Food Sensitivities in Dogs . . . 5 Lessons I Learned

As both a dietitian who specializes in food sensitivities and a dog lover, I am compelled to share this informative graphic from the ASPCA on the Most Dangerous Foods for Dogs.  Avocado, who knew?  But I also am compelled to share my personal journey with dogs and food sensitivities.

Never having been a table scrap feeder or allower of plate licking, I have prided myself on keeping my dog’s diets clean.  For years I fed that familiar brand of dog food sold at veterinary offices everywhere.  Thinking I was providing a quality diet I never really questioned the ingredient list.  Mistake Number 1.

Throughout my lifetime history of dog ownership, I have had a few pooches with some ailments.  In the 80s I had a Samoyed with skin rashes so bad that the vet took pictures of her sores for a textbook he was writing.  A few years back a Corgi mix had painful arthritis and itchy skin.  I never suspected that food could be causing these symptoms.  Mistake Number 2.

But my sweet Corgi mix, Missie, became a valuable teacher to me in more ways than you can imagine.  The year she wandered into my life is the same year I discovered my own food sensitivity to gluten and several other things. Missie was an affectionate kisser and face licker.  Worried about the severity of my reactions, I did not want her gluten-y slobber all over my face, so I changed her diet to a gluten free lamb and rice chow.  What happened next was nothing short of amazing.

The most common symptoms of gluten sensitivity are gastrointestinal in nature.  But personal and professional experience has taught me that skin manifestations and joint pain are common.  When I got off of gluten those symptoms, plus many more, disappeared within days.  Why I never connected the dots that Missie’s oily, itchy skin and arthritic legs could be caused by a reaction to gluten is beyond me.  Mistake Number 3.

Within a few weeks of going gluten free, my 12 year old dog was acting like a spring chicken.  She would pop up from her nap with gusto, showing no evidence of pain in her legs.  She stopped itching and her fur became soft instead of coarse and oily.

This serendipitous discovery set me on a quest to learn more about gluten and dogs.  I pored over sites like dogtorj and learned valuable information about dogs and how they should be fed.  Duh!  I knew dogs were carnivores by nature, so why was I feeding my dogs gluten grains all these years?  Mistake Number 4.

Being the good dietitian I am, I enthusiastically changed their diet to a meat based diet because it was considered the best from an evolutionary standpoint.  That experiment didn’t last long because it was expensive and they really didn’t tolerate it well.  Despite my best attempts, there were many piles of “evolutionary diet” all over my rugs.  Eeeew!!  Mistake Number 5.

After years of getting it wrong, I have settled on a lamb and rice diet for my dogs and so far so good.  Most recently I adopted a retired athlete, a racing greyhound.  Greys are notorious for sensitive tummies, but we don’t seem to have any issues in that department.  Not unless you count the fact that my long-legged girl helps herself to some people food from the counter, only to suffer a belly ache and loose stools afterwards. Will she ever learn?

Mary Beth George, MEd, RD/LD, LPC

Certified LEAP Therapist

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