The Pet Food Dilemma: Why do Many Pets React to Commercial Pet Foods?

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Pet food dilemma. Why many pets react to commercial foods | NutriScan


Wholesome nutrition is the key to a healthy, balanced body and a strong immune system that is able to resist disease. The body is not meant to operate efficiently on sub-optimum nutrition. It might “get by” for a while, but eventually it will begin to break down and a host of illnesses will start to develop. This is true with people as well as with our companion animals.

Food is, literally, the fuel that runs our bodies. So, then, how come our pets are suffering from food sensitivities at an alarming rate? How could it be that the very foods that are meant to provide wholesome nutrition are instead leading to chronic itching, recurrent gastrointestinal (GI) issues, yeast infections and even inconsistent or unacceptable behavior?

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One big drawback of commercial, mass-market pet foods is that they are highly processed. So, even a company that uses “premium” ingredients is still altering them beyond anything our pets’ bodies can normally identify. Processing exposes more antigenic sites on the foods’ molecules, which alter the body’s immune surveillance and recognition responses. In other words, our pets’ bodies view much of the “wholesome nutrition” we are feeding them like “foreign invaders”, setting off classical defensive immune responses. These defenses are typically manifested by a host of food sensitivity and intolerance symptoms suffered by our pets.

The main culprit

Kibble is a conglomeration of many ingredients that are ground up, mixed together and “extruded” into those dry nuggets you pour into your pet’s bowl. Since many common ingredients in kibble (i.e. proteins of relatively poor bioavailability along with glutens like wheat, barley, and rye , as well as corn and soy) may be reactive on their own — just imagine the effect when several are combined into one food! Moreover, the high temperatures used during extrusion further release the reactive molecules of the food.

Extrusion also kills valuable enzymes and probiotics, also known as “good” bacteria, that are vital to a healthy digestive tract and immune system. Remember that much of the body’s immune surveillance system is contained in the gut, so a compromised GI tract means a compromised immune system. In addition, dehydrating the kibble — whereby all the water is removed — actually concentrates the reactive molecules. Then, to top it off, the kibble may be sprayed with all sorts of chemical flavor enhancers, colors and preservatives! Is it any wonder that are pets become progressively intolerant of these foods over time?

The role of canned foods

Canned foods tend to be less reactive than kibble, if only because each can contains about 75 to 80 percent water, which both “takes up room” in the can and dilutes the antigens in the food. But, pets who eat “wet” instead of “dry” are still at increased risk of food sensitivities. Several reactive ingredients — such as beef, corn and soy — may be combined into one can. And, canned foods are highly processed.

Although chemical preservatives need not be added here, once filled, each can is sterilized at temperatures close to 250 degrees for at least sixty minutes. As discussed above, this processing increases the food’s antigenic qualities, turning it into a foreign invader in our pets’ systems.

Now that we understand why commercial pet foods can cause many food intolerances, what can we do about it? Watch for upcoming blog posts, where we will talk about minimizing your pet’s risk of food intolerances by feeding them functional foods for maximum health.



Originally posted to Dr. Jean Dodds’ Tumblr blog.

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9 thoughts on “The pet food dilemma: why do many pets react to commercial pet foods?

  1. thanks jean. i have 5 vizslas now, just switched from acana (phytoestrogens loaded) to farmina (no peas). one of my girls went into anaphylytic shock due to a bite, we are not sure what, definitely not snake. she had low pulse, gums were turning white, severe hives head to tail.
    er vet gave her benadryl, pred., and dexameth., and brought her around. but, ever since the drug power house, her coat and skin are a mess no matter what i do. worse in summer months!
    any suggestions would be appreciated?
    she is 4 years old now.
    thank you

    lynn fass

  2. We have a 1 year old portuguese water dog. He came to us from the breeder eating kibble. We did do your food sensitivity test and found out that Stanley is sensitive to lentils. We are now feeding him prepared food from The Farmers Dog. Don’t know if you are familiar with this company and I am wondering if the money we are spending ( it is quite expensive) is worth it. As a result of your testing we eliminated the beef option because it did have lentils. The food is freshly prepared, is not raw and comes to us frozen. Others have told us to feed a raw diet. Our last pwd died of Hemangiosarcoma at age 11 and we are trying our best to keep Stanley healthy. What are your thoughts?

  3. What is your opinion of Royal Canin’s Hydrolyzed Protein sold by vets only?
    My male English Cocker Spaniel was put on it when he had loose stools. After running tests my vet felt he was allergic to chicken and suggested Royal Canin.
    Thank you for your response to my question.

  4. I got it! So what is an affordable solution ? Dog and I are retired living on a military pension. I have considered home made, raw, better grades kibble,etc.



  5. Thank you for this article. I train many puppies each year and I have noticed a significant increase in the number of puppies with food sensitivity, to the point that I’ve started researching why. I look forward to your future posts on what I should be recommending to my puppy clients as far as diet goes.

  6. Please send me any articles about dog food. I do use kibble by Organix and need to know what to do. I also used canned food by Organix.
    I want to build her immune system up.

  7. Nice little article. Tried to share on Woodland’s Facebook page.
    Just takes me to your Facebook page. Worth sharing, people are still not aware
    it always just baffles me when new owners don’t know a thing about the
    horrible content of kibble.

    • Avatar

      W. Jean Dodds, DVM

      Thank you for the message, Diane. We shared on our Facebook Page and buttons at the end of the article for easy sharing.

  8. Avatar

    Gillian Fewster

    Very interesting information about canned food being slightly better as I occasionally travel and getting fresh or frozen meat is not always possible.

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