Digestion and Food Alergies
We will put the “can my pet digest grain?” myth to rest… Yes they can!
Pre-domestication dogs ate vegetarian and animals and “learned” how to digest some of their GI content as the wolf and fox still do to this day. We also know that during the domestication evolution dogs genetically evolved as we humans did from being predominantly meat protein eaters to the present mixed-diet ones. Humans and dogs both became better suited to digested grain, fruit, vegetables and other starch. In other words, you have a pet dog at home, not a wolf. Over time and thousands of years of domestication, your dog’s digestive tract has evolved to one of a carnivore that poses all the digestive tools to deal with the feared grain.
In contrast to what many believe, there are many nutritional benefits to grain. Grains stimulate the growth of beneficial, “good” gastrointestinal bacteria (i.e. probiotics). It’s important to know that many of those grains also provide your bully essential vitamins & minerals. The latest research has shown compelling evidence to the benefits of grains and their importance to the general health of your bully. Remember, an active, modestly fed, lean and active pet is always better than an overfed, overweight, inactive one.
The protein source in most puppy diets as well as mature pet diets, is not the carbohydrates but rather the meat portion of their diets (animal source). As you know, grains are mostly carbohydrates though they also contain some protein source.
Digestive and Skin Problems Due to Food Allergies
Food allergies and/or skin allergies are not as common as you might think. In most cases the GI problems are more likely to be due to parasites, viral, bacteria, indiscretion eating, etc. and your pet’s skin condition is more likely due to atopy (environmental allergens), fleas and bacteria. Proper wellness and diagnostic rule outs should be done before a hypoallergenic food trail begins. If your pet also has a skin allergy consistent with food allergies (i.e. itching year around rather than a seasonal spike) then food allergies should be higher on your rule out list. Milder forms of food allergy could present with only frequent rumbling and gas release (yes that kind of gas, the one everyone turns his nose away from), but your pet might also suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In some cases food allergies could progress to something like IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
A high quality, organic, whole-food, human-graded, balanced pet diet is ideal for good health. The protein source should be predominantly from an animal meat source. Offering fresh, organic, unprocessed fruits and vegetables is great; remember to avoid onions and grapes (raisins). When food allergy is suspected, a minimum of 8 weeks hypoallergenic food trial is advised. Your compliance and strict dietary maintenance during the trial duration is critical. The hypoallergenic diet could be either a prescription novel protein, a prescription hydrolyzed protein diet or a home-cooked novel protein diet. If by the end of the trial duration you pet is greatly improved, we recommend you reintroduce your previous diet as a diagnostic challenge. We would expect the GI problems (and itch if it’s also a skin allergy) to start again within days to 2 weeks from the challenge start date. If the previous clinical problems re-emerge then you could be highly confident your pet has a food allergy.
Many owners associate food allergy with grain when in fact it is usually due to the protein source found in meat. The most common allergens are chicken (60%), then beef and fish. Also on the frequent allergens list are corn, soy, wheat, and dairy.