My Dog Is Really Itchy – Will A Vegan Diet Help?
Food allergies occur when your pet’s immune system incorrectly identifies a protein from their food as an invader rather than a food item and sets up an immune response.
The end result of this can be itchy skin or ears and skin infections in some pets, while it may cause vomiting or diarrhoea in others. Some unlucky pets that we see can have both skin and gastrointestinal signs.
The most common food allergens in dogs are beef, dairy, chicken products and wheat, and to a lower degree soy, lamb, pork, fish, and corn
The most common food allergens in people are milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat and shellfish…..so very different! We like to think that as our pets are small members of our family; that they share in our ‘intolerances’ but WHEAT AND GLUTEN INTOLERANCE IN PETS IS VERY RARE (except in a small family of Irish Setters who are gluten intolerant!)
I had to write that in bold to make all readers of this blog realise that all these claims of gluten-free, grain-free, high protein and hypoallergenic (all written on the same packaging sometimes) are just marketing ploys!
The multi-billion pound pet food industry plays on our knowledge that we know at least one person who suffers with a wheat or gluten intolerance, so our pets MUST be the same as they are our family members!
The main difference we see between humans and our pets, is that they are more likely to be reactive to protein (mainly beef) compared to us….and most pet food is made of beef (or beef products – right down to the gelatine coating of your pet’s medication capsules that are made from beef claws!)
Be careful of what is called cross-reactivity ie if your pet is allergic to beef, they will very likely be allergic to bison or venison too and similarly if allergic to chicken, they will react to duck and turkey.
What is an elimination diet?
This means feeding your pet a diet from your vet or carefully made at home that contains only a few ingredients that your pet has never been fed before or that are hydrolysed (where the proteins are broken down into very small pieces so that they can ‘hide’ from the immune system). These diets tend to be very processed which makes owners turn to raw meat diets as they tend to have no additives.
This diet is then fed as THE ONLY FOOD OR TREAT TO GO INTO YOUR PET’S MOUTH for at least a 4 – 6 weeks. If your pet’s signs dramatically improve during the trial, then to confirm a food allergy, your pet then has to go back to the old diet again. A sudden relapse proves an allergy to an ingredient in your pet’s previous diet.
Sadly most vets will tell you the only way they have been taught – to feed a novel protein to your dog instead of a plant-based diet. These ‘novel proteins’ ie proteins that your itchy pet may never have come into contact with before, offer non-sustainable and unkind options. These pet foods may contain duck or deer or rabbit or as in the case of Royal Canin Anallergenic, broken down chicken feathers, or ‘hydrolysed protein by-product aggregates’ as they state on their packaging! As animal lovers, we don’t even want to imagine how these beautiful animals used in novel diets are transported and slaughtered just to feed our itchy pets.
A gentle and kind fully balanced 100% plant-based diet can certainly help your itchy, allergic pet.
“So, while under normal circumstances I cook at home for my boy, he’s been on kibble a lot this year because lots of friends have been looking after him for me while I’ve moved house and worked mad shifts. He was on V-Dog, Yarrah and Benevo as I was trialling all of them with him one after the other. He really liked Benevo but after months of itching and infections, I worked out he had an allergy. The only common denominator in these kibbles that was new to him was soya. So, I’m trying him on Greta that you recommended and I have to say that when I opening the bag, he was drooling! He absolutely inhaled it when I gave it to him and it even smells good to me! I’m back to mostly cooking for him again (and his allergies have disappeared within three weeks) but it is great to have this food in the cupboard for staying with friends and emergencies”
Dogs that suffer with atopy – a form of allergy where your pet is allergic to more than one environmental allergen, and where they tend to bite or chew their paws; will also do much better on a plant-based homemade diet than on a commercial hydrolysed protein dog food diet.
Any dry food or kibble diets are made to last for a period of time on the shelf and they can carry storage mites that your atopic dog may react to especially if they suffer with the most common of all – a house dust mite allergy. We advise keeping any dry food away from your pet in a sealed container or in the fridge if they do suffer from a house dust mite allergy to prevent a reaction to storage mites in dry food.
A homemade diet immediately removes this concern and is far more palatable to your pet than a commercial hydrolysed diet. Purina Hypoallergenic HA food that most vets recommend as a hydrolysed diet, contains sugar as one of its ingredients to improve its palatability – this is not acceptable to sustain or even feed our dogs on a diet that has refined sugar as one of its ingredients!
See the descriptions below of the most recommended and most expensive foods for itchy dogs in the UK……quite shocking!
What Other Hypoallergenic Foods Do Vets Recommend…BUT NOT US!?
Royal Canin Anallergenic™
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Corn starch, hydrolysed poultry by-products aggregate, coconut oil, vegetable oil, natural flavours, powdered cellulose, dried chicory root, sodium silico aluminate, potassium chloride, monocalcium phosphate, L-tyrosine, fructooligosaccharides, fish oil, choline chloride, L-lysine, calcium carbonate, vitamins [DL-alpha tocopherol acetate (source of vitamin E), L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), niacin supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, D-calcium pantothenate, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin A acetate, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement], DL-methionine, taurine, L-tryptophan, histidine, trace minerals [zinc proteinate, zinc oxide, manganese proteinate, ferrous sulfate, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, sodium selenite, copper proteinate], marigold extract (Tagetes erecta L.), rosemary extract, preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid, magnesium oxide, potassium iodate
There are NO Non-GMO products, it contains corn starch (which is known to be one of the allergens in itchy dogs), and the bit we really don’t like about RC Anallergenic, is that the hydrolysed poultry by-product aggregate that they speak about are in fact broken down chicken feathers – yes you read that right!!
Purina ® HA Hypoallergenic
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Corn starch, protein , minerals, coconut oil, sugar, rapeseed oil, cellulose, soya oil, fish oil
We definitely do not support the ingredient list of Purina HA Hypoallergenic. Their first ingredient is corn starch and the second soya – both known to be allergens in intolerant itchy dogs.
The admission that their 5th ingredient is pure sugar is a definite no-no! Imagine your dog’s teeth after every meal of Purina HA! There is no mention of NON -GMO ingredients and they are using fish oil so we feel this product is non-sustainable and not recommended by us when there are far kinder more sustainable and healthier alternatives.
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40% Insect (Insect Meal 26.2%, Freshly Prepared Insect 8.3%, Insect Oil 5.5%), Oats (19%), Potato (19%), Corn, Peas, Brewer’s Yeast, Seaweed (2%), Linseed, Tomato Pomace, Minerals, Vitamins, Beetroot (0.5%), Chicory Pulp, Pumpkin, Carrot, Glucosamine (575mg/kg), Chondroitin (575mg/kg), Kale, Parsley.
We admire Yora for being such a sustainable company thinking about the environment and the health of your pet. They are also a local company so the food has not had to travel from abroad for packaging and manufacture. They do include corn as an ingredient (an allergen in itchy dogs) and there is no mention of NON-GMO. We are concerned that we do need to preserve our natural insect population and the destruction of the trillions of insects that will go into making this food for your pet does not seem kind when there are alternatives such as our healthy and sustainable plant-based options. They are also more expensive than all the foods we sell!
Hills Prescription Diet Z/D
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The ingredients as stated on their Hills official website, just state –
INGREDIENTS: COMPOSITION: Meat and animal derivatives, cereals, derivatives of vegetable origin, oils and fats, minerals. Carbohydrate source: Corn starch. Protein source: Chicken liver hydrolysate.
As a vet who works at a practice that only supports Hills food, this has made me so angry! Firstly, Hills is a very profit-driven company with no concern for the environment or sustainability at all. Their products are all packaged in non-sustainable thick plastic that can only be recycled if returned to the veterinary practice (and not many owners will do this!) and all their foods are meat-based and packaged in South Africa producing a dangerously high carbon footprint.
So with that in mind, if they care that little about the environment, surely your pet’s health is also the least of their concern and profit is what drives them.
They cannot even mention a breakdown of the ingredients as there is nothing in the food that is wholesome, natural or non-processed. They mention meat derivatives only, cereals (which ones? – non GMO? – absolutely not as not mentioned). They use corn starch as a carbohydrate source – one of the top allergens in dogs. As animal protein is one of the main allergens in dogs, they hydrolyse the chicken liver ie break it down into tiny components so that your dog’s immune system would not recognise it as an allergen – again so highly processed with every natural, wholesome ingredient removed compared to a balanced 100% natural plant-based diet – there is no comparison!
NOW COMPARE THE ABOVE INGREDIENTS WITH THE FOODS THAT WE OFFER….
Micronised rice, potato and pea protein, white oats and hulled oats, einkorn wheat, buckwheat, spelt, vegetable oils and fats (including evening primrose oil and borage oil), potato flakes, dried beet pulp and chicory, isolated vegetable protein, hydrolysed vegetable proteins, wheatgerm, micronised dried carob flour, dry brewer’s yeast, minerals, flaxseed, dried carrots, tomatoes, apples, spinach and medicinal herbs, fructo-oligosaccharides, yeast hydrolysates.
Crude Protein 24.0%, Fat Content 11.25%, Crude Fibre 3.7%, Ash 5.2%
There are no GMO ingredients and although the ingredients do mention wheat (known to be an allergen in dogs); buckwheat is in fact a seed and it contains many beneficial nutrients. Einkorn wheat is chosen for its antioxidant properties as well as being loaded with the essential nutrients zinc, iron, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamins B6 and A. All very important for heart health. It also contains added taurine and the Vit D3 component comes from yeasts which are grown using ultraviolet light – a pure plant-based source.
(We highly recommend this premium plant-based dry food and it is very tasty as our own family dog Ruff LOVES it!)
Our Homemade Feed the Rainbow Recipe
Cooked ingredients each carefully out weighed in grams specific to your dog
- Tinned red kidney beans and tinned cannellini beans
- Chopped sweet potato (no skin), red apple chopped (with skin no pips), cauliflower and kale
- Green lentils
- Red lentils
- Brown rice
Nutrient rich icing also carefully weighed out in grams
- Ground almonds
- Desiccated coconut
- Chopped fresh parsley and basil and dried origanum or thyme
- JUST BE KIND supplement
- Sunflower or linseed oil (or combine both)
- Algae oil capsules
- Oat or almond milk
(As you can see from our carefully selected list of wholesome, fresh ingredients, we offer you the choice of adding in the most nutritious and even garden grown ingredients that nutrient-wise cannot even compare to the dry foods that most vets are recommending for itchy pets!)