Elimination diet - home cooked - help needed

I want to do an elimination diet trial with my 5 year old miniature goldendoodle. 

She has skin allergies, terrible hotspots all over her body. 

She’s been eating Acana Singles, Pork formula for the past few years, and her skin has done best on this food. The whole DCM issue has scared me off Acana, and my vet recommended a switch as well. 

We’ve tried:

Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach, Lamb & Oatmeal = her skin exploded 

Royal Canin, Hydrolyzed Protein, purchased from the vet = her skin exploded 

Back to Acana for two weeks = skin improved 100%

Canadian Naturals, Pork & Squash = her skin exploded 

I’m at my wits end, my girl is suffering. I’d like to try an elimination diet to find out what the culprit(s) is/are but don’t want to use kibble. I want to use home cooked food for her, not raw. 

She’s had allergy testing (I know they are not reliable) blood thru the vet & hair & saliva thru Glacier Peaks. They were some similarities (few). 

I’d appreciate some steps to start with if anyone has successfully done the same. 



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  • http://www.acvd.org/tools/locator/locations_ca.asp?ctry=Canada

    acvd.org | Home | Veterinarians with specialized training in skin, ears, and allergy
    The ACVD is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association to advance excellence in veterinary dermatology, oversee postgraduate training,…
  •  I'm not sure, but with all these specialists in Ontario, it seems like there might be one within reasonable distance of you? Or maybe in a neighboring province? 

    acvd.org | Home | Veterinarians with specialized training in skin, ears, and allergy
    The ACVD is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association to advance excellence in veterinary dermatology, oversee postgraduate training,…
  • Here is some information about allergies in dogs and how to keep them comfortable:

    Some Basic Facts About Allergies in Dogs
    Dogs, just like people, can and do have allergies to many different things. Since my guy Jackdoodle has a very severe allergic condition called atopi…
  • Okay, if her skin "exploded" on a hydrolyzed protein diet, you are probably not dealing with food allergies here at all. You are most likely dealing with seasonal/environmental/inhalant allergies, or Atopic Dermatitis, as it is properly called. Atopic dermatitis is the second most common type of allergy in dogs, and it is 10 times more common than food allergies, which actually affect only 1-2% of all dogs. 

    On an elimination diet, you typically feed a single protein which the dog has never eaten before, or at least one that the dog has not eaten for a long time and never on a regular basis. This can be very difficult if you want to home cook, because a lot of dogs have eaten all of the common proteins in the past: chicken, turkey, duck, pork, beef, lamb and various types of fish. There are limited ingredient kibbles that contain "novel" prooteins like kangaroo or goat, which most dogs have never eaten before, but I think you are going to have a very hard time doing a kangaroo meat home diet. :) If you are lucky, your dog has never eaten venison, bison, or fish like tilapia, which might make it easier to find the ingredients you will need.
    Also be aware that most homecooked foods contain only about 200 calories per cup, (less if the protein is fish) so you have to feed a lot more than you do kibble. Most doodles require 15-25 per calories of body weight per day. This is one of the reasons I never went to a full homecooked diet with JD. He needed 1600 calories per day, or 8 cups of homemade food. That's a LOT of cooking, and it's not cheap. Half of the food must be the animal protein. And the dog cannot have any treats that contain any proteins other than the one in the elimination diet. So, the first question I have for you would be, how much does your dog weigh, what proteins has she never eaten before, and are you up to this?
    I'd also like to point out that as you said above, your girl is suffering. An elimination diet takes 8-12 weeks. IF her allergies are not to food but rather to environemntal/seasonal allergens, which is the most likely scenario, she's probably going to get much worse over the next three months as this is the beginning of peak allergy season in most parts of the country. And after 3 months, it's likely that you will have accomplished nothing to help your dog. 
    I would strongly suggest that rather than an elimination diet, you make an appointment with a veterinary dermatology specialist and get some real answers and some real relief for your girl. 

    • Hi Karen, thanks for your reply.  She’s 23 lbs. The past 2 years she’s eaten Acana Pork. 2 years before that Acana duck. About 6 months on Zignature Kangaroo. She ate chicken, fish and beef the first year of her life (Orijen Original formula). I don’t know if I’m up for this. Life is crazy hectic right now. But I can’t see her like this. I’m ready to go back to Acana because she does well on it. 

      There is no dermatologist/specialist in our neck of the woods. Just regular veterinarians.

      I link it to food because on the Acana Pork her skin is decent. If we add anything in, like my dad feeding her Cheerios as treats, she develops a rash, pussy sores that crust over, she itches like crazy. She picked up about 10 pieces of popcorn a couple weeks ago and her skin reacted accordingly. My father has been corrected on the Cheerios, there will be no more. 

      Her environment has not changed. The only treats she gets are fresh blueberries and scrambled eggs. No commercial treats. Her skin does not react to those two foods. 

      Her skin isn’t any better or worse at any particular time of the year. We are in Northwestern Ontario Canada. She can lay in the grass all day, be inside all day or play in the snow, nothing seems to irritate her skin like food. 

      I’m not trying to be difficult, I just see the reactions after she’s ingested certain types of food. I’ve changed her back 3 times to the Acana Pork and her skin has settled each time. 

    • The thing is, her environment changes all the time, in terms of allergens. The most common ones are pollens, dust mites, storage mites, and mold, which are in her environment (and pretty much all environments) all the time, to varying degrees. 

      It's possbile that she is among the 1-2% of dogs with food allergies. But...

      There is nothing in the Canadian Naturals pork formula that isn't in the Acana pork formula, unless it's storage mites or mold, lol. But not food ingredients.
      The Pro Plan has tons of grains & garbage. It does sound like she's at least sensitive to grains, if not actually allergic, because Cheerios are basically grain, too.
      BUT...the RC hydrolyzed protein food has nothing in it that she could be allergic to other than the brewer's rice (or floor sweepings, as I like to call it, lol).
      So I'm stumped as to what she might be allergic to if it's some kind of food ingredient. 
      How did she do on the Kangaroo formula? Or the Duck?  

      She's been exposed to chicken, turkey, duck, beef, pork, various kinds of fish, and kangaroo. Any lamb, bison, or venison? Even in a treat or chew? 

      There are a few foods I can think of to try, but honestly, if she does well with the Acana, I would really stay with that.
      Have you tried giving her fish oil or evening primrose oil supplements, for the Omega 3 fatty acids? Have you tried antihistamines?
      What treatment has the vet advised for the rashes & itching? 
      From the link I provided earlier in this discussion, here are some other things you can try for relieving the itching from allergies:

      Give Omega 3 fatty acid supplements. You want the Omega 3 fatty acids DHA & EPA, which are only found in fish. You can also give GLA in the form of evening primrose oil supplements. In both cases, use human softgel supplements. 

      If you feed dry dog food, check the Omega 6:3 ratio. You want a ratio of 5:1 or less, the lower the better, and the Omega 3 content should come from fish.

      Give antihistamines. Different antihistamines are more effective for different dogs. Typically, you want second generation antihistamines that do not cause drowsiness, like Claritin, Zyrtec, Atarax, etc. rather than Benadryl.

      Use OTC anti-itch sprays on the affected areas. These are available at most pet supply stores.

      Wipe the dog down every time he comes in from outside, paying particular attention to the feet. Brush the dog daily.

      Keep the indoor areas where the dog spends the most time as clean and dust free as possible. Wash bedding weekly, wash food & water bowls daily. Vacuum as often as possible.

      Keep dry foods in air-tight storage containers and don't buy more than you can use in a month unless you can freeze it. Discard the bags the food came in and use ziplock freezer bags. 

      If the feet are affected, you can soak them in tepid water with epsom salts. Be sure to dry thoroughly afterwards.

      Bathe the dog often, weekly if possible, with a shampoo formulated for allergic dogs. (I like Douxo Calm). Do NOT use leave-in conditioners or other grooming products. Use a cool dryer setting or air-dry. 

      As much as I hate doing it, keeping windows closed really helps with pollen allergies. Run the A/C in warm weather especially, the allergy symptoms are exacerbated by humidity. Use a furnace filter with a high allergen rating and change it monthly. 

    • Hi Karen,

      She didn’t do great on the Acana Duck or Zig kangaroo (I had to drive an hour each way to her food from the USA as it’s not available here). 

      She’s had lamb, but has not had bision or venison. 

      The Canadian Naturals has potatoes, sweet potato, chick peas (unless they’re just classified as peas), canola oil and flaxseed in it, the Acana doesn’t. 

      I have tried a colostrum supplement last year, didn’t help.

      I’ve tried probiotics, didn’t help.

      I’ve tried numerous otc sprays, creams, ointments nothing really helps other than the Theraderm I get from the vet. Colloidal Silver has helped somewhat. 

      i have not tried fish oils or omega 3’s because the two allergy tests I have for her list a fish allergy and they were present on both. 

      Thanks for the list of derm vets. Closest one to us is an 8 hour drive to Winnipeg, MB.

      My vet prescribed Apoquel and just recently Cytopoint. Not interested. I’ve done some reading on both. 

      She’s bathed in a special shampoo, Proseb I believe. It helps, but only to get the crusty stuff off. 

      I’m just going back to Acana. I’ll have her tested for DCM annually or twice a year to be safe and cross my fingers. 

      Thank you for your help. You’re always so willing to answer any questions. I appreciate it. 

    • Contrary to popular belief, the foods that are by far the most likely to provoke an allergic response are animal proteins and grains. It is very, very uncommon for any dog to have an allergy vegetables and fruits, and very very unlikely that sweet potatoes would provoke an allergic response. 
      Chickpeas are garbanzo beans, which are in the Acana food. Oils do not normally provoke any allergic response, either. Which would leave the possibility of the white potatoes or flax seed being the culprits, which is again very unlikely. 
      No, colostrum would not help. I'm wondering why you thought it would, lol. 

      Probiotics would also not help with allergic itching.

      Thermaderm is a corticosteroid cream, that's why it helps. The steroids. I don't know what OTC products you have tried, but the ones I recommend also contain corticosteroids. :)
      You know yourself that those allergy tests done by blood, saliva, and hair samples are wildly inaccurate, and that there are no reliable tests for food allergies. To show how inaccurate they are, the simple fact that the tests showed an allergy to "fish" proves that, because there is no such thing as an allergy to "fish". There could be an allergy to trout, or to salmon, or to flounder, etc, but there cannot be an allergy to "fish". Just like you can be allergy to fescue grass but not to rye grass. Allergies are very very very specific. The antibodies responsible for allergic responses react only to specific protein molecules. And oils of any kind do not provoke the same allergic responses as the substance itself, anyway. The molecules are different. That's why salmon is nutritionally categorized as a protein, but salmon oil is a fat. 
      Evening primrose oil is also an option for dogs who can't take fish oil. You might try giving a 500 mg human softgel once a day. It doesn;t work immediately. 
      I'd also talk to your vet about trying an antihistamine, preferably something other than Benadryl.
      Cytopoint is safer than Apoquel, if you do decide to go that route. 
      Is there a veterinary college near you? They often have dermatology specialists on the faculty, and they are usually less expensive than private specialists.

      Otherwise, I really think going back to the Acana is your best option.
      And you really, truly do not need to worry about DCM. There is still absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Acana or any other food has caused one single case, and the numbers of actual verified cases are teeny tiny. Like one dog in every 240,000. 




    • The thing with the DCM being related to food, ANY food, is nonsense. We have a ton of info here about that, but with the site change, it will take me a while to find the links again.
      If she does well with the Acana Pork, I'd just stay with that. 

      I have some other thoughts but it's dinner time here, back later.

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