Hi all! Hoping someone out there can help me out.
My service dog has had extreme food and environmental allergies since 2017. Back then, the vet felt he could eat a non-prescription diet as long as we avoided the proteins that he was allergic to. For anyone that has done allergy tests at the vet, they’ll know a 300 for each allergen is severe. My boys tested anywhere from 300 to 2000+, mostly on the upper end of that scale. However, there were still enough types of food that he was not allergic to thankfully which meant I could just avoid what we knew he was allergic to and feed what we knew he wasn’t allergic to. I just had to carefully read labels if I gave him new treats and we kept to the same food formula.
I recently noticed changes in his symptoms to the environmental allergies during/after he was going outside, so we redid his allergy tests again since it’s been a long time. To my surprise (because I don’t see any obvious symptoms after I feed him any food/treats), we learned that he’s now allergic to so many types of food and environmental allergens that he’s practically allergic to himself! Some allergens go as high as 2800 — it’s dairy, some plant based foods/oils, and all proteins they can test for (they can’t test every type of food out there obviously), Amazingly, there are no issues with wheat, corn, etc.
Anyway, the vet initially suggested Ultamino from Royal Canin. Problem number one is that I’m bothered by the main protein is chicken by-product (aka junk) rather than chicken or chicken meal. This is a service dog that needs the best possible nutrition, and the service dog organization told us to stay away from anything listing byproducts on the label. It’s a bit shocking that a prescription diet could theoretically contain who knows what in it. I am also concerned why corn starch is listed as the first ingredient — and I see a similar trend of some weird ingredients being listed as the first ingredient when I looked at some other hydrolyzed brands like Science Diet. Doesn’t seem very nutritious to have weird things like corn starch as the first ingredient.
The second problem is the price. There’s no way I can afford these prescription options. My boy has been eating Science Diet Chicken and Barley formula for a very long time now. A 35 lbs bag is usually $55-$60 and lasts and 6-8 weeks. Ultamino, as an example, is only sold in 19 lbs for $99 each. That means I’d have to spend WAY more on Ultamino for the equivalent amount of pounds (ie, two 19 lbs bags for $200) than what I’m spending now on SD. I don’t mean to put a price on my priceless boy, but I sadly just don’t have that kind of money given my financial circumstances.
That being said, I’m looking for alternatives that may cost less and have the maximum nutrition value possible. The vet told me that any brand/formula I feel is suitable (he knows I’m knowledgeable about canine nutrition and labels) so long as it’s a hydrolyzed formula. I’d prefer a non-prescription option because I have more of a chance of being able to catch sales, apply coupon codes, and not have to constantly request refills — however, I am also open to less costly prescription options that are healthier without byproducts and weird ingredients than Ultamino. It also must be kibble to abide by rules set by the service dog school due to the way they are trained. He cannot eat wet food.
I would also like to understand why the diets I’ve looked at have weird ingredients as the first ingredient. I’m guess it has something to do with the hydrolyzing process, but why would the amount exceed the amount of protein and most of the actual food in the ingredients? It’s concerning to me, and I’d love more information about this if anyone has it.
There is an old topic that is closed to posts where a someone there recommended a specific formula from WholeHearted that is hydrolyzed and sold without a prescription. https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/forums/topic/nonprescription-hydrolyzed-protein-dog-food/
I am hoping there might be more options being that the above post is from 2018. This WholeHearted formula is a pea-based, grain-free formula that can lead to DCM in dogs. Being that my boy isn’t allergic to grains, I’d prefer a food option “with” grains that so I won’t have to start supplementing taurine and monitoring him for potential DCM issues.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and respond! I’m very passionate about my boy’s health and well-being. He’s perfectly healthy thankfully other than the allergies he developed shortly after I brought him home from service dog school at age 2.5. Any input would be deeply appreciated.
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