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I have a 2-1/2 year old female, sable GSD. We are struggling to find a food that works. I believe she is intolerant to chicken based on previous trials of food and possibly beef based on a recent trial of TOTW beef and maybe intolerant to grain or something else based on my recent trial of Sportmix Dog food with grain? Wasn't wanting to do grain-free exactly because of the increased potential for DCM, but I may have to go that route. We seem to be trending toward that direction. Earthborn Holistic was the last food we had that didn't cause any issues. It was just a tad pricey and wanted to find something cheaper. We ended up on Earthborn after we switched off the Natural Balance. Natural Balance sat well too, but we were on limited ingredient and it was even more expensive.



I hope we can get some help ! After about 3-4 days of the sportmix we were back to lots of itching and biting at tail, back, and paws. She does take apoquel for the itching. We take it once a day and had to take it twice a day to get some relief. Not sure what to do for food. Hoping to find something that sits well and doesn't cost a fortune. I hope someone might have some suggestions.



Brands we have tried: Fromm (Never sat well, generally soft stool fairly often)
TOTW (sits well but she once refused the fish variety and now appears to be doing that with the beef to some exten. Mild itching started when she started on the beef)
Sportmix Wholesomes (Fish variety seems to be causing a lot of itching)
Earthborn Holistics (sits well and she likes it, hoped to find something slightly cheaper and grain-inclusive)
Victor (loose stools with this as well)
Blue Buffalo (didn't seem to like it)
Natural Balance (liked it fine but we were on limited ingredient which was very expensive)
Holistic Select (I honestly don't remember on this one but we moved away from it for a reason)
 

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There is no easy answer here. My first thought is you have tried many foods. If it were me I would start by looking up the ingredients of all the foods you've tried. Cross off the common ingredients in the foods that didn't work well. Then compare those ingredients left to the foods that did work well. That will give you a starting point to what to avoid and what might be safe going forward in your search. It's going to be time consuming but at this point it's going to be the best way to know what might be a sensitivity trigger for your dog. Don't forget to consider the source of the itching could be from treats as well.

In the truest definition Limited Ingredient Foods should only have one protein source and one carbohydrate source. Be aware that you will have to carefully read all labels. Natural Balance is a good example of this. Their Lamb and Brown Rice L.I.D food meets that standard. However, most of the other Natural Balance L.I.D branded foods don't meet the standard. I know this because I have an allergy dog and when she doesn't eat raw she eats Natural Balance Lamb and Brown Rice L.I.D food. I have read all the labels and wish their L.I.D Beef formula met the standard because she does better with beef. Natural Balance is not the only brand that is guilty of labeling foods a L.I.D that are truly not. Merrick comes to mind as a big offender of this.
Currently in my research of nearly 5.5 years, aside from raw, home cooked, pre prepared raw, freeze dried or vet prescription diets, there are fewer true LID diets on the market in kibble form. This didn't use to be the case. A few years ago, when the grain free hype took over things changed. Limited Ingredient diets have seemed to have gone the way of grain free. Manufacturers put it on the label a selling point but the truth is almost none of these supposed LID diets are truly LID. My dog loved Natures Variety LID food. Then they changed the formula and we had to stop feeding it. Rice and potatoes were once the common source of carbohydrate. Now with the grain free craze everything has peas and lentils. Great unless that is the source of the allergy, like my dog. Even most LID foods use peas and lentils now.
The long and short of it is food issues are not easy to figure out. And when you do (if you're feeding anything other then home prepared raw) you will have to read the ingredient label every time you purchase to be sure the manufacturer didn't change up the formula without advertising it on the label.
I hope you are able to find an affordable food that works for your dog. I understand your frustration.
Sorry I wasn't able to suggest a specific food. Impossible to do until you figure out what is causing the loose stools and itching.
 

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I think you need to go to a vet and having testing done for IBD, EPI and SIBO. Then have allergy testing done for food. You will need to go to a dermatologist and have a scratch test done. Blood test is not accurate for foods.

You will spend a fortune on remedies and different foods. Just do the testing. Been there, done that.
 

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You may want to try a food that isn't on the "high quality" lists. With my previous dog, I had to use Royal Canin GSD formula. It is on the expensive side and not great on the quality BUT it worked for my dog. He liked it and he didn't have problems on it. If expensive is what works for your dog, you may have to just suck it up. My current dog's sister was a very picky eater from day 1. Her owners tried a bunch and found one (Orijen) that she ate without a fuss. At 80 some dollars per bag, that's expensive. But they had no choice.
 

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Or start her on a prescription food that is hydrolyzed protein. If her issues clear up, it's a pretty sure bet it's a food allergy.
 

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I agree with the hydrolyzed protein diet. It turned out my allergy girl, who tried every food imaginable, had a slight chicken sensitivity, but mostly it was environmental. So in fall and spring she went on Apoquel. I was nervous about side effects but she was older at this point, and it was only 4 months out of the year.
She did do well on Pro Plan sensitive salmon and a grain free salmon food that I won't recommend anymore due to DCM.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
There is no easy answer here. My first thought is you have tried many foods. If it were me I would start by looking up the ingredients of all the foods you've tried. Cross off the common ingredients in the foods that didn't work well. Then compare those ingredients left to the foods that did work well. That will give you a starting point to what to avoid and what might be safe going forward in your search. It's going to be time consuming but at this point it's going to be the best way to know what might be a sensitivity trigger for your dog. Don't forget to consider the source of the itching could be from treats as well.

In the truest definition Limited Ingredient Foods should only have one protein source and one carbohydrate source. Be aware that you will have to carefully read all labels. Natural Balance is a good example of this. Their Lamb and Brown Rice L.I.D food meets that standard. However, most of the other Natural Balance L.I.D branded foods don't meet the standard. I know this because I have an allergy dog and when she doesn't eat raw she eats Natural Balance Lamb and Brown Rice L.I.D food. I have read all the labels and wish their L.I.D Beef formula met the standard because she does better with beef. Natural Balance is not the only brand that is guilty of labeling foods a L.I.D that are truly not. Merrick comes to mind as a big offender of this.
Currently in my research of nearly 5.5 years, aside from raw, home cooked, pre prepared raw, freeze dried or vet prescription diets, there are fewer true LID diets on the market in kibble form. This didn't use to be the case. A few years ago, when the grain free hype took over things changed. Limited Ingredient diets have seemed to have gone the way of grain free. Manufacturers put it on the label a selling point but the truth is almost none of these supposed LID diets are truly LID. My dog loved Natures Variety LID food. Then they changed the formula and we had to stop feeding it. Rice and potatoes were once the common source of carbohydrate. Now with the grain free craze everything has peas and lentils. Great unless that is the source of the allergy, like my dog. Even most LID foods use peas and lentils now.
The long and short of it is food issues are not easy to figure out. And when you do (if you're feeding anything other then home prepared raw) you will have to read the ingredient label every time you purchase to be sure the manufacturer didn't change up the formula without advertising it on the label.
I hope you are able to find an affordable food that works for your dog. I understand your frustration.
Sorry I wasn't able to suggest a specific food. Impossible to do until you figure out what is causing the loose stools and itching.
We actually did what you said today. We think that the common denominator in all the foods that didnt work were chicken fat. Some had chicken but we eventually thought she might have a sensitivity to chicken and have stopped feeding it. Some that we have tried without chicken that didn't work still had chicken fat. All the ones that seem to work for the most part have canola oil as opposed to chicken fat. Maybe we are on to something. We picked up some Pro Pac today (Lamb & Brown Rice). She likes lamb and it's about the only lamb formulation without chicken fat.
 

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We are starting to figure out we need to avoid chicken and chicken fat. Maybe Royal Canin would be an option.
 

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I have no idea what all those tests are. The vet suggested the Natural Balance LID venison and the apoquel.
 

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We stopped the sportmix dog food for 3 meals and the scratching stopped almost completely. Definitely something in that food. Turns out we think it might be the chicken fat. Common ingredient in all that have not worked.
 

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I think our girl liked the Pro Plan ok, but I don't think it sat the best. Can't remember now. Probably should have kept a spreadsheet but who knew it would be so problematic?
 

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You don't need to run a lot of expensive tests that aren't always reliable. I have one that is sensitive to chicken also. I also cross checked all the ingredients of all the foods I tired and chicken was my problem. He even starts scratching if I feed him cooked chicken as an additive to his food. You might want to rotate off that lamb and rice sometimes though as it does contain peas. Lamb and peas both where problematic on that DCM reports. I've got my chicken sensitive guy on Dr. Gary's Best Breed Salmon and he loves it. It does contain grain but no peas or chicken. They also make a Lamb variety that is pea free. It's a little more than Pro Pac but is higher in calories so you'd be feeding less. It's also human grade ingredients. I buy mine from chewy .com. My other dog is on their German chicken formula. I supplement both with fresh meat and eggs to improve the overall protein content and nutrition. I was feeding him Earthborn's Pollack and Pumpkin which he did OK on too but he tired of it and it is expensive.

 

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I have no idea what all those tests are. The vet suggested the Natural Balance LID venison and the apoquel.
Sorry, I don't mean to change the subject from your food question but you did mention Apoquel so I felt the need to say something about it. Be careful with Apoquel. A little story...with my previous dog (11 years old at that time), he had his last annual checkup with blood tests and everything in July of 2017. Came back fine. Then his annual allergies showed up around August like usual. Was prescribed Apoquel for the first time. By the beginning of October, he had masses all over his liver (and possibly to other organs). An oncologist from a nonrelated vet office than my primary care vet suspected that Apoquel may have sped up his cancer (not caused it). Here's an article that I found would help explain things better than me. https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/wouldnt-give-dog-new-allergy-drug/ The end of the story is I had to put him down a week before X'mas 2017. Apoquel has side effects: vomiting and diarrhea among others. Once the oncologist told me to stop the Apoquel, his vomiting and diarrhea noticeably decreased.

We don't know if it caused the cancer or sped it up, but even the tiniest possibility makes me very wary of the drug. I'm not saying don't use it. Just saying be careful with it. My suggestion is to use the money for Apoquel on an allergist instead and find the cause of the allergies. Anyway, good luck in finding the right food.
 

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Sorry, I don't mean to change the subject from your food question but you did mention Apoquel so I felt the need to say something about it. Be careful with Apoquel. A little story...with my previous dog (11 years old at that time), he had his last annual checkup with blood tests and everything in July of 2017. Came back fine. Then his annual allergies showed up around August like usual. Was prescribed Apoquel for the first time. By the beginning of October, he had masses all over his liver (and possibly to other organs). An oncologist from a nonrelated vet office than my primary care vet suspected that Apoquel may have sped up his cancer (not caused it). Here's an article that I found would help explain things better than me. https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/wouldnt-give-dog-new-allergy-drug/ The end of the story is I had to put him down a week before X'mas 2017. Apoquel has side effects: vomiting and diarrhea among others. Once the oncologist told me to stop the Apoquel, his vomiting and diarrhea noticeably decreased.

We don't know if it caused the cancer or sped it up, but even the tiniest possibility makes me very wary of the drug. I'm not saying don't use it. Just saying be careful with it. My suggestion is to use the money for Apoquel on an allergist instead and find the cause of the allergies. Anyway, good luck in finding the right food.
Sorry to hear about your dog. That's terrible. Our vet has her dog on Apoquel 2x a day for itchy skin. Seems to think its pretty safe. Maybe not? I am willing to spend more on food if we could get rid of the meds. Spending the money anyway, but i don't like medicine and I don't like the dog having to take it either.
 

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Cytopoint works better than Apoquel for itching. It's safer and it's a ton less money. The cytopoint shots lasted 4-5 months for my boy.

My boy developed many little cysts and a couple of ugly funky growths while on the Apoquel.

Environmental allergy testing is pretty easy. That can be done in a blood test. Food allergies aren't so easy. The blood tests are less reliable. however, your dog may not be allergic to proteins at all. It could be another ingredient like a grain or potatoes. My boy is allergic to green beans and white potatoes.
 

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Cytopoint works better than Apoquel for itching. It's safer and it's a ton less money. The cytopoint shots lasted 4-5 months for my boy.

My boy developed many little cysts and a couple of ugly funky growths while on the Apoquel.

Environmental allergy testing is pretty easy. That can be done in a blood test. Food allergies aren't so easy. The blood tests are less reliable. however, your dog may not be allergic to proteins at all. It could be another ingredient like a grain or potatoes. My boy is allergic to green beans and white potatoes.

Did you find his allergies by going to an allergist and doing skin testing like they do on people?
 
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