Are you sharing your food with your pooch?

As pet parents, we all must have melted at the soulful eyes your pooch displays while you are eating.  But table scraps can be harmful to your pooch. Here’s a checklist on what to do.

Can we feed our dogs table scraps?

Dr. Sunita Patel

“Table scraps do not constitute a balanced meal for dogs. Some dogs cannot handle the spiceseither. It’s best to give dogs food which is meant for them and not us,” told Dr Sunita Patel. “Only certain foods like rotis, rice, eggs, some vegetables, fruits like papaya, chikoos, watermelon, ripe mangoes (without kernel) and apples (without seeds),” she added.
While, Dr Manvir Singh opined, “Food should provide balanced and complete nutrition to meet dog’s nutritional requirements at that life stage. Many food items are safe and healthy like well-cooked lean meat or fresh fruits but not to forget to reduce same amount from your pooch’s diet to make it balanced.”
“Picking food from your plate and feeding it to your dog is not the healthiest way to feed your pet. While this may have been a common practice in the past, dogs today eat a properly balanced diet and adding any amounts of table scraps will upset that balance of nutrition and digestion  and can lead to problems. Bad manner or begging can be a result,” said Dr Makarand Chavan.
Which foods are harmful for pooches?
Some of the harmful foods include dark chocolates, onion, grapes & raisins, items containing caffeine, alcohol, xylitol (non-calorie sweetener), raw eggs, small size bones and fish with spines. “Some of them may be ‘toxic’ and some may be ‘dangerous’ while some may cause allergy or disturb digestion,” told Dr Manvir.
Dark chocolate: “Dark chocolate may be toxic as it is made from processed seed of theobroma cacao which contain theobromine and caffeine. If ingested in more quantity, it may lead to various complications,” said Dr Manvir.
Onion: “Onion contains thiosulphate which is toxic to dogs and cats. It may cause haemolytic anaemia in which red blood cells (RBCs) get destroyed. So, we should avoid onion containing food stuffs like pizza, tomato sauce, Chinese food, etc,” told Dr Manvir.
Grapes & raisins: Dr Manvir explained, “If grapes & raisins are eaten in large quantity, they may cause acute renal failure”.
Raw eggs: “As raw eggs contain enzyme inhibitor ‘Avidin’ which may interface with the Biotin. This can cause skin problems, if raw eggs have been fed for long,” said Dr Manvir.
Alcohol and Xytilon: Dr Manvir told, “Alcohol intoxication may commonly cause vomiting, loss of coordination and stupor as dogs are more sensitive than us. While, Xylitol a common non calorie sweetener used for various baked diet products. Ingestion in large amount may drop in blood glucose level (hypoglycaemia) which may cause nausea, disorientation seizures or it may be fatal if not treated in time.” Dr Sunita Patel added, “ Candies and gums contain sweetener Xylitol which causes liver failure in dogs.”
Small bones: “Small bones or fish with spines may pose threat to life of your pet as they may get stuck in oesophagus of your pet and lead to choking or its splinter may puncture any vital artery/vein in that area,” said Dr Manvir.
Macadamia nuts: Dr Sunita Patel explained “Macadamia nuts cause tremors and hyperthermia. Apple seeds cause cyanide poisoning.” In this, Dr Makarand added, “Macadamia nuts contain a high level of phosphorus and, along with other types of nuts, can cause bladder stones in dogs. If a dog ingests macadamia nuts, they can develop a tremor of the skeletal muscles as well as weakness or paralysis of the hind legs. All such dogs will face a hard time rising, get distressed quite often, they pant a lot and even some of them may have swollen legs which give them pain when touched or manipulated.”

Dr. Makarand Chavan

Raw meat:Raw meat and raw fish can lead to tooth fracture and food poisoning and acutegastritis. Fat trimmings and bones can splinter and get caught in or perforate a dog’s digestive system, pancreatitis and obstruction in gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and sometimes can lead to death. Even hard bones, like knuckle bones, are dangerous for a dog,” told Dr Makarand.
Mushrooms:Mushrooms are also toxic to dogs and certain types such as Amanita phalloides can even be fatal to dogs if ingested. Symptoms of mushroom toxicity include abdominal pain, drooling, liver damage, kidney damage, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma and death,” explained Dr Makarand.
Other miscellaneous items: Dr Sunita Patel told, “Garlic causes anaemia in dogs. Coffee and tea (caffeine) cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abnormal heart rhythms, seizures. Avocado can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs.” Dr Makarand added, “Tomatoes can lead to GIT irritation, ataxia and weakness and urinary calculi. Peaches and plums can cause inflammation in small intestine and abdominal obstruction. Milk can cause indigestion and lead to diarrhoea. Yeast dough can be responsible for gas accumulation (bloat) in dog’s intestine and stomach which can even cause rupture.”
What are the symptoms of these problems?
Various signs and symptoms may be shown by affected dog which are being listed below by Dr Manvir; however, this is not exhaustive list:

  • Allergy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Internal bleeding
  • Anaemia
  • Skin problems
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Renal failure
  • Nervous signs like seizures, tremors, etc
  • Cardiac signs like abnormal blood pressure, cardiac arrest.
Dr. Manvir Singh

Dr. Manvir Singh

What leads to obesity in dogs?“Obesity is because of lack of enough exercise and overfeeding – mostly table scraps, treats, imbalance in the protein-carbohydrate ratio. Obesity can lead to diabetes and its related problems, arthritis,” told Dr Sunita Patel.
“In my practice, I often encountered with obese dogs. After digging deep, I found that pet parents are feeding them table scrapes which were containing high fat and carbohydrates. Dogs were very finicky in taking pet food but they relish table foods. Pet parents were educated about balanced and complete nutrition and its affect on
health and longevity of dog. After following strict diet regime combined with exercise, obese dog returned to their shape,” told Dr Manvir.
Four basic preventive measures
According to Dr Makarand Chavan, there are four basic preventive measures.
No junk food: Never feed junk foods such as fries, potato chips, leftover pizza or candies. Only provide your dog completely balanced commercial pet food. You can consult your vet to choose correct food and feeding pattern for your pet according to his breed, weight, age and overall health.
Moderation is the key: If your dog is given healthy human food, you should carefully maintain his daily calorie requirement and reduce his own food so that he will not put on weight. Balance his diet since your dog would still need his regular food.
Watch out for toxic foodstuffs: Avoid foods that have been found to be poisonous to animals.
Emergency assistance: Be sure to call your vet immediately if you suspect your dog may have ingested something toxic.

Definite ‘NO’ items
“Chocolates are a definite NO. Raisins, grapes, onions, garlic, coffee, tea, alcohol, salt, avocado, macadamia nuts, apple seeds, candies and gums also,” explained Dr Sunita Patel

(With inputs from Dr Sunita Patel, Veterinary Surgeon, All India Animal Welfare Association and President, Pet Practitioners Association of Mumbai; Dr Manvir Singh, MVSc (IVRI) and Veterinary Nutritionist, College of Veterinary Sciences, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand and Dr Makarand Chavan, BVSc &AH, MVSc, Dogs and Cats Veterinary Clinic, Mumbai).

Do you ‘give in’ to the ‘soulful looks’?

Does your dog melt your heart for table scrap? That was the question we put to our friends in Bengaluru and here’s what they have to say.

Sangita & Snicker

Sangita & Snicker

“Snicker, my Golden Retriever, is mostly a placid happy-go-lucky guy… till his mealtimes.Then he becomes James Bond and Chulbul Pandey rolled into one. First comes the James Bond… he’ll stare up at you like he’s a spy…charmingly checking out the table, scooping out the yummies on display. Then he’ll dart look at you, like he actually doesn’t care. But when you start serving yourself, he’ll become debonair and the sexy Bond will come up. He’ll put his face on your lap and snuggle closer. He’ll stare into your eyes…or you must say, into your soul. But if you ignore that also, Chulbul Pandey will put his Dabangg paw on you. He will first paw gently, and then the claws will slowly come out and dig in. And he’ll let out a small sigh before drooling…so to answer your question – yes he does melt my heart for table scraps.”

Ashit & Fifo

“Two lives wait for me eagerly at home – Ishaan & Fifo. Ishaan is a Shih Tzu and Fifo is a Maltese. They love my wife’s cooking and love to chew her shoes too. Whenever we sit on the table to eat something, wherever they are and whatever they are busy doing, they will run to the table and start harassing us with their continuous pawing and jumping up on the table and even barking, just to let us know that the kings of the jungle are here and need to be given an offering of whatever we are eating. Their quirks amuse me day in and day out.”
–Ashit and Priyanka

Rupa & Maxim

Rupa & Maxim

“Maxim, our five-year-old Poodle, loves to follow me around, especially in the kitchen.Sometimes, I can just not ignore her pleading eyes and heartbreaking whimpers when he begs for some table scraps. Some of her favourites are bread, ice cream and cheese.”

Anant & Misty

“The most mesmerising thing about Misty is her eyes – when she sits at your feet and looks at you, no one can do anything but gaze into her most beautiful eyes. She loves eating- not what you give her but what she wants. And so many times she just ignores the food in her bowl to come and sit at your feet, while we are at the dining table, to look at me so expectantly that in spite of myself, I find me feeding her scraps off the table even though I know I am spoiling her silly. In just the four years she has been with me she has changed all my resolutions about rearing so much that I don’t know whether her behaviour is what it is because of me or mine is what it is because of her!”

Raveena & Tanny

Raveena & Tanny

“We have a Golden Retriever named Tanny. In her earlier years, she often used to wait for table scrap. So, in order to stop this habit of hers, we had tried various tricks and out of which the following three worked: i) Give her food at the same time when we eat our meal or earlier to that. ii) Strictly say NO (a couple of times), which she understands and moves away from the table. And iii) We ignore her by not looking at her and then she would simply sit closer to the table without drooling for the food.”
–Raveena Jain


Say no to rude food!

Some foods which are edible for humans can pose hazards for dogs. Some may cause only mild digestive upsets, whereas, others can cause severe illness and even death. Here are some common foods that should not be given.

  • Raw eggs and raw meat: Raw eggs contain an enzyme avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin.

    Dr Sandip Umretiya with his daughter Shree

    This can lead to skin and hair coat problems. Raw eggs and raw meat may also contain Salmonella and E. coli, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

  • Fish (raw, canned or cooked): If fed exclusively or in high amounts can result in a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency leading to loss of appetite, seizures, and in severe cases, death.
  • Bones from fish, poultry or other meat sources: Can cause obstruction or laceration of the digestive system.
  • Chocolate, coffee, tea and other caffeine: Contain caffeine, theobromine, or theophylline, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and be toxic to the heart and nervous systems.
  • Grapes, raisins and currants: Contain a toxin, which can damage the kidneys.
  • Onions and garlic: Contain sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage red blood cells and cause anaemia.
  • Mushrooms: Can contain toxins, which may affect multiple systems in the body, cause shock and result in death.
  • Yeast dough: Can expand and produce gas in the digestive system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.
  • Sugary food: Can lead to obesity, dental problems and possibly diabetes mellitus.
  • Xylitol (artificial sweetener): Can cause very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can result in vomiting, weakness and collapse. High doses can even cause liver failure.
  • Salt: If eaten in large quantities, it may lead to imbalances.
  • Marijuana and alcoholic beverages: Can cause vomiting, intoxication and may lead to coma and death.
  • Fat trimmings: Can cause pancreatitis.
  • Persimmons seeds, pits from peaches and plums: Can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis.
  • Avocado: The leaves, seeds, fruit and bark contain persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Tobacco: Contains nicotine, which affects the digestive and nervous systems and can result in rapid heart beat, collapse, coma and death.
  • Cat food: Generally too high in protein and fats.
  • Milk: Many pet parents believe that milk causes worms as well as hair loss, that’s why it should not be fed to the dog. But it’s not true. The fact is all the dogs are not able to produce an enzyme lactase in their body to digest the milk sugar lactose. So, the lactose remains undigested and tends to ferment in the intestine and cause diarrhoea. Some pets can tolerate little milk, others, none at all. If your pet enjoys and appears to tolerate milk and milk products, you can give your pet small amounts.

(Dr Sandip Umretiya, BVSc & AH, MVSc runs Pets Plus – Pet Clinic, Vadodara, Gujarat.)


Did you know?

  • Chocolate and coffee contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cocoa seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremours, seizures, kidney failure. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines. Never feed your pet chocolates.
  • Large amount of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten salty foods include vomiting, elevated body temperature, seizure, tremors and may even cause death.
  • Moldy or spoilt food or garbage can contain multiple toxins causing vomiting and diarrhoea and also affect other organs.
  • Cyanide poisoning can result from giving your dog the apple core. The pits and cores of certain fruits – plums, peaches, pears, apricots may be delicious, but hide cyanogenic glycosides. Some of the symptoms of toxicity are dilated pupils, salivation, dizziness, seizures, shock and coma.
  • Bacon is a high fat food and can cause pancreatitis. The salt content in these foods can cause stomach upset and make the dog drink lot of water and later cause bloat, which is a fatal condition.
  • Grains should not be given in large amounts or make up a large part of a dog’s diet, but rice is generally safe in small amounts
  • Raw liver or too much cooked liver can lead to vitamin A toxicity.

–Dr Jacob Mathew, Good Shepherd Veterinary Polyclinic, Secunderabad

Well-balanced diet – a must

Never give onion, garlic, candies, chocolates, grapes, alcoholic beverages, caffeine products, raw egg meal, table scrapes, sugary food, salty food, etc. Consult your vet for well-balanced nutritious diets.

–Dr Madan Dagar, Dog Pet Clinic, Alwar, Rajasthan

Food allergies in dogs

How can I look after my pet’s skin and coat?

By regularly and carefully checking your pet’s skin and coat, you will often notice changes that were not Nutritionimmediately apparent. For example, you might notice dandruff, a splinter or a mass (lump) that only recently appeared…. Similarly, your pet’s behaviour can be very significant. If he keeps scratching or licking, it is important to check the affected areas closely. Do not hesitate to contact your vet if you are unsure.

The level or care your pet’s skin needs depends on several factors, such as:

  • Species: cats are often more difficult to handle than dogs.
  • Lifestyle: does he mainly live indoors or outdoors?
  • Coat type: long or short hair? Rough or silky?
  • Skin type: oily, dry or normal?

Generally speaking:

  • Check your dog after walks for splinters or grass seeds and remove any ticks or fleas you come across.
  • Dry your dog if he is wet (with a clean bath towel), without forgetting his ears.
  • Regularly groom your pet with a suitable brush or comb. This untangles any knots that may have formed and also removes dead hair.
  • Only wash your pet with shampoos specifically designed for cats and dogs. Companion animals have more acidic skin than humans, so human shampoos may irritate your pet’s skin. If the shampoo you use was prescribed by your vet as part of your pet’s skin treatment, make sure you follow recommendations regarding contact time and frequency of application for this local treatment to be fully effective.

My vet suspects a food allergy: What does this mean?

Food allergies are caused by dietary allergens encountered during feeding. Animal proteins (beef, chicken…) are most commonly involved.

Mechanisms behind allergies

During the ‘sensitisation’ period (which may last several months, sometimes years), the animal is in contact with the allergen but does not show any symptoms. During this phase, however, he develops antibodies to the dietary allergen. In cases of allergic reactions, these antibodies recognise the allergen, leading to histamine release, which is responsible for the clinical signs.

Dietary treatment aims to eliminate all contact between your cat or dog’s body and the proteins to which he is allergic.

There are two types of hypoallergenic diets. They contain:

  • Either Selected proteins. In this case, the animal should be exclusively fed one type of protein (combined with one type of carbohydrate) that he has never been in contact with. This type of diet may be home-made. In this case, it is essential for pet parents to seek veterinary advice to ensure that the diet has the right protein, vitamin and mineral balance. This approach requires the pet parent to be highly committed to preparing meals and to have sufficient storage space available.
  • Or Hydrolysed proteins. These are proteins that have been broken down into little sections, called polypeptides or hydrolysates. These peptides are so small that they are no longer recognised as allergens by immune cells, and therefore do not trigger allergic reactions. Royal Canin Hypoallergenic diet was developed using this principle. Hypoallergenic diet is available from veterinary clinics only. Signs presented by affected animals may vary from case to case: some animals present digestive symptoms (e.g. chronic diarrhea, regular vomiting, flatulence), others will simply show skin symptoms (e.g. pruritus, regular ear infections, skin inflammation) while a proportion of affected animals will display a combination of digestive and skin symptoms. This is why this condition, which is actually fairly uncommon, often takes time and diligence to be diagnosed. Your vet may suggest an ‘exclusion diet’ to be able to accurately diagnose that your pet is allergic to a dietary protein. This involves your animal being exclusively fed a diet known to be hypoallergenic, for approximately two months. If your pet is allergic, his symptoms will improve during the test, and he will have to be fed a hypoallergenic diet for life.

Advice for pet parents

  • It is essential that you only feed your pet the prescribed diet (no table scraps or treats), or its beneficial effect will be cancelled out.
  • Tell your friends and family about your pet’s allergy and about the need to comply with the exclusion diet.
  • Ensue stringent compliance with the parasite control programme (fleas and ticks) prescribed by your vet.

Why is my pet scratching?

Animals may express itchiness by simply scratching themselves with their back feet, but also by nibbling particular body areas, rubbing or rolling on the floor.

There are many different reasons why animals scratch. The leading cause is contact with fleas: when they bite, fleas secrete irritating saliva that causes itchiness.

In animals suffering from a ‘flea bite allergy’, a few bites are enough for the animal to scratch frenetically. However, fleas cannot always be seen on the animal, since their small size (a few millimeters at most) means that they hide between hair.

How do I know if my pet has fleas?

The most common indicator of fleas is finding flea droppings (small black flecks) on the animal. Droplets of water will become reddish when mixed with these droppings.

Therefore, regular flea treatment of pets and their environment (including other animals) is advisable in all animals, and essential in all allergic pets.

Other less common causes of pruritus (itching) in cats and dogs include:

  • Other parasites (lice, harvest mites, cheyletiella…). It should be pointed out that sarcoptic mange (transmissible to humans) is very uncommon.
  • Skin infections
  • Canine atopic dermatitis
  • Dietary allergies/intolerances

The large number of reasons why pets can be itchy implies that many different treatments are possible. Your vet will carry out any additional investigations required for him to reach a diagnosis, which is essential to prescribing the right treatment.


Common food myths busted!

There is no room for improvisation in feeding your dog or cat. Pet health requires daily care with a balanced diet that provides all the essential nutrients (the elements of food that are essential for the organism to function: proteins, carbohydrates, fat, fibre, vitamins, minerals and trace elements).

Production of nutritional food is like completing a complex jigsaw puzzle with more than 50 pieces, each nutritionrepresenting an essential nutrient. Cheap food contains only about 15 nutrients. For 40 years, Royal Canin has been placing the animal at the centre of its research process. Every nutritional innovation is a real improvement for your dog or cat’s health.

Common misconceptions about digestion and nutrition

“My dog eats what I do.”

False. Dogs do not have the same eating habits as humans. Their digestive system works in a totally different way, so, unlike humans, they can digest larger quantities of fat (provided it is good quality fat!). They cannot digest starch (for example, rice) unless it is perfectly cooked. “Kibbles cause calcium stones in urine.” False. In fact, some kibbles are actually formulated to prevent the formation of calculus. Remember to leave a dish of water constantly accessible for your pet.

“My dog needs variety in its diet.”

False. Ideally, your dog should have the same food in the same dish, in the same place, at the same time every day! Dogs are perfectly happy eating the same complete, balanced food and do not get fed up! We sometimes imagine such things by putting ourselves in their place, but remember that any sudden change in their diet can cause digestive disorders….

Common misconceptions on the choice of food

“Homemade food is more balanced than kibbles.”

False. What does your dog or cat actually need in terms of nutrients? How much energy does he need every day? How much protein is in the food you give? To provide a truly balanced diet, you need to know the answers to these questions and many others! Pet food manufacturers have these answers. “Homemade food is cheaper!” False. If you want to prepare a balanced meal for your pet, you would need about fifty ingredients, making it far more expensive than top quality industrial food.

“Dry food is not enough.”
False. Kibbles are manufactured from carefully selected ingredients and developed to produce a perfectly balanced diet. “My pet might break his teeth on kibbles.” False. Dogs and cats do not chew their food; they tear or crunch it. The shape and texture of kibbles are carefully designed to suit each breed, age and morphological particularities… every difference counts!

(Royal Canin products are available exclusively in pet shops & veterinary clinics. Visit: or email at: to know more.)


Watch out for food allergies…

Almost all pet parents must have seen cases of allergies exhibited as a rash and/or scratching by the dog, without any obvious reason or change in immediate environment. Most of these cases respond poorly or temporarily to medications and warrants an investigation targeted towards identifying the causative allergen.

All dogs showing allergic symptoms should be suspected for food allergy. Although, there is no difference in nutritionthe susceptibility of food allergies in male or female dogs, some breeds such as Terriers, Dalmatians, Collies, Labradors, Dachshunds and Boxers, seem to be more prone. Food allergy can appear at any age and physiological stage but cases seems to occur more during periods of active growth, with almost 40 percent of all cases are of dogs less than one year old.

What is food allergy?

A food allergy is an abnormal immune response to an individual food or additive. Animals eat a variety of processed food proteins, fillers, and colourings, which are further processed inside their bodies. Proteins in food may be combined or changed into substances recognised by the immune system as foreign invaders to be attacked. The resulting inflammation may target the GI tract or other organ systems but, in dogs, it is the skin that most often suffers from this immunologic activity.

Symptoms of food allergy: The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those of other allergies affecting skin in dogs. The most common areas of involvement include the ears, feet, inguinal region, proximal anterior forelegs, periorbital region, and muzzle. Symptoms typically include rashes and hair loss. Ear canal diseases that manifest as severe itching and complicated by secondary infection are common and may be the only presenting complaint. All the symptoms may vary from moderate to severe. Suffering dogs show inconsistent response to antibiotics and injectible steroids. In 10-15 percent cases, digestive disturbances can also occur in combination with skin lesions.

Myths and facts about food allergy

Food allergy is not about diet change: It is often assumed that food allergy is due to diet change of some sort in recent past. However, in fact, food allergy requires time to develop and in many cases animals may become allergic to foods, they have been eating.

Food allergy can increase sensitivity: Another interesting fact about food allergy is that it can increase the sensitivity of the dog towards other types of allergies such as flea and parasitic allergy. Another aspect of food allergy is its appearance year-round as compared to other allergies (such as flea allergy dermatitis), which may be seasonal.

Food allergy is not food intolerance: Often food allergy is confused with food intolerance, which results from the inability of the pet to digest a particular food (such as lactose intolerance). Food intolerances are far more common in dogs than food allergies. Food intolerances, primarily affect digestive system without affecting skin or ear. Moreover, food intolerances do not respond at all to steroids or antibiotics.

Common food culprits

Most common allergens in dogs are meat protein, milk proteins, albumin from eggs, gluten from wheat and soybean protein, all of which are also the most common ingredients. The potential allergenicity of a food does not depend on the amount of protein or proportion of amino acids in the food; however, it mostly depends on the structure and size of the glycoprotein in the food. Beef and soybean have been reported to be the most common food allergens. Preservatives and flavorings are often confused as a source of food allergies, but studies have shown that they are not the causes, and while we may not have justifiable health concerns about preservatives, food allergies is not one of them.

Allergy woes: As allergy is just extra-responsive immune system, body of the animal may become responsive to many allergens at same time, thereby giving rise to multiple allergies. Therefore, animals having food allergy may also show signs of other allergies, and therefore, will also respond, if treated for other allergies. This makes it further difficult to conclusively diagnose the food allergy and to pinpoint the causative allergen.

Atopy, flea bite allergies, intestinal parasite hypersensitivities, sarcoptic mange, and yeast or bacterial infections can all cause similar symptoms as food allergies. Once all other causes have been ruled out or treated, then it is time to perform a specific investigation for food-allergy known as ‘hypo-allergic diet trial’ or ‘restricted antigen dietary trial’ needs to be done.

The hypo-allergenic diet trial: The basic principle of this trial is to feed a “hypo-allergenic diet” to the animal for a set period of time, which is mostly three months. Regardless of the diet used, it must be the only thing the animal eats during this period. Although some dogs having food allergy positively responds to hypo-allergenic food in two to three weeks, many of the pets may take 12 weeks to respond. 80 percent of food allergic dogs will have responded to diet trial at least partially by six weeks. The Labrador Retriever and Cocker Spaniel appear to require up to 10 weeks of trial diet before showing a response.

If the animal recovers, the animal is further ‘Provocatively challenged’ by feeding original diet again for up to two weeks to see if there is relapse of the symptoms. This is essential for confirmatory diagnosis. Food allergy is confirmed if there is recovery with the test diet and allergy with the original diet. Usually the relapse does not take more than two weeks of feeding in cases of food allergy. However, it appears that the duration between the challenge and relapse of symptoms may differ depending on the offending ingredient. The animal is then returned to an appropriate commercial hypo-allergenic food indefinitely.

In some cases, a second food trial with a different novel protein may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

Most crucial and cumbersome part of conducting this trial is to formulate a hypo-allergenic diet. The traditional method is to use a “novel” protein and carbohydrate source, which is actually something the animal has never eaten before. For many years, mutton was a preferred ingredient for formulating hypo-allergenic food across European and American continent as the dog-food available at these places is primarily beef based. However, under Indian conditions, dogs are mainly fed food based on chicken/mutton/chevon, eggs and milk as principal protein sources; therefore, using beef or some irregular vegetable protein source seems to be a feasible option for formulating such diets. Some of the commercial pet food brands are preparing such diets.

Treatment of food allergies: There is no absolute treatment for food allergies and animal has to be kept on food completely free of the identified allergen. Administration of antibiotics and steroids along with antihistamines can help in providing symptomatic relief.

(Dr Yasir Bashir, Dr Ankur Rastogi, Dr RK Sharma, Dr Pratiksha Raghuwanshi belong to FVSc & AH, SKUAST, Jammu and Dr Nazam Khan belongs to NDRI, Karnal).

I would like to know what food..

Q: I have a one-year-old GSD male. I would like to know what food should be given to him in summer and if any special care needs to be taken in the hot months. He sometimes is not very keen on eating food though otherwise his appetite is not much of a problem. I would also like to know certain tips on the overall health of this particular breed. How many times should we bathe him in summer?
– Snigdha, Pune

Dr KG Umesh: Heat and heat stress affects skin health and digestive health and in addition to heat stroke, the susceptible pets (puppies, young dogs, aged pets) are prone to develop a number of heat related diseases due to hyperthermia and reduced immune function. Dogs tend to eat less in summer but they spend more energy in an effort to lower the body temperature (e.g., panting). Therefore, a well-balanced nutritionally complete diet like Pedigree (which also contains some natural antioxidants) confers some protection against the effects of heat stress. Feed during cooler part of the day, if possible, or increase frequency of feeding. Make sure that you feed total recommended quantity of food for your pet in 2-3 meals. Remember to give them plenty of water so they don’t become dehydrated in the warm weather. Avoid exercising your pet in the midday heat. It’s extremely dangerous to leave a pet alone in a vehicle/room/outdoors in the sun – even with a window open – as an overheated car/room can have fatal consequences. Your pets can only cool down by panting, so make sure they have access to shade, proper shelter and water when outside. Dogs only need bathing when they are dirty or on the advice of your veterinarian.

Q: I have a five-month-old Labrador. His ears remain half erect most of times. It was alright till three months. Do I need to worry and is there something I need to do?
– Kunwar Partap Singh

Dr KG Umesh: If there are no signs of ear infection, this can be considered “normal” and many a time they become erect as ear cartilage becomes tough. Wait and watch is simple answer until he grows to an adult.

Q: My female Labrador has conceived for second time. The first time there were five puppies but were not healthy. Do advice how do I take care of her. Also in the life span of the dog, how many times is it okay for her to become pregnant? What should be the time difference between each pregnancy- so that the mother keeps healthy? If we do not want more puppies- when is it a good time to spay her?
– Rohit Medade

Dr KG Umesh: Lactation represents the most nutritionally demanding life stage for the female dog. During the first four weeks post whelping, she must eat enough to support both herself and her rapidly growing puppies. She may need to eat up to four times. Failure to meet these demands means that she will nurse her young at the expense for her own body reserves, with a resultant loss of weight and condition. The reproductive efficiency is generally greatest between three and five years of age. A female dog spayed before her first heat will have a near zero chance of developing mammary cancer but spaying can be done anytime now for your dog (avoid when she is in heat). Spaying removes both the uterus and both ovaries and is crucial in the prevention of many medical problems like mammary cancer and uterus infection etc.

Q: I want a house pet and am confused between a GSD and a Rottweiler. Can you advice what points should I consider before adopting either of them.
– Dr Vishal Shah, Ahmedabad

Dr KG Umesh: Why do you need a dog? Most people choose to keep a dog for companionship, but your choice may be influenced by whether you expect your dog to have a protective or working role, or if you intend to show or breed from your dog. You must consider your own environment (space, time for exercise etc) and the characteristics of your chosen breeds and try to match up the two and select the one who match your environment and preferences. For example, GSD is acclaimed for his versatility, renowned for his intelligence, and beloved for his devotion and loyalty to his owner. The Rottweiler is a large intimidating-looking dog with muscular and powerful body. They must be thoroughly socialized at an early age as most Rottweilers are inclined towards dominance/aggression and will test for position in the family pecking order.

Q: My Lhasa Apso puppy is 45 days old. We are feeding him four times with four hours gap: 6 am (milk), 11 am (Pedigree weaning or cerelac), 3pm (curd rice), 7 pm (cerelac), but the pup is still hungry and is asking for more. He urinates more than 20 – 30 times, sometimes white in colour and sometimes yellow. He does poop four times. Should we feed him more?
– Dinesh Koti

Dr KG Umesh: As the owner of a new puppy, you’ll want him to grow up fit and healthy, and reach his full genetic potential; all you have to do is provide your puppy with the correct diet right from the start. Proper nutrition allows for the puppy to reach his full genetic potential. It is difficult even for an experienced breeder to get the nutritional balance just right by preparing home made food. Overfeeding or too much of cereals may cause frequent and loose stools. Remember that puppies grow approximately 12 times faster than baby and baby foods/home prepared diets do not meet nutrient requirements of puppy. Mixing Pedigree with home food make his diet unbalanced. The best idea is to get your puppy used to eating only commercially prepared foods like Pedigree from the very start as they are designed to meet all their nutritional requirements.

Q: I have a Labrador who is four months old. My puppy’s front legs are becoming lean and chest/abdomen is growing and his weight is 18 kg now. He is currently having dog food four times a day with a four-hour gap. Is his growth normal?
– Manjith, Trivandrum

Dr KG Umesh: A nutritionally balanced diet is crucial for the healthy growth and development of a puppy in order to prepare him for an active, long and healthy life. Growing large breed puppies like yours are prone to develop skeletal problems by either overfeeding or underfeeding energy or/and calcium. It is therefore important to monitor his general condition and record his weight regularly on the puppy growth. The best idea is to get your puppy used to eating commercially prepared foods from the very start. The advantages of reputed commercially prepared foods are that they meet all a dog’s nutritional requirements and they don’t require any food supplements including calcium.

one year old cat prefers wet food..

Dr KG Umesh (MVSc, MSc (UK)) is a Postgraduate in Clinical Medicine. He is working for WALTHAM as Regional Associate for South Asia.

Q: My one year old cat prefers wet food and is not eating her dry cat food. Is it ok to feed her wet food only? We are mixing the wet food with rice and feeding her twice a day. Also can I feed her fish, chicken or mutton?
-Thelma, Kottayam

Dr KG Umesh: A typical wet food contains 70-120 Kcal per 100g, whereas a dry food contains around 350-400 kcal per 100g. Both wet and dry cat food from reputed manufacturers like Whiskas are complete and balanced food, the difference being water content. Therefore cat will drink more water while eating less dry food compared to wet food. Feeding only wet food also benefits urinary tract health in cats. Feeding one format may encourage the cat to eat the other, i.e. if cat doesn’t like dry food, you can add wet to encourage the cat to eat the dry food. A nutritionally balanced diet is crucial for the healthy growth and development of a cat in order to prepare him for an active, long, and healthy life. Cats cannot thrive on the same basic nutrients as human beings due to their different physiology and the nutrients are needed in proportionately larger quantities. Prepared pet foods from reputable pet food manufacturers come with a guarantee of nutritional adequacy, quality and safety. Our research indicated that most homemade diets/foods fed to cats in our country are inadequate. Therefore do not feed any supplements or home diet while he is feeding on commercial cat food from reputed manufacturer.


The marvels of gravy food

Unless properly formulated by a nutritionist, diets made at home are not likely to be nutritionally complete and balanced. For this purpose specially manufactured gravy foods match the feeling of home-prepared food with four potential advantages – nutritional, physiological, emotional and behavioural.

In the emerging markets where commercial petfood penetration is very low (e.g. in India), feeding nutritionhome-prepared diets is so prevalent because of a variety of factors, including: cultural attitudes, owner compliance, economics and low awareness on prepared pet foods. Pedigree

Today the domestic dog has become elevated to near family-member status. Concurrent advances in the knowledge of canine nutrient requirements (NRC, 2006) have resulted in sophisticated, balanced and nutritionally complete prepared diets for dogs. Prepared diets offer advantages in terms of convenience, cost and nutritional content, and in many countries, the majority of pets are fed these diets.

Research states

Introduction of commercial pet foods from reputed manufacturers in the 1950’s has been associated with increased health and longevity throughout the pet population (Watson, 1997). A preliminary study in India suggested that the incidence of disease was lower, and survivability of pups higher, in those dogs maintained for a year on a commercial diet compared to home-prepared diets (Abdul Rahman and Yathiraj, 2001).

None of the home-prepared diets fed to dogs in India were adequate in meeting recommended nutritional requirements and all diets were deficient in at least four essential nutrients (potassium, vitamin E, vitamin D and calcium).

Nutrient deficiency causes classic diseases that can be severely debilitating or in some cases rapidly fatal. Besides, there are questions regarding digestibility, safety and palatability of home-prepared diets. Homemade diets may also contain contaminants and food-borne microbes if the pet parent is not careful.

The customised gravy food thus ensures health and happiness by providing key nutrients which are essential for the dog’s overall well being.

Advantages of specially manufactured gravy food

  • It offers more of a feeding experience for the pet parents as they feel good about having to prepare the food for the dog.
  • It is more like real food, same mouth feel, looks like human food. It allows a greater variety of feeding behaviour, in terms of flavours, textures and formats.
  • It contains high quality proteins and dietary fibre, which aids digestion and ensures your dogs absorb all nutrients from his food. One can see the result in smaller and firmer stools.
  • It provides all the key nutrients needed to meet the daily needs of a dog with the quantity of energy required to sustain his body condition and health.
  • It offers potentially reduced risk of overfeeding as the amount of wet food looks substantial and more satiating.
  • It can be warmed up on a cold day or if the dog is ill or simply just for a change.
  • It has all advantages of dry and wet food – good oral health, palatable and water. Dogs lose water through panting and central heating may also have an impact on water loss. A healthy water intake is good for the skin, cells and urinary tract, including kidneys.
  • WCPN has showed that when water is added to dry food (amount of water added is similar to the amount of water found in home food), the risk of stone formation is reduced in small dogs, urine volume is increased and it is also good for urinary tract health.
  • It can help to keep dog hydrated, especially during the summer or in hot climates, or if the dog doesn’t drink enough water.
  • It contains comparatively reduced calorie levels and can help to maintain a normal healthy weight.
  • It may encourage the dog to eat other food as well, i.e. if the dog does not take to dry food, you can add Pedigree Gravy to encourage the dog to eat the dry dog food.
  • Gravy food may encourage the dog to eat more slowly.
  • It provides more choices for the dog – he can pick the kibbles out.
  • It is cheaper and also balanced. For example, the cost of feeding a 20 kg dog per day is Rs 70 for Pedigree Gravy and Rs 92 for home prepared diet (non-veg).

Thought for food!

When destiny portrays her darker side, she gets extremely unfair. As it happened with us, when we lost our 13-year-old Labrador named Ginger. We all curse that moment, when we bought her local chews that cost her life and left us bereaved.

Ginger was suffering from a kidney infection, and was operated on and was showing good signs of health gain. Her most recent blood report showed all positive signs. Unfortunately, her end came with a packet of chew sticks, which caused severe dysentery and her immune system and kidneys collapsed, and we were advised by doctors to put her to sleep.

We have not only lost a pet but a part of our family. I would strongly suggest all pet parents to buy only reputed brands for our precious canines…our loss is completely irreparable.

Caring for dog with food sensitivities

If your dog has an intolerance or reaction to certain food ingredients, you can work with your vet to discover what that ingredient is and then change your dog’s diet. Here’s what to know about food sensitivity.

What is food allergy?
Veterinarians estimate that food allergies cause 1% of all skin problems in dogs. Other allergic skin problems, such as allergy to flea bites, are more common. No-one knows exactly what percentage of gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting or diarrhoea, are caused by food allergies, as pet owners often change the food they feed their dog once one type of food is tolerated. Pets who have itching skin as well as gastrointestinal problems are more likely to have food allergies.
The exact way a food ingredient in the diet causes the symptoms of food allergy is also still a mystery. Animal specialists suspect that abnormal amounts or types of protein particles from food are absorbed into the bloodstream from the digestive tract. This causes antibodies and inflammatory chemicals to be released from the cells of the digestive tract and skin, a process called “Hypersensitivity.” The skin and digestive tract may then become sensitive to food which contains that particular ingredient. Sensitivity reactions such as itching of the skin, vomiting or diarrhoea, may occur within minutes to hours, or even several days later.

Which foods cause food allergy?
Any food ingredient you’ve been feeding your dog can cause hypersensitivity reactions. The protein part of the food is the most likely culprit, often in foods such as beef, eggs, wheat gluten and lamb.
Some animals develop diarrhoea when they consume milk, although this is not a true allergy; it’s described as an intolerance, as a hypersensitivity reaction is not part of the picture.

Diagnosing food allergy
Skin irritation and scratching can result from causes other than food allergy. That’s why it’s important that you carefully consider other causes, such as allergies to fleas. If your dog’s skin damage is severe and is making him irritable and miserable, your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs until the “itch-scratch” cycle ends.

The elimination diet
To get to the bottom of the problem, your vet may ask you to list all the foods in your dog’s diet, including treats, bones and table scraps. Your vet will look through this list for foods your dog hasn’t previously eaten and he or she will then prescribe a nutritionally balanced diet that probably won’t cause allergic reactions in your dog. This type of diet is called a “selected protein diet.”
Feeding your dog only the elimination diet for the prescribed time is the best diagnostic procedure to find out if your dog has a food allergy. It may take up to 6 or even 10 weeks for the itching caused by the allergy to completely disappear, so it’s important for the elimination diet to be nutritionally complete to prevent nutritional deficiencies and ill health. Your dog may be showing gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhoea, but these usually go away within a few days.

The food challenge
To find out which protein sources your dog is allergic to, your vet may recommend testing different protein sources once your dog’s clinical signs have improved. The way you do this test is to introduce suspected food items to the diet in small quantities—one new food ingredient per week. If the itching or diarrhoea your dog previously experienced comes back, you’ve likely succeeded in your sleuth work and discovered an offending food ingredient. If, however, you don’t want to try the food challenge and your dog is happy on the elimination diet, you may continue to feed him these foods – as long as they represent a complete and balanced diet.

Guidelines for care and attention

  • If your dog has been prescribed drugs, make sure you administer them exactly as prescribed.
  • Make sure your dog has access to a plentiful supply of clean, fresh water. Eliminate other fluids, such as milk, at least while your pet is on the elimination diet.
  • When feeding your dog the elimination diet, give him absolutely no other foods.
  • You may need to separate pets in the household during feeding times.
  • You may need to feed your dog the elimination diet for up to10 weeks before all the allergic signs disappear. Be patient!
  • Watch your dog closely for remission or a decrease in severity of signs during the elimination diet period and let your vet know about any improvements or reactions to specific foods.