Our column from two weeks ago concerning pet food stirred up a lot of feedback and conversation. It seems that a lot of people had fallen into that trap of buying whatever was on the shelf at the supermarket without really paying attention to the ingredient labels. Many thought that if they were paying a little more for the 'better' brands on those shelves, that they were doing okay by their pets. The column stirred up some curiosity and I heard from quite a few people that they were surprised when they read the ingredients list.
Since we've opened some dialog regarding your pet's nutrition, we should also discuss allergies since a good number of animals suffer from them. Just like humans, pets can also develop allergic reactions to food or things they come in contact with in their environment. There are allergy tests using analysis of blood, saliva or hair; but their accuracy is not really proven.
If symptoms are persistent throughout the year and there are no parasite issues, it could be their food. In that case, the first thing to do is to make a change in the protein that their food is based on. The most common culprits are beef, chicken, wheat and dairy. Trying pet food that contains such ingredients as venison, potato, duck, peas and salmon may be helpful. If you decide to try one of these options, don't expect results overnight; it most probably will take weeks to determine if the switch has helped. Move on to a different alternative if, after a couple of months, there's no noticeable improvement. Keep in mind that you may need to change the food over gradually to avoid intestinal upset.
If you're going to experiment with different proteins, I would again advise you to go to a store such as Goroppo's, PetSmart or Petco to get the best quality foods. Switching out for another basic brand off the supermarket shelf will not be a true test as those brands most often contain other ingredients that may also be a source of irritation.