Diet and Nutrition


Puppy weaning mix

The healthy mix I use to transition puppies to solid food

If you are what you eat, then be sure your dog is eating healthy so he can be healthy!

General Nutrition Articles

  • Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores? If you’d like to know the truth, which is often misconstrued by greedy companies, read this short and clear post.
  • How Much Does it Cost to Feed My Dog? You’d think it was as simple as calculating price per pound of food, but unfortunately it is vastly more complicated than that, since not all foods are created equally. Learn about the cost of the various qualities of kibble as well as a home-prepared diet.
  • Sweets, Snacks & Supplements! Oh My! Learn the basics about dog treats and supplements.

Commercial Dog Food

  • Big Players in the Pet Food Industry: Find out who they are and who makes what, where and who actually cares about your dog.
  • Commercial Dog Food: Get the scoop on sifting through all your commercial dog food options
  • The Dirty Dozen: What are the 12 requirements that a dog food manufacturer should adhere to in order to qualify as a “good” commercial dog food? Read for my explanation behind food company/brand selection (and individual formulations must also pass certain requirements as well.)

Dog Food Myths Exposed

All About Puppies

6 thoughts on “Diet and Nutrition

  1. Hi Annette, I have been following your blog since we got our Cockapoo puppy who is now 16 weeks. He has always been an itchy puppy since we first brought him home at 8 weeks, but in the last two weeks he has been VERY itchy. We have been feeding him Orijin Puppy Kibble and he seemed ok, a little scratchy, but not like he has been recently. We did open a new bag, but not sure if that would have any effect on him. Have any recommendations? My vet suggests trying hypo-allergenic food. (I think he is thinking venison prescription diet) We have expressed his glands, but the hair on his hind legs is almost gone and he now seems itchy all over.

    Would really appreciate your thoughts.


    • Hi Jen,
      Aw, your poor itchy baby!! There are a few things that you can try. One is to give your little guy a tin of sardines twice a week. Usually they love these and the fatty acids are super helpful for their skin. You can also try giving your little guy 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil each morning. This, again, has great essential fatty acids that can make a huge difference with skin itchiness and moisture levels.
      I would advise adding these two supplements to your guy’s diet for a week and see if there is any improvement before trying something new (otherwise you’ll never know what the culprit is!)
      The next step is definitely to move to a grain-free diet.
      How have his bowel movements been? Is he showing any signs of intolerance to the food? Orijen is a great food so you aren’t doing him harm starting him there.
      Does he lick and chew his paws? Do his ears smell? Does his skin or breath smell? These are all good things to take note of when trying to determine what is causing your poor baby’s itchiness!
      I would avoid prescription diets like the plague. The ingredients are generally horrible.
      I’m interested specifically in the fact that he seems to be missing hair on his hind legs specifically. Does he scratch there the most? Chew? Does the skin appear to be dry or scaling? You should definitely give him a bath in some super sensitive baby shampoo and give him a good, thorough rinse and then moisturize his skin with a safe conditioner. You can use a little coconut oil directly in your fingertips and massage it in or any other safe (edible) oil. You can also gently condition with Mane and Tail Conditioner.
      Ensure any and all baths are in cool to tepid water. NO hot water. It will make him itchier. I will send you an email too so we can talk more 🙂 Otherwise if you see this comment feel free to follow up right here in the comments section.

      • Thanks so much for the reply, Annette. I really appreciate your advice. Since I wrote last our vet gave us medicine that he said should relieve the itch and help us identify if he has a food allergy. We gave it to him for two days and then he started having diarrhea, so we stopped. No relief from the itch. He wants us to come in, I know prescription food or other meds will be suggested.

        There are a few other changes we made that will hopefully make a difference over time.

        We switched from Orjin Puppy to Orijin Six Fish kibble. Its been about a week and we see not difference so far. Have been seriously considering going raw, anything to stabilize the situation for him. Looked at Primal, WikiPeak, even FreshPet. Do you think this would make a difference?

        He mostly goes for that hind legs – biting at it and seemingly removing the hair. He seems itchy all over, and whimpers as he tries to get to spots. He has been scratching at his lower belly and around his legs and bits. No broken skin, but you can feel a roughness on the areas of his belly that he has been going at – I will definitely try the coconut oil.

        He has been going for his paws from time to time, but mostly his belly and hind legs. Ears do not smell, have been keeping them clean.

        He does have a dark discharge from his eyes, I clean once or twice a day. A little staining happening there.

        Have been avoiding too many baths as vet said it would dry out his skin more. We are using organic ultra sensitive fragrance free baby shampoo. Will definitely try cool water – we have been using warm.

        Thank you, thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time to help.
        Just want to get out little guy comfortable.


      • Hi again Jen,

        Your poor little guy! It must be miserable to be so darn itchy. He is a lucky guy to have you since you’re working so hard to resolve his itchiness. I don’t put a lot of faith in the meds and I put even less faith in their prescription foods. My guess is that this particular vet won’t have much else he can do to help you. Steroids are often prescribed and these lower the immune system and wreak havoc on your puppy’s bone growth and density as well as make your guy prone to obesity. I really recommend avoiding any kind of long-term treatment with steroids. As for antihistamines you could try out regular old benadryl and see if it makes any difference in your puppy. Benadryl will show results within two days but remember that it can also just make your puppy more prone to sleep a lot and therefore seem less itchy. It is worth a shot, though, in the course of things to try. No one wants to put their dog on meds continuously though! I’m sure there is a good solution for his itchiness. It might take a bit of time to sort out but you’ll get there.

        The discharge from his eyes also makes me suspect a food intolerance of some sort. A little tearing is normal but nothing should be dark colored like that. A bit of staining can be normal but in general eye gunk should be very minimal and sort of the same as you’d expect for a person. Same color, consistency and amount. Staining and colored eye discharge is usually related to diet. I do not have chronic tear-staining in my 8 dogs but I have had several puppies come to me with the problem as well as rescues and the right food nearly always clears them up. The exception is often pure white dogs. I have read good things about applying a little oil to the hair in the corners of the eyes (don’t get it into the eyes) to help prevent the gunk from adhering to the fur there and staining it. That would be another great use for any coconut oil you purchase.

        Generally you’ll hear lots of good stories about raw feeding resolving these kinds of itching issues. I see no reason not to give it a go. I am hesitant with raw feeding when there are small children in a household. You will have to ensure that your puppy’s beard and paws are cleaned after every feeding to prevent potential nasty bacteria from spreading throughout the house and causing the human residents to become ill. That being said many people have great success with raw diets. I recommend only feeding raw that is in bite-sized portions. This will prevent your pup from dragging the food all over the house and from really getting it all over his paws and face as he attempts to gnaw the food to bits.

        I have fed Fresh Pet with great success here. The dogs love it and it is fantastic to train with since they seem so motivated to eat it. The others you mentioned have only gotten rave reviews from people I know that have used them. It is disheartening that the Orijen fish didn’t clear up the problem but that would just make me think that the issue isn’t chicken or beef but some carbohydrate filler needed for kibble to be dry. These ingredients are totally unnatural for dogs to consume so it isn’t a crazy idea to think some might not do well on these diets. “wet” food, real food, raw food and anything fresh and non-kibble is a step up anyway so you won’t be harming anything. It can also take a couple weeks for things to really show improvement too, so don’t feel frustrated! Just keep buying small portions of food to see what might show improvement. And variety is quite good for your dog so don’t stress about switching his diet around, either. Puppies that experience a lot of variety (you know, the way nature intended) tend to have a lot less problems with sensitive tummies as adults. So don’t worry too much about switching things around on him!

        Any chance there is a floor cleaner or a fragrance you could be spraying that is making its way onto his skin? Since the itchiness is his tummy and rear end (where he has contact with the floor) is there potentially some chemical irritant that is causing an issue? I have actually known doggies where this was a problem. The owner switched to mopping with white vinegar and water for a week and the problem actually resolved. If you use fragrance/air freshener sprays remember these all wind up on the floor eventually too. Maybe try one week where you avoid harsh chemical cleaners (other than the enzymatic carpet cleaners for puppy accidents). Even “pet safe” cleaners can contain irritants. If you like to vacuum with a fragrance powder you can switch to just baking soda for a week to see if that doesn’t help.

        Also think about any grass or outside stuff he might be exposed to. Any pesticides or other nasty things out there that might be causing a problem?

        If the problem is topical irritation from some kind of chemical exposure then bathing will help (not hurt). If the problem is food then it is possible that frequent bathing may dry the skin out more but as long as you use the shampoo you have and moisturize the skin you won’t have any problems there. Bathing will very likely bring him relief so I wouldn’t avoid it. I would just be certain to moisturize the dry, rough areas (if not everything) and avoid hot water.

        Has the vet drawn any blood to check your puppy’s liver and organ function? Sometimes itching can be a symptom of a more serious problem. If you can’t get the itching resolved definitely consider bringing him to a vet and asking for a blood work up just to make sure everything looks good there. It can’t hurt (other than a bit on the pocketbook).

        Definitely avoid the top ingredients known to cause itching and irritation: wheat, corn, soy and chicken (and sometimes eggs) Of course that is practically in EVERYTHING so it really does make finding a good dog food difficult as can be. You can try eliminating one of those ingredients per week and see if anything makes a noticeable difference. You can also try putting him on a homemade diet for one week with only 2-3 ingredients to see if it makes any difference at all. Chicken and rice or turkey and rice or just about anything you can think of coupled with a good multivitamin. One week on a not perfectly balanced diet isn’t going to harm your puppy but it will tell you if the food is making a difference.

        Hope that gives you a few ideas to start with and keep me posted! Definitely respond because I will be thinking about your little guy. Unfortunately many skin and allergy conditions are genetic and cockers can certainly be susceptible (particularly poorly bred cockers). It is one of those things breeders have to be really wary of (and even with careful practices these issues can crop up). The good news is that most of the time issues can be controlled and many times puppies can grow right out of allergies and intolerances. So we’ll cross our fingers that with all your care your little one will grow right out if these issues by a year of age. I’m glad he doesn’t seem to have any problems with digestive upset. That is a small win!

  2. Jen,

    You’ve probably already seen this post but in case you haven’t I do have a list of limited ingredient “wet” foods that do not contain wheat, corn or chicken and all are extremely high quality foods. In case you haven’t seen the list it is under “Best Food for Sensitive Puppies” and all the foods are acceptable for puppies and/or “all life stages” for dogs.

  3. Just a quick update that my puppy is doing SO much better thanks to your advise. The multi-pronged approach was definitely the way to go. We changed his food from kibble to Fresh Pet vitals. We mix it up between the fish, turkey and Beef/Bison. We do add the fish oil to his food and use a tea trea shampoo. He is still itchy from time-to-time, but he is growing SOOO fast, this must contribute to the situation some how. His skin and coat look amazing. Mostly, he is such a joy to our lives – a sweet, playful and extremely smart puppy. We love him bunches. Thank you ever so much for the advice and follow-up. It really makes a difference! All the best with you and your sweet new baby.

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