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How to feed a picky eater an elimination diet?

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Sorry I haven't participated more here, yet -- I've just been enjoying our new dog!


Bennie started shaking his head a lot, so we took him to the vet and she diagnosed a yeast infection in one ear, and prescribed Tresaderm.


At the same time, she casually indicated that he "probably" has a food allergy. He is a little itchy in specific spots (belly, base of tail, feet).


I'm bummed out, because he is our 3rd dog to supposedly have food allergies. I hear that they're not that common, but all my dogs have them? I had really hoped to have an easy-to-feed dog, this time.


IF I buy it -- and want to try to do a real elimination diet (though we're horribly NOT strict about food, so I don't know how well we'll do) -- how do you handle this when he has ALSO, recently, become a "picky" eater?


The shelter sent him home with Science Diet. I knew I didn't want him to eat that long-term, so I almost immediately switched him to Taste of the Wild (venison/buffalo?) and he liked it - ate plain kibble willingly. He started to indicate that he wasn't so crazy about it a few months later, right around the time SOME TOTW got recalled (not his). So I switched him to Evo Red Meat kibble, which he'd had a sample of and seemed ravenous for. Of course, after I bought a full bag, he seemed to not like it. So we tried Blue Buffalo grain-free chicken, which he kind of liked (but wasn't crazy for) and that's right when the vet said "No beef, no chicken, no grain." It was an offhand prescription -- just a "if he's got an allergy, which he might, that's what you want to do."


So I bought him Nature's Variety grain-free venison kibble, and he won't eat it without it being drenched in cottage cheese and even then barely touches it.


I cannot go raw -- we need the convenience of a good kibble, I think. But I'm really wondering how I can do a single novel protein/no grain diet if I can't find something that he likes!


Thanks for any tips...


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I am sure you will get several great ideas from other people, but I can share my experience with you (although I warn you, how I solved it does not fit what you want).


When I first got my girl, she was 5 1/2 months old and had a big problem with pooping in her crate. After I had her for 2 weeks, she started having massive diarrhea that, with probiotics or metronidazole, would mostly resolve but come right back. It took almost 4 months to diagnose the problem and during that time, I was told to do an elimination trial. Crystal was always picky - she would eat the first couple of meals from a bag and seem to like it, but then would decide she did not. I could leave food with her for hours and she would eat a mouthful or two (which her version of a mouthful is about 5 kibble) and then lie down. When I tried the whole, you only have a certain amount of time to eat this before I take it away, she could have cared less. I really could not find something she would eat and we bought a lot of small bags of food then (our local rescue was happy to use what she would not eat).


Even after we figured out what the problem was and her diet was not restricted, she would not eat anything very well. She had lost a lot of weight during her illness and I could not keep what weight she did have on her at all. We were pretty much changing foods every 3 days to get her to eat some.


Crystal's solution was this. I caved and tried a commercial raw diet. I do not have the freezer space or time to put together a home made raw diet for one dog the way it should have been so I tried Primal frozen raw diets that you pretty much set out a portion to thaw and put it in the dish the next day. I chose Primal because we still have not tried chicken back in her diet, and Primal is one meat protein (unless you choose Turkey and Sardine), but there is no other meat protein that it is not labeled to have so you can do a single source protein diet. I started with venison and my dog demolished it.


Primal is very expensive for me, so I actually use it for her morning meal and give Evanger's Whitefish and Sweet Potato kibble in the evening (The food was recomended by a local pet supply store as one of the more palatable foods she had seen.) and since putting raw into her diet she will devour the kibble too. Now, we have weight gain, sustained interest in food, and she is (for the first time ever) a partially food motivated dog. You tell her to kennel up and have her raw in hand, she hits the kennel hard enough to slide it on the rug. The raw is gone in under 3 minutes. Kibble is still enthusiastic but it does take her about 5 to 10 minutes to eat that - and you can break her concentration if it is kibble. If she is eating raw, a herd of sheep could storm past and I am pretty sure she would not bother looking up.


As I said, my solution is what you do not want to do. But I tried adding cottage cheese, rice, cooked meats (chicken, beef, venison, turkey), canned food and anything else remotely interesting as a topper and all it did was make it so that I had wasted the kibble in the bowl. I tried canned food and that was snubbed - although they do make single protein canned diets you might try. I tried time limiting food but all that did for me was 3 days without eating what so ever and more weight loss. I tried hand feeding, but it was ignored and plates were turned over (granted so were bowls) so it required clean up. I had it between trying a dehydrated diet (like Grandma Lucy's or Honest Kitchen) but did not have it available locally so I tried raw instead. If it had not worked, I was going to order Honest Kitchen's fish formula to try next. For Crystal and I, raw was the solution. I know it is not the solution for everyone and I was trying not to do it, but I caved and now I couldn't imagine raw not being a part of her diet. I just brought in another dog and put him on the same things as Crystal and he is loving it and looking good.


I wish you luck and hope that you can find a solution that works for both you and the dog.

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Thanks for the response. I actually have thought about the COMMERCIAL raw diets -- I'm lucky to have a store or two in my area with freezers that sell the stuff.


I guess one concern I have about it is -- what do you do if you travel? I've been trying to stick with kibble IN PART because I know he can have his food no matter where we go.

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As of yet, the travel question has not come up for me and mine. However, it is something I am now thinking about as we will be doing some travel and trialing late this summer and fall. For mine, since introducing raw, Crystal's appetite is sky high and she will now eat kibble too. This evening was a perfect example since I prep'ed thier kibble (Evanger's Whitefish and Sweet Potato with some cottage cheese on top) but decided to take them outside first. She kept running into her crate or looking back at me expecting to be fed and, when coming back in, was incredibly energetic and ready for dinner. This is a complete opposite from what she once was.


Because she will now eat the kibble, I actually can travel with kibble and offer raw at home. However, there are a few other options out there for those picky eaters that I plan to bring a bit along just in case she decides kibble is not so delicious. Primal and a few other companies make a freeze dried raw diet that I have used pieces of as treats. This is one option. Another is a dehydrated raw diet that you add water to and let set to rehydrate. I have used Grandma Lucy's - which I personally did not like because it looked like gray mush and seemed to have a lot of potato starch to it - and Sojo's - which I and my dog loved. I will probably try Grandma Lucy's or Only Natural Pet's dehydrated raw if I try another.


Both freeze dried and dehydrated are viable options for dogs that do not like kibble and you can transport them unlike a frozen raw diet.

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