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Food Intolerances and our Furry Friends

Dr Maree Brinkman

 

As empty nesters and having waited a respectful 3 years since the passing of our first fur baby, Rocket the Bichon Frise (6 weeks short of his 18th birthday), my husband and I got our new addition the family – Basil the Bichon a couple of months ago.

Initially, it felt like how I would imagine new grandparents feel where they remember having their children, but they are a little foggy on the finer details of the early days e.g. the sleepless nights, toilet training etc. To help us through this transition period/walk down memory lane, we engaged the services of a lovely young dog trainer.

The first training session seemed to go particularly well. Basil really liked the young trainer and especially the bits of cooked chicken that rewarded his good behaviour. However, later that night and the following day Basil showed signs of gastro problems and was vomiting and listless. This brought back memories of Rocket who as a young pup had been diagnosed with pancreatitis. Rocket had followed a very low-fat diet for most of his nearly 18 years and so we took Basil to the vet to check that history was not repeating itself. Blood tests, a physical exam, an x-ray and several hundreds of dollars later revealed no major medical/health problem with Basil and so we all just put it down to something that he maybe “woofed” up during one of his walks to the park.

We put off the second session with the trainer to allow Basil’s system to recover and a few weeks later got her back. Basil’s post training response was similar to his first, and it was only after another expensive and inconclusive trip to the vet that we drew the connection between his intake of chicken and gastro-intestinal problems.

It has been several months now, and Basil has been thriving on a chicken free diet. Basil is still disobedient and wilful but very cute and I attribute the renewed spring in his step to his diet of raw vegetables and lean cooked beef and kangaroo.

As a dietitian I spend a significant portion of my working week trying to identify potential dietary irritants from the long lists of ingredients, such as, gluten, fodmaps, preservatives, colours, fillers etc. in the processed foods that some of my patients with food intolerances usually eat. I now have the added challenge of navigating my way around the ingredient lists of commercially prepared pet foods. If you are ever interested in checking this out, nearly all commercial pet foods even when advertised as lamb, beef meals etc. nearly always have chicken/poultry added somewhere in the mix.

I am a strong advocate both personally and professionally of following a diet that is varied and mainly composed of fresh and seasonal foods with very limited processed foods and always checking food labels. I can now see that this diet plan may even be beneficial to our lovely little furry friends.

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