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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have a Shih Tzu that is itchy and has developed some hives on her neck, legs and upper back. She chews on her paws and legs. Scratches her ears a lot and has a part of of her tail toward the end that is dry and sometimes flaky. No parasites or worms and other than the itching and scratching is otherwise healthy. Vet says it's allergies and says that if the foods I've tried haven't given her much relief then maybe she needs a break and needs a diet that can calm her system and asked me to consider either Science Diet Sensitive Skin & Stomach or the prescription Z/D. I know it's not the best food but I also have seen other people who's dogs did get better using it after failed trials with what are supposed to be higher quality foods.

She is a small dog and some foods are big for her little teeth. She ends up spitting them out. A lot of grain free foods have made her stool too soft or just too runny. She does best on a food with grain as far as stools go. The fiber needs to be on the lower side. Anything over 5% doesn't go well with her. 4% and under has been best. Lower/moderate protein also works best for her tummy.

Foods that we've tried are...

Nutro Ultra Small Breed
Nutro Small Bites Lamb & Rice
Fromm Salmon a la Veg
Fromm Salmon Tunalini (very soft and frequent stools)
Acana Lamb & Pear, Orijen 6 Fish- Uncontrollable stools
Solid Gold Wee Bits (probably the worse one for biting paws and itching)
Nature's Variety Instinct LID (Lamb Meal)
Merrick LID (Lamb)

I've looked at Zignature but a lot of the novel proteins have too much fiber.

So basically, I'm wondering if anyone has taken the advice of their vet even if goes against what you consider as a good quality food? I'm coming to the mindset that a food is only as good as how well a dog tolerates it and maybe her body does need a break for awhile and then we start adding things slowly to see how she reacts.
 

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I don't see what's wrong with trying the prescription food. If your dog is miserable than do what's best for the dog.

Also, you have tried an awful lot of foods. You won't know if your dog's allergies will calm down on a food until she's eaten it for a month or two. Food isn't a quick fix. It takes only a few days for a reaction to flare up, but much longer for it to settle down if food related. Keep in mind, dogs can be allergic to almost anything, so food might not even make a difference. My mom's dog has horrible allergies, grass, pollen, dust set her off. She basically lives on allergy pills otherwise she is miserable and has chunks of flakes everywhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I guess in the back of my head, I keep wondering how a food with such poor quality can actually help an ailing dog. I obviously want what's best for her. I tried several foods but the ones where she was just not able to hold her poop at times had to be stopped quickly. Nutro gave her the best stools but hasn't resolved the constant itching. She's also on Benadryl too. I also know that if it's a food intolerance, it will take time but what's happening is that within a few days, she gets worse than she started and the only new thing added was the new food.
 

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You could try the prescription diet. At this point, what do you have to lose? If it works for your dog, it works for your dog.

My one concern is that you've switched this many foods this often. Just make sure you're giving everything ample time to work itself into her system and the other foods to work their way out. Switching all foods cold turkey will usually cause a little bit of shock to the digestive tract, so just be mindful of how much pressure you're putting her system through.
 

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The worst diet you can feed your dog is one that doesn't work. Go with the z/d. At worst, you won't see any improvement and you'll know that it likely isn't an allergy (although not all intolerances are allergies). At best, her allergies will clear up and you can either keep her on it, or, with the help of your vet, start an elimination trial to try to identify what particular foods are causing the issue.

How can it help your dog? It significantly reduces the likelihood of your dog consuming the allergens that are clearly causing her issues; the proteins used in it are chemically altered so that they are still digestible and nutricious, but they are altered so that the immune system does not recognize them and therefore does not react to them. Eliminating the allergic reaction is an important first step to determining what she is actually allergic to, especially keeping in mind that dogs can have allergies to multiple things. After all of those foods, I can't help but wonder if she isn't allergic to both salmon and to lamb.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I totally agree that the worse food is the one that doesn't go well with the dog even if it has the best ingredient list. I know Shih Tzus are a bit prone to skin conditions or allergies so I started her with more of a fish diet since I got her but I've been suspecting lamb and salmon might be suspects as it's the heaviest ingredients in some of these foods that I've tried. I'll probably just listen to my vet and see how she does. If she does well, I'd be willing to try a home cooked elimination diet using the Z/D as a base to help wean her off and figure out if she does have any true allergies.
 

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Perhaps her allergies are environmental? I agree, try whatever food your vet would like, but many dogs are allergic to things in the environment. All of the food changes in the world won't change that.
 

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If you've tried others that aren't working then go ahead and get the prescription food. It may not be superior quality, but it may do wonders for you dog.

We had to buy prescription SD from our vet for Pepper when she was a puppy. It was the ONLY food she didn't get diarrhea from. Eventually we were able to wean her off the prescription food and onto a different one with similar ingredients.

If you try it and it works, your could stick with it for 6 months, then try adding some other food of your choice into her meal and see if she does okay with it. That way you could probably cut the cost a bit and still feed her something you think is better.
 

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A lot of allergies come from the binders and fillers from dry dog food/kibble. Plus, it's not a natural canine diet.

Try a Raw meat diet. Raw Chicken and Beef won't give your dog any allergies. It's the natural way to feed your dog.

A friends dog (Chihuahua) had also skin problems from kibble. I told her about the Raw meat diet and she tried it out. Her dogs skin healed and the dog looked a lot healthier.
 

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My Sassy's anal sac fluid buildups nearly stopped on a fresh food diet, not raw though. Same basic ingredients, rice and chicken, that were in the kibbles. She was allergic to fleas and I wonder if she was reacting to any grain mites/beetles in the kibble. If it only takes one flea bite to set a dog to scratching then I'm sure one grain mite or poop in a meal could do the same.

Plenty of dogs are allergic to raw beef and chicken. Oddly some dogs do well on raw but not on cooked or kibbled. It all just depends. Raw is a simple food so you are restricting the diet that way. Some dogs can eat chicken that's been fed one diet but not chicken fed a different diet. I think Patricia's dog is okay with her home raised chickens but not bought ones for instance.

Environmental allergies are far more common than food allergies though. I'd get a list and dosage info from the vet on antihistamines for dogs and try a couple out for a good 6 weeks each. If no go then I definitely would go for the prescription kibble. Try it out for another 6 weeks to see if things improve. If so then look around for a kibble with not only a novel protein but zero other ingredients that you have already tried. If fed tomato pomace or flaxseed then get a food without those. Food that suits is much better than food that irritates no matter how good it sounds on paper. Unless the skin is calmed down don't try a new food as the gut is irritated and 'leaky' so it's easy to develop a brand new allergy.

I am sold on feeding fresh food to my pets and hope I never have to feed them commercially made foods but a good kibble or canned food that suits your dog is a much better diet than a poorly planned raw or cooked diet. I had time to research, work up and prepare proper fresh food diets and space to store the stuff but many people don't have the resources I do.
 

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If you've tried others that aren't working then go ahead and get the prescription food. It may not be superior quality, but it may do wonders for you dog.

We had to buy prescription SD from our vet for Pepper when she was a puppy. It was the ONLY food she didn't get diarrhea from. Eventually we were able to wean her off the prescription food and onto a different one with similar ingredients.

If you try it and it works, your could stick with it for 6 months, then try adding some other food of your choice into her meal and see if she does okay with it. That way you could probably cut the cost a bit and still feed her something you think is better.
+1^ The ingredients in the "prescription" diets may look bad but they have saved a lot of dogs a lot of suffering. For many conditions a food that is AAFCO approved for maintenance will not work, no matter how good the ingredients, because the balance of nutrients that is suitable for the illness is not for a healthy dog.

I haven't had a lot of success with Rx diets for my dogs but I have fed cats reduced phosphorus diets for their kidney disease and I think it has extended their lives.

There is an added bonus to feeding a commercial Rx diet if that's what your vet recommends. It shows you're meeting them halfway and not substituting your own agenda for their professional expertise. If it doesn't work they're going to be sympathetic while if you go "alternative" on your own and it doesn't work they're going to be thinking "I told you so" and you will have wasted time.

If you can find a vet with a lot of experience formulating raw diets for sick dogs and you are willing to work closely with that vet to monitor results and tweak them, then go for it if that's what you want to do. But I would not take it on myself to feed a raw diet I came up with on my own to a sick dog. It's tricky enough to feed raw correctly to a healthy dog although I'm sure some will disagree and I don't wish to argue the point.

If you really want to avoid commercial Rx diets and you can bring yourself to feed cooked home made, then I would recommend working with Rebecca Romillard at petdiets.com. Dr. Romillard is one of the very few independent board certified veterinary nutritionists (DACVN) in the country (most of them work for Hills and Purina). She specializes in formulating custom diets for specific pets that replicate what works in the commercial diets, with which she is very familiar.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Since she is so young, we came up with another plan which I'm more agreeable to and will leave the RX food as a last resort. She's on Natural Balance potato and duck dry and canned. Also, keeping with the Benadryl. We are giving her a 6 month trial to see how she does. Her stools are really good and she's actually more consistent in her potty habits as far as timing which is a plus. She's not gnawing on her feet as much either. For now, I'm hoping for the best.
 

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Since she is so young, we came up with another plan which I'm more agreeable to and will leave the RX food as a last resort. She's on Natural Balance potato and duck dry and canned. Also, keeping with the Benadryl. We are giving her a 6 month trial to see how she does. Her stools are really good and she's actually more consistent in her potty habits as far as timing which is a plus. She's not gnawing on her feet as much either. For now, I'm hoping for the best.
I've had very good results with 24hour zyrtec for my dogs' environmental allergies. I have no idea what the dosage would be for a smaller dog....but you can probably get that information from the vet or even online.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The vet gave me a dosing chart for the various antihistamines that dogs can have. Zyrtec will be the next choice if the Benadryl doesn't clear her up.
 

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Have you established that the allergy is dietary? If it's environmental, no change of diet will help. If I were you I'd try the vet's advice. If it works, you need to figure out why it works . . then you can work out some diet that does the same thing. If it doesn't work, you should be able to get the vet's support in getting a better diagnosis.

I feel like a broken record, but there's a lot of hype about 'the best food'. Very little of it has a scientific foundation. Do what works. I'd recommend reading the following
http://skeptvet.com/Blog/2016/07/more-nonsense-from-holistic-vets-about-commercial-therapeutic-diets/

p.s. In case no one has mentioned it, you need to give a diet a good few weeks try before you can tell if it is helping with allergies. Swapping around every few days is expensive and it won't tell you anything.
 
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