One of the easiest way 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’s within my mid-range budget, with the longest ingredients list. I paid for the food and walked out of the store with a spring in my step, still feeling proud that I’ve 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 in the market and finding myself figuring out what’s good and what’s not.
Why do I bother? It’s because a right diet is the best way to help owner 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.
- Choose a good food
- Fewer ingredients means lesser chance of allergies
- Every dog is different. Try until you succeed
1. Choose A Good Food
No one can promise you a brand that will solve your dog’s skin problems. You can only increase the odds by selecting a 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’s are some tips I would like to offer you:
- To oversimplify things a little, identify the brands that are being sold in supermarkets and stay away.
- There are some brands which prices are suspiciously low (costs as little as supermarket brands).
- Check if ingredients are specific.
- Corn should preferably be avoided.
- Avoid products that uses BHT or BHA as preservatives.
- Don’t get fooled by fancy ingredients.
Here’s the detailed explanation on why supermarket brands are inferior.
However, good quality food doesn’t need to cost you an arm, neither 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, makes 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 like something 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 right now, but manufacturers aren’t short of alternatives, neither will you find yourself short of choices.
As for BHT and BHA, they are preservatives that are linked to caused 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.
The reason is that kibbles are usually sprayed with a layer of animals fats to increase its palatability and it’s listed in the first few ingredients. You surely don’t see kibbles dripping in fat, so the ingredients listed after that is like salt and pepper on your steak.
- Stay away from kibbles with the following ingredients:
- Unspecified sources of ingredients e.g. Meat/poultry meal
- Chemical preservatives (BHA / BHT)
- 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 test 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 variety of ingredients and slowly introducing other ingredients to observe the body’s response to them.
Not everything that’s 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 that I’ve worked with is able to see improvements after changing to kibbles with limited ingredients.
Dog food with limited ingredients usually comprises of a single meat protein, a few carbohydrate source 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, then you may add in some healthy, low allergy risk foods if you wish, adding in one new ingredient every week. Yogurt, kefir, steamed or pureed leafy vegetables are great choices, but beware of human food that’s toxic to dogs.
- 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 own evaluation. Don’t depend on hearsay.
Don’t have preconceived notion of certain ingredients if you haven’t done allergen tests. 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 is bad, 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 that 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 by quite a bit, brands that you can find in supermarket 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 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 mouth 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 so many owners with their dog’s skin problems and they’ve always been patient and strict with the program. Try until you see results.
Now that you’ve learnt about how to utilize diet change to improve your dog’s skin problem, we’ll look at some of the jargons 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!