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Food allergies in dogs

The Contessa posing under the apple treesWe feed our dogs a complete dog food with a topping that we cook ourselves. This used to be the meat from chicken wings. We’d buy trays from the supermarket and simmer them. The dogs thought this was pretty good too.

At five months,The Contessa gradually started to eat less and less. She lost weight, became withdrawn and grumpy. She spent a lot of time with her front legs stretched out and her bum in the air. This is known as ‘praying’. Our local vet suggested AllBran to be served as a sort of all day banquet. She ate a bit and continued to slide downhill. Dr Q, The Contessa and I visited the local vet a couple of times more. Dr Q bounding over the doorstep, The Contessa cringing in my arms and me feeling like an over protective mum. This could not go on.

Eventually she got so thin that we stopped taking her out for walks. She slept on the sofa under a rug. We didn’t know what to do. Eventually we asked for The Contessa to be referred to the The Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital (the small animal hospital) in Cambridge. They had done so well with Dr Quito, perhaps they could wave a wand over The Contessa.

She has always been a nervous dog, only allowing a vet to examine her if Dr Q is lifted onto the table beside her. Many times I have been given a stethoscope and undertaken a faux examination of a happy, healthy Dr Q. He loves being examined. His heartbeat is deep and regular and he loved to have his ears fondled.

So both Min Pins were checked into the hospital. Dr Quito was delighted as he loves vets and all things veterinary. The Contessa wasn’t so sure. The hospital discovered that her stomach was filled with tiny ulcers. No wonder she was grumpy. Apparently the pain would have been appalling.

Generally a vet would recommend a diet of chicken and rice in this circumstance. But the dogs were already eating chicken and a hypoallergenic biscuit. The experts scratched their heads. What could be causing the ulcers? The Contessa was put on a course of human ulcer medicine (there was no canine equivalent in those days). We were sent home with dogs and a simple diet sheet. Chicken and rice to be served for breakfast and supper. Despite the medicine, Contessa did not perk up.

After a few days, a talented young vet rang with a suggestion. She had a strong vibe that the chicken was causing the ulcers. Would we switch the diet to fish and potato? We could use any white fish. She tipped that most supermarkets sold large bags of frozen white fish at a reasonable price. I jumped into Jalopy and grabbed a pack of frozen coley from Iceland.

Dr Q was not amused. Where was his crunchy, tasty biscuit and chicken? Had we gone mad? The trial was initially for a month, eventually increasing to three. The Contessa began to put on weight and, within a week, barked at the postman and ran about in the garden. Dr Quito, meanwhile, was just eating to live.

The young vet had put her finger on the problem. And, as so often with an answer, we were faced with yet another problem. Finding dog food, biscuits, dental rasks and chews that do not contain chicken derivatives. 99.9% of all products for dogs contain chicken. If you see a small plump figure reading the small print on a new variety of dog food in the pet shop or supermarket it could well be me.

At the moment we stick to two varieties of the James Wellbeloved range of all in one biscuit (available from pet shops and garden centres) and a new all in one – Arden Grange (we found this in Waitrose). The latter contains chicken fat but The Contessa has had no adverse reaction so far (it’s been 2 months). We top the biscuit with a dessert spoon of cooked mince, heart, liver or kidneys to give the dogs a bit of variety in their diet. Chews can only be plain rawhide or pig’s ears and tails. Packs of tasty treats are generally out.

Min Pins are efficient killers of rats, mice and birds. Sometimes The Contessa clearly has bagged a bird unbeknown to us. The first indication is that she is ‘praying’ and off her food. The pain passes within hours, so after six years we have stopped panicking.

If your dog is showing similar symptoms to The Contessa a food allergy could be the culprit. Luckily for us someone eventually pinpointed the cause. Canine food allergies are so rare, The Contessa had suffered pain for over six months. She was insured, which was great, as it cost over £2,500 to find the answer to the problem.

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  1. dutch margreet

    a very late comment, but maybe it safes some little dogs from cramps. Our Maltese was first having cramps all of a sudden on a Sunday morning, her little body writhing in a total crescent.
    Being Sunday it took a while to find a vet at call, but by then she had produced some pooh and was feeling better. It happened on and off about every two weeks, sometimes in between. Once the vet saw her while having a cramp, he advised animal hospital and testing. She had it mostly on Fridays, What was different on two week Fridays? Could it be the dogtreats my friend gave her, who visits two weekly at Thursdays? But what about the in between cramps (my opinion, the vet thought twisted ribs and so on or a hernia or tumour). Then suddenly I saw the pattern: each time my friend visited per chance not on a Thursday, treats always with her, the little sweetheart had the crescent walk next day, tummy rubbing easing the pain. I asked her to give our dog our own treats, which were much smaller and hey, no more crescent twisting and cramps since. I still do not know if it was an ingredient of the treats she brought (doggy chewy treats) or they were just to big or not dissolving fastly enough. I told the animal food shop and the vet and they both agreed it could have been an allergic reaction but thought most chances were indeed the solid makeup of the treats. We carefully forbid any dog biscuit treats that are larger than two thirds the size of a jelly bean. (And yes, I know of an Alsatian having allergic reactions to the treats my friend buys, maybe there is chicken in them, the little Maltese does not show any allergies to any food offered from meals for humans) I know this is a very large entry, but she was so hurting when it happened, you do not want that to happen to any dog).

  2. Tracey Hooper

    Burns Holistic also do a range of dried foods that are Rice based and offer a lamb, pork, duck etc mix so that you can avoid Chicken if needbe. Their range also includes a hypo-allergenic mixer too. A Bedlington pal of ours is allergic to chicken and all meats except Pork. You can easily make some dog biscuits it’s a case of trying it to find what works. My Cheese and Garlic bites go down a treat and the Garlic is good against worms and fleas too!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Rose

    Thank you so much for leaving this comment. I was so pleased that our experience helped you.

    I think that your Bubba perhaps was suffering from a food allergy like The Contessa. Our vet and the hospital vet were at a loss until the hospital vet thought outide the box and considered that she might be allergic to chicken – the food that is always given to sick dogs.

    Chicken, and its derivatives are in most dog food so it’s hard to find food suitable for The Contessa and the gang (they have to be on the same diet as The Contessa would kill for a bit of chicken).

    I do hope that Bubba goes from strength to strength. Sometimes intuition can be the best answer and you were so brave to follow yours.

  4. Rose Graham

    I just wanted to thank you for putting up this web site. Our Bubba (13 yr. old chihuahua)has had tummy problem for yrs. The Dr. treated him with all kinds of pills for arthritus, liver and heart problems. I always felt they were digestion related (being as I’ve been dealing with an ulcer myself for years). We were to the point of putting him down. I took him off all his meds. got pills from the Dr. so I could let him go at home. Well within 24 hrs he was up wanting to play and eat.I kept telling the Dr. those pills were hurting his stomach but he just told me to give him antacids. I was afraid to take him off his meds. for fear he’d die. I could’nt afford vet fees so I came on line to find help and there you were. I put him on the white fish and potatoe and he loved it. He’s acting like a puppy again,so much energy! I think weve got a few yrs. left with him. Thank you

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Donna,

    My friend Max, the dog, loves Pero Pet Foods like Amble (what a lovely name) and I thought of buying it for our gang. Unfortunately it contains chicken derivatives so is a no no as far as Contessa is concerned.

    However, I am sure that there are loads of people out there who will benefit from this tip so thank you so much for taking the trouble to leave a comment.

  6. I’m glad Contessa is back on her feet again.

    We have a rescue dog with a bit of a dicky tummy, the best food we have found is from Pero Pet Foods. Amble used to greet us in a morning by being sick on the stairs and the vet said it was a food intolerance (this is more common than people realise). Since we changed him to one of the Pero special diet brands he has been absolutely fine. The vet was impressed too and bought some for his dogs.

    Pero is also one of only a few pet food manufacturers who don’t “test” on animals.

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Thanks Jo for dropping by and leaving these useful tips. I’ll get some of the Omega dent treats when I’m next in Cambridge where there is a Pets at Home. I’ll try a pack of the Wafcol too.

    This will give all the dogs a bit more variety in their diet, which is hard if you cancel out chicken. Does Lottie have food allergy?

  8. So pleased Contessa is doing well – we too know the heartache of a sick dog. As regards dog treats without chicken we feed Lottie, our black lab, with ‘OMEGA DENT NATURAL SALMON TREATS’ it is simply white fish and salmon dried pieces! We get them from ‘Pets at Home’ pet store. Also Wafcol do a great hypoallergenic dried food with salmon and potato without gluten etc. Good luck and hope countessa continues to blossom! Regards Jo

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Thanks Ian, As you can see from the photo, she could only be named The Contessa. She wafts a titled paw over our lives and despite this, we love her.

  10. Yorkshire Deli

    Awwww, I love happy endings! Glad she’s OK.

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