Many Chronic Canine Skin & Ear Problems Require a Simple Switch in Food

by Melanie Blair, Dog Behaviorist, Trainer & Canine Care Specialist
(Uniontown, Ohio)

I just wanted to contribute that I have found in approximately 9 out of 10 cases where dogs are experiencing chronic hot spots, minor consistent ear irritation/itching/tenderness, obsessive bodily itching, flaking, rashes, chewing, etc., that a substance being ingested is to blame.

Obviously, a vet should always first be consulted to rule out anything viral, parasitic or serious before trying a process of elimination and switching of the foods and treats being consumed every day by your dog. Assuming you receive your vet's blessing, try a switch in dog food brands and/or an elimination of some or all treats and snacks.

I would first start with eliminating all snacks and treats, even the most seemingly innocent and harmless ones, and keep some kibbles of your dog's food in a small ziplock in your pocket to give him in the place of all other snacks and treats, and see if his skin/ear problems improve when ingesting nothing but his brand of dog food (give it 2-3 weeks). If not, begin the trial of switching his food brands and using only that food for treats, etc., giving each switch a full 2-3 weeks to see if there's improvement.

Be sure to make the switch overs gradual by slowly replacing each current brand's quantity with the new brand you're trying over a period of a week or so until he or she is 100% on the new brand, then begin timing it.

Many times a specific brand of dog food from the most highly reputable and costly to the least reputable and inexpensive, can have an agent or agents in it that cause an allergic reaction for one dog and be perfectly good for another dog.

There could be something in an expensive (or inexpensive) brand affecting your dog poorly that another inexpensive (or expensive) brand doesn't have in it which means switching can correct the problem. So, it doesn't mean any one given brand or type is "bad" or unhealthy ~ it means there could be something in it that's causing an allergic reaction to your
dog, like perhaps, a vitamin, nutrient, preservative or processing method that's otherwise perfectly wonderful for one dog and bad for another.

I hope this can help some doggies out there. It has certainly helped many a client of mine's dogs (including my own) who had suffered for months, even years and had even been prescribed steroids and other drugs rather than trying a simple switch in diet. This is not meant to bad-rap vets in general because even my own vet (and many other out there, I'm sure) will tell you there's something wrong with a vet who doesn't recommend food intake switches for potential allergy problems before turning to symptom suppression drugs.

Melanie Blair,
Owner, Best Friends Canine Services, LLC, Ohio

Vet Reaction to Melanie’s Dog Dietary Suggestions for Skin Problems

Hi Melanie,

Wonderful comments! I agree that in many cases changing a dog’s food is all that is necessary to eliminate (or at least improve) chronic skin problems. As you stated, what’s going on is that the dog is having an adverse (sometimes allergic) reaction to an ingredient in the first food that is not in the second food.

I do want to make a couple of additional points, however.
First, allergies to environmental triggers (e.g., pollen, mold, etc.) are more common than food allergies, and changing a pet’s food in these cases isn’t going to have any effect on his or her symptoms.

Secondly, in cases of true food allergies, oftentimes a prescription diet is required for diagnosis and treatment. Over the counter foods tend to have tiny amounts of ingredients that aren’t on the label due to cross-contamination from other foods the manufacturer produces in the same facility.

The makers of prescription diets go to great lengths to make sure this doesn’t happen, which is one of the reasons these products are more expensive. If a diet change with one or more over the counter foods is unsuccessful, it is often still worth performing a dietary trial under veterinary supervision with a prescription diet.

Thanks for your input,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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