In the last article, we’ve discussed how to utilize diet change to improve your dog’s skin problem. 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 of the jargons 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 that they’re not doing enough, but because they’re doing too much.
I was doing some 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 that claims that it’s “100% Natural”.
And then there are another 20 more brands in the pet shop with their own 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, from fridges to washing machines – they all have fancy features, yet they don’t feel much different.
You know how important having a right diet 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 focus on what your dog needs.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the common jargons used by pet food manufacturers as well as going 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’re spending time coming up with jargons to make themselves feel important.
However, some terms are widely adopted across brands so let’s first take a quick look at them. There’s 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 carbohydrate. 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, 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 at all especially when they’re ground up and cooked as with the case of kibbles.
Yup, it’s uncooked pet food.
But unlike humans, dog’s short intestinal tracts are meant to process raw meat and raw diets are beneficial to your dogs in many ways.
You can find raw diets frozen, freeze dried or dehydrated. There are also small retailers that are selling fresh raw food.
Raw diets have grown in popularity recently and their reasons 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 has 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 there are many dogs suffering from allergies which is why they have developed formulas which are more minimalistic.
Limited ingredients diet usually consists of:
- One protein source
- One or few carbohydrate source
- 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 just because of the undetectable traces of herbs, fruits, and vegetables in them.
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 is suffering from skin allergies, one of the surest, simplest way (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 none of other ingredients e.g. Fruits, herbs etc.
- I highly recommend raw diets because of its high digestibility and low carbohydrate content. Do give it a try.
- Premium priced products might be better in quality but doesn’t mean it’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 also 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 own meal, just stay with meat and steamed pureed leafy vegetables.
- When you start seeing results, you can try to add in healthy supplements like yogurt, inulin, natural probiotic and enzyme sources like green lamb tripe to their gut health a boost.
When it comes to 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. 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.
If you find this post helpful, please help to share it. You’d never know whose life you’ll change :)