week for Sam and froze portions. His lick granuloma cleared up within a couple of weeks and he always had bright eyes and a glossy coat he stayed on home-cooked food for the rest of his life. 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 a few pounds – he loved the smell of Basmati rice (of course he did) and he also had some vegetables – carrots and sweet potato were his favourites.

I would put a half teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil on his dinner as well as it has the same benefits for dogs and cats as for humans..including for skin health and glossy coats as well as joint health..Smorgasbord Health – Olive Oil Keeps your Body Moving

The other food that is becoming increasingly popular with pet owners is coconut oil and you might find this article interesting.. As a fan of coconut water for many years, I turned to the oil for cooking and use in combination with extra virgin olive oil.

Coconut oil may promote better cognitive function and brain energy metabolism, and reduce buildup of brain lesion-causing amyloid proteins. These benefits aren’t limited to senior dogs whose brain functions are slowing down, but other older pets too.3

This effect is connected to the high amounts of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) in the oil. According to a 2010 study published in The British Journal of Nutrition, massive improvements in brain function were seen in senior beagles that were fed MCT supplements.4 Aside from this brain-related link, coconut oil may also help:5

  • Alleviate skin conditions like eczema and contact dermatitis
  • Relieve cuts, wounds, stings and bites
  • Lessen dog odor (due to coconut oil’s monolaurin content6)
  • Eliminate dog fleas, for coconut oil’s lauric acid content can deter these pests7,8
  • Ease yeast infections such as candida
  • Boost nutrient absorption and digestion
  • Promote fast recovery among dogs with kennel cough
  • Regulate your dog’s insulin and levels and lowering diabetes risk
  • Lower heart disease risk
  • Moderate thyroid function
  • Enhance motility among dogs with arthritis and joint issues 

In addition Sam would have cut up lean sausage for his treats, pigs ears, calcium chews and the one thing he would walk over burning coals for – extra mature cheddar! He also had three hard boiled eggs a week which he would hold in his mouth whining before succumbing to the temptation and he would hold between his paws and nibble through to the yolk.. a joy to watch.

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.

Dried Pet food

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.

Dogs are primarily carnivores although recent evidence suggests that they would have eaten the intestines and stomach of the animals they killed or scavenged, to obtain the vegetable matter consumed by their prey. They are certainly not wholly vegetarian or vegan and dried food might contain nutrients, but is it in a form that a dog or cat’s digestive system can absorb!

Certainly there are some expensive and nutritionally balanced dried pet food brands but unfortunately the cheaper the product the less beneficial it is for your pet.

I always kept a back up of tinned food for Sam, and also when we were travelling and used a brand that contained very few additives and was grain free.. There a number of excellent dog and cat wet food brands now and it is worth checking their websites out.

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 with some boiled rice if your dog is particularly active. Keep to the lamb only with rice and some sweet potato for at least 12 weeks (if you have been feeding your dog or cat the same dried food every day all its life I am sure there will be few complaints) 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 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 you might re-introduce any dry food that you were using before but in a small amount 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 – I always cooked Sam’s food but more and more pet owners are opting for a raw diet.

The kittens weaned themselves very happily on Sam’s food which he let them share. For some reason he preferred his meal on a plate when young and not all mushed together

Depending on age and activity a meal should consist of a moderate amount of carbohydrate such as rice with  protein and some vegetables such as sweet potato, broccoli, carrots (good to chew on raw), Brussel sprouts, spinach and other greens such as bok choy. With sweet potato, make sure you mash it up so you pet does not choke on a chunk.

There are a number of foods that a dog should not eat in great quantities, 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.

Chocolate contains a poison that is dangerous for 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 is projected to be worth $73billion by 2022 and whilst I have no problem with high quality canned foods for cats and dogs, I am concerned that the cheaper makes of dried food contain little of the nutrition that is promised.

Sixty years ago when the majority of pets were fed from the table and with scraps the expenditure on pet food was virtually zero.

The other issue is the rate of cancers in most breeds of dog that has been put down to irresponsible inter-breeding over the last 20 years or so. But to my mind there is a far more compelling reason and that is the industrially produced foods that they are being fed.

I can recommend that you download this free guide to preparing home-cooked food for your dogs with over 50 recipes: Dogids Dog Food Recipes free download

They include recipes in various categories

Gluten Free
Grain Free
For Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs
Peanut Butter
Our Favorite Recipes from Others
4 More Bonus Recipes

Getting rid of 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 and certain essential oils that are commonly used can also be toxic to dogs. I used organic and natural products. Here is a site that you might find interesting.. not just about repelling fleas but killing them. Not just on your dog but in your home too as where there is one there are usually hundreds lurking!
Dog care Natural home remedies for fleas

©2021 Sally Cronin

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: :Sally’s books and reviews

Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.




28 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Pet Health – Allergies – Scratching, itching, sneezing – Industrial Pet food vs. Homecooked by Sally Cronin

  1. My better half prepares the food for our 12 dogs. He uses ground up sprouts (lentils, beans) as well as carrots, and he adds beets when they’re in season. He uses sweet potato eggs, chicken (and other meats). There are 2 dogs that won’t touch it without cheese. 😊

    Their coats are shiny and they’re happy dogs. Right now, 3 of them are experiencing flea allergies. It’s that time of year in Florida.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Awesome info, Sally! Excellent points about dried food. I limit table scraps to a bite of cooked egg, whole cheese, apples and occasionally peanut butter. I believe so many of the health problems are related to poor nutrition in commerce pet food. I remember my mom would pressure cook chicken necks to add to her collies’ food back in the 60s and 70s. She bred,.raised and showed countless champions. I envied their fresh chicken diet, lol! I emailed this to myself for a further deep dive.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Sally! The photo of Sam immediately brought back memories of you and David having precious time with him. Considering the expense of going to a vet, home remedies come in handy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Pete an to be honest they complain about how many dogs are in shelters but part of that is the costs of mandatory vet visits as well as those for any accidents or illness plus these days insurance for many who struggle. Pets for elderly people are so important for company and for their health benefits but they do find it very hard to manage. xx.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I started feeding my dogs on a mostly home cooked diet when Kero was a couple of years old and I was running out of petfoods to try that didn’t upset his stomach (plus, he’d eat my meat from me when I prefered not to). When we got Lilie we noticed a similar issue from the start (which got a lot better after we stopped giving her anything by Bakers, but didn’t completely go away) so switched her to a diet of mostly home cooked foods too, with a small amount of grain-free dry food to supplement it from time to time, and some of her treats commercial dog treats. She has whatever meat hubby is having for his dinner as her dinner, and bits and pieces of veggies sometimes too. When we got Logan we didn’t even bother trying him on anything but what Lilie was fed on, and had no issues with him until I was with my Mam last week and she gave him the dogfood she gives her dog… Poor Logan suffered badly for it, so I made her cook him some chicken and rice for the other times she was feeding him last week, and he’s now fine again. They adore peanut butter, and will beg for veggie scraps when I’m sorting the salad and vegetables for the tortoise and chinchilla every morning, so I give them bits and pieces of things I know are OK for them to have. Lilie is getting medication for itching, because she has a skin condition that’s common among Westies, but other than that both dogs are happy and healthy. We did try some non-medication options for Lilie’s skin irritation, like adjusting or temporarily illiminating certain things from her diet, for example, but none of it was helping, so we decided she needed to see a vet, since sometimes there will be a medical condition that’s not diet related, and this seems to be one of those times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for adding your experiences Tori and it sounds like you have the right strategy for your fur family.. I found there was a great deal of satisfaction in watching Sam take his time with his dinner rather than gobble it down and he had definite favourites.. As you say there are times when a vet is needed especially with a skin problem that can be a result of so many varied causes and often require a microscope to diagnose.. thanks again.. lovely response.. hugs

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah it was a few years before a vet actually mentioned a food allergy…the cat I adopted in the shelter was pulling/licking her hair out, and she continued to do it after I adopted her. Finally, after many vet visits to different vets, the vet said she could have a chicken/grain allergy. And I switched foods, and within a month her hair was coming back in, (Also, people in my family’s neighbourhood were having flea problems so bad they were having to bomb their houses. my family used this…and it actually worked against the terrible flea infestation in their house.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 23rd – 29th May 2021 – | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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