Dogtor J’s Recommended Pet Foods
Note: This 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 foods I suggest depends somewhat on what condition(s) I am trying to improve. Again, 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 would be more ideal.
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).
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 potato-based diet. For severe seizures, the first choice is a potato/sweet potato-based food, such as those from Simply Nourish (e.g. their Sweet Potato and Fish formula is my new go-to diet), Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance (e.g. their Sweet Potato and Fish formula), Canidae (their Grain-free formula), or Wellness CORE. However, I have had a number of epileptic dogs that did 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 culprits in triggering seizures were the “big 4” (gluten grains, dairy, soy/legumes and corn).
It is important to avoid all commercial treats with these “big 4” ingredients. I now recommend that my clients give fresh meat proteins, fruits and veggies as snacks. Eggs are also a great food additive, providing high quality protein, omega three fatty acids, B12, D3 and trace minerals. They are about as close to “nature’s perfect food” as one food can get (unlike dairy, which is the one of the farthest things from perfect).
Note: The latest mistake by the pet food industry is the addition of legumes, such as green peas, to their formulas. Green peas are not a vegetable as many manufacturers would have the public believe. They are in the legume family, the entire group of which are potentially problematic, especially when it comes to allergies, IBS and epilepsy. The legumes, which include soy, are high lectin foods that promote inflammation, especially when improperly prepared and inadequately cooked. The intestinal gas they promote is the warning sign of their inflammatory nature. I have had numerous food allergy cases in which peas were a culprit. The legumes are especially problematic in epilepsy as they are very rich in glutamic acid, the parent protein in MSG, a known trigger of seizures.
Why has the pet food industry suddenly fallen in love with legumes? I feel certain it is because they know that dry pet food is deficient in protein relative to natural diet of the dog and cat. However, there is only so much animal protein that a commercial dry formula can contain before it requires refrigeration or freeze-drying to preserve that protein. Legumes are a cheap and easy way to boost the protein of dry pet foods. But…they will come to regret this move, just as they have the addition of wheat to pet foods in the 1980’s. They should have seen that disaster coming and this one is really no different. Hopefully they will soon see the error of their ways. If not, perhaps they will be forced into the removal of legumes by the calls from clients who are weary of their pet’s flatulence.
Listed below are some of the most readily available foods that meet my elimination criteria. If your pet is suffering from epilepsy, click here.
* Life’s Abundance Premium Health Food for dogs and cats- This is one the newest pet food manufacturers that I have come across. The company is obviously dedicated to feeding the pet as correctly as possible. The diets were formulated by a veterinarian (Dr. Jane Bicks) who is clearly on the right path. This food is available in cat and dog food formulas. Here is their site link, which also has some great info on pet foods in general:
( http://www.lifesabundance.com/Pets/PetsHome.aspx?realname=40057943 )
* 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 allergies, IBS and epilepsy. They also offer a nice Chicken and Rice formula, which is what I recommend 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.
* Nutro- NO LONGER RECOMMENDED*** I have been a pretty big fan of Nutro Natural Choice rice-based foods as reasonable quality commercial diets in the past. Most of their formulas were free of the “big 4” and were available at numerous pet supply stores, including PetSMarts. But once the company was purchased by Mars in 2007, a much-feared downhill slide began as they replaced the formula’s vegetable oils with soybean oil. Suddenly, dogs were reportedly walking away from their beloved bowl of Nutro or even worse being sickened by it. Blogs were popping up on the Internet concerning illnesses being attributed to Nutro’s formulas. So, I can no longer recommend this once popular line of foods, including the Ultra. I would refer the reader back to the list above to find a suitable substitute, such as the Simply Nourish line of foods at PetSmart.
*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 themI. above, their potato-based diets are ideal for allergic, epileptic, and chronically painful dogs because of their being hypoallergenic and low in the neuroactive amino acids glutamate and aspartate. It is now available at select pet shops. Click on their site to find the distributor nearest. But 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/ )
*Lamaderm by NaturaLife- The Lamaderm formula is one of the original pure lamb and rice diets formulated back in the 1980’s. It is now available at WalMart. But, don’t let that fool you. I spoke at length to the CEO of this company and they know what’s what when it comes to making this formula. I have now had many clients feed this food with great success. But once again, be aware that not all of the NaturalLife formulas are free of the “big 4”. Only the Lamaderm meets this criteria. Here’s the link: ( http://www.nlpp.com/ )
*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/ )
*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/ )
* Avoderm Natural – These are some of the newest addtions to the list. But NOTE: As is the case with most pet food manufacturers, not all of their formulas meet my criteria. So please read all labels to make sure they are free of the “big 4”- gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy and corn. Here’s the link: ( http://www.breeders-choice.com/dog_products/avodermdog.htm )
*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 )
* IVD (Royal Canin)- Their potato-based Limited Ingredient Diets (under Therpeutic Diets) are still better than most. But they now have soybean oil, an ingredient that I do not recommend due to allerguc 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 )
* I.V.D. and Solid Gold RICE-based Treats– Available here and at pet shops.These are here if you must feel compelled to give your dog a cookie of some kind. I prefer that people think outside the box and give fruits and veggies are treats.
*** Note: I have been a pretty big fan of Nutro Natural Choice rice-based foods as reasonable quality commercial diets in the past. Most of their formulas were free of the “big 4” and were available at numerous pet supply stores, including PetSMarts. But once the company was purchased by Mars in 2007, a much-feared downhill slide began as they replaced the formula’s vegetable oils with soybean oil. Suddenly, dogs were reportedly walking away from their beloved bowl of Nutro or even worse being sickened by it. Blogs were popping up on the Internet concerning illnesses being attributed to Nutro’s formulas. So, I can no longer recommend this once popular line of foods, including the Ultra. I would refer the reader back to the list above to find a suitable substitute, such as the Simply Nourish line of foods at PetSmart.
Similarly, 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:
1) 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.
2) 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!
3) 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”.
4) Diamond Naturals Senior 8+ Dog Formula
5) Diamond Naturals Active Cat
6) 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.
7) Eagle Pack Holistic Select®Duck Meal & Oatmeal Formula
8) Eagle Pack Holistic Select® Lamb Meal & Rice Formula
9) Eukanuba Response KO and FP
10) Flint River Ranch- Lamb, Millet and Rice Formula For Food Sensitive Dogs.
11) Flint River Ranch- Trout And Sweet Potato
12) 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!)
13) IVD/Royal Canin– L.I.D.s (potato-based diets)
14) 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.
15) Life’s Abundance Premium Health Food for Dogs and Cats- ( http://www.lifesabundance.com/Pets/PetsHome.aspx?realname=40057943 )
16) Merrick Before Grain Dog and cat foods- dry and canned
17) 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.)
18) Nature’s Variety Lamb Meal and Oatmeal Medley cat food.
*** Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice- NO LONGER RECOMMENDED*** (See Note Below)
19) Orijen Pet foods- A great food if you can get your hands on some.
20) PMI Nutrition Exclusive™ Lamb & Rice Adult Formula
21) Solid Gold Barking at the Moon
22) Taste of the Wild Dog and Cat formulas
23) Timberwolf Organics- Dakota™ Bison Canid Formula
24) Wellness CORE– Dog and cat foods
4-27-09 Update on Nutro: Still having problems: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2009/04/nutro_foia.html
If allergy symptoms persist after 3-6 weeks of starting these diets, then blood testing is available to identify other food allergies. These can be varied and numerous, especially in aged pets. If seizures persist for more than a few days, then further restriction of glutamate-containing foods should be accomplished immediately.
Above all, BE STRICT. Food allergies can be very sensitive conditions and the least amount of the offending substance can trigger reactions that can last for days. Remember: When the immune system decides that it doesn’t like something, it wants no more of it, not just less of it. Be creative in finding safe treats for your pets- those that MATCH the diet. This will be a lot harder on you than your pet.I now encourage people to think outside the box, incorporating fruits and vegetables as treats for their dogs. Mine love baby carrots, blueberries, apples, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes, especially with a little peanut butter on them.
Premium Special-Order Foods:
These are “the Cadillacs” of the pet foods. For those that have the philosophy that price is no object or those that simply see the value in feeding the best, these are your guys. I would like to point out to the reader what I tell my clients. Think of what you spend in medication, supplements, and veterinary bills before you write these foods off as being “too expensive”. The difference in a twenty pound bag of one of these foods versus the grocey food may seem to be a significant amount at first glance. However, that difference rarely approaches the cost of multiple monthly prescriptions and too many vet visits. You do the math. Certainly, multi-pet households get expensive, but the same principle applies, doesn’t it. Think of these as “health insurance” in many cases. Here they are:
* Life’s Abundance Premium Health Food for Dogs and Cats- This is the newest pet food manufacturer that I have come across. They are clearly dedicated to feeding the pet as correctly as possible. It is available in cat and dog food formulas. Here is their site link: http://www.lifesabundance.com/Pets/PetsHome.aspx?realname=40057943
* The BARF diet– This is an up and coming food available through local distributors. It was developed by Dr. Billinghurst of Australia. This has the greatest potential of any of the foods, in my opinion. I’m sure it will be a forerunner in the “cure in a bag” category as it has none of the offending ingredients while being loaded with vegetables and natural nutrients. Read more about it on my Raw Diet section (under construction).Here is the link to his site (Distributors are also listed): www.barfworld.com .
* Oma’s Pride– http://www.omaspride.com/
* Darwin’s Natural Pet Products– http://darwinspet.com/ Raw diets diets made from chicken, turkey, beef, or buffalo mixed with vegetables. The buffalo formula would be excellent for those pets with allergies as it provides a high-quality, novel protein. And I am firm believer in adding fruits and veggies to dog (and even cat) foods. They too need the phytonutrients for optimal health.
* Canidae and Felidae – Check the internet for availability of these newer foods. Their formulations are very much in line with the recommendations on this site. Many contain rice, which is fine for most epileptics and allergy sufferers in my experience. Here is the link to their site: www.canidae.com
* Orijen Pet Foods- http://www.championpetfoods.com/orijen/orijen/
* Timberwolf Organics– http://timberwolforganics.com/