Friday, April 3, 2009

Finding The Right Diet:

Have you ever felt that sometimes you are great at giving advice, but not always so great at listening to your own advice? I felt that way about a month ago as I blogged about grain free dog foods.

It took me a very long time to find a diet that worked for Milly’s dry skin. When I adopted her she was being fed Science Diet at the SPCA, and I bought a large bag of that. While I was at the SPCA a lab breeder told me to put her on Gloucosmine and Ester C purchased in the vitamin aisle of the local drug store to help prevent hip problems – that was her first supplement. Well, I soon realized she had horribly dry flaky skin (sounds like a Head and Shoulders commercial... haha), and while I felt horrible for my new pup; I was also embarrassed, because people kept asking me if she had fleas, which she did not. I switched her to Science Diet Sensitive Skin and at the suggestion of one vet added fish oil purchased at Kroger to her diet. Her dry skin may have improved slightly, but not much. I went back to the vet and was told she most likely had skin allergies, and was given a prescription shampoo to bathe her in weekly. If you have ever tried to bathe a large dog in your bathtub you know that this involves hair getting everywhere! Yes, even the ceiling. I kept up with these weekly baths for a few months and noticed a difference in her itchiness, but when she fell ill with tape worms (even on heart and worm preventative) I took her to a new vet.

This vet explained something I had learned in high school, but totally forgotten. Science Diet, a Hills product, deserves a lot of credit. They pretty much paved the way in animal nutrition by conducting extensive research, and producing the highest quality food available at the time. This combined with sharing their studies and funding nutrition programs in colleges and veterinary schools helped them gain popularity among vets and soon that spread to the general consumer. However, a lot has changed in the past 20-30 years. While Hills did create the highest quality food for their time, and laid the foundation for research in the dog food industry, their foods have not kept up with the ever growing and evolving knowledge of dog nutrition. This vet suggested I try Eukenuba Sensitive Skin, an Iams product, because they had created a Sensitive Skin diet much higher in Omega 3 fatty acids. Around the time I made the switch to Eukenuba Sensitive Skin I also realized the fish oil supplements I had been feeding Milly were giving her hick ups at mealtime, and discovered a superior joint supplement. I replaced the drugstore variety fish oil with two varieties of fish oil – deep-sea salmon oil and higher quality human grade fish oil with a softer gel coating, and added breath-a-chews to combat stinky dog kisses. I also replaced the Gloucosamine and Ester C with Cosequin DS, a brand I was familiar with from riding horses (it is often fed to show horses), after putting my parent’s beagle on Cosequin DS and seeing a massive transformation with her arthritis.

Milly stayed on Eukenuba for about a year and a half or two years. Her dry skin was still an issue, but it had improved tremendously since the days of Science Diet. I had taken to not only giving her two fish oil supplements in pill form a day, but also adding liquid fish oil to her food as well. But, all good things come to an end. One day I noticed a small scab on Milly, and by the next night where the small scab had been she had a giant red and oozy two-inch wide patch on her skin and had lost all the hair in the area. I had no idea what this was, and immediately called the vet. By this time, I was living in a new area, and unhappy with the vet I had used for her annual vaccines I decided to try a new one. This vet explained Milly had a hot spot; she cleaned and shaved the area, and gave me a spray to apply to the hot spot twice a day. The vet also told me once a dog gets one hot spot they are likely to get another, and they are most prevalent during the summer.

As soon as I got home I started researching hot spots, and quickly learned a diet change maybe able to help combat the problem. A fellow dog owner recommended me California Natural Herring and Sweet Potato, and after researching this food decided it seemed like a much better quality food than the Eukenuba. I continued to feed her the supplements, and simply phased out the Eukenuba and in the California Naturals. Again, I saw an improvement in her skin, but not a drastic improvement. However, the vet was right, and a few months later I noticed another hot spot developing. By this time I had learned a hot spot remedy, and was able to shave the area myself, clean it with Betadine, and apply my homemade hot spot treatment and avoided a vet visit all together. Milly had had one ear infection in the past (while on Eukenuba) and it had been in both ears, but while on California Naturals she developed another ear infection. I took her for the vet for treatment, but the ear infection either never fully healed, or quickly returned. I returned to the vet a few months later and explained I thought she had another ear infection. This vet explained yeast based ear infections are usually associated with allergies, and the most common allergy in dogs are food allergies. I asked her if she recommended a switch to a grain free diet (which by now I had learned helped with ear infections), and she said that could work, but suggested I put Milly on a prescription food made by Hills for her allergies. I used the free sample of the Hills food for a few feedings, but was generally unhappy with the ingredients list. After researching more about dog food I decided it was time to switch to a grain free diet all together. I introduced her to Fromm Surf and Turf, and she loves it! In a matter of weeks her ears cleared up (along with the use of prescription medication), and remain very clean each week when I do my weekly ear cleanings. She has not appeared to be itchy since being on this food at all, and when I brush her I don’t see any dry flaky skin! She remains on her supplements, although I have replaced the liquid fish oil with Welactin, a product made by the same company as Cosequin.

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