When food is the primary driving force behind your pet’s itchy skin, chronic recurring yeast and bacterial infections, then you and your veterinary team need to embark on an investigation to determine what your dog or cat can eat that will not stimulate an inflammatory response. An elimination diet process is still the gold standard for determining the role of individual foods in adverse skin reactions due to food although the recent advent of saliva testing for Ig M reactions to foods may help us direct the choice of proteins and carbohydrates reducing the complexity of the process.
The principle behind an elimination diet is to vastly simplify the diet to one carbohydrate source and one protein source and one water source. Feed this for 4 to 12 weeks and then begin to add in one item at a time evaluating the response of your pet. The optimum elimination diets are not commercial but use whole fresh food raw or cooked; however, when needed we do have commercial veterinary diets that can be effectively used to fulfill the requirements of an elimination diet.
Elimination Diet guidelines
1) Pure meat sources: (no added spices or meat mixes). If ground, must be from a clean meat grinder or cross contamination with another protein will occur.
2) Select, if possible, a meat your pet has never eaten, rabbit, goat, fish(white fish preferably), duck, kangaroo, ostrich, moose, elk, venison, bison, lamb, beef
3) Carbohydrate sources: include potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, rice, barley or oats. These would normally be cooked well. Many of these carbohydrates are sources of pro-inflammatory sugars; which fed at high levels over the long term will not be in the pet’s best interest. Initially, however, they do serve us in establishing a diet baseline. A raw vegetable like broccoli or cauliflower could also be used as the carbohydrate source and should to juiced or pulped.
4) Feed 50% meat and 50% carbohydrate
5) Everything else that crosses the pet’s lips must be stopped for the period of the elimination diet. This includes all treats and supplements. Imagine if you simplify your pet’s diet to pork and squash but you also feed a beef protein flavoured flea and tick product, kefir everyday, coconut oil, a Chinese herbal formula, turmeric, marrow bone treats and give a chicken neck to chew on every Friday. You will never have success if any of the ingredients in the treat and supplement mix introduce different proteins.
6) Keep a daily itch calendar ranking from 1-10: 1 = constant itch, 10 = no itch. You may not see complete relief from scratching, itching or licking but you should see some improvement.
7) Remember, your pet need not be on this diet for the rest of his life. Once we have established that food allergies or sensitivities are important, we will move toward determining a list of safe foods and a long term plan to keep your pet comfortable and happy.