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Walk around any supermarket or pet shop and the vast amount of pet food on offer is truly mind-boggling. There are foods for almost every species, from dog, cat and rabbit to chinchillas and gerbils. On the dog food side, there are now breed specific varieties, and you may find yourself asking - how does the food know what breed is eating it!
On a more serious note, when it comes to dogs, this article from Pets4Homes looks closely at a very popular ingredient in many dog foods, and issues it can cause - the ingredient chicken.
Take a closer look at the foods on offer and you will find many offer a grain free version - that is the food does not contain any types of grain, whether it be maize, wheat or rice. These have been found to be common allergens in dogs, especially those with sensitive stomachs.
The overarching ingredient you will find is chicken! This can be found in foods for puppies (this is very common), adults and senior dogs. The ingredient is added in varying amounts, but chicken is the top flavour available.
Look at this from the human food perspective. Meat eaters out there that eat chicken will know the largest section on the meat aisles contains chicken. The reason for this is cost. Chicken is the most readily sourced food - it is cheaper due to many factors, including the time it takes to get the animal ready for slaughter. The other meats are more expensive as the animals are bigger and take more production. So, this also answers the chicken question - it is used because it is plentiful and cost-effective.
If a dog gets an upset tummy or is vomiting a bit, often a vet will suggest chicken as a food for them. There are a number of reasons behind this:
Chicken is generally easily digested.
All these factors can help settle a gastrointestinal upset, and as the chicken is bland (vets usually suggest boiled chicken), it is normally well tolerated. Don’t forget starving a dog until they stop vomiting and giving only fluid, is sometimes not an option - puppies need regular meals.
Dogs that cannot digestively tolerate chicken can show different signs that are often mistaken for other ailments. If your dog does have an intolerance to chicken signs can include:
There are other signs, such as gurgling stomachs, not wanting to settle and even being vocal.
Is this limited to chicken or is other poultry/meat a problem? This is a common question that vets can be asked. It seems that chicken can have the effect of being a problem for the digestive system, but other poultry such as turkey seems less of an issue. Some other meats can upset the dog, these are often the rich meats (such as venison) or fatty meat (often pork). Each dog is different, and one may tolerate a meat better than the next.
Chicken is one of the common forms are raw foods, fed by owners that choose the raw lifestyle for their dog. In this form (other than food hygiene, washing hands, salmonella safety), the meat seems not to cause as many problems. The main concern vets have is the worry about chicken bones causing trauma - but that is another article in itself! So, if you do feed raw chicken to your dog, and they have digestive issues, try another raw meat type, beef etc - and see if this makes a difference.
If your dog has persistent stomach issues, the first port of call is always the vet. It may not be chicken at all and other problems need to be ruled out, these can be tests on the dog's blood or a faecal sample. Sometimes the dog will need to be x-rayed to check there is not something else going on inside.
Once all these things have been ruled out, having the vet may suggest a plan to try along the diet route.
The plan the vet may suggest is a food trial. These are normally suggested in cases of suspected allergies - where the dog is fed a novel protein - something they don’t normally eat such as venison. A trial cutting out chicken is much less common - in fact, the vet may even suggest a sensitive food for your dog, these almost always contain chicken (and rice), which could cause more problems.
If the vet does suggest a food trial, cutting out chicken should not be ruled out - trial it for around two weeks - other flavours such as beef and lamb can be tried to see if it makes a difference to your dog's health.
If you are cutting chicken from your dog’s diet - even to see if there is any improvement in bowel habits, you need to turn detective! You will find yourself checking out every food ingredient list for chicken, chicken meal, or chicken fat.
To do a proper food trial, no chicken should be present in the food, so look carefully! For example, some labels display that the food may contain poultry fat. What does this mean? Could it be chicken fat? If you are unsure, pop it back and continue to look.
Having an intolerance to chicken for dogs is not unheard of, in fact, it's probably more common than many are led to believe - it just hasn’t been looked for. If your dog has gastrointestinal problems please consult your vet first, even for their advice.
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