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***First of all...let me make it clear that most of my previous food recommendations have been meant for the "average pet owner"- those will only feed commercially prepared foods. Having been in practice for over 30 years and on this dietary mission for the last 10 of those, I have developed more realistic expectations than I once had regarding what most veterinary clients are willing to do.

I have been criticized for "recommending" certain commercial foods, mostly by proponents of raw feeding or home-prepared diets. Some of them understand when I respond with the "average person" defense while others think I should be more of a purist and only recommend the best. Thus, this opening paragraph...

There is no doubt that the best diet for dogs and cats would be home-prepared foods consisting of biologically appropriate ingredients. Dogs and cats are carnivores. Some argue that pure meat protein diets are the only thing they need and they are certainly more right than wrong. But telling the low income owner of 5 large dogs to home-prepare all of their food not only gets the usual looks of confusion but also frequently generates bursts of laughter. As I have said many times, most of these people will barely consider going anywhere other than WalMart, Sam's Club or their grocery store for pet food. Getting them to the pet shop for a commercial diet free of wheat, barley, corn, soy and dairy often takes a Herculean effort- at least an hour lecture on why it is so important.

So, let me make this perfectly clear: I am a BIG fan of home-prepared diets. There is no question that a person- utilizing my elimination guidelines and fresh ingredients- could make a pet food that is infinitely better than anything being made by the commercial pet food giants. By using meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, and some common sense, we could not only meet their dietary needs but easily exceed that supplied in kibble and canned preparations.

Clients and veterinarians alike have been hypnotized by pet food labels sporting all of those added vitamins and minerals when, if fact, they have to add all of those elements because the food is so deficient in real, "living" foods. Plus, the "big 4"- gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye), corn, soy and dairy- can block the absorption of those nutrients normally absorbed by the small intestine. The result is that these offending foods do way more harm than good.

That is why I have taken my past approach: Focusing on the elimination of the harmful ingredients (the "big 4"), which is crucial in disease treatment and prevention, and suggesting readily available foods that meet this criteria. But I have always suggested that people supplement those diets with some "living" food- meats, eggs, fish, veggies, and fruits. A study in Europe a number of years ago showed that pets receiving table food in addition to their commercial diet lived on average 3 years longer. We just have to pick the right table food (with none of the big 4).

Therefore, we have three choices when it comes to feeding our pets: 1) Home-prepared diets (most ideal); 2) Commercial diets supplemented with real foods (next best); or 3) Commercial kibble and/or canned foods alone (least ideal).

I would certainly have it that all would choose the first option but, alas, that it not the case...yet. I applaud and support the efforts of those who are educating the pet-owning public as to the health benefits of raw and home-prepared diets. But I do not want to miss out on the opportunity to educate the majority of pet owners who currently do not fit into that category. Medical miracles have occurred by simply switching the pet from foods laden with the "big 4" to those devoid of them. There is no doubt in my mind that they would do even better on home-prepared diets but this pet food revolution is still in its infancy and we still need to reach the masses in order to affect the much needed change that will ultimately save and extend the lives of our four-legged family.

I hope this clarifies matters,

Dogtor J

 
NOTE (11-19-08): IVD (Innovative Veterinary Diets) formulas, which are now marketed through Royal Canin, now have soybean oil. Therefore, I can no longer recommend them as the "Cadillac" line as I once did. Although some pets will tolerate this change, many will not. (We just experienced this exact thing with Nutro last year.)
 
On soybean oil: Although is it "just the oil", those individuals who are allergic to or intolerant of a particular protein (e.g. corn, peanuts or soy) can also react to other components of that protein, including the oils and "starches" made from those sources. For example, a peanut allergic child should not be given anything with peanut oil in it.
 
It is all about the antibody-sized proteins ("lectins") that even the smallest components of these foods contain. Lectins are smaller than viruses! (And, antibodies coat viruses to facilitate their removal.) Therefore , the oils of these foods (e.g. soy) can have more than enough protein in them to cause a reaction in the sensitized individual, depending upon their level of sensitivity, which is variable among individuals.
 
I now recommend the Dick Van Patten Natural Balance line as the substitute for these IVD/Royal Canin foods in seizure and severe allergy cases. For a list of other foods that are free of the "big 4" (gluten, corn, soy and dairy), please read the articles below.
 
Dogtor J
11-19-08
                                                                                                                   

* Dogtor J.'s Recommended Pet Foods- Once again, this area is in a dynamic state for the same reasons as above. Thankfully, there are still some pet foods at the grocery store and pet shops that will meet the budget-minded pet owner's needs while helping many of the chronic conditions from which their pet suffers. None of these are "ideal", but the elimination of wheat, barley, dairy, and soy can produce miraculous results in many pets (and people). I strongly urge owners to add fresh vegetables, fruits, and a source of natural protein (meats, eggs) to these commercial diets to  make them more nutritionally complete.

* Special Order Premium Pet Foods - Links are now provided for those pet owners that have decided they would like to feed the best pet foods currently available. This should be a growing number as the message of this site reaches more of the pet-owning population. However, I remind the reader that I have no sponsors on this site and am in no way linked to these manufacturers other than a shared knowledge and "philosophy" of nutrition. It is clear that the pet food makers in this category have done their homework, formulating diets from a natural and logical viewpoint. "Strange" how that works.  It's almost embarrasing for us to have not thought of it years ago, isn't it? 

* Links to other Food-related Sites- Finally, I have a list of my favorite food-related sites, most of which apply to human health and nutrition. Many of these sites were utilized in my initial research and became valuable tools in the instruction of others, as well. These sites were the true pioneers and deserve a tremendous amount of credit in their respective areas of focus. My task was to attempt to pull all of this information into a single work- into a single concept, if possible- and relate it all in some way to the downward "spiral" of the plane of our health. The Answer was (and still is, as it is a work in progress) that work and the "glue" was that concept. These were the fuel. They deserve your attention and thanks.

Dogtor J.s  Recommended Pet Foods

 

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 to eliminate is rice, if needed. If we do have to remove rice from the diet due to allergies, then that leaves the potato-based foods, home-prepared diets or a few specialty offerings such as The Eukanuba Response KO (Kangaroo and oats).

For epilepsy, I follow the same progression that we use for allergies (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 a potato-based food, such as those from Dick Van Patten (Natural Balance), Canidae (their Grain-free formula), Wellness CORE or Orijen. However, I have had a number of epileptic dogs that did quite well when they were placed on a rice-based diet right away, even though their seizures were considered severe. This showed me once again that the main culprits were the "big 4" (gluten, dairy, soy and corn).

It is important to avoid all commercial treats with these 4 foods. I now recommend that my clients give fresh meat proteins, fruits and veggies as snacks. Eggs are also a great food additive, providing high quality protein, omega three fatty acids, B12, D3 and trace minerals. They are about as close to "nature's perfect food" as one food can get (unlike dairy, which is the one of the farthest things from this category).

Here are the most readily available foods again:

* 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.lifesabundance.com/Pets/PetsHome.aspx?realname=40057943 )

* Nutro- NO LONGER RECOMMENDED*** (See Note Below)

* Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance  Like the I.V.D. above, their potato-based diets are ideal for allergic, epileptic, and chronically painful dogs because of their being hypoallergenic and low in the neuroactive amino acids glutamate and aspartate. It is now available at select pet shops. Click on their site to find the distributor nearest. But NOTE: Not all of their formulas meet my strict criteria. Read all labels to make sure they exclude gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy and corn. Here's the link: ( http://www.naturalbalanceinc.com/ )

*Lamaderm by NaturaLife- The Lamaderm formula 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. But once again, be aware that not all of the NaturalLife formulas are free of the "big 4". Only the Lamaderm meets this criteria. Here's the link: ( http://www.nlpp.com/ )

*Canidae "Grain-Free" Dog Foods and Felidae Cat foods-   Once again, these are only available at select pet shops as of this writing and that is too bad. The "grain-free" formulas 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. NOTE: Not all Canidae formulas are grain-free. Only the ones that say "grain-free" meet this criteria as the others have cracked pearled barley, which is a gluten grain. The Felidae is not grain-free but only contains rice. Here's the link: ( http://www.canidae.com/ )

*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. Here's the link: ( http://www.diamondpet.com/ )

* Avoderm Natural - These are some of the newest addtions to the list. But NOTE: As is the case with most pet food manufacturers, not all of their formulas meet my criteria. So please read all labels to make sure they are free of the "big 4"- gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy and corn. Here's the link: ( http://www.breeders-choice.com/dog_products/avodermdog.htm )

*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 dog formula. Here's the link: ( http://www.wellnesspetfood.com/dog_wellness_grain_index.html )

* IVD (Royal Canin)- Their potato-based Limited Ingredient Diets (under Therpeutic Diets) are still better than most. But they now have soybean oil, an ingredient that I do not recommend due to allerguc reactions and questionable presence of trans fats common to previous soy oils. I have spoken with representatives of the company on multiple occasions about removing this potential harmful and limiting ingredient. Here's the link: ( http://www.royalcanin.us/dogs/Veterinary_Diets.aspx )

*Solid Gold- Their newest formulas, Barking at the Moon for dogs and Indigo Moon for cats are now labeled as gluten-free and do avoid the other members of my "big 4"- dairy, soy and corn. Here's the link: ( http://www.solidgoldhealth.com/products/showcat.php?cat=0 )

* I.V.D. and Solid Gold 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. 

I also highly recommend Orijen but it is not as readily available as the foods above. However, I do believe it is worth the effort to find.

 

 

"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 (glutamic acid), the protein we are restricting in The G.A.R.D. to halt seizures and improve symptoms in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. 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) Avoderm Natural dog and cat formulas. Note: Not all avoid the "big 4". Please read labels to make sure there is no gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy or corn.

2) Blue Buffalo Wilderness dog and cat formulas. NOTE: It is not gluten-free as it does have a small amount of barley. I missed this on my initial scan of the ingredients. I include this food on the list because so many people ask me about it. It is certainly better than most formulas at the grocery store but it violates the GARD by containing barley, a gluten grain. Please write to Blue Buffalo and ask them to remove it!

3) Canidae "Grain-Free" dog formulas and Felidae "Grain-Free" cat food. Note: The original formula of Felidae used to be gluten-free but they added barley to this formula when they began offering the Grain-free version. ("Why???") Canine Caviar Lamb & Pearl Millet Adult Dog Food and Chicken & Pearl Millet Adult Dog Food are also free of the "big 4".
 
4) Diamond Naturals Senior 8+ Dog Formula
 
5) Diamond Naturals Active Cat
 
6) Dick Van Patten Natural Balance Sweet potato and Venison, Duck and Potato, Venison and Brown Rice, Lamb and Brown Rice, and Sweet Potato and Fish Formulas. They also have matching treats. I wish the meat protein was the first ingredient but most dogs do quite well on these formulas, especially if we add some eggs on occasion to give them some real, fresh protein.
 
7) Eagle Pack Holistic SelectDuck Meal & Oatmeal Formula
 
8) Eagle Pack Holistic Select Lamb Meal & Rice Formula
 
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 (Not their standard diets with corn. I'm sorry but there is no defense for the use of corn in dog food!)
 
13) IVD/Royal Canin- L.I.D.s (potato-based diets)
 
14) Lamaderm by NaturaLife (now available at many Walmarts)- Adult and Puppy formulas. Read the labels though. NaturaLife does make some formulas that do not meet our criteria.
 
15) Life's Abundance Premium Health Food for Dogs and Cats-http://www.lifesabundance.com/Pets/PetsHome.aspx?realname=40057943  )
 
16) Merrick Before Grain Dog and cat foods- dry and canned 
 
17) Natura California Naturals- Dog and cat foods. (Note: The ingredients look good enough but I have noted a few problems in some patients on these foods.)
 
18) Nature's Variety Lamb Meal and Oatmeal Medley cat food.
 
*** Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice- NO LONGER RECOMMENDED*** (See Note Below)

19) Orijen Pet foods- A great food if you can get your hands on some.

20) PMI Nutrition Exclusive™  Lamb & Rice Adult Formula

21) Solid Gold Barking at the Moon

22) Taste of the Wild Dog and Cat formulas

23) Timberwolf Organics- Dakota™ Bison Canid Formula

24) Wellness CORE- Dog and cat foods

 

*** Note: I have been a pretty big fan of Nutro Natural Choice rice-based foods as reasonable quality commercial diets in the past. Most of their formulas were free of the "big 4" and were available at numerous pet supply stores, including PetSMarts. But once the company was purchased by Mars in 2007, the much-feared downhill slide began as they replaced the formula's vegetable oils with soybean oil. Suddenly, dogs were reportedly walking away from their beloved bowl of Nutro or even worse being sickened by it. Blogs were popping up on the Internet concerning illnesses being attribited to Nutro's formulas. So, I can no longer recommend this once popular line of foods, including the Ultra. I would refer the reader back to the list above to find a suitable substitute, such as the Dick Van Patten Natural Balance line.

4-27-09 Update on Nutro: Still having problems: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2009/04/nutro_foia.html

 

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.lifesabundance.com/Pets/PetsHome.aspx?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/

* Darwin's Natural Pet Products- http://darwinspet.com/  Raw diets diets made from chicken, turkey, beef, or buffalo mixed with vegetables. The buffalo formula would be excellent for those pets with allergies as it provides a high-quality, novel protein. And I am firm believer in adding fruits and veggies to dog (and even cat) foods. They too need the phytonutrients for optimal health.

* 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

 
* Timberwolf Organics- http://timberwolforganics.com/
 
 
 
Also, Check out these sites:
 
www.catnutrition.org and www.catfood.catnutrition.org- Two GREAT sites by a dedicated and well-informed cat lover. She lays it on the line and appeals to our common sense. I really like that approach.(smile)
 
What's In Pet Food?
 
http://www.earthpetsmarket.com/food.html- Earth Pets Natural Pet Market. This site has click-on links to some of the best pet food suppliers,including raw diet manufacturers.

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.
 
Dogtor J
 
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