Canine IBD and Food Allergies

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

I’ve been formulating canine diets since 1998, and my dogs, Zoey and Cassie had IBD and colitis, so it seemed natural that most  clients had dogs with the same problem. They related to my experience with GI diseases, and I could certainly relate to theirs. This still holds true, although today’s clients run the gamut from healthy dogs to ones with all types of serious diseases and conditions.


Many dogs with IBD have food allergies and most of their owners live in fear of new food allergies developing. No doubt, it can happen, but it’s not carved in stone.


It’s natural to find groups of people to talk to who have dogs that are experiencing the same disease as your dog. We take some comfort in that and can find good support from others who might have more experience. I’ve been there myself! But the risk is that we start to worry about the “what if” even when it’s not happening. Let me give you an example.


I had a client with a dog that has one of the worst cases of IBD the vet had ever seen. Typically, we use a novel protein and carbohydrate source for these dogs, and the protein portion should be lean. I chose emu (the dog owner had a friend who farmed emu, so this was a financial bonus) and potato, introduced acidophilus and supplements to balance the diet. The turn-around in this dog was remarkable. Weight gain (12 pounds) was achieved in 10 weeks, stool became normal and all seemed right except for one thing – the owner was worried sick. What if the dog’s diet needed to be changed at one point? He was out of novel protein sources and the dog could die; maybe he should look into a source for alligator in case an allergy developed down the road; what if the dog ate something on a walk, had an IBD flare-up and needed more medication which might trigger the IBD cycle again… and so on and so forth. If you’re rolling your eyes, it’s probably because you’ve never had a dog with a serious case of IBD. Those of us who’ve experienced the disease worry a lot and I never, ever make light of it. Here’s a picture of Zoey (my greatest professor, and I’ve had some amazing human ones, too!) and one of her many lessons.



Will worry change anything? No. Will the dog become allergic to the food s/he is doing well on now? Regardless of what you’ve read, it’s not a given! My Zoey tolerated nothing but turkey and acorn squash, but she tolerated it for a lifetime. Worrying (and I did) didn’t change that. On the other hand, Cassie didn’t tolerate turkey, but did well on chicken until she developed an allergy to chicken four years later. I switched her to beef and she continued to eat that (without any flare-ups and not even medication!) for six years before she died of heart disease (typical of the Cavalier breed). So, what I’m suggesting is that when your IBD dog is doing well – enjoy it! Nothing says the dog is going to become allergic to the current diet, and yes, it’s a good idea to think about what might be available to you if the need arises, but it shouldn’t become a fear that stops you in your tracks.



That said, don’t become cocky about it. Stay with what works and don’t use up those novel proteins and carbs because the day might come when you’ll need to use at least one of them. That doesn’t mean you need to hold your breath, though. Think about Zoey’s example and enjoy your dog!