Monday, February 11, 2013

Dealing with Food Sensitivities

We've been pretty lucky as far as health issues go with our two pups.

Tess came to me as a garbage-connoisseur, a habit that was quickly kicked after the promise of daily meals was understood.  The unwritten meaning: she has an iron stomach and can eat anything.  Now the ever-spoiled pooch, she has a distinguished palate with no taste for anything green.
"Veggies?  No thank you."
Ed, on the other hand, will eat absolutely anything - and that's edible or inedible!

"I'll eat it!"

When we got him, he was on a dog-pound diet, that is to say whatever they had on hand.  We quickly changed his diet to what Tess was eating at the time: Hi-Tek Naturals Chicken Meal & Rice Formula.
 This is a mid-tier dog food, given 3.5/5 stars by  What we liked about this food is that it's made in the USA and is a high-quality dog food at a reasonable price.

While Ed liked the food and ate it right up, it was becoming apparent that the food did not like him so much, if you know what I mean.  We attested this to the shock of a diet change and kept feeding him on his regular schedule.

After a few weeks, his stool became more solid, but it was definitely not normal.  We tried a few home remedies to firm him up (rice, yogurt, pumpkin) but nothing made it 100%.

After a check for parasites revealed he had hookworm, we though they could be the culprit.  Three weeks later, Ed was parasite-free, but not yet solid. Our vet then brought up food sensitivities. He said many dogs have trouble with different protein sources, especially chicken, and recommended we try a higher quality food with a more digestible protein source. He recommended Blue Buffalo Basics Salmon & Potato Formula.

We instantly saw the difference.

Ed has even lost some of his pudge while still gaining weight. also gives this food 3.5/5 stars, although the salmon is the big difference for us. We have very little issues with Ed's stomach now. While we don't have to be hyper-diligent about his treats, we are careful to avoid anything chicken and choose higher quality treats when possible.

The biggest issue we came across with Ed's new dog food is that Tess wouldn't finish the old food! The scent of the salmon is so strong (read: delicious to a pooch), she refused to eat unless we fed her the Blue Buffalo. How about that for a spoiled pooch!

All-in-all, we've managed to get pretty lucky, as bulldogs tend to have more serious food allergies (different than Ed's food sensitivities). I had done some reading on raw diets, in case we had to go that far, but because Tess is a therapy dog (our organization rules say she cannot be on a raw diet for human safety reasons) and I'm unsure I'm willing to put that amount of work into it, we still use regular dry food.

Do your pooches have a special diet? Is it necessary or self-imposed? What differences have you seen in their overall health?


  1. Love this post! I love talking about dog diets =)

    When we first got Athena, we put her on Blue Buffalo Wilderness (salmon flavor) and she LOVED it. We noticed that her dull coat turned shiny and her dandruff was eliminated. But, it had way too much protein for her, so we switched to Natural Balance LID (fish). Athena took to this food well and we continued to notice how nice and shiny she was and she rarely itched. We fed her the fish flavor and then went on to try chicken. But, we found out within a week that Athena is allergic to chicken because her belly was full of red bumps. Soooooo, next we switched to the duck flavor and Athena really didn't like it, but we made her finish the whole bag.

    Now we have her on Nutri Source Pure Vita (bison) because we had a sample of it and Athena went CRAZY for it. She does like it a lot, but nothing has compared to her love for the fish flavored foods. Next we might try the turkey flavor because Athena doesn't seem to have an allergy to that.

    As far as treats, we try to do everything grain-free, but wheat-free for sure. She doesn't show any symptoms of allergies if she has a chicken flavored treat, so I think her chicken allergy is mild.

    Other than that, we supplement Athena's food each week with yogurt and pumpkin in her Kongs and fruits and veggies here and there (she's not picky).

  2. Great post! There was a period of about 6 weeks last Spring when Ray, poor baby, was not doing well with his food. We were feeding Orijen 5/5 stars and trying chamomile tea, yogurt, pumpkin, probiotics, prebiotics, advice here, advice there, etc to try and fix his issues. Finally someone mentioned that feeding Orijen was like eating steak at a five star restaurant for every meal! We switched him to Nurto Ultra 4/5 stars and that helped almost immediately.
    For his treats, I try to keep him on higher quality but don't insist on grain free or anything like that. (I even let cashiers sneak him a milk bone here and there.) At home he eats A LOT of fresh raw fruit and vegetables (this dog runs to the fridge if you ask him if he wants some kale!) and I'm transitioning him to Fromm duck and sweet potato food because he will be able to eat less of it than the Nutro.
    He also was getting his squirts of salmon oil, but I drop that every once in a while because he really doesn't care for fish products much. (Even my cats prefer poultry to fish.)

  3. I saw on Two Pitties in the City that you live in Erie. I'm from Meadville but moved to Florida last year and I'm embarrassed to admit that our pit bull can't take these 'cold' Florida winters. Honestly! Keep up the good work, our Pitties deserve it!

  4. I've changed Kaya & Norman's food more times than I can count. They both showed up super itchy and switching to grain-free seemed to do the trick. But Kaya was an insanely picky eater when she was a puppy and had severe allergies to poultry. I tried everything to get her to eat, adding can food, chicken stock, yogurt, pumpkin, liver treats. Then one day she just started eating and now she goes ballistic at meal time which always makes me laugh. Her poultry allergies are also gone. I've always given them salmon oil, but I've decided to stop because honestly I can't stand the fishy kisses! They're now on Nature's Instinct which is awesome quality, but very expensive. I want to look into a raw diet once I get a bigger freezer:/

  5. I'm so glad to have found your blog! Thank you for your generous support in honor of our fundraiser :) Is there a way to subscribe to your blog? Would love to make sure I read it every day!

    1. we love supporting a good cause! I think if you go down to the bottom of this page, there is a link that says "Subscribe by email". if you click that, it should have you enter your email and it will send you an alert when a new post is published. thanks for reading!

  6. Also, our dogs are on Acana, and I believe it is the lamb variety. We used to feed blue buffalo, but one of our dogs had an issue with it, so we asked a local dog food store for some advice. Thanks for sharing this website, because I was surprised to find that the Acana gets 5/5 stars! However, it is only a tiny bit more expensive than BB (I think we pay around $60/bag). Even better, it actually lasts us a lot longer than BB, because we feed less. Our two girls only get a cup per feeding, even though they are both pretty active. Because Tonka is bigger, he gets a little more (1.33 cups). Anyways, just thought I'd throw that out there in case you are ever needing to switch! Their coats are shinier, and we have much less work out in the yard, if you know what I mean ;)

  7. Our pups get red and itchy from chicken, and gassy from lamb or bison. We stick to fish, occasional turkey and duck. Hades is definitely sensitive to foods as is Braylon and I have yet to figure it all out but we also do not do grains of any kind. It has improved their coats, especially with the addition of salmon or flax oil. We are not at 100% yet. We've been unable to do any Blue Buffalo because each formula has chicken lurking somewhere in the ingredients. We've been on Taste of the Wild for awhile now.
    We have experimented a bit with raw but they tend to eat it so fast they get upset stomachs. Braylon had a blockage for a few days and Hades will sometimes throw up chunks of bone. We even tried freezing the bones but it barely slowed them down. I love the idea of raw but I think we'd have to do it differently (no bones) if we ever went that far. They are just TOO eager about food. Not picky pups in the least