Puppies and grain free?

Postby amalie79 » August 24th, 2011, 12:56 pm

I've done a forum search on the topic, and most of the threads on this are older... And I've done a Google search and scoured Whole Dog Journal. Lots of conflicting advice. So I was wondering what current PBT members have to say about grain-free kibble and raw for puppies...

Luna is about 6/7 months old. She's currently eating about 2 cups of California Naturals Chicken and Rice (over 500 cal/cup, so it's dense!) plus treats, some peanut butter and kibble in a kong most days... and the odd wet-food frozen food cube. We haven't been all that strict with her diet. She's probably between 30 and 35lbs now (just got spayed and I haven't weighed her since then).

We're moving toward raw, especially for Robin, but now it's looking like the best option for Luna, too-- she takes benadryl twice a day now for allergies. I'd like to keep a mix of kibble meals in the AM and raw in the PM. And I'm thinking of putting her on a GF kibble. Oddly enough, I don't really have a problem with feeding a puppy her age raw... it's the kibble I'm wondering about. There are a few puppy formulas for GF kibble, but several of those are "large breed"-- would those be detrimental? I don't really consider her to be large (the vet thinks probably over 50lbs, but that's medium in my book).

Just wondered what your input is to add the long list of contradictory information I'm collecting! :wink:

(Here's the background info if anyone's interested. My posts are long, so I tried to condense the main stuff up top :) )

Her poor skin is insane. She was on a round of AB right after we found her-- she also got flea treatment and we immediately put her on Blue puppy kibble... and about a month ago switched her to Cal Nat. She also started taking a benadryl AM/PM. Her fur started to fill in, she looked and felt (as much as she can for me) fantastic. She was due for another flea treatment right when she got spayed, so we skipped it. I also withheld the benadryl while she was taking tramadol.

It's been a little over a week since the spay and her skin is a nightmare. Bumps and lumps everywhere. I saw a flea the other day, so it could be extreme flea dermatitis-- gonna douse her with Advantage tonight. I suppose she could also have gotten into something. We have ground bees, tons of mosquitoes and apparently ants-- most of the bumps are on her butt, but not all of them. It's maybe getting better, but it's hard to say-- and she definitely has some allergies, whether inhalant or food, we don't know (I know food allergies don't usually show up this young, but I'm also reading that some breeds, Shar Pei included, develop them much earlier. All three vets at the clinic feel pretty dead set that she's a SP mix, and I know I see it a lot in her, too). I'll take her into the vet if it doesn't get better soon-- she probably needs more ABs. :(
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Postby amalie79 » August 24th, 2011, 2:50 pm

I guess the followup question is, those of you who fed puppy kibble-- when did you switch to adult formula? At what point is the Ca/Phos ratio less crucial?
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Postby Pit♥bull » August 24th, 2011, 3:14 pm

Peanut butter is a big contributor toward allergies, 'Spirit' Trouble was a allergy dog and after about 10 years of using peanut butter to give meds we discovered by accident she was allergic to it. :doh:
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Postby amalie79 » August 24th, 2011, 3:26 pm

Pit♥bull wrote:Peanut butter is a big contributor toward allergies, 'Spirit' Trouble was a allergy dog and after about 10 years of using peanut butter to give meds we discovered by accident she was allergic to it. :doh:


Jeez. Of course it is! :oops: I hadn't even thought of it. We've been kind of just functioning under the assumption that she has no food allergies since she's so young, but now we're ready to give diet a shot. And now that you mention it, we might cut out the PB.

They also get duck or chicken jerky in the Kong... Cal Nat is a pretty limited ingredient list, so really it could be any of the people food she gets from us, or rice, or chicken. Or just environmental. :|

I just want her to stop being so bumpy and itchy. :( And since I haven't had a puppy in many, many years, long before I ever knew anything about food, I'm thinking a lot harder about this than I ever did before. And it's hard getting good info. But even the vet suggested a food allergy, and I'm more than happy to start there.

Don't know whether to just go to an all life stages grain free (like Natural Balance LID or TOTW or EVO) or regular adult grain free (Castor and Pollux makes one now with good levels of Ca/Phos, but it's labeled as "maintenance"; and I think Blue Wilderness used to be labeled ALS, but since they started selling a puppy version, it's not) or puppy GF (the only one readily available to me is Blue).

Makes ma head hurt. :doh:
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Postby TheRedQueen » August 24th, 2011, 3:44 pm

To test for food allergies, you really need to do an elimination diet plan...and slowly reintroduce things. It may not be a grain allergy, plenty of dogs are allergic to protein sources. I know numerous dogs allergic to chicken, and Sawyer is apparently allergic to lamb.

GF is always a good choice, but watch the ingredients closely, so you can keep track of what she's getting or not getting.

The current GF trend reminds me of the early days of dog foods when lamb and rice was the hot allergy food for dogs...and then suddenly L&R was a common thing to feed dogs, and owners went to Fish & potato...which then became common and everyone fed it. Now the allergy dogs go to grain free, which are not all the same. ;)

In essence, I'd cut back on people foods, check the current ingredients in the kibble, and find a GF kibble with different ingredients.

Other problems for my allergy dogs...wet bedding (they come in with wet feet from dew/rain and stomp on their bedding before laying down), grass (rolling around, stomping through tall grass/weeds) and collars/harnesses rubbing on sensitive areas.
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Postby amalie79 » August 24th, 2011, 4:03 pm

Thanks Erin!

I know elimination is really the way to go-- I just figured I'd start with grain. But you're right. We just need to pay attention to what we're doing. It's one of the reasons I like Cal Nat. It's nice and limited in content. I really hope it's not chicken that bothers her. That'll suck.

We discussed the possibility of grass allergies, since so many of her bumps are right on her butt where she sits, and our backyard grass is tall enough that it's brushing against her sides in some areas. Honestly, I'm really hoping that getting rid of fleas entirely will do the trick, but who knows. And then another part of me just wants grain free to be the magic bullet. It's probably not. :oops:

I don't want to do too much at once. Maybe keep up with benadryl and get the fleas under control. If she still has problems, change diet and go from there. And if a careful elimination diet doesn't do it, we'll assume it's something environmental. :| Regardless, I'd like to get them on more raw and fewer grains all the way around, but with some decent variety.

She's on the regular Cal Nat formula, not the puppy-- it's Ca/Phos ratio is a touch high (1.5:1 and of course now I'm worried about that-- when can I STOP being too concerned with that? At a year? Now? Ugh.), but not awful. Seriously, how strictly do I need to adhere to that and until when? How important is a "puppy formula"-- I've assumed that the food should just stay in a relatively moderate to high protein range (25-30%), moderate fat (15%ish), and the calcium/phosphorus should be close to 1.2:1 and not on the high end (ie-- not a calcium % of 2.5 or something). Are there other things I should look for when I do start choosing a new kibble? If we stick to Cal Nat, it'll be a month or more until I change, but it could be sooner if we start eliminating.
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Postby amalie79 » August 24th, 2011, 4:15 pm

What also perplexes me is that it got better and then got worse again... we changed her food late last month. Her butt-bumps never went away entirely, but there were only a few. The vet thought they were reactions to tick bites that were taking a while to heal. But it's been in the last week or so that they've resurfaced. What's changed: flea meds would have theoretically worn off, I stopped being able to give her a cortisone bath (spay), and she had a break in her benadryl for about 4 or 5 days. This is what makes me think it's fleas/bugs/environment more than diet, but I'm not ruling food out, and if she's going to have sensitive skin in general, I want her diet to help her as much as it can.

Sorry I'm so all over the place with this. A million things going on in my brain at the moment (plus a puppy-induced lack of sleep).
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Postby hugapitbull » August 24th, 2011, 6:15 pm

Oh wow! Have we been where you are a few years back. Trouble's allergies began as a pup, just about that age. We finally had her tested and she was allergic to every environmental possible - grass, trees, pollen, fleas, wool, tobacco - and those are the things I remember off the top of my head. There were so many environmental elements for Trouble, they didn't test for foods.

Some of the things we were told over the years
- use stainless or glass bowls for food and water
- eliminate corn, it is the common of the grains that cause a problem
- frequent baths with a medicated shampoo helped a lot, we used Melesab. Fortunately Trouble liked baths and a couple a week weren't a problem
- don't overdo the flea medication, while it by design is to help, Trouble would have a flare up after application
- avoid flavored medications of any type if an alternative is available
- you can switch to other antihistamines, consult your vet - some will work for a while and then seem to become ineffective
- limit the contact with grass if possible
- use natural cleaners in the house when possible
- use fragrance free, detergent for your laundry - dogs come into contact with our clothing, bedding, towels, etc
- if you are going to be serious about the food, you have to be diligent about eliminating items and reintroducing one at a time - and NO SNACKS!
- over the years we found foods that worked and stuck with them for as long as possible. I changed a couple of times over the years, but not often. When one works, stick with it.

Erin is right about the protein, Trouble had one of her worst breakouts ever when I gave her beef in the raw I was learning to feed. :doh:

Good luck. It is not a fun trip. :nono:
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Postby amalie79 » August 24th, 2011, 7:52 pm

Thanks, Shanna!!!

We do many of those things already-- some by design, like the glass and ss food bowls after River got a staph infection in a whisker follicle-- and others not so much by design, like staying away from grass since the freakin'115 degree heat killed all of it. Actually, that's not true. There's a few little patches that we've let get really high because it'll be 1936 all over again in our yard if we try to mow. And we're fighting diarrhea with everyone because they insist on eating the blades that remain. :rolleyes2:

And there are a few of them that I never would have thought of!

This, however:

- if you are going to be serious about the food, you have to be diligent about eliminating items and reintroducing one at a time - and NO SNACKS!


will be the hardest. Adam is really bad about letting them all have a few bites of our dinner and lick the plates when we're done. And he wonders why they crowd HIS plate at suppertime.

I'm giving her a few more days-- she's only been back on the benadryl for less than a week, and I haven't been able to bathe her because of the surgery. We found a great shampoo that rinses off quickly and cleanly, but contains hydracortisone, and that seemed to help before. I'm putting the Advantage on in a few minutes and doing heartworm pill tomorrow. I'll be switching to Sentinel when we run out of the other things so we don't have to put stuff on their skin. Hopefully I can bathe her this weekend and get back to twice a week. Maybe start with an antibacterial soap to clear up whatever's going on. And the vet did discuss with me the possibility of trying some other antihistamines.

Thanks again for the advice!! This is gonna be interesting.
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Postby TheRedQueen » August 24th, 2011, 9:04 pm

Just relax and take it easy...now that I have allergy dogs, I understand a lot better. lol Puzzle will have flare-ups for no apparent reason. Don't rush into changing things too quickly, because then you won't know what fixed things, etc.
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Postby amalie79 » August 24th, 2011, 9:14 pm

TheRedQueen wrote:Just relax and take it easy...now that I have allergy dogs, I understand a lot better. lol Puzzle will have flare-ups for no apparent reason. Don't rush into changing things too quickly, because then you won't know what fixed things, etc.



Thanks. She just got her dose of Advantage (and an ear cleaning :) ). We're going to see if just clearing up fleas and a good bath will help, though it looks like I may be taking her in for urinary issues, so we'll talk about it on that visit.

I'd love a week of healthy animals. Love it.
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Postby Malli » August 25th, 2011, 2:48 am

Erin, I ask you specifically because you are involved with so many dogs...

For dogs with food allergy, generally how fast do you see a reaction to the food? Hours? Days?
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Postby iluvk9 » August 25th, 2011, 6:22 am

I just want to add my 2 cents about the flea meds. :) Personally, I would never give the topical. I am not too crazy about the oral type either. It is still chemicals going in.

Once I decided it would be a good idea to use the cat version on Bo and within minutes, his fur fell out. In clumps. I then started watching the dogs after applying it and either they were trying to scratch the line down their backs or they had little bumps on the skin.

Are your fleas/ticks real bad there? Maybe you can use Nupro, like I do, or some other natural product to keep fleas away.
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Postby homebrwd » August 25th, 2011, 7:37 am

My take on GF food, I feed my pup Orijen which makes a puppy blend. Their kibble is 80% meat and 20% fruits and vegetables. Their basis is to keep in line with what the animals should be eating, what they would have eaten if they were in the wild since their digestive tracks haven't evolved to eat anything else, like grain. The main reason I do this is because I eat the same way. I basically feed my dog the same food that I would choose to feed myself. He has shown no allergies to either their all fish or fish and chicken blends. The all fish is a little rich so he did get gassy at times. His coat is in great shape and gets commented on often. All of their meat is no-horomone/no-antibiotic and has been certified for human consumption. They have their own manufacturing unlike most kibble makers.

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Postby hugapitbull » August 25th, 2011, 8:02 am

TheRedQueen wrote: Don't rush into changing things too quickly, because then you won't know what fixed things, etc.


This is excellent advice. It is easy to over react during a flare up. Change a thing at a time and watch for results. Some things can easily be done and maintained - like the laundry detergent & cleaning aides. It may not cause a noticible difference, but long term it is better for the dogs and for you. This type change isn't so critical to watch and wait for the reaction.
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Postby TheRedQueen » August 25th, 2011, 9:03 am

Malli wrote:Erin, I ask you specifically because you are involved with so many dogs...

For dogs with food allergy, generally how fast do you see a reaction to the food? Hours? Days?


Fig is the only one of mine with a known food allergy...he was extremely itchy as a puppy...for months at a time, despite benadryl dosing. I switched him to grain free...and he stopped. It was that easy with him. If he eats something with grain in it...like he gets slipped a milkbone at the Petsmart or something...he'll itch for the next day or two. It's pretty quick for him. If he eats a LOT of grains (gets someone else's Kong Wobbler or something), he'll develop actual bumps for the next few days, not just the itchies.

Fig also has issues with environmental things, so as I mentioned above...we've found that he'll break out if his bedding is wet and he lays on it for too long. (after swimming, dock diving, etc...he'll get in the van crate...and if I don't switch the bedding, he'll be too long in wet stuff). He also gets bumps and itches from certain plants while hiking in the woods...so he gets a benadryl after hiking in certain areas.

I use all natural cleaners...for household as well as laundry...which I've always done, but I'm sure it helps him too.

Puzzle is my puzzling one. I've put her on Grain free, just to see if it might *help* a little bit with her flare-ups. I don't think she has a grain allergy...despite her numerous rashes/bumps/etc...but every little bit helps, right? Well, no...since being on GF, she's still having the same flare-ups. She'll stay on it for a while longer, but I've decided that she's all environmental. :|

I haven't narrowed hers down yet, but she gets horrible rashes after being in the grass and hiking in the woods. I actually think she got poison ivy a month ago...she developed oozing spots and now that they're healed, she has circles of missing hair. geez. :sad2: I've gotten her a chest/belly protector for the hiking...so she won't get so torn up and rashy. She just has super sensitive skin with NO hair on her chest/belly for protection.
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Postby amalie79 » August 25th, 2011, 9:54 am

iluvk9 wrote:I just want to add my 2 cents about the flea meds. :) Personally, I would never give the topical. I am not too crazy about the oral type either. It is still chemicals going in.

Once I decided it would be a good idea to use the cat version on Bo and within minutes, his fur fell out. In clumps. I then started watching the dogs after applying it and either they were trying to scratch the line down their backs or they had little bumps on the skin.

Are your fleas/ticks real bad there? Maybe you can use Nupro, like I do, or some other natural product to keep fleas away.


I know. I hate the chemicals. But the fleas and the ticks really are pretty bad here. As are mosquitoes, so HW preventative is a must, too. Every year I think I'm going to go the FleaBusters and diatomaceous earth route, and every year I get so busy taking care of the 8 million other things these guys need, that it's too late and the fleas have already arrived.

I would love to feed Orijen, but the nearest dealer is 4 1/2 hours away, so I'd have to order it... which means mucho dinero and going through ordering a trial size, trying it out, ordering a bag, and possibly ending up with a bunch of food she can't eat because she's not taking to it for one reason or another. It sucks. I'm really considering Blue Buffalo's Wilderness puppy formula, but It's pretty expensive, too. And, again, I have this nagging feeling that puppy formula at 7 months isn't necessary as long as I don't get an outrageously extreme (in any respect) adult food. Nature's Variety Instinct Rabbit is ok for a puppy (in terms of Ca/Phos, fat, and protein) but our local place only sells tiny bags of it and it ain't cheap either (there's a few other places I can check, though). Natural Balance venison has the right levels but is way low on protein. Since Robin's been on the lower protein, I've noticed her awesome shoulders and flanks feel smooshy. :( I want this little girl to eventually build some muscle, not lose it.

I think this weekend we try out some raw and see how it goes, either homemade or pre-made patties (I have a trial bag in my freezer that I got for free a while back, if it's not expired).

Thanks, everyone. You've given me a lot of ideas, advice and the reassurance I need that I don't have to do everything at once.
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Postby amalie79 » August 27th, 2011, 11:35 am

Alrighty.

Just back from the vet. Start of a UTI and the pustules on her skin look like the start of staph.

The vet basically said that with her skin and coat, we'll be battling staph the rest of her life. He said we just have to stay on top of her flea preventive and keep the environment as flea free as possible. Personally, I think that also means that her immune system needs to be in tip top shape so she can fight these potential infections. I'll be working on a well-rounded, solid diet. If these pustules clear up with the antibiotics (which they almost did with the last round), I'll assume that it is a reaction to bites or environment (whatever she's sitting on, for example, since they're almost exclusively on her hindquarters) and make sure we have a good diet and not worry about food allergies until/unless we need to. As we get out of allergy season, we'll maybe try weaning her off the benadryl and see if we can just do that seasonally. One things at a time, though, and right now that thing is Clear Up Infections.

I'll also be implementing a lot of the things Shanna mentioned that aren't already part of our routine-- most of them will be better for all of us.

I talked to the vet about Sentinel, and he said that really it's not great for this kind of dog, since it doesn't stop the fleas from biting, only keeps an infestation from occurring. I'll have to be better about environmental precautions before the little bastards move in next spring.

Also, I have to get her a new collar. The buckle on her Wal-Mart Special is irritating her wrinkly little neck, rubbing it raw, so I'm gonna try a lined, no-buckle collar. She doesn't wear one a lot of the time, but sometimes I do need her to have one on.

And my water heater leaked 40 gallons of water onto my floor last night, but that's a different topic altogether. :neutral:
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » August 27th, 2011, 12:06 pm

Ugh, that sucks. I hate the idea of having to use flea medication on a dog with possible immune issues. That just seems wrong. This is the first summer in 3 years that I used flea meds and it killed me to do so. I had to put revolution on the girls though 'cause I had a nasty flea outbreak at my house. So they got it this month, and they'll get it next month, but hopefully never again. Maybe next summer (this one's too bad for fleas) you can look into doing all natural stuff as flea prevention? And maybe rethink vaccs?

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Postby hugapitbull » August 27th, 2011, 2:49 pm

On the UTI - Trouble fought these as well. I started giving her cranberry capsules at the first indication she may be developing a problem - frequent urination, urgency to go, and was able to ward off most infections. By the time I gave her the second dose of the cranberry, I could tell there was a big improvement. You may want to keep some on hand and give it a try.

I think Erin uses the cranberry as well for one of hers.
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