In the last article, we discussed how to utilize diet change to improve your dog’s skin problems. But many pet owners are intimidated when confronted by the choices presented to them.
To make things easier for you, today we’ll look at some jargon used by the pet food industry and what you should look out for.
I’d still cringe when I look at some of the pet food on the shelves. It’s not because they’re not doing enough but because they’re doing too much.
I was shopping online and came across a pet food with “Life Protection Formula – with LifeSource Bits.” Wow, fancy, isn’t it?
Now, what about another brand that tells you that it’s “Biologically Appropriate”? Hopefully, it’s not implying that feeding your dog other brands might be ‘inappropriate’.
Then there’s a brand that’s “Veterinarian Recommended.”
And another brand claims that it’s “100% Natural”.
And then there are another 20 more brands in the pet shop with their marketing message (If you’re shopping on Amazon.com, there are 4,761 items just under the category of ‘Dried Dog Food). Frustrating, isn’t it?
You’ll face the same problem with almost everything you buy. From mattresses to bedsheets, fridges to washing machines – they all have fancy features, yet they don’t feel much different.
You know how important having the right diet is if your dog is suffering from skin allergies, but where should you start? By throwing all of the marketing claims out of the window and just focusing on what your dog needs.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the common jargon used by pet food manufacturers as well as go in-depth on choosing a more appropriate food for dogs with allergies.
Brands like to feel special.
Unfortunately, companies and products are not focusing on making products or services that are ten times better. Rather, they spend time coming up with jargon to make themselves feel important.
However, some terms are widely adopted across brands, so let’s first take a quick look at them. There are a lot of them, but I’ll cover four of the most common categories in the market targeted for skin problems:
- Grain-free diet
- Raw diet
- Hypoallergenic diet
- Limited ingredient diet
What is a grain-free diet?
- It doesn’t include grains like barley, wheat, corn, oat, or rice.
- But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain carbohydrates. Dried pet food (kibbles) need starch and carbohydrate to keep their shape.
- As a replacement, carbohydrates like potatoes, peas, and legumes are used instead.
How can grain-free formulas help?
Grains and fiber take a long time to digest, and dogs, like any other meat eaters, have a short intestinal tract, as well as a lack of certain enzymes, which gives dogs a hard time digesting grains and fibers.
But that doesn’t mean that you should choose only grain-free formula. Many dogs have no problem with grains, especially when they’re ground up and cooked, as in the case of kibbles.
Yup, it’s uncooked pet food.
But unlike humans, dogs’ short intestinal tracts are meant to process raw meat, and raw diets benefit your dogs in many ways.
You can find raw diets frozen, freeze-dried, or dehydrated. Some small retailers are selling fresh raw food.
Raw diets have grown in popularity recently, and their reasons are apparent:
- Vitamins, enzymes, and minerals are not destroyed during cooking.
- There are arguments that cooking food, which alters proteins and fats, may be harmful to the body.
- Raw food contains zero or little carbohydrates – great news if your dog is sensitive to sugars.
- A diet without processed food doesn’t cause plague, resulting in cleaner teeth.
Sometimes they will plonk down the term just because it doesn’t contain corn or because they’re using exotic protein like rabbit meat. In diets you’d find in veterinary clinics, hypoallergenic diets use proteins that have been broken down for better absorption.
There isn’t any regulation regarding the use of the term, and whether a pet food is hypoallergenic or not shouldn’t matter to you at all.
Limited ingredient diet
We’ve discussed that many ingredients in pet food are added in tiny quantities and that they might be causing your dog allergies.
Pet food manufacturers recognize that many dogs suffer from allergies which is why they have developed more minimalistic formulas.
Limited ingredients diet usually consists of:
- One protein source
- One or few carbohydrate sources
- Vitamins and minerals
- Very little of other things.
Its ingredient list, therefore, wouldn’t look spectacular, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. Every dog’s requirement is different, and with the increasing occurrences of allergies, less is sometimes more.
Besides, these diets are usually cheaper as premium pet food markup their prices because of the undetectable traces of herbs, fruits, and vegetables.
So why pay more? Take away all the pompous, and your pet will still be able to benefit from all the nutrition it needs, and you’ll enjoy greater savings.
Which one should you choose then?
When it comes to skin problems, more isn’t better.
If your dog suffers from skin allergies, one of the surest, simplest ways (though not the easiest) is to change its diet until you get it right. Many times an elimination diet would be recommended, but many pet owners just don’t have that kind of time, patience, and persistence.
There is no guarantee that the priciest brand or a brand your friend swears by is going to work. You’d probably need more than a few tries to get it right. So to make your task of choosing a suitable pet food a breeze, here are some recommendations for you to increase your odds:
- Feed a limited-ingredient diet. You don’t need to scour the packaging for the term. Just take a look at the ingredients list. It should contain only one protein, limited sources of carbohydrates, and little or no other ingredients, e.g., Fruits, herbs, etc.
- I highly recommend raw diets because of their high digestibility and low carbohydrate content. Do give it a try.
- Premium-priced products might be better quality but don’t mean they’ll work for your dog. Premium products usually have a high protein content and may not be suitable for urban dogs with limited exercise. I tend to look for formulas with less than 30%.
- You should also try canned food if your dog isn’t fussy (fussy eaters may not be willing to switch back to dry food after trying canned food). It’s high in water content, usually has much fewer ingredients, and it’s less processed.
- At the end of the day, there’s no perfect food. Try until you see results.
- Typically, you should be able to see less scratching, less inflammation, and lesions on the skin within a month or two if a diet is working for your dog.
Other things to note:
- Since we’re trying to figure out what diet works for your dog, take out the guesswork and refrain from feeding your dog any other food. No fruits and no treats.
- Cut down on the carbs because yeast infection feeds on sugars, and sugar also causes inflammation. If you choose to prepare your meal, just stay with meat and steamed, pureed, leafy vegetables.
- When you start seeing results, you can try to add healthy supplements like yogurt, inulin, natural probiotics, and enzyme sources like green lamb tripe to give their gut health a boost.
When choosing food for skin sensitivities, the objective is to find a brand that doesn’t have ingredients that your dog is allergic to.
The simplest way is through trial and error.
And don’t let price affect your judgment. Being expensive doesn’t mean that it’s better. Product labels can be extremely misleading, and it’s almost impossible to know what you’re paying for
So go for a product with less stuff. Use the money and get fresh ingredients or supplements when your dog gets better.
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