Grain Free Diets: The Way to Happiness for Dogs with Allergies

by Katherine on April 7, 2012

scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch-scratchscratch-scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch. SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH.

This used to the be sound that you could hear all over my apartment, coming from, you guessed it, Arie.  Certain dog breeds are prone to allergies, including German Shepherd Dogs, and dogs with lighter coat coloration seem to be more susceptible to allergies as well, giving Arie a double dose of bad news when it comes to allergic reactions. Arie was scratching her skin constantly, and rubbing her face into the carpet, leaving the sides of her mouth red and irritated; even the skin under her fur started to darken in color from irritation.


You can see that slight redness down by Arie’s nose on her muzzle. It’s no fun to see your dog with her sad puppy face scrubbing her nose into the ground for relief from allergies.

When I went to the vet, I expected to hear that Arie’s allergies were from the environment around her, like a persons’ allergies to dust, grass, etc. Instead, I found out that her reactions could be due to a protein in her food.

“Food allergies are the over-response of your dog’s immune system to an invading protein. In the case of a food allergy, this protein is contained in your dog’s food. Proteins are present in most of the foods your dog eats. While most people recognize that meats are a source of proteins, there are also proteins present in grains and vegetables. Any one of these proteins has the potential to cause a food allergy.” – Modern Dog Magazine, “Food Allergies 101″.

In my research, I found that it’s not exactly uncommon for dogs to have a bad reaction to proteins in chicken, which was the main source of protein in Arie’s food. To help with this issue, I switched Arie to Nutro Natural Choice, a premium dog food made 100% in the US (very important to me considering all of the pet food and snack dangers that seem to be stemming from products made in China right now) that has a wide range of products with various protein sources. We started her out on the Nutro Natural Choice Venison and Brown Rice formula.

For a while, and I mean about a year, she was doing much better, but then her symptoms started to come back. After discussing the issue with 1) my vet, and 2) professionals Edna and Renee from Nutro, who can tweet with at @reneeatnutro and @ednaatnutro, I decided to switch out Arie’s food with one of the new grain free formulas from Nutro, as grains are a very common cause of allergies in dogs.

Nutro Natural Choice Grain Free Lamb and Potato Formula

Life saver. For real.

Now, Arie is eating the Grain Free Lamb and Potato formula or the Grain Free Venison and Potato formula. We vary the two throughout the year (mixing the bags, of course) so that her body doesn’t start to develop a resistance to either venison or lamb. The scratching is gone and she no longer tries to rub her face into the carpet. We’ve also introduced salmon treats from Blue Buffalo and from Zeke’s, as fish and the healthy fats found in fish can be great for dogs with allergies. All of these changes and now paying more attention to Arie’s diet has helped me to make Arie’s life more enjoyable and itch-free.

happy white german shepherd and her kibble

That’s one happy and satisfied customer.

Just as an FYI for this post, Nutro does not pay me in free product or monetarily to tell you how awesome their food has been. I do that all on my own.

Do your pets have allergies? How do you cope with them? Have you tried a Grain Free diet? Weigh in with your thoughts!

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela April 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm

We know all about grain intolerance! Dexter is allergic to many things- corn being a BIG one which is a really common allergy. Dexter is also not only allergic to quite a few things but intolerant to all grains. We feed Dexter a grain free diet. We used to feed him 100% raw but he seems to like his grain free kibble better so we feed him mostly that now. We feed him NOW! Grain-Free Large Breed formula. It is recently renamed NOW! Fresh. We also aren’t paid by NOW (Petcurean) but when you find something that work after so much time and issues we like to let people know. We live in Canada and appreciate that it is made here. We have tried other grain free kibbles like Taste of the Wild and I just want to say that although grain free kibble is better kibble than most you still need to read the ingredient list. Dexter was allergic to something in the Taste of the Wild which resulted in a hot spot. I make most of his treats with potato flour but there are quite a few grain free treats starting to appear in the market now. Thank goodness, sometimes I’d like to bake for ME!


Katherine Katherine April 8, 2012 at 8:46 am

I’m starting to make Arie’s treats and my baking with potato flour and tapioca flour to avoid the grains for Arie as well. It never hurts to brag on your food, especially if it’s working well for your pup, hence my shameless plug of Nutro in my post.


Joyce Hansen April 7, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Boy can I relate. Sheba came to us as a rescue dog. Quickly we discovered her main interest was in scratching, and rubbing herself. Thinking it was fleas, we were constantly trying different flea medications. Even my vet didn’t have a clue. Finally, we figured out it was allergies and changed her diet to everything natural. Now, she’s one big, happy dog. Well, worth the extra price.


Katherine Katherine April 8, 2012 at 8:48 am

When I told my dad how much I pay for dog food, he almost had a heart attack—Nutro is an average price for a good dog kibble, but my dad is used to more Purina prices. When I told him how much it was saving me in vet bills now AND later, however, and how much healthier he was, he and mom switched their dogs to Nutrish–A natural food by Rachel Ray. Every little step counts!


Renee Mahoney April 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Wow, Katherine, it is wonderful to see Arie looking & feeling so good. Thank you so much for your kind words about Nutro and sharing Arie’s story. It is always so touching to see how our products make such a difference in the lives of pets and their parents. Thank you for giving us the chance to make a difference in your lives ~ from your friends at Nutro.


Katherine Katherine April 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Thanks Renee, always a pleasure!


Randy April 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

My dog, Shady, had some serious allergies as well. I was feeding him a highly recommended food source but it was not helping. Nothing was. His skin was literally turning black he was scratching a chewing so much. I felt bad because his life was becoming consumed with trying to satisfy to itch that would just never go away. I did switch to Nutro for sensitive skin which worked at first. Shady’s skin started healing and turning back to his normally color but after about 3 or 4 months he started going south again and his skin started turning black again. I was very discouraged because I thought I finally found something that worked for him. Then I talked to a Nutro rep that was at my local pet supply store and she had told me all about their grain free products. I switched and after a few months Shady started to really improve tremendously. He now has vibrant skin and never really has a itch to chew anymore. I can’t even get his back legs to kick anymore by scratching his hind legs. The transformation was simply amazing and both Shady and I are very grateful for finding something that works. He is 11 now and still gets confused for a puppy because of both his size (38lbs) and his energy. He pounces around like a rabbit. I now have faith that he has many more years of life ahead of him.


Katherine Katherine April 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm

If Randy’s Nutro story sounds eerily similar to mine, it’s because we were roommates, and were discovering our dog food choices at the same time. :)


Katherine Katherine April 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Buttercup does love rawhide…and it lasts a lot longer with her than it does with Arie!


Randy April 11, 2012 at 7:04 am

Well, while this is true so is both our stories. Shady on the other hand is much older and his allergies were much more out of control. lol. Thanks Katie for introducing me to the Grain Free Nutro. It’s literally saved Shady’s life. I am very happy to know the rest of his life will be itch free. I am truly amazed.


Snoopy@snoopysdogblog April 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I’ve always had grain-free food – Mum has seen from her parents Dog how awful life can be for a Doggie with allergies, she convinced them to try grain-free a few years back, and their Dog has never looked back – their Vet in the UK had tried all kinds of things to combat the allergies to no avail…. So when Mum got me, she was determined my food was gonna be grain-free :)


Your pal Snoopy :)


Katherine Katherine April 12, 2012 at 9:02 am

Grain free really has been a life saver…I’m glad your mom was so good to your diet from the start!


Jodi April 12, 2012 at 8:23 am

We put the dogs on raw, mostly to help them lose weight but I do like the grain-free approach.


Katherine Katherine April 12, 2012 at 8:59 am

I’ve thought about raw, but for now this is so great for her. She loves it! Glad your dogs have a diet that works for them though. :) …and to finally be seeing your comments! Thanks so much for letting me know!


Keeley September 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm

I am so glad I found your post! I just recently moved from Denver, CO to the DC area and my white German Shepherd (Christian) has started itching a lot, rubbing his face on the floor, then he started loosing hair, and now his skin is turning almost black. I had heard from another German Shepherd owner in this area about possible grain allergies and I am now in the process of switching Christian to a grain free diet. I’m not sure why it didn’t effect him in a dryer climate, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will help him.


Ashley December 27, 2012 at 7:57 pm

So glad I found this! One of our dogs is having a terrible time, scratching herself bloody, and I was thinking we had no choice but to get $300 allergy testing next. Going to give grain-free a shot first and see if that helps. I’ll try to remember to report back in a few months.


Katherine Katherine December 27, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Thanks, Ashley! Good Luck! I look forward to hearing how things go.


Lisa June 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I started a grain free diet for my then 6 year old lab 2 years ago. Suddenly seasonal allergies developed. Can this be related?


Katherine Katherine June 13, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Hi Lisa,

The best person to ask would be your vet. It could be another ingredient in the food, something in the air, or something different entirely. They’ll be able to help!



Barbara Kelly April 3, 2014 at 11:21 am

Having so much anxiety about my Border Collie and allergies. I have tried medications, changes of several foods. She is miserable. Mollie is a 10 year old rescue, primarily white. After losing the love of my life several years ago after going through pretty much the same thing I was told by the 3rd vet there is a white dog syndrome. Are white or primarily white dogs prone to these problems? Any ideas ?


Katherine Katherine June 4, 2014 at 8:57 am

Hi Barbara, as far as I know white dogs of many breeds can be prone to health/allergy issues, but I’m definitely not a canine health expert. That being said, allergies for us just took time and we finally found a solution that worked well for us and for Arie. I would suggest talking to your vet about narrowing down your BC’s allergies and working through them. We found over time with the vet, trial and error, and working with a canine holistic therapist the best food, treats, and diet habits for Arie.


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