Dogs with sensitive skin and digestion come into our veterinary practice, Vet’s Klinic on a daily basis and allergies are becoming more commonly identified in our pets. In fact, 50% of dogs with household or environmental allergies also have an underlying food allergy.
Although, our whole range of food and treats are hypoallergenic, owners came to us looking for a food that went that bit further – a grain free diet. Customer requests and avoiding common food allergy triggers were the inspiration behind our Sensitive grain free dog food and we set about researching the best ingredients to use (and those to avoid).
Knowledge and Expertise
The very nature of an allergic reaction means that a protein (meat source) must have been presented to the immune system prior to the allergy developing – so the dog must have eaten it before. Allergies are caused by the body’s immune system over-reacting to a protein molecule. Instead of recognising it as something that is normally present, it identifies the protein as foreign, triggering an immune response – like it should when there is a virus or bacteria that is invading. We’ve explained more about this in our grain free article.
For a dog with known allergies feeding a novel protein and carbohydrate diet can make all the difference. A novel or new ingredient is one which the dog has not eaten before. This means the body has not encountered it and has not had a chance to build up a reaction against it. We therefore decided to use pork as our novel protein and sweet potato as our novel carbohydrate, making this formulation grain and gluten free.
In addition to allergies, there are also other adverse reactions to food which do not involve the immune system (or show up on allergy tests) such as food intolerances, or a reaction to something in the food e.g. storage mites. Using sweet potato instead of grain and keeping the food in smaller, re-sealable bags makes the environment and food less favourable for storage mites to thrive.
The most commonly documented food allergies in dogs are to beef, dairy, wheat and soya – accounting for over >65% of cases. Other less commonly documented allergies are to eggs, lamb and chicken. This made pork the ideal choice. However, some owners shy away from pork and explain that they always thought it could not be fed to dogs . This is despite many people feeding their dog sausages, bacon or pig’s ears. However, for those owners that have steered clear of anything pork related, a pork based diet would work in the favour of sensitive dogs. So where did the misconception about pork come from? It is believed to be advice from several decades ago when pork (raw or undercooked) was often infected with a worm called Trichinella spiralis. However, cooking kills this parasite and there have been no cases in the UK for 30 years. As Vet’s Kitchen food is cooked by a process called extrusion, there is no chance of developing the disease Trichinosis from this food.
In our other adult foods we included prebiotics to help promote a healthy digestive system. Depending on variety, our other diets contain either Fructo-olligosaccharides (FOS) and Mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS) as active ingredients on their own or chicory as a natural source of FOS and Brewer’s yeast as a source of MOS. However, it is thought that some very sensitive dogs can react negatively to yeast so in this formulation we chose to use chicory – as a natural source of FOS only.
Studies, on the benefits of joint supplements show that this is a promising area for both dogs with arthritis and those wanting to maintain healthy joints. As, with our other formulations, we added glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM to this recipe.
We created this diet to be more than just a grain free food. Pork provides a novel (not eaten before) protein source, whilst potato is a novel carbohydrate. By using a combination of sweet potato and white potato these complex carbohydrates provide a great balance of protein, fibre and other nutrients. Both sweet potato and white potatoes are gluten free ingredients that are highly digestible and full of essential vitamins, minerals and both soluble and insoluble fibre.
As well as being grain free, we’ve avoided using other ingredients known to trigger allergies e.g. dairy, soya and beef and therefore this diet (and all of our foods) are hypoallergenic.
50% of dogs with household or environmental allergies also have an underlying food allergy.
This truly is a single source protein diet, even the oils and fats in this food are sourced from pork. Although, technically an allergy is triggered by a protein not an oil (and therefore using something like fish oil should be fine in this food) some tiny molecules of protein may be present in the oil. This could be enough to trigger an immune reaction in very sensitive pets, so when formulating this recipe we decided to make it as hypoallergenic as possible.
With every pet food diet on the market you will notice that the label mentions something called ‘ash’. Ash is not an ingredient but the technical name for the minerals such as calcium and phosphorus in pet food. Ash is essential but too much can be a problem. Traditionally pork meal (dried pork meat used in pet food) comes with quite a high ash content, so when we formulated this recipe we purposefully chose a source of pork meal with a low ash content to benefit dogs that may be prone to urinary conditions.
Apart from being healthy, we need to make sure our food is also delicious! Our taste-testers get to try the food before anyone else and we only ever use willing volunteers – usually staff pets or client pets from Vet’s Klinic. Only, once they’ve given their ‘empty bowl approval’ do we go on to produce a new recipe. If you are interested in how taste testing works, we’ve written a handy guide to explain palatability.
Why not read more about why dogs love Vet’s Kitchen Sensitive Pork & Potato here.
We are proud to use real pets on the front of our packaging. We call these our brand ambassadors because not only do they eat the food, it has made a difference to their long term health too. The very handsome dog you see on the front of our Sensitive grain free dry dog food is Ralf… here’s Ralf’s story:
“We’ve gone through practically tons of the stuff and they still clear their bowls every time. We even sneak them a few as training treats - and they don’t mind a bit! Best of all, we’ve noticed that Ralf is scratching a lot less and his stomach seems more settled. ” MARK ANDERSON
AHDB Pork: Trichinella https://pork.ahdb.org.uk/healt... (Website accessed 17th May 2017).
Food Standards Agency: Trichinella https://www.food.gov.uk/busine... (Website accessed 17th May 2017).
Chaper 31, Adverse Reactions to Food: Hand, Thatcher, Remillard, Roudebush & Novotny (2010) Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th edn., Mark Morris Institute. Pages 609-635
Case, Daristotle, Hayek & Raasch (2011) Canine and Feline Nutrition, 3rd edn., Missouri: Mosby Elsevier. Page 462
Gaschen et al, Adverse Food Reactions in Dogs and Cats, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, Volume 41, Issue 2, March 2011, Pages 361–379. http://www.sciencedirect.com/s...
Case, Daristotle, Hayek & Raasch (2011) Canine and Feline Nutrition, 3rd edn., Missouri: Mosby Elsevier. Page 467-470
Fascetti, A.J and Delaney, S.J (2012) Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell. P102 and 150.
Swansen et al, Effects of supplemental fructooligosaccharides plus mannanoligosaccharides on immune function and ileal and fecal microbial populations in adult dogs. Arch Tierernahr. 2002 Aug;56(4):309-18.
Hand, Thatcher, Remillard, Roudebush & Novotny (2010) Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th edn., Mark Morris Institute. Page 704-706
VCA Animal Hospitals – Glycosaminoglycans ¬ https://vcahospitals.com/know-...