As I began to question the advice my vet was giving and started researching causes for Maggie’s itchiness, I quickly realized that issue #1 was her food. At this point in time, my primary concern was finding and addressing the cause of her allergies. We were well on our way to re-training her leash aggressiveness through positive reinforcement and I still had not connected any dots in terms of her Proin medication being a factor in any of these issues.
It took one google search to convince me that Iams was an awful choice for food. It still disturbs me that my vet praised me for our food choice; it’s one thing to not criticize your patient’s decisions in nutrition, but it’s another thing to whole-heartedly cheer them on. I immediately began my search for a better food. The first decision I made was to remove corn, wheat and un-identified protein sources from the ingredient panel as well as go with a highly respected kibble. I tried Wellness first, which greatly improved her coat health and vitality. But it didn’t make the itchies go away. With this small improvement, I knew I was on the right track. Our next food was Solid Gold and within a few days, Maggie’s itchiness became non-existent.
During the food trials I was under-taking, I also continued my research on nutrition. My opinions are based on what I’ve read online, a few dog nutrition books I’ve read as well as just what makes sense to me. The basis for my philosophy is this: I cannot believe feeding the same food day in and out can be good for our dogs, especially when that food comes in a highly-processed format such as kibble. I was however stuck in a bind – having found a food that eliminated Maggie’s itchies, I hesitated to experiment and cause it to come back. At the same time, my husband and I were strict on not feeding the dogs “people” food so no begging would be encouraged. The more and more I read, the more I started to believe this distinction between “people” and “dog” food was preposterous. I wanted to proceed cautiously though. I began to feed one home-cooked meal per week – Meat Sundays. I started giving vegetables as treats and not worrying if they got a little of our leftovers, so long as those leftovers were healthy and did not include any ingredients known to harm dogs.
With the new business, I have to admit that I haven’t been consistent with the one home-cooked meal per week though they still do get a little leftover baked chicken or veggies on a regular basis. I have since tried to switch up their kibble from Solid Gold to another brand I carry in the store. Towards the end of the bag, I started noticing Maggie getting itchy again so back to Solid Gold we went. I’m just not comfortable giving her variety through various kibbles at this point.
Through the process of educating myself on commercial dog food and what can be so awful about it, I also began to connect the dots between behavior and physical health and nutrition. I began to let go of feelings of guilt over any responsibility in Maggie’s bad behavior and start to consider that a change in her food may help with those behavior problems. At the same time, I was also reading up more on her incontinence medication, Proin, and started to have some misgivings as to whether it was doing her more harm than good…
To be continued