You want my feathers to feed your dog??
Searching for the best dog food, you may have run into this:
Feathers being fed to dogs, in high priced, “natural” dog food. That was a recent revelation first reported by Forbes which, if their article was all you read and you had your brain running on idle, you might say,
“My my, isn’t science a creative field?”
I kind of did this briefly, it all sounded so plausible.
In a nutshell, here’s what the Royal Canin company is sending up about putting poultry feathers on the market in a kibble. A very expensive, thought to be natural, “one of the best” dog food kibbles:
- Lots of allergies out there!
- Dogs who eat foods they are allergic to get sick!
- Therefore, we’re using feathers as a protein source, it’s novel, and dogs won’t be allergic to it!
It’s spun with the “service to the suffering dog” frosting all over those feathery chunks of kibble and reads quite well to the uninformed. Or, maybe a better phrase is, “to the unthinking consumer.”
Deja Vu All Over Again
As a newly minted vet in the 80’s, I was seeing some itchy dogs, though nothing like I am today. As summer starts where I live, I expect I’ll see even more this year.
Sometime in the ’80s, a miracle appeared for the itchy dogs of the world: lamb and rice dog food. Dogs switched to eating this, and magically, within a few meals, they got to sleep again. Pure bliss! Best dog food evah! At last, we have the answer!!
Lamb and rice dog foods stormed the shelves, every dog food manufacturer who wanted to keep any meaningful market share rushed a lamb and rice “hypoallergenic” dog food out to the stores.
Everyone let out a collective sigh of relief. And the pushers of this food, manufacturers, vets, pet stores, smiled all the way to the bank.
Damn: Was That the Sound of the Other Shoe Dropping?
As no one had gone any deeper to cure the epidemic of allergic dogs, it wasn’t too long before this wonderful fix failed. Dogs eating these special foods became allergic to lamb. Or rice. Or both.
It was a runaway race then to find more “novel proteins,” food sources dogs were able to eat without wildly reacting. There was (and still is) turkey, and rabbit, and venison, and duck, and on and on.
Hill’s, the makers of Science Diet and other expensive junk food, came out with the first really laboratory engineered hypo-allergenic food after several years of diminishing returns in this race: Z/D. It was made of proteins that had been chemically altered, Frankensteined to be so different that no dog would have any allergy to them.
Here’s Z/D’s first five ingredients:
Starch, Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver, Soybean Oil, Hydrolyzed Chicken, Powdered Cellulose
(Last I checked, wolves weren’t eating much starch. Or sawdust, aka “powdered cellulose.”)
What Could Go Wrong?
Even with failure after failure, or at the very best, short term fixes, no one in this race to conquer the itchy allergic dog by feeding exotic foods stopped to ask,
Wait. Why are so many dogs allergic to so many things, including food? What’s wrong with this picture?”
Or, even better, the question I hope you’d share with me is,
“Are wolves or coyotes or lynx tearing their hair out, wildly allergic to things they eat or to the fleas that bite them?”
Yes, cats slowly joined this epidemic as well, paralleling their increase in popularity and, wait for it:
“Prevention” that was sold as the responsible pet owner’s imperative began to create the crazily itchy cat. Armed with barbed tongues and sharp claws, the damage they can do to their own bodies in the name of itch is phenomenal.
As you can imagine, the wild cousins don’t suffer allergies. It’s purely a man-made disease, like all of the chronic diseases that you can name in man or beast.
A Prevention – Caused Epidemic of Allergies
The blame can be squarely laid at the altar of the mighty vaccine syringe. In tweaking the immune systems of our pets with multiple viruses slammed right into the bloodstream and bypassing all the natural barriers that exist to viral invasion, we’ve created a monster.
The monster is fed and empowered when you follow the insane logic that somehow, repeatedly vaccinating throughout life is both necessary and beneficial.
The “Find the Best Dog Food” Game
So, the race is on, the cause is ignored, and there’s money to be made, chasing yet another exotic protein down yet another rabbit hole. Best dog food, here we come!
And now it’s denatured feathers, made “palatable” by the addition of God knows what “flavor enhancers.” Ever see the movie, Food, Inc? There’s $1.4 billion industry making chemicals that enhance flavors and fuel food addictions. It’s what makes pink slime and the greasy fries in the MacDonalds of the world actually addictive.
Who owns Royal Canin? Mars, in New Jersey, heart of the food additive industry, also parent of Banfield, one of the biggest purveyors of vaccinations on the planet. Hmmm. I see a Part Two brewing in my brain cells…
What concerns me most is that this idea of changing the diet being the cure is now so pervasive in our society, that pet owners think their too itchy dog is their fault because they’ve not found the right diet! And the best dog food must be just over that hill…
Have you played this game?
First: “Jasper’s itching like crazy. I’d better switch to grain-free dog food.”
Later: “That worked, sort of, for a week or two, but now he’s itchy on this grain-free food. Better try something else. This emu and quinoa diet is getting good reviews, let’s give it a try!”
Still later: “Jasper itched less, way less, but it only lasted for three weeks, and he’s back to waking at night. I’m getting tired. But there are so many diets out there. Wait, maybe it’s fish oil. Or coconut oil. I’ve heard those are good for skin!”
Reality: Allergic States Are Not Cured by Diet Alone
While I’d never hesitate to improve on diet, especially if you are willing to dump the kibble and get on balanced raw food, I’d be very surprised if that alone will truly cure your itchy, allergic dog. It may temporarily improve things, sure, but that’s not the same as cure, a permanent state of health.
There will always be things to get allergic to that are not diet-related, right?
Flea bites, molds, tree pollen, grasses, the list goes on. I’ve had people seek me out as the DLR (Doctor of Last Resort) after they’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and they bring a shopping list of things Jasper is allergic to!
The list is full of normal things the average dog would never be able to avoid unless he lived in a bubble!
Go For Cure!
I’m speaking as a homeopathic vet, a subset of the holistic vet realm. And from my perspective, the goal is cure of the allergic state. The goal is not to find yet one more novel protein to feed or to get allergy shots, or God forbid, steroids or Apoquel, the drugs that turn off the immune system.
The allergic state is a chronic disease state, and is best managed by your veterinary homeopath. It’s not as simple as reading about remedies, finding a “fit” for your pet’s symptoms, and giving a dose.
These chronically ill guys need to be managed, and carefully. It’ll take more than one remedy to get to cure, but only appropriately chosen, given at appropriate intervals after a response to a prior remedy is fully evaluated. This isn’t easy, even for those of us doing it for years! But it can be done.
Homeopathy can cure chronic disease like nothing else I’ve ever seen, including your itchy allergic dog. It takes time, but when cure is reached, you’re done.
And then you can feed whatever you like and toss the chicken feathers to the wind.
What a concept.