Veterinary Diets to Control Seizures
Note: The following is only a partial list of foods that I routinely recommend to my clients in the exam room based on availability, price, and ingredient content. Which particular food I suggest depends somewhat on what condition(s) I am trying to improve. Please keep in mind that these recommendations are based on the willingness of the average veterinary client, not on that of the exceptional client…those who will do whatever it takes to feed their pet the ideal diet. For the latter, there is no doubt that home-cooked meals would be more ideal as long as they meet the elimination criteria I set forth.
Once again, for allergy sufferers, I always eliminate the “big four”…gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy/legumes, and corn. The next to eliminate is rice, if needed. If we do have to remove rice from the diet due to allergies, that leaves the potato/sweet potato-based foods, home-prepared diets or a few specialty offerings such as the Eukanuba Response KO (Kangaroo and oats). Sweet potatoes are more ideal than white potatoes, with the latter being in the nightshade family. Fortunately, cooking helps to inactivate the relatively weak lectins found in this fifth group of trouble foods. However, sensitivities to a given food can vary tremendously among individuals and significant allergies to the nightshades can occur.
For epilepsy, I follow the same progression that we use for allergies (above) if the seizures are mild or far apart and if the owner is reluctant to go straight to the sweet potato-based diet. For severe seizures, the first choice is a sweet potato-based food, such as those from Simply Nourish (e.g. their Sweet Potato and Fish formula is my new go-to diet) or the Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance (e.g. their Sweet Potato and Fish formula). Canidae (their Grain-free formula) and Wellness CORE also offer potato-based foods but they contain peas, with all legumes being rich in glutamic acid. I have had a number of epileptic dogs do quite well when they were placed on a rice-based diet right away, even though their seizures were considered severe. This showed me once again that the main dietary culprits in triggering seizures were the “big 4” (gluten grains, dairy, soy/legumes and corn).
With that in mind, here are the main two commercial diets that I now routinely recommend for idiopathic epilepsy:
* Simply Nourish – This is a PetSmart house brand that offers a number of formulas that meet my elimination criteria. Their Sweet Potato and Fish formula is one of the only grain-free diets that does not contain legumes (e.g. green peas). This particular formula has become my go-to food for epilepsy. They also offer a nice Chicken and Rice formula, which is what I recommend unaffected puppies be started out on. I prefer rice-based dry food over those with white potatoes unless I have reason to believe that the pet has developed a secondary allergy to rice, which occurs as a result of the “leaky gut” caused by the “big 4” foods. Once again: A number of epileptic pets have done very well on rice-based diets, illustrating that the main dietary culprits in idiopathic epilepsy are the gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye), soy/legumes, corn and dairy products, the latter being more of “table food” offense than one found in pet foods.
*Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance – Like many pet food companies have done recently, Natural Balance has recently changed a number of their formulas, adding peas to many of them. Their potato/sweet potato-based diets are ideal for allergic, epileptic, and chronically painful dogs because they are hypoallergenic and low in the neuroactive amino acids glutamate and aspartate. Thankfully, they have recently changed their Sweet Potato and Fish formula to exclude green peas, which are a legume and rich in glutamic and aspartic acid. Most pets will tolerate peas but some will develop gas and allergy symptoms due to these legumes. The formulas containing peas should be avoided in epilepsy unless there is simply no other choice available. These formulas are now available at most pet shops and online. Simply click on their site to find the distributor nearest. But PLEASE NOTE: Not all of their formulas meet my strict criteria. Read all labels to make sure they exclude gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy and corn. Here’s the link: ( http://www.naturalbalanceinc.com/ )
Although the two sweet potato-based diets above are my go-to diets for epilepsy, there are a number of commercially available diets that have been very successfully used to halt seizures in the epileptic dog (and cat). The most important thing to accomplish in choosing a pet food for the epileptic patient is the elimination of gluten (wheat, barley, rye), soy, corn and dairy products from all food, treats and even chewable medications. Once we have accomplished this, most pets will have profoundly fewer seizures if not stop seizing altogether.
After all, my first successful attempt at controlling epilepsy through dietary means was simply to eliminate wheat from the pet’s diet. This produced a significant response in the first few cases in which I tried this approach. But once I made the glutamate connection (with glutamic acid being the parent compound in MSG, a KNOWN neurotoxin and trigger of seizures, migraines and chronic pain in humans), I began restricting the diet of epileptic pets more and more. Although I had been quite successful using rice-based diets…before realizing that ALL grains were rich in glutamate…I had much greater success once I began recommending the newly available potato-based diets (e.g. Innovative Veterinary Diets). Potatoes and sweet potatoes are very low in glutamate and the use of these newer diets took my success rates to a whole ‘nother level!
Sadly, the pet food industry has recently taken another “left hand turn” by putting legumes (green peas, lentils, garbanzo beans/chick peas) into their formulas. This move is not nearly as bad as the addition of wheat in the 1980’s but…they will come to regret the use of legumes, not only because of what they can do to epileptics but because they cause can intestinal distress (gas, bloating, diarrhea) and allergy symptoms. I frequently hear from clients whose dogs have become unusually flatulent on pea-containing foods. This should come as no surprise unless one does not know that peas are legumes/beans. On a more serious note, I have found that nearly 40% of the pets I food allergy test are allergic to peas, suggesting that soy is not the only legume to do significant harm to the the intestinal tract. Short version? Eliminate peas and other legumes from the pet’s diet whenever possible…which is difficult in today’s grain-free world.
That being said, here is a partial list of foods that have been used successfully to control seizures. If your epileptic pet does not stop seizing on one of the following diets, then I would highly recommend the top two sweet potato-based diets. If they continue to seize, then blood work should be done to check thyroid and liver function as these can play a major role in the incidence and severity of seizures. The addition of magnesium, omega three fatty acids, and B complex can also help.
Other commercial diets that can be tried in epilepsy:
*Dick Van Patten Natural Balance Sweet potato and Venison, Duck and Potato, Venison and Brown Rice, Lamb and Brown Rice, and Sweet Potato and Fish Formulas. They also have matching treats. I wish the meat protein was the first ingredient but most dogs do quite well on these formulas, especially if we add some eggs on occasion to give them some real, fresh protein.
*Canidae “Grain-Free” Dog Foods and Felidae Cat foods- Once again, these are only available at select pet shops as of this writing and that is too bad. The “grain-free” formulas have none of the “big 4” and have performed miracles in some of my patients, including my own cat. They do have a number of different proteins present to which cats and dogs could have become sensitized while on the diets with the big 4 in them. But, for those without significant allergies, this food is my new first choice for a commercially available cat food. NOTE: Not all Canidae formulas are grain-free. Only the ones that say “grain-free” meet this criteria as the others have cracked pearled barley, which is a gluten grain. The Felidae is not grain-free but only contains rice. Here’s the link: ( http://www.canidae.com/ )
*Wellness – The new CORE grain-free cat food is now available at pet shops and meets these strict criteria. Their fish and fowl is for kittens and adult cats. They also have a new CORE dog formula. Here’s the link: ( http://www.wellnesspetfood.com/dog_wellness_grain_index.html )
* Royal Canin – Their potato-based Limited Ingredient Diets (under Therpeutic Diets) are still better than most. But watch for soybean oil, an ingredient that I do not recommend due to allergic reactions and questionable presence of trans fats common to previous soy oils. I have spoken with representatives of the company on multiple occasions about removing this potential harmful and limiting ingredient. Here’s the link: ( http://www.royalcanin.us/dogs/Veterinary_Diets.aspx )
*Solid Gold– Their newest formulas, Barking at the Moon for dogs and Indigo Moon for cats are now labeled as gluten-free and do avoid the other members of my “big 4”- dairy, soy and corn. Here’s the link: ( http://www.solidgoldhealth.com/products/showcat.php?cat=0 )
Note: I used to highly recommend Orijen but they have also gone the legume route, often adding multiple members of this high-lectin food family to their formulas.
“Clean” Pet Foods
* Here is a more complete list of “clean” foods (those without gluten, dairy, soy, and corn) that I have been working on. Keep in mind that for epileptic dogs, the potato-based diets are still the best as they are the lowest in glutamate (glutamic acid), the protein we are restricting in The G.A.R.D. to halt seizures and improve symptoms in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. The grain alternatives (including rice) are much higher in this non-essential, neurostimulating amino acid that we are limiting to help seizures and pain in pets as well those plus insomnia, headaches, ADHD and more in people.
Here is the ever-expanding list:
Avoderm Natural dog and cat formulas. Note: Not all avoid the “big 4”. Please read labels to make sure there is no gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy or corn.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness dog and cat formulas. NOTE: It is not gluten-free as it does have a small amount of barley. I missed this on my initial scan of the ingredients. I include this food on the list because so many people ask me about it. It is certainly better than most formulas at the grocery store but it violates the GARD by containing barley, a gluten grain. Please write to Blue Buffalo and ask them to remove it!
Canidae “Grain-Free” dog formulas and Felidae “Grain-Free” cat food. Note: The original formula of Felidae used to be gluten-free but they added barley to this formula when they began offering the Grain-free version. (“Why???”) Canine Caviar Lamb & Pearl Millet Adult Dog Food and Chicken & Pearl Millet Adult Dog Food are also free of the “big 4”.
Diamond Naturals– The Naturals Senior 8+ formula and the Naturals Active Cat formula of Diamond Pet Foods meet my criteria. I was pleasantly surprised to see that these were available at our local feed and seed store. Here’s the link: ( http://www.diamondpet.com/ )t
Eagle Pack Holistic Select®Duck Meal & Oatmeal Formula
Eagle Pack Holistic Select® Lamb Meal & Rice Formula
Eukanuba Response KO and FP
Flint River Ranch- Lamb, Millet and Rice Formula For Food Sensitive Dogs.
Flint River Ranch- Trout And Sweet Potato
Hill’s Science Diet potato-based foods (Not their standard diets with corn. I’m sorry but there is no defense for the use of corn in dog food!)
IVD/Royal Canin– L.I.D.s (potato-based diets)
Lamaderm by NaturaLife (now available at many Walmarts)- Adult and Puppy formulas. Read the labels though. NaturaLife does make some formulas that do not meet our criteria.
Life’s Abundance Premium Health Food for Dogs and Cats- ( http://www.lifesabundance.com/Pets/PetsHome.aspx?realname=40057943 )
Merrick Before Grain Dog and cat foods- dry and canned
Natura California Naturals– Dog and cat foods. (Note: The ingredients look good enough but I have noted a few problems in some patients on these foods.)
Nature’s Variety Lamb Meal and Oatmeal Medley cat food.
*** Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice- NO LONGER RECOMMENDED*** (See Note Below)
PMI Nutrition Exclusive™ Lamb & Rice Adult Formula
Solid Gold Barking at the Moon
Taste of the Wild Dog and Cat formulas
Timberwolf Organics- Dakota™ Bison Canid Formula
Wellness CORE– Dog and cat foods
Strictness is the key in the control of epilepsy just as it is for food allergies. When formulating a non-offensive diet, we must consider all food, snacks/treats, table food, dental treats and even chewable medications.