I got an excellent question today from a dear old friend. It goes as follows:
My dog is very itchy and dry. Her skin is flaky and she loves to have her back end scratched. She is 8 yrs old and this only started over the past year. We tried switching food but that didn’t help. Any words of wisdom?
The first question I asked was “What are you currently feeding your dog?”
Dog Chow - don't buy it!
The answer was Purina® Dog Chow®.
I get this kind of question so many times that I thought it deserved it’s own post.
My first recommendation is to try a food change again. Even if it hasn’t helped in the past, there can be several reasons for those failures. (1) The new food wasn’t fed for a long enough time to have seen a change. It can take up to 8 weeks to see a difference in skin and coat quality with a diet change. (2) Simply that the the wrong food was tried. Sometimes all grains needs to be eliminated in dogs with skin problems, or the protein source needs to be changed. I usually recommend a fish and potato based food in these situations. To find a good quality fish and potato based food I recommend finding your local small business pet food store and tell them that you are looking for a grain free fish based food. You will get much better service, and support your local community, by patronizing a small business instead of a big box store. Beyond a food change, I recommend that all dogs receive an omega-3 fatty acid supplement in the form of cod liver oil. It’s important to use a high quality supplement like the one from Nordic Naturals.
I also wanted to take a moment to review the ingredients in Purina® Dog Chow®:
Whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), meat and bone meal, brewers rice, soybean meal, whole grain wheat, egg and chicken flavor, animal digest, calcium phosphate, salt, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, choline chloride, added color (Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 2), zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, Vitamin D-3 supplement, riboflavin supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.
What I highlighted in red are all grains. The first thing to look for in a food is to make sure that meat is your first ingredient – which it isn’t here. I always recommend avoiding corn, wheat, and soy in dogs that have skin and coat problems. This food contains all three of those grains. I also recommend feeding only whole grains and this food has corn gluten meal and brewer’s rice. Another thing to know about brewer’s rice is that it is only sold to make pet food and dairy feed – it is not a human grade quality ingredient.
Now onto what I highlighted in green: poultry by-product meal. This is the nasty left over stuff from chicken carcasses and it isn’t fit for human consumption. So you might be asking yourself “Why would they use by-products in my dog’s food?” That’s a great question that’s easily answered – it’s cheap.
Animal digest (highlighted in orange) is just plain nasty stuff. Animal Digest is a boiled concoction made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. Digest can be sprayed on lower-quality foods lacking good-tasting ingredients to give the food some desirability and palatability. The animals used for this broth can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Ingredients can come from restaurant and supermarket refuse, the dead, diseased, disabled, or dying (“4 D”) animals raised for human food, other farm animals, rodents, pets euthanized at shelters, and so on.
Never feed anything that contains a generic animal product like “meat meal” or “animal fat” (the things I highlighted in blue). You always want to know what kind of animal that a meat or oil comes from – like chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, etc … . Food companies don’t always disclose what kind of animal is in your dog food because they want to use whatever the cheapest thing on the market is that week. That’s unacceptable in my book – I want to know exactly what is in my pet’s food!
As far as artificial food colorings (highlighted in purple) – they just don’t need them! Artificial food colorings can create or at least contribute to a whole host of problems including allergies, behavior problems, arthritis, cancer, immune problems etc … . Many times colorings are added to give pet owners a false sense of feeding something healthy; something that looks rich and meaty.
I hope this information helps. And I’m so glad that I got this question today – like I said it’s a good one. I’m always happy to help educate when it comes to nutrition.
~peace, love, and plenty of tail wags