DogtorJ.com's Elimination Diet for Pets
By Dogtor J.
Food allergies are on the rise in veterinary medicine in both dogs and cats. These are manifested mainly as dermatological (skin and
ears) and gastrointestinal problems. Chronic ear problems in the dog and chronic vomiting in the cat are big red flags for
food allergies and intolerances. However, many immune-mediated diseases (those caused by or triggered by the
immune system) have been linked recently to food intolerance. Such things as hypothyroidism, diabetes, lupus, coronary
artery disease, epilepsy, asthma( cow milk and corn), hyperthyroidism (Graves disease), and rheumatoid arthritis as well as
many psychological disorders (such as autism and ADHD in people) have been tied to food intolerance in the recent past.
It has been known for years that the primary allergens in pets and
people have been dairy (cow milk products) and wheat. According to the FDA, cow milk is the number one childhood allergen,
followed in order by wheat, eggs, and soy. Eggs are actually a secondary allergen, meaning that we become allergic
to them only after the intestine has been damaged by the first two early in childhood. This concept is explained
in The Answer. The fourth most common allergen is soy. This is a
primary allergen but has an interesting story behind it. Once again, The Answer goes into detail here, but suffice
it to say that it would become number one if: one, we continue to eat it and do so in the quantity that is planned for
us, and two, if it were as likely to elicit allergy antibodies as readily as the top two. Soy will be a "stealth"
problem in that it is the least likely of the big three primary allergens to cause overt allergy symptoms.
The phenomenal thing is that we are about to repeat history in the
pet food industry. When I graduated from veterinary school 24 years ago, most foods were corn-based. Even then, we were having
allergy problems in ceratin breeds of dogs such as the Westie, Dalmatian, German Shepherd, and Cocker spaniel. My dermatology
textbook at the time stated that food allergies were "uncommon" but when they did occur, the primary allergens were dairy
products and wheat. So, why then did we start making nearly all dog and cat foods out of wheat about 8-10
years into my career... 15 years after that book came into print?
It was actually a political phenomenon. Suddenly we had a wheat glut
in this country. China became the number one wheat grower in the world and we stopped exporting as much of it as in the past.
Therefore, we had a wheat surplus that ended up in the pet food...despite current knowledge that wheat was the number two
food allergen in dogs and cats. The "root of all evil" had kicked in, I'm afraid.
Veterinarians found themselves talking about the health of pets and
the demise of the dog's immune system instead of golf at their weekly lunch meetings. Allergies were consuming all breeds rather
than just the usual suspects. Autoimmne diseases were skyrocketing and pet owners who had dogs for years were longing for
their pets of yesteryear. We had made a horrible, but predictable, blunder by making the number two food allergen the
number one ingredient in their food.
Things improved a bit when the manufacturers removed all dairy from
the pet foods. In the following years, the milk coated puppy and kitten chows went the way of the buffalo and some amazing
things happened. Suddenly, there was a noticeable drop (to me, anyway) in the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and
diabetes in the dog. I have not had a case of rheumatoid arthritis in forever. I see very few diabetic dogs while asthma
and immune-related arthritis have been relegated almost exclusively to the cat. Why is that? Well, what is the classic
treat for a cat? Uh huh...a saucer of milk.
The pet food industry has recently realized that the addition of these
ingredients to dog and cat foods was a huge mistake. Although it has been known for years that wheat and dairy products were
the main allergens in pets, the incidence of food allergies has been horribly underestimated. In the past, veterinarians were
taught that food allergies were uncommon, even rare. However, the newest research tells us that at least 33% of pets with
any allergies are now food allergic. I personally believe that this is also a major underestimation. In fact, I am not
alone in the belief that inhalant allergies come only AFTER food allergies and intolerances have occurred. This rather
novel idea is explained in The Answer.
Fortunately for allergy sufferers, many pet food manufacturers are
in the process of reformulating their diets to exclude wheat, barley, and dairy products. Many of the well known brands now
have "sensitive skin" and "sensitive stomach" formulas, the benefits being derived from the elimination of these offending
ingredients. Potato-based diets are more available and there is a new breed of foods...the BARF diets...that are becoming
very popular. More manufacturers are focusing on eliminating the grains and focusing on the addition of vegetables. This
is certainly the right direction to be headed. More on them later.
However, because of the soy glut in this country, this troublesome
protein is making its way into many of the pet foods, including some that have been "safe" for years. I personally
am shocked to see this move by some of the most well-known manufacturers. In addition, most of the pet treats are loaded
with soy. This serious mistake on the part of the pet food industry will give rise to a number of horrible consequences, including
sky-rocketing rates of epilepsy, pain syndromes, and gastrointestinal disturbances. The problem again is that, of the major
food intolerances, soy is the least likely to produce typical allergy symptoms. Therefore, it will be a "stealth plague",
as I like to refer to it. This is better described in The Answer. We are about to repeat history, it appears.
Which ingredients to eliminate is determined by the goal to be accomplished.
If it is epilepsy, for example, then strict elimination of all grains including
wheat, barley, corn, rice, and oats should be done initially to halt the seizures quickly. This leaves potato-based diets
or those free of all complex carbohydrates. If the owner wants to then try a food that is less expensive and more readily
available, I recommend that they move into a rice based diet like the Nutro Lamb and Rice. Seizures could begin
immediately or be delayed for months if they are going to return. I have seen both extremes. If they recur, then
remaining on a potato-based diet like the IVD Diet or using the home-cooked or BARF diet is required.
If allergy control is the goal, then there are three approaches. The
best in my opinion is to test for food allergies and feed accordingly. However, I recommend strict elimination of all wheat,
barley, dairy, and soy no matter what the tests show. These are the food that are involved in the food intolerances and are
not always going show up as allergies, either in the tests or in the symptoms of the pet. Corn should also be eliminated in
all cases when possible or practical due to its contribution to the malabsorption syndrome described in each of the major
papers on this suet.
The second approach is to use a strict elimination diet, such as the
IVD Duck and Potato or BARFdiet to halt the food allergies and then do a similar progression into other foods as described
for epilepsy if the cost or availablility of the "cadillac" food is an issue. I recommend transitioning from
the Duck and potato to a pure rice-based diet, such as the Nutro Lamb and Rice. If all remains well and the owner absolutely
must use a grocery store food, then they can transition into the Purina One Lamb and Rice.
The third approach is simply to do the above approach backwards.
I have a difficult time getting many of my clients to even consider changing their pets food. "He's been eatin' this stuff
all of his life, Doc. You expect us to change now?" they often say. For these more difficult clients, I simply say to pick
up the Purina One Lamb and Rice instead of dogfood X with all of the wheat and soy and see how "Bowser" likes it. I have many
pets on this food that are doing well. Getting them off of the wheat, barley, dairy, and soy has made a world of difference
in many cases.
So, below are some of the "safe" foods for your pets which
leave out most or all of the above ingredients. But, ALWAYS READ LABELS. Not every flavor variety is safe. Also, the pet food
industry is in transition, so check the bags regularly. Remember: Soy is coming, and it is coming in a big way.
Summary: Dog foods and treats many times contain the food ingredients
that have been most often incriminated in food allergies and intolerances. Historically, the main allergens have been
dairy products, and cereal grains (wheat and barley) and beef in the dog. In the cat, the primary allergens are dairy
products, cereal grains, and fish. So, when deciding which foods to buy for your pet, especially for the allergic pet, try
to follow these basic guidelines first:
Things to Eliminate
1) Wheat, barley, rye - ALL of these gluten grains. (including
bread, snack crackers, treats, etc.) Oats are the safest grains from an immunlogical standpoint (least allergy-producing)
but they do have high levels of glutamate in them and will contribute to pain and epilepsy.(See my paper Pain, Pain, Go Away on this site)
2) Dairy products - ALL of them. (including milk, cheese,
whey, casein, dried skim milk, etc.)
3) Soy - ALL of it. (This is also a HUGE problem in
4) Corn- (including corn gluten meal)- Try to eliminate as much of
this as possbible. This is especailly important in asthma, pain syndromes, lower gastrointestinal problems, and epilepsy.
Eliminate ALL of this whenever possible.
5) Beef and fish - (Only if allergy symptoms are present and
persistent. These are the most common secondary allergens in the dog and cat, respectively. Food allergy testing can be very helpful in determining which other animal proteins may need to be restricted to halt allergy symptoms.)
6) Artificial preservatives and colors - (You want to see preserved
By eliminating the above items, you will be taking care of at least
80% of all food allergens and all three of the major sources of food intolerance (gluten in grains, casein
in dairy, and soy protein.)
This must be considered in ALL foods, including TREATS and TABLE FOOD. Most
grocery store dog and cat treats are loaded with wheat, artificial preservatives, and many of the animal proteins to which
pets may be allergic. In the cat, these treats are a major problem in that they are a whos who of artificial
preservatives and colors in addition to the fact that the main proteins are wheat and soy in most cases. I have had numerous
cats that have recovered from chronic vomiting by the simple elimination of these treats from their diet.
Below are some of the safe foods for your pets that leave
out most or all of the above ingredients. ALWAYS READ LABELS. Not every flavor variety is safe.
Dogtor J.s Recommended
Note: This is only a partial list of foods that
I routinely recommend to my clients in the exam room based on availability, price, and ingredient content. Which
foods I suggest depends somewhat on what condition(s) I am trying to improve. Again, please keep in mind that these recommendations
are based on what the average veterinary client is willing to do, not on those who are to do whatever it takes to
feed their pet the ideal diet. For the latter, there is no doubt that home-cooked and/or raw diets would be more ideal.
For allergies, I always eliminate the "big four"...gluten
(wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy, and corn. The next is rice. If we have to remove rice, then that leaves only the "cure
in a bag"...duck and potato...and The Eukanuba Response KO (Kangaroo and oats).
For epilepsy, I follow the same progression as above if
the seizures are mild or far apart and if the owner is reluctant to go straight to the potato-based diet. For severe seizures,
the first choice is the IVD Duck and Potato (or their venison, fish or rabbit formulas). However, at this time, I have a number
of dogs on th Nutro Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice, a number of the Nutro Lamb and Rice, and the rest on the IVD
Duck and Potato. I have them avoid ALL commercial treats and give fruits and veggies as snacks.
Here are the most readily available foods again:
* I.V.D. - Potato-based diets available through
most veterinarians. The "Cadillac" as far as what is readily available as a dietary remedy to chronic medical problems
in the dog. This is the food that I call "a cure in a bag" and I use it for my
toughest epileptics and allergy cases with great results. Then, if people want to "downgrade" from there to a pure
rice-based diet (e.g. Life's Abundance), it is their choice. Time will tell if the pet can tolerate other foods. Food allergy
testing (e.g. VARL in California) is a great tool here. The pea-based cat foods will be great for some cats. However, there
can be a cross-reaction between peas and corn that can cause problems in some cats.
* Life's Abundance Premium Health Food for dogs and
cats- This is the newest pet food manufacturer that I have come across. The company is obviously dedicated to
feeding the pet as correctly as possible. The diets were formulated by a veterinarian (Dr. Jane Bicks) who is clearly on the
right path. This food is available in cat and dog food formulas. Here is their site link, which also has some great
info on pet foods in general: http://www.healthypetnet.com/home.asp?realname=40057943
* Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice Adult
formula (available at pet shops)- One of the most readily available "clean" (free of gluten, dairy, soy and
corn)kibbled dog foods at the pet shop as of this writing. Comes in regular, growth, and reduced calorie. Not all lines of
Nutro are "clean", however. Read all labels.
* Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Duck and Potato dog food- Like
the I.V.D. above, this potato-based diet is ideal for allergic, epileptic, and chronically painful dogs because of it
being hypoallergenic and low in the neuroactive amino acids glutamate and asparate. It is now available at select pet shops.
Here is their site, where you can find the distributor nearest you- http://www.naturalbalanceinc.com/.
*Lamaderm by NaturaLife- This is one of the original pure lamb and rice diets
formulated back in the 1980's. It is now available at WalMart. But, don't let that fool you. I spoke at length to the CEO
of this company and they know what's what when it comes to making this formula. I have now had many clients feed this food
with great success.
*Canidae and Felidae Pet Foods- Once again, these are only available at select pet shops as of this writing and that is too bad. They have none of
the "big 4" and have performed miracles in some of my patients, including my own cat. They do have a number of different proteins
present to which cats and dogs could have become sensitized while on the diets with the big 4 in them. But, for those without
significant allergies, this food is my new first choice for a commercially available cat food.
*Diamond Naturals- The Naturals Senior 8+ formula and the Naturals Active
Cat formula of Diamond Pet Foods meet my criteria. I was pleasantly surprised to see that these were available at
our local feed and seed store.
*Wellness- The new CORE grain-free cat food is now available
at pet shops and meets these strict criteria. Their fish and fowl is for kittens and adult cats. They also have a new CORE
* I.V.D. and Nutro
RICE-based Treats- Available here and at pet shops.These are here if you must feel compelled to
give your dog a cookie of some kind. I prefer that people think outside the box and give fruits and veggies are treats.
"Clean" Pet Foods
* Here is a more complete list of "clean" foods (those without gluten, dairy,
soy, and corn) that I have been working on. Keep in mind that for epileptic dogs, the potato-based diets are still
the best as they are the lowest in glutamate. The grain alternatives (including rice) are much higher in this non-essential,
neurostimulating amino acid that we are limiting to help seizures and pain in pets as well those plus insomnia,
headaches, ADHD and more in people.
Here is the ever-expanding list:
1) Canidae and Felidae
2) Canine Caviar Lamb & Pearl Millet Adult Dog Food
3) Canine Caviar Chicken & Pearl Millet Adult Dog Food
4) Diamond Naturals Senior 8+ Dog Formula
5) Diamond Naturals Active Cat
6) Dick Van Patten Natural Balance Duck and Potato, Venison and Brown Rice, and Sweet Potato and Fish
7) Eagle Pack Holistic Select®Duck Meal & Oatmeal Formula
8) Eagle Pack Holistic Select® Lamb Meal & Rice
9) Eukanuba Response KO and FP
10) Flint River Ranch- Lamb, Millet and Rice Formula For Food Sensitive Dogs.
11) Flint River Ranch- Trout And Sweet Potato
12) Hill's Science Diet potato-based foods (New!)
13) IVD/Royal Canin- L.I.D.s (potato-based diets)
14) Lamaderm by NaturaLife (now available at Walmart)- Adult and Puppy formulas
16) Natura California Naturals- Dog and cat foods
17) Nature's Variety Lamb Meal and Oatmeal Medley cat food.
18) Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice
19) Orijen Pet foods
20) PMI Nutrition Exclusive™ Lamb
& Rice Adult Formula
21) Solid Gold Barking at the Moon
22) Timberwolf Organics- Dakota™ Bison Canid Formula
23) Wellness CORE- Dog and cat food
Note: If allergy symptoms persist after
3-6 weeks of starting these diets, then blood testing is available to identify other food allergies. These can be varied
and numerous, especially in aged pets.If seizures persist for more than a few days, then further restriction of glutamate-containing
foods should be accomplished immediately.
Above all, BE STRICT. Food allergies can be very sensitive
conditions and the least amount of the offending substance can trigger reactions that can last for days. Remember:
When the immune system decides that it doesn't like something, it wants no more of it, not just less of it. Be creative
in finding safe treats for your pets- those that MATCH the diet. This will be a lot harder on you than your pet.I now encourage people to think outside the box, incorporating
fruits and vegetables as treats for their dogs. Mine love baby carrots, blueberries, apples, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes,
especially with a little peanut butter on them.
Premium Special-Order Foods:
These are "the Cadillacs" of the pet foods.
For those that have the philosophy that price is no object or those that simply see the value in feeding the best,
these are your guys. I would like to point out to the reader what I tell my clients. Think of what you spend in medication,
supplements, and veterinary bills before you write these foods off as being "too expensive". The difference in a twenty pound
bag of one of these foods versus the grocey food may seem to be a significant amount at first glance. However, that
difference rarely approaches the cost of multiple monthly prescriptions and too many vet visits. You do the math. Certainly,
multi-pet households get expensive, but the same principle applies, doesn't it. Think of these as "health insurance" in many
cases. Here they are:
* Life's Abundance Premium Health Food for Dogs and
Cats- This is the newest pet food manufacturer that I have come across. They are clearly dedicated to feeding the
pet as correctly as possible. It is available in cat and dog food formulas. Here is their site link: http://www.healthypetnet.com/home.asp?realname=40057943
* The BARF diet- This is an up and coming food
available through local distributors. It was developed by Dr. Billinghurst of Australia. This has the greatest potential of
any of the foods, in my opinion. I'm sure it will be a forerunner in the "cure in a bag" category as it has none of the
offending ingredients while being loaded with vegetables and natural nutrients. Read more about it on my Raw Diet section
(under construction).Here is the link to his site (Distributors are also listed): www.barfworld.com .
* Oma's Pride- http://www.omaspride.com/
* Canidae and Felidae - Check the internet
for availability of these newer foods. Their formulations are very much in line with the recommendations on this site. Many
contain rice, which is fine for most epileptics and allergy sufferers in my experience. Here is the link to their site: www.canidae.com
I hope you enjoyed your time here and got something important from your stay. It is
my goal to help all of mankind navigate through the jungle of medical information now available on the Internet and find the
truth about the origins of what we call "disease" as well as discover the natural solutions for these conditions.
We do have our health's destiny in our own hands more than we've ever
imagined, certainly more than most have ever been told. Think naturally and the answer will come.
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