If they can’t convince you, don’t let them confuse you.

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

Grain-free 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.

Raw diet

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.

Hypoallergenic diet

The term ‘hypoallergenic’ is popular these days. You’d not only see the term on pet foods but also cosmetics to linens. The term just means ‘less likely to cause allergies.’

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.

Good luck!

If you find this post helpful, please help to share it. You’d never know whose life you’ll change :)

If your dog is having skin problems, stop sticking to the same old food!

One of the easiest ways to improve your dog’s skin allergies.

You may already know that one of the best ways to get rid of your pet’s skin problems is through a diet change. 

And I agree it’s easier said than done, even if your dog’s perfectly fine. 

I still remember being in the pet shop for the first time, tasked to buy dried dog food for my Maltese; I was confronted with a dozen of different brands of kibbles (thankfully, I was in a smaller pet shop). 

Looking through all the brands, I spent nearly an hour in the shop, and it was exhausting trying to compare the minute differences. 

In the end, I went for something that was within my mid-range budget, with the longest ingredient list. I paid for the food and walked out of the store with a spring in my step, still feeling proud that I’d unlocked the ‘Savvy Shopper’ achievement – getting the most stuff for the least price possible.

I’m sure you have had the same experience, and these days, it seems more challenging.

“If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”

Don’t you think that the adage is even more pronounced in recent times? I was shopping for bedsheets, and every year they seem to be able to attach new terms to similar products – Pima, Sateen, Jacquard, Maillard (Just kidding, but who knows?).

It’s not just daily products. I’m even having problems keeping up with all the new pet products that are on the market and finding myself figuring out what’s good and what’s not.

Why do I bother? The right diet is the best way to help owners with their dog’s health issues – especially skin problems.

The good news is that no matter how fancy dog food gets, the fundamentals never change. 

Back to the basics

I’ve helped many owners with their dog’s skin problems, and here are three tips I always share that will make things easier and increase your odds of success.

  1. Choose a good food
  2. Fewer ingredients mean a lesser chance of allergies
  3. Every dog is different. Try until you succeed

1. Choose A Good Food

No one can promise you a brand to solve your dog’s skin problems. You can only increase the odds by selecting good quality food.

But what does it mean by good quality?

Given the amount of competition going on, there’s a lot of confusion. 

Here are some tips I would like to offer you:

  • To oversimplify things, identify the brands sold in supermarkets and stay away.
  • There are some brands whose prices are suspiciously low (costs as little as supermarket brands).
  • Check if the ingredients are specific.
  • Corn should preferably be avoided. 
  • Avoid products that use BHT or BHA as preservatives. 
  • Don’t get fooled by fancy ingredients. 

Here’s a detailed explanation of why supermarket brands are inferior.  

However, good quality food doesn’t need to cost you an arm, nor does it mean having a long list of fanciful ingredients. The items in the ingredients list are arranged in order of weight, so the first few ingredients, usually meat and carbohydrates, make up the bulk of the kibble.

In some brands, ingredients are ambiguous. Beware if the manufacturer uses terms like ‘Meat meal,’ ‘Animal fat,’ or ‘Poultry fat.’ Who knows what meat or animals they’ve used?

Secondly, although corn seems healthy, there’s a long controversy behind them. Not only because they are cheap but it’s also mostly genetically modified. I can’t go into them now, but manufacturers aren’t short of alternatives, and neither will you find yourself short of choices. 

As for BHT and BHA, they are preservatives that are linked to causing cancer. Common natural alternatives include Tocopherols (Vitamin E) or rosemary extract.

Don’t be fooled

Ingredients in the middle and end of the list make up only a tiny amount of the food. To know if the celery and spinach are merely dusting on a plate, identify where the animal fat is listed.

Can you see where ‘Poultry Fat’ is highlighted? Ingredients listed after that may only be in tiny quantities.



The reason is that kibbles are usually sprayed with a layer of animal fats to increase their palatability, listed in the first few ingredients. You surely don’t see kibbles dripping in fat, so the ingredients listed after that are like salt and pepper on your steak.

Action Steps:

  • Stay away from kibbles with the following ingredients:
    • Unspecified sources of ingredients e.g., Meat/poultry meal 
    • Chemical preservatives (BHA / BHT)
    • Corn 
    • Flavoring and coloring
  • If you see the brand at a supermarket, don’t buy it.
  • If it’s way cheaper than other brands, don’t buy it.


2. Fewer Ingredients Means Lesser Chance of Allergies

Harmless as some ingredients may seem, we have no idea what your pet is allergic to. Even though allergy tests will give you a good idea of the kind of food to stay away from, the results can be inconclusive.

That’s the reason why if your dog is suffering from allergies, a fail-safe, though tedious way, is to put your dog on an exclusion diet, where the dog is fed with only a few varieties of ingredients and slowly introduced to other ingredients to observe the body’s response to them.

Not everything good for us will benefit your pet.

We love to know that we’re feeding nutritious herbs, fruits and vegetables when choosing kibbles for our furry friends, but as mentioned earlier, they’re just not available in substantial quantities to provide any benefit.

Not only that, the additional ingredients may be the reason behind your pet’s allergies.

However, rarely do dogs have such severe allergies that they need to go through the hassles of an exclusion diet. Many dogs I’ve worked with can see improvements after changing to kibbles with limited ingredients.

Dog food with limited ingredients usually comprises a single meat protein, a few carbohydrate sources, and a few varieties of vegetables and will help reduce the odds of exposing your dogs to allergens (some brands have 10 – 20 different types of fruits and vegetables in their kibbles!).

If you see an improvement, you may add in some healthy, low-allergy-risk foods if you wish, adding in one new ingredient every week. Yogurt, kefir, and steamed or pureed leafy vegetables are great choices but beware of human food that’s toxic to dogs.

Action Steps:

  • Put your pet on a limited-ingredient diet first, which also means no treats :(
  • Add one new ingredient every week and observe if your dog’s skin acts up
  • If your dog seems to be allergic to a particular ingredient, remove it.


3. Every dog is different. Try until you succeed.

Although it’s common to see improvements on your first diet change, some dogs may require you to switch around a few brands.

Here are some more tips on how to do that:

Do your evaluation. Don’t depend on hearsay.

Don’t have a preconceived notion of certain ingredients if you haven’t done allergen tests. It doesn’t mean chicken is bad or your dog has to go grain-free. Who knows if your dog is allergic to potatoes instead? For example, my dog’s allergic to lamb and fish but not chicken. Besides, chicken formulas are still very popular with pet owners. 

It doesn’t mean that what people say will be bad, including me.

Price is not an indication of quality.

An iPhone is more expensive than most smartphones, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best. It depends on what the user needs and what they’re comfortable with.

It’s the same for dog food. Although prices can vary slightly, brands you can find in supermarkets will be much cheaper. On the other end of the spectrum, commercial raw diets are usually the most expensive because of the high meat content. Most premium kibble brands are priced in the middle.  

At the end of the day, it still depends on what your dog’s requirements are. If it’s sensitive to a high protein/high meat content diet, feeding your dog expensive high protein diets is only going to make matters worse.

Be willing to try everything.

Try until you succeed. Let your creativity flow, and trust yourself. After all, you’re spending the most time with your dog and trust yourself to evaluate if whatever you’re doing is working or not. Here are some options you can try:

  • Canned food
  • Home cooked food
  • Commercial raw diets
  • Home-prepared raw diets
  • Different protein, exotic protein if need be
  • Carbohydrates free (no sweet or starchy vegetables like potatoes, carrots, yam, etc.)
  • Go vegetarian if necessary.

If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Good luck!

“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” – René Descartes



We are what we put into our mouths, and the same applies to your dog. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself, and our job is to give the body what it needs to heal.  Good quality food nurtures the body and will help to prevent illnesses by strengthening the immune system. 

However, most of the time, we don’t know what’s causing our dog’s allergies. So start with as little as possible and work up from there. The fruits and vegetables in dog food are usually in tiny quantities and may be the cause of your dog’s allergic reactions.

Finally, don’t give up just because changing one brand doesn’t help. I’ve helped many owners with their dog’s skin problems, and they’ve always been patient and strict with the program. Try until you see results.

Up Next

Now that you’ve learned about how to utilize diet change to improve your dog’s skin problem, we’ll look at some of the jargon used by pet food. I’d also give my recommendations on what you should look out for in the diet to increase your odds of solving your dog’s skin problems. 


P.S. If you find this article useful, remember to share!

Finally, there are too many dogs suffering from skin allergies, and more dog owners need to know about more natural and lasting alternatives to solving skin problems. You can help! On behalf of all the dogs in the world, Thank you!


Are premium pet food worth their price?

I believe if you have had a pet with skin problems, you would have experienced a time when you went to a vet or pet shop, and they tried to push you expensive prescription diet or top-of-the-line gourmet hand-cooked free-range lamb with sturgeon caviar promising to be the end all and cure all for your pet’s skin problems. Well, did it?Canine Fine Dining

My guess would be most probably no. If it did, however, you have no idea how lucky you are to find a particular brand of food that’s suitable for your pet’s condition (or why did it have to be the most expensive one?!). But I still know of many pet owners who choose to stick to one particular brand even though they do not see significant results.

So then, is expensive food really better? The short answer is: Of course!

Reason? Is organic peanut butter better than Skippy’s? Of course! You’d get fewer pesticides and all of the chemicals that we don’t want, all for a few pennies more in exchange for good health; why not?

But is fancy organic peanut butter cultivated from virgin volcanic soil good for people with nut allergies?

How good a product still has to depend on whether it will do any good for the body.

So how are we going to determine whether it’s going to provide the benefits? To answer this, we must first ask, what is the primary result I want from the food? If you don’t, you will be persuaded into buying something you don’t need, and most times, having more creates more problems. We’ll come to that later.

So what are some primary objectives you can have when choosing food? Are you looking for any specific ingredients? Is it because your pets are fussy eaters? Skin issues? Underweight? Overweight? Kidney/Liver issues?

What’s your budget?

Just like buying a new phone, if we don’t know what’s the most important function to us, we’ll tend to go for the one that has everything and everything we don’t need (me included).

So once you have your primary objective identified, it’ll be so much easier for you and whoever is serving you.

And I always tell my customers that if they have been making a lot of trial and error with different food, supplements, and products, my good guess is that they already know what works and what doesn’t. Use your gut and trust yourself rather than what people tell you.

For me, even though something didn’t work out the first time, I’d still try two more times with different variations before I confirm its suitability.

But don’t go around changing your pet’s food every time it refuses to eat the same food. If you know they are fussy eaters, catering to their preferences may do them more disservice in the long run. Proper behavioral training is the solution to this issue.

How do manufacturers determine their prices?

Luckily for pet food, where people buy it out of necessity than as a luxury, it has not reached a stage where manufacturers are charging crazy prices to position themselves as a premium brand. Of course, some brands can give you more value in terms of the ingredients for the same price, and you will learn how to choose one in this article.

But to simplify things, a $20 bag of food will not be the same quality and as nutritious as a $60 bag of food, even if they have the exact nutritional levels.

Why? First up, just take protein, for example, I can take a whole bunch of hair, nails, and skin of animals, grind them up and make them into kibbles, and they will show a good level of protein, well, because they are protein.

Secondly, meat safe for human consumption will be more expensive than meat from ground-up male chicks and rejects.

As for the fancy list of supplements, herbs, and botanicals? You can probably ask the manufacturers how many milligrams are added in a kilo. The amount is almost insignificant.

What should I look for?

If I had your attention up until now, you’d care enough to ensure that the food that goes into their mouth comes from the same carcass that goes into ours.

  1. Fresh Ingredients: The definitions are confusing as there’s no regulation on the definition of the use of the word ‘Fresh,’ and every brand seems to be using that now. But if the price is in the medium range and up, it usually is dependable.
  2. Free-range and antibiotics free: Although livestock is generally not slaughtered after being administered with antibiotics, free-range livestock, especially from Australia and New Zealand, have very low chances of being contaminated with antibiotics.
  3. Suited for your pet’s activity level: If you aren’t working out, you don’t need protein shakes. If your pet is more laid back, giving him a high-protein diet might do him more harm than good. Remember, less is more.

Secondly, ask around if you have friends whose pets are on raw diets.

Proponents of raw diets have been touting the benefits of feeding animals like cats and dogs for a long time, and it has only gained popularity over the last several years. From experience and research, putting pets on exclusively raw diets from a young does produce sturdier bodies and fewer dental problems.

Let’s say you only have a small dog or cat under your care, commercial raw diets are generally affordable, and I strongly suggest this option if you can allocate a monthly budget of around $70 – $100 for their food.

Watch out for these traps.

  1. Sometimes bigger companies have shareholder’s stomachs to fill: And as a result, more money may go into the branding than the quality of the food, like buying Panadol versus any generic brand of paracetamol.
  2. Long ingredients lists: Apart from being available in such small quantities that may not provide significant results, more ingredients mean a higher possibility that something in the list is going to cause allergies.
  3. Grain-free: As long you’re buying kibbles, there will still be carbohydrates in the form of potatoes, lentils, peas, et cetera. It’s the only way to hold the kibbles together. Nothing wrong with grains or carbohydrates; just that increasingly, manufacturers are using the term grain free to charge a premium when the cost may potentially be the same.

Some brands have potatoes as their first ingredient, nothing wrong with that. Potatoes are 80% water, and some well-known brands are using dried potatoes so that they can appear lower down the ingredient list.

Take your money and get supplements instead

That’s right. Paired with the right food, supplements double up the benefits of proper nutrition and give the body the help it needs to heal and strengthen itself.

But nobody walks into GNC and grabs everything. For me, the gut is where I start because what isn’t absorbed is just expensive poop and piss. To enhance absorption, I recommend digestive enzymes as well as probiotics – minimum. Not all our food is absorbed, and diseases start in the gut (and it starts in the mind for humans). Enzymes help break down the food to increase the bio-availability of the nutrients, and the probiotics protect the gut from harmful bacteria and yeast, which it has the slightest chance, will cause your pet’s health to plunge into a vicious cycle.

Then if your budget allows, you could add in another one and rotate between supplements like krill oil, multivitamins, or spirulina to help reduce free radicals and boost the immune system.

As long as it works

At the end of the day, you’re a smart consumer. What really matters is that the food matches your primary objective. If you need convenient food with less hassle to provide them with the best benefits, then raw (and expensive) is the way to go. Contrary, finding a food that is agreeable to your pet’s immune system and taste buds relies on trial and error or with an exclusion diet plan.


Do you have any tips or tricks for fussy eaters or have issues you’d like some advice on? Leave your comment below!