• Nichole Burik
  • Dog Nutrition & Real Member Service Specialist

  • 2 minutes read time
  • Understanding Food Intolerances

    Let’s face it - you panic when you notice your pet scratching. Your initial thought is “that has to be fleas.” You go through all of the steps of preventing and killing the fleas, but there is still scratching. One thing that is starting to stand out to you is… you can’t find any fleas. From that point, you might determine your pup is bored, anxious or maybe even allergic to something outside such as grass. The scratching goes from the body to in the ears and in between the paws. Now what? It gets so bad that you rush to your local veterinarian and they recommend a “Hypoallergenic Prescription Food” and sends you home with Apoquel and an antibiotic for the ear and paw inflammation. You are desperate - you try it for weeks, months, you have found yourself doing this for years but the scratching has not disappeared. You have accepted that your pet just needs this Prescription Food, Apoquel and antibiotics because he is sensitive to everything. But have you considered this could be a food intolerance?

    I am here to tell you that with proper food and natural remedies, your pet can be cured from this constant scratching. Food intolerances are overlooked and “misdiagnosed” by veterinarians every day. Did you know that most veterinarians have very limited training in nutrition? If and when they receive any information at all about food, it is sponsored by Hill’s and other food company representatives. Dogs and cats suffer internally and externally every day when they are misdiagnosed. So let’s learn more about what causes food intolerance, and how to treat and prevent them.

    Allergy vs Intolerance - What's the Difference?

    A food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects multiple organs in the body. In contrast, food intolerances are generally not as serious and mostly take place in the digestive tract. If your pup has a food intolerance, you may notice that they are able to eat small amounts of the food without having an immediate reaction. You may also be able to prevent a reaction. Food intolerances are far more common than food allergies and can result in a reaction that takes place over a longer period of time.

    It does not matter what kibble you were feeding before this prescription food, as majority of kibble out there can cause allergies. Why? The short version is, kibble is extruded at extremely high temperatures causing it to be “dead.” Most kibble is made up of 60% carbohydrates, little to no moisture and very low quality meat. Even the higher quality kibbles on the market become “dead” after the extruding process - ultimately making kibble completely unbeneficial.


    Inflammation is the body’s immune response against foreign substances, injuries or infection. For dogs, cats and humans, anything that creates inflammation increases the risk for serious diseases, including cancer. Recent research shows that inflammation is a critical component of tumor progression.

    So, what causes inflammation? When dogs eat starchy foods, such as kibble, here’s a simple breakdown of what happens:

    • The starch in the kibble rapidly converts to glucose.
    • The glucose causes rapid rises in blood sugar.
    • The blood sugar promotes formation of proteins or lipids called “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs).
    • The combination of AGEs and sugar are pro-inflammatory.

    Considering the average pet parent feeds kibble, every dog is at risk of inflammation due to starches consistently being broken down into sugar. All kibble contains some sort of starch as it's not possible to create kibble without it. Starchy carbohydrates are pro-inflammatory and cancer cells need glucose in carbohydrates to grow. However, if you limit that source then you will not be contributing to cancer growth.

    We recommend feeding a species-appropriate diet. This means switching from the unhealthy, processed kibble that your vet recommended to real, wholesome food. The truth is, many ingredients found in prescription dog food include corn, gluten, powdered cellulose, soy, brewers rice, animal fat, and unfortunately the inferior ingredients do not stop there. These types of ingredients are known to be inflammatory and not easily digested.

    In order to prevent inflammation, it is as simple as feeding a species-appropriate diet to maintain healthy cells and repair unhealthy cells.

    Here is an ideal, species-appropriate cancer-fighting diet:

    • High quality protein including muscle meat, organ and bone
    • High levels of Omega 3 fatty acids
    • High moisture content
    • And a few beneficial additions to meals such as:
    • Probiotics and digestive enzymes
    • A small amount of fresh veggies

    Benefits of Fresh Food

    The reason feeding your pup an unprocessed, fresh diet will start helping immediately with food intolerance is because raw food is in its natural state. When food is in its natural state, dogs do not have to work extra hard to process what they are eating. Imagine your pup breaking down kibble and searching for the nutrients and putting them to use. Now imagine your pup breaking down wholesome, unprocessed real food - easy! Raw food is easy to absorb, utilize and will keep the immune system strong while fighting off any allergens and inflammation that may occur.

    Keep in mind there is a detox process, so the suggested recommendation on trying this new fresh food diet is at least 30 to 90 days. That being said, your dog’s body will start to flush out all of the bad toxins from the inferior kibble and begin to adapt to the new fresh food. You will notice the scratching starting to eliminate, their coat gets fuller and shinier, their teeth become whiter, their breath smells better, and their energy has increased. When animals don’t have to work so hard to process all of the nasty ingredients found in kibble, their body internally and externally thrives.

    Cooked vs Raw Food - What to Feed?

    There is definitely no “one size fits all” when it comes to pet health. Every dog is different and has different nutritional needs! I used to believe that by cooking food for dogs, you kill all of the essential nutrients - however I have realized that even some cooked foods can provide certain nutrients that raw food cannot. Susan Thixton states “the nutrient content of foods does change when cooked – BUT, it depends on the food and the specific nutrient as to what that change is. Sometimes cooking increases a nutrient, sometimes it decreases.”

    When choosing which way to feed, raw vs cooked, it definitely depends on your pup’s needs. Feeding raw food is ideal as it is what our carnivore furry friends would eat in their natural habitat (the wild) but it is important to understand that raw food does not suit all dogs. Ideally, food with no processing is best, especially when dealing with food intolerances. That being said, there are some pups that have sensitive stomachs due to food intolerances and cannot handle raw food but can handle gently cooked food as it’s easier for them to digest.

    If your pup suffers from food intolerances and is having a hard time with raw food, gently cooking food is your next best option - kibble is never an option with food intolerances! Feeding high quality raw or cooked meat and ingredients while ensuring the meals are complete and balanced can help your pup fight off food intolerances. 

    Check out this quick, easy and balanced meal you can make for your dog which you can serve raw or gently cooked

    Natural Supplements

    In addition to a species-appropriate diet helping allergies, there are hundreds of natural remedies to help boost the immune system - some including raw goat’s milk, kefir, bone broth, and medicinal mushrooms. You can also make these remedies apart of your every day feeding regime to keep your pet less susceptible to developing allergies. Read more about supplements here.

    Still got an itch?

    Environmental allergies are not out of the question, especially during certain times of the year. If you're feeding a fresh food diet and you suspect your pup is simply suffering from itchy flea or mosquito bites, you don't have to poison them with over the counter meds. Instead, try a simple DIY spray to relieve your dog's itch