Feeding the Food Allergic Dog — Naturally??

My daily dose of inspiration arrived today, in the form of an advertisement in a veterinary publication from the Blue (formerly Blue Buffalo) pet food company. They were promoting their latest offering, a line of natural veterinary prescription feed. I call these products feed, because that is the approved term for what animals eat. Only humans (or those lucky animals who eat “people food”) can correctly be said to eat food. Crazy, right? But that’s not what prompted this blog…

It’s the word natural. Or as they put on the label, NATURAL. Dictionary.com defines natural as:

1. existing in or formed by nature (opposed to artificial):
2. based on the state of things in nature; constituted by nature:
3. of or relating to nature or the universe:
4. of, relating to, or occupied with the study of natural science:
5. in a state of nature; uncultivated, as land.
6. growing spontaneously, without being planted or tended by human hand, as vegetation.
7. having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives

When I think of natural salmon, I think of these:

 

 

 

 

 

 I do not think of this, the first ingredient of Blue HF, which is hydrolyzed salmon protein concentrate. Is this natural? Does that look like food to you? Wonder how it might be made? Just visit Ridgedale Permaculture, where they show you their process of making fish hydrolysate, step by step. (Fair warning – it’s not a pretty process.) And if you make it down the page, you will see their first recommended use for fish hydrolysate is as a compost “booster” and plant fertilizer!

So, what are the full ingredients of this “natural” prescription veterinary diet? According to the Blue website, the food contains:

Salmon Hydrolysate (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Pea Starch, Potatoes, Peas, Pea Protein, Canola Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Pea Fiber, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Pumpkin, Dried Kelp, Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Dried Chicory Root, Salt, Choline Chloride, Caramel Color, Vitamin E Supplement, DL-Methionine, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), L-Tryptophan, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Parsley, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Turmeric, Oil of Rosemary, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Taurine, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Zinc Sulfate, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Copper Sulfate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Manganese Sulfate, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite.

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The prescription food company approach to the food intolerant dog is to super-process some ingredients so they are not recognizable by the body, and fill in with parts of whole foods that are left over from making human foods (pea starch, pea protein). And then they add vitamin and mineral products to approximate the dog’s needs. And, in many cases, charge owners several dollars per pound for the food. Have you heard of the prescription Royal Canin food made whose protein is made from hydrolyzed chicken feathers? The new term for that feather product is “hydrolyzed poultry by-products aggregate”.  And the first ingredient of that product is corn starch!

Beyond the over-processing and ingredient quality concerns, the presence of so many pea and potato based ingredients so high up in the ingredient list raises a taurine deficiency concern. As you probably know, a link between grain free foods high in legumes and pulses and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and taurine deficiency is being studied at UC Davis Veterinary College as well as being investigated by the FDA. Finally, all of the pea and potato ingredients raise the carbohydrate (starch) level to about 48%, over five times my recommendation for a dog with food intolerances!

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­My approach to feeding dogs is quite different, whether they have food allergies or intolerances or not. I want to take the mystery out of what is being fed. If I am feeding fish, it will look like this:

I’m very comfortable calling this food, recommending it for my patients, and feeding it to my own dogs. Anything less just isn’t natural. Despite what Blue and other pet food companies try to sell tell you.
Please share your comments on my Facebook page.
For those that want a better commercial food for their dog, or who want to learn more about doing a home prepared diet, I recommend the following resources:

 

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