Beef: Not For Dinner

Once we ruled out pork, it seemed most likely that beef was Silas’s main food allergen. The food he was eating when we diagnosed the allergies contained a lot of proteins: beef, pork, lamb, herring, salmon, and bison. I’ve had some anecdotal evidence that says beef is the serious allergen out of that list, although he’s also reacted badly to salmon.

Now that his diet is a nearly-sustainable three proteins,* I thought I would do a “quick and easy” allergy trial of “the bad guy.” I figured that one meal of beef would have him throwing up, and we’d be done.

It turned out to take longer, and to be less conclusive, than I’d hoped.

After about two weeks of eating beef off and on for dinner (I kept forgetting), and four days of eating it every night, Silas has still not thrown up. (This is leading me to some interesting new theories about his stomach problems.) He is, however, starting to get some suspicious skin bumps, and he is itching and scratching a good bit. He’s made his neck quite red scratching, and he licked his legs and stomach through the entire snooze cycle of my alarm this morning. His ears are also very red-pink, instead of their usual carnation. My camera mutes a lot of red colors, but you can see the difference from here (look at the back ear, where the lamp isn’t shining through):


to here:


I am declaring the beef trial officially over. It would be more conclusive if I pushed a little further, but I’m 97% sure it’s the culprit. That’s good enough. If I let his skin get too bad in the name of science, it will take three weeks of antibiotics to get him over it. I’m giving him a Benadryl tab this morning to stave off the scratching while his skin settles down, and then we’re going back to his allergy approved diet for a few weeks.

Next up is either lamb, bison, venison, or eggs. (I can get a wide enough variety of raw rabbit, albeit expensively, to feed a complete diet, so I am saving it for my emergency novel protein, along with a few others.) Eggs are cheap and easy and would be a nice addition to his diet. They’re more of a supplement than a whole meal, though. Lamb opens up a vast array of good quality commercial foods and treats. I have an entire pantry stockpile of venison tripe that I got too skittish to feed him after he was throwing up so much in February. On the other hand, both bison and venison are extremely expensive, and lamb isn’t exactly cheap. Feel free to vote in the comments, if you want.

*”Regular” dogs without an allergy history are probably fine on fewer. Once a dog has a history of food allergies, though, they are likely to develop more reactions if you feed too narrow of a diet. My goal for Silas is four or five proteins.

Recent Developments in Kibble

I’m happy with Silas’s raw diet, but I like to keep abreast of what else is out there. I’ve been thrilled to see a few truly allergy-friendly kibbles out there.

First up, one that I think I’ve mentioned before:

Pure Vita Grain Free Turkey. Ingredients are:

Turkey, turkey meal, peas, sweet potato, pea flour, pea starch, turkey fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), alfalfa, natural turkey flavor, flax seed, sunflower oil, potassium chloride, tomato pomace, salt, dicalcium phosphate, cranberries, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, cobalt proteinate, selenium yeast), calcium carbonate, blueberries, apples, glucosamine hydrochloride, turmeric, taurine, chicory extract, lecithin, vitamins (vitamin A acetate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), L-tryptophan, choline chloride, garlic, ascorbic acid, chondroitin sulfate, yucca schidigera extract, L-carnitine, calcium iodate, rosemary extract, yeast culture (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Aspergillus niger fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtillis fermentation product.

Now, that is still a lot of ingredients, any of which could be an allergy for your dog, but it is truly single protein. No “chicken fat” way down on the list, no unnamed “natural flavors.”

PureVita also makes grain free single-protein salmon and bison flavors, and a duck and oatmeal variety.

Other exciting news (Thanks, M.C.!) is that Fromm has introduced a grain-free pork kibble. Their Pork & Peas is, as far as I know, the only single-protein pork food on the market. (Fromm also makes the only canned pork dog food that comes immediately to mind.) They’ve made a pork kibble for a while now, but the older “Pork and Applesauce” has chicken at the 14th spot on the ingredient list. (Which begs the question: why bother? It’s enough to trigger allergies, but surely not enough to add anything to the food?) Ingredients for Pork and Peas:

Pork, peas, chickpeas, pea flour, pork meal, pea protein, pork fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), whole dried eggs, pork liver, sweet potatoes, dried tomato pomace, salmon oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), cheese, coconut oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), flaxseed, carrots, apples, pineapple, mango, melon, celery, parsley, lettuce, spinach, pork cartilage, potassium chloride, salt, chicory root extract, yucca schidigera extract, sodium selenite, folic acid, taurine, Vitamins, Minerals, Probiotics.

Note that it does contain eggs and cheese, but it does come in the prettiest dog food bag I’ve ever seen:

I haven’t tried either of these, so this is not a review. I’m just happy to share that the kibble companies are finally catching up, for those times when raw isn’t an option.

Go See

One of our most important coping mechanisms is “go see.” “Go see” is so useful, and works so well, that most of Silas’s fears in the house have completely dissipated. The ones that remain are more about noise than sight.

“Go see” in action:

Five minutes ago, during the insane spin cycle of our front-loading washing machine, a plastic box fell off the top of the washer. It landed, loudly, in the recycling bin. The noise startled both of us, but it happens often enough that I knew exactly what it was.

I looked at Silas and said, brightly, “You wanna go see?” Then I stood up and started walking.

He hopped off the couch, we went to the laundry room, he sniffed of the box, and we went back to the sofa and sat down.

The end.

I love this, because it works, although it isn’t always so perfect in one shot. Also, it acknowledges Silas’s fears and gives him a tool to work through them.

Some important points: We never, ever “go see” anything that is legitimately scary. We don’t use it on dogs or environmental triggers, and I very rarely use it with people. It works excellently for harmless things that have fallen over or made other noises, and almost as well for things that are scary just because they’re new–big cardboard boxes, furniture being rearranged, my mother’s ceramic cat statue. I will sometimes move the object once we get there, but only if I’m absolutely sure that will help (like last week’s terrifying bathrobe).

The other absolutely critical thing with this cue is that seeing does not equal lingering. This is not a reality show about phobias. We go right away. This is especially important to remember if your dog is on a leash. Give them a chance to get away. In fact, turn and walk away yourself as soon as the dog has braved a good sniff. Not only does this keep the situation from escalating, if going to see did not help, it keeps it all very off-hand and casual. If you walk away and the dog still seems curious, you can always go back.

No, Thank You

Sometimes I get asked why I still take Silas to places like PetSmart. The answer is: Silas adores PetSmart. I can’t explain it, aside from the fact that we went there a good bit with him as a puppy.

More importantly, the big-box store environment gives us a lot of training tools. There are people, and those people are usually busy with things besides Silas. Sometimes there are dogs, but most of those dogs are used to the environment and good with other dogs. Because I never go when it’s crowded, it is impossible for us to get boxed into any one situation that we can’t get out of.

Tuesday outing

Yesterday we fled from the lawn maintenance people to the local store, because it was threatening to rain. While we were there, Silas had what I’m hoping is a breakthrough.

We stay in the store about five minutes. I keep a keen eye on Silas’s stress, and the second he starts to get the least bit iffy, we’re out the door. He was doing really well yesterday, and I decided to get on out while we were ahead. On our way in there had been a lot of dogs being picked up from grooming, so I didn’t want to stress him too much in advance of needing to go back through the crowd.

About halfway through the store on our way out we ran into a pair of employees, one man and one woman. I caught them before the dreaded reach and told them that Silas was shy. They knelt down to let him come over.

Silas gave them each a quick sniff, and then (brace yourselves, people, I almost cried):

He walked away.

For a long time he’s really only had two greetings in his arsenal, and neither one of them is great. His friendly greeting is too excessively sweet and pitiful (it sometimes includes peeing on the floor), and the other greeting involves barking.

Yesterday he said, “No, thank you.”


(We now have a twitter account for the blog. Look for it in the sidebar. Also, twitter “outed” me to all my real life friends, which makes me cranky.)

Love Yourself

This is the advice I give to other people with dogs like Silas:

Let it Go.

Your dog is not perfect. Your dog barks at people and other dogs in the park. Your dog is hell on a leash and tries to pull you off your feet. Your dog empties his bladder when he meets a stranger. Whatever. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is how you handle that stuff, and the most important thing you can do is to let go of your expectations.

Your dog isn’t Lassie. Your dog isn’t the one at the park that can’t tear his adoring gaze away from his person. Even if you are the best dog trainer on the planet your dog will probably never be that dog.

Let go of that dog. Do your best with the dog you have.

And while you’re at it, let go of all the stuff that dogs are “supposed” to do, and that you are “supposed” to do with them.

I have days where the thought of Silas barking at one more person at the park is just too much for me to bear. So we stay home.

I have days that I can’t stand the idea of driving across town to go to the park, since Silas is too scared to walk from home. So we stay home.

There are days when I know the park will be full of things Silas can’t handle. So we stay home.

Your anxious dog is not going to self destruct if you don’t go for a walk every day. In fact, your anxious dog will probably benefit from a break. On those days when you can’t stand watching one more bad reaction, stay home. When your last trip to the park was so inexplicably bad that you came home and cried? Give yourself a break. Trade in the walk for fetch, tug, or obedience training.


Love your dog, but also love yourself.