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Published February 17, 2012, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Nutrition important in allergies

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a Jack Russell terrier who has had severe allergies all his life, or so I thought.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a Jack Russell terrier who has had severe allergies all his life, or so I thought.

Chester had a bad rash when he was about 2 years old. I took him to Banfield Veterinary Clinic, and I admit I do not like all of the drugs and shots they gave him. Ten years later, I’ve decided that Chester had developed a flea allergy. Banfield put Chester on a specialty diet and said he can never come off it or eat any other foods.

He always loved my home-cooked foods mixed with his dog food before the strict diet was imposed. He went nuts for your chicken and rice formula, but for the past decade he has not had it.

Can you explain what no other vet has been able to and tell me why he can’t have treats such as your formula?

Chester doesn’t have the appetite he usually has, and I would like to offer more of a selection – at least something mixed with his regular food (Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Canine ULTRA Allergen-Free). – M.C., Chesapeake, Va.

Dear M.C.: I do not like questioning the decisions of other veterinarians who have actually seen the animals, while I must rely only on what the owners have written. That said, I have learned much from readers over the past several decades writing this column. As I emphasize in my new book, “Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health” (CreateSpace), some veterinarians are only too eager to sell manufactured pet foods and special therapeutic or prescription diets to pet owners. These foods are usually made by the same manufacturers, using ingredients that can cause other health problems – and they are expensive, therefore highly profitable, and often unpalatable for many animals.

I would advise you to read the basic ingredients in the prescription diet you have been feeding your dog. Over a seven- to 10-day period, transition to a home-prepared diet that is based on the same primary animal protein – either lamb, fish or turkey – and brown rice. Add the other basic ingredients as detailed in my recipe. Another source for free recipes is www.dogcathomeprepareddiet.com, which was created by Dr. D.K. Strombeck. I also advise giving animals some probiotics with their food when they are being transitioned to a new diet to help with the digestive and adaptive processes.

Let me know how things turn out. You were probably right that your dog simply had a fleabite allergy, which good nutrition, including fish oil and brewer’s yeast, can help prevent.

Dear Dr. Fox: I am in love with the domesticated foxes from Russia I read about in a National Geographic magazine article “Designing the Perfect Pet.” I have a friend who works in Russia, and he would be willing to look into buying one for me. There is no problem about importation if the animal is vaccinated, I am told.

Do you see any difficulties with my dearest wish? – F.M., Washington, D.C.

Dear F.M.: I have read this article from the March 2011 National Geographic magazine. The tame foxes, from the Novosibirsk, Russia, Institute of Cytology and Genetics, are being sold to fund the genetic research. The foxes are all neutered to prevent competitive breeding. The suppliers keep some 3,000 foxes in small cages and have bred an estimated 50,000 foxes over the years trying to develop a truly domesticated prototype.

These numbers and the evidently poor conditions under which these animals are kept – documented in Dr. Ceiridwen Terrill’s book “Part Wild” (Scribners) – lead me to question the ethics of continuing these studies. I advise you not to purchase any of these genetically tame foxes until significant improvements in their care are made.

I published the lab’s earlier findings in 1975 in “The Wild Canids” (Dogwise), and, while the research is of scientific merit, animal care standards of excellence must come first. There are often foxy-looking dogs up for adoption in shelters and online that you might wish to consider. After all, dogs and foxes are distant cousins.

More dog food recalls

Advanced Animal Nutrition has announced a voluntary recall of its dry Dog Power dog food due to aflatoxin levels that were detected above the acceptable limit. The affected products were manufactured between Jan. 4, 2011, and Nov. 18, 2011. Affected products are Dog Power Adult Maintenance Formula 21-12, Dog Power Hunters Formula 27-14 and Dog Power Hi-Pro Performance Formula 26-18, all in 50- pound bag.

The recall applies only to the above products with the Packaging Date Codes (lot numbers) K0004 through K1322. The affected dry dog foods were distributed in Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. Retailers have already been instructed to remove the affected brands and products from store shelves.

O’Neal’s Feeders Supply Inc. of DeRidder, La., has recalled dry Arrow Brand dog food manufactured between Dec. 1, 2010, and Dec. 1, 2011, because it contains corn detected to have higher than acceptable levels of aflatoxin. O’Neal’s said the recall applies only to dog food distributed in Louisiana and Texas, with Packaging Date Codes (lot numbers) 4K0341 through 4K0365 and 04K1001 through 4K1325.

Petrus Feed and Seed Stores Inc., in an updated alert, has recalled its dry dog food – 21 percent Protein dog food in 40-pound Petrus Feed bags – because the product was manufactured with corn that tested above acceptable levels for aflatoxin. Cargill manufactured the affected products in LeCompte, La., between Dec. 1, 2010, and Dec. 1, 2011. The recall is for the Packaging Date Codes (lot numbers) 4K1011 through 4K1335. The affected dry dog food was distributed in Petrus Feed and Seed in Alexandria, La.

For details about the connection between aflatoxin and genetically engineered corn, visit www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.