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!


Are You The Overly Attached Owner?

Does the thought of losing your pet cause your mood to go into a downward spiral and ruin an otherwise perfectly good day? Do you spend more time thinking and caring for your pet than yourself?

Or is this you?

Overly Attached Owner

If you’ve answered ‘Yes,’ the good news is that you’re not Tin Man, but the not-so-good news is that you might be overly attached to your pet.

No, there’s nothing wrong with it. We all grieve when they’re gone, we all pamper them while they’re here. It’s natural. It’s what they do and what they have that’s rare in humans that fills the emotional void and makes us fall in love with them so deeply. Their unconditional love, no matter how little time we spend with them, how we look when we put on extra weight, their affection (except Mari-kun), and their willingness to listen to our complaints makes them the perfect companion.

Animals And Their Wizardry 

However, it’s also their almost perfect character (‘almost’ because they have the innate ability to do the dumbest things) that led many into a trap.

Although a pet can bring about great therapeutic healing, as seen in therapy dogs, we need to be honest with ourselves if we can deal with the fact that most animals will leave this place before we do. It can even be a dangerous event if someone is already suffering from mental illness. Even so most people, a pet is more than just a furry companion – they can even mean more than a significant other or family member.

Too Much Of A Good Thing Makes Me Sick, Especially If The Good Thing Is Chocolate

Most people I know take the loss of their pets in stride, especially pets who died of old age. But life is not only fragile; the outcomes of daily events – big and small, are beyond our control. How many times have you bought someone a gift but only to get an awkward smile when they opened it up?

It’s not about being indifferent but knowing where to draw the line. Water and nutrients are essential for the growth of a plant; give it too much, and it dies. The same goes for many things in life.

Pets are readily conditioned by positive things; they’ll soon know that all they need to do to get more treats and attention is to beg for it. Not only does it create obesity, anxiety, and stress issues, but having an unhealthy body and mind will manifest into, in turn, creating more problems.

It’s A Matter Of Personal Reflection

It’s difficult finding the balance as most pet owners are either overly attached or nonchalant, both of which will create the same behavioral and health issues.

So, in my opinion, only when we understand the boundaries of what’s expected of our pets (e.g., rules they need to abide by), but also what’s expected of us – logically evaluating our pet’s best interests, will we be able to enjoy a healthy relationship.


Further reading:

Psychology Today on the technical aspects

Another psychologist talks about this in The Veterinary Expert