Meet Jenny, who heads up our Nutrition Team at Bern Pet Foods. With a background in animal behaviour and rescue, she’s turned her love for animals into a fulfilling career.
Murphy was a four year old boxer – bright and bouncy in all ways apart from an intermittent reaction to an unknown cause. Each time it would appear start with an upset stomach, followed by a low mood and other symptoms of inflammation. He was also constantly itchy all over but particularly around his chin, had loose stools and was a picky eater but this was described by many we spoke to as ‘just typical for his breed’.
After much investigating and testing for various possibilities with Murphy’s local vet he was eventually referred to the Royal Veterinary College for a specialist consultation. This resulted in a three day stay and further tests which ruled out many things, but no cause was found for the symptoms. He was released from their care as a ‘healthy’ dog with the only suggestion offered to neuter Murphy and see how he went, perhaps it was related to adrenaline surges. To an outside observer he did appear to be a bouncy, athletic dog. He had a glossy coat; high muscle tone and his energy levels would go up a gear with ‘visitors’ but as owners we felt sure something wasn’t quite right.
Murphy joined our family as an 8 week old puppy, fed as many are on the same food the breeder recommended. The main ingredients in the food were rice and chicken. Over the years we experimented with few different diets and received advice from manufacturers and his vet such as ‘stick to low fat’, ‘try a working dog food as he is a high energy breed’ and ‘if all else fails feed him home cooked chicken and white rice’. Eventually we came across allaboutdogfood.co.uk – an independent review site for dog foods. From this site we selected ORIJEN Original, a top-rated dry dog food. Although there was some improvement in Murphy’s symptoms on this food, they were never really eliminated.
IDENTIFYING THE CAUSE
It was around this time that we had a chat with the nutrition team at Bern Pet Foods, the importers and distributors of ORIJEN and ACANA in the UK & Ireland. They suggested that as his symptoms had improved with a change in diet, perhaps a full elimination diet would be helpful to further rule out ingredients that may be irritating him. They recommended the ACANA Singles range which is crafted exactly for this purpose. The recipes include only single source protein which means all the ‘meaty’ ingredients only come from one animal – with no chicken fat, fish oils or other animal ingredients. Murphy started off on the ACANA Grass-fed Lamb, cutting out all other food and treats, and after only a few days we noticed a difference. He began to be less itchy, his stools became more solid and he was asking for his dinner!
Murphy worked his way through the Singles recipes, Yorkshire Pork was a hit but he started to itch again on the Free-Run Duck. With our two ‘safe’ foods in the bank we went on to further investigate which proteins may be causing the issue by introducing small amounts as toppers one by one. Eggs or sardines were a favourite and well tolerated but we came to the conclusion that it was chicken or poultry which were causing the symptoms.
Keen to offer a rotational feeding approach to provide Murphy with variety to keep his meals interesting and also avoid intolerance to another meat protein, we were able to try other ACANA recipes. Murphy was able to happily eat recipes such as ACANA Red Meats, with lamb, pork and beef and Ranchlands recipe which also included fresh lakewater fish and raw bison, even branching out to the odd bag of ORIJEN Regional Red or Six Fish which were deemed very tasty!
Murphy did have the occasional relapse but this could always been pinpointed to a specific trigger. For example if we attended a family BBQ someone may have innocently fed him a piece of hot dog which they didn’t realise contained chicken, or we tried a new treat which did not obviously contain chicken – there are so many! We became avid label readers and friends, family and especially our vet become familiar with our chant of ‘please don’t feed him chicken!!’
WHAT WE LEARNT
From our experience as owners of a dog with a food sensitivity we learnt:
- Not all sensitivities present in the same way. An elimination diet is an easy, low risk way to test if you think your pet might have an intolerance. Ideally you would start with a unique protein for your pet. In our case, Murphy was normally fed on a chicken based food so we went with lamb for the elimination stage.
- Read the label – if you can’t tell what the specific ingredient is from the composition on the label, for example ‘meat and animal derivatives’ ‘poultry proteins’ or ‘cereals’, then it is best avoided. Find a recipe that clearly labels exactly what is in the food.
- Don’t give up! Dogs are part of our family and often as owners we are best placed to tell when something isn’t quite right
Written by Sara Boyes, Senior Marketing Manager (and Dog Lover).
If you want to have a chat with the nutrition team about your pet’s unique dietary requirements, give us a call on 01737 767679 or email CustomerCare@BernPetFoods.co.uk