Dr. Gregory D. Sunvold and his pup

Highlights From Proper Puppy Nutrition: Advice on How to Feed Your New Puppy for a Long and Healthy Life

Get It Right from the Start

Apply nutritional principles to choosing a pet food. There is a sea of products available, so knowing what to look for in a quality pet food is key. The three important and universal components of puppy development include the gut, brain, and bones, and these components can serve as a guide to which food to feed.

The Gut

Puppies undergo a tremendous amount of gut bacterial changes as they grow. Gut flora changes can be associated with some unhealthy and undesirable events. We all want to avoid situations like diarrhea or constipation with new puppies.

How to Avoid Digestive Upset

Healthy intestinal bacteria foster a healthy gut. Prebiotics feed the gut bacteria and promote the healthy growth of probiotics. Probiotics then outcompete pathogens and prevent bad bacteria from growing.

Other gut enhancers include postbiotics and digestive enzymes. Postbiotics are byproducts of the fermentation process produced from probiotics. Examples of postbiotics added to pet foods include brewers’ yeast, lactic acids, and yeast culture. Digestive enzymes can help puppies absorb nutrients from food. Proteases (proteins), amylases (carbohydrates), and lipases (fats) can all be given to help a puppy’s digestion.

There are some recommended products like Prudence Absolute Immune Health that helps boost gut health. Prudence contains live probiotics which improve intestinal bacterial composition. It also contains beta-glucans which boost the immune system.

For food, Eukanuba Puppy is formulated to support good gut health. It contains fermentable fiber (beet pulp), has prebiotics, and is highly digestible.

70% of the immune system is in the gut. It is called Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT). What happens in the gut affects the rest of the body. The gut is foundational to immune health, and nutrition can play a role in enhancing your puppy’s immune health.

The Brain

Key nutrients needed for healthy brain development in puppies include Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are typically found in plant oils like corn oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil, while Omega-3 fatty acids come from flax, fish oil, and algae oil.

The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requires EPA + DHA at a minimum of 0.05% for growth and reproduction. Studies have shown that puppies fed increased DHA had better trainability and vaccine titer response.


Minerals like calcium and phosphorus are used to form bones. Calcium is found in both animal proteins and grains. Phosphorus is generally higher in animal proteins than grains. AAFCO requires that the maximum calcium level for large breeds be reduced. The calcium to phosphorus ratio should be between 1:1 and 2:1.

Large breed puppies raised on a diet high in calcium can experience severe skeletal abnormalities and fast-growing bone disease. The breeds typically affected are Great Danes, Collies, Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Saint Bernards. Diets that do not follow the 1:1 or 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio should always be avoided for large breed puppies.

Practical Diet Tips for Puppy Diets

Puppy formulas are more energy dense than adult formulas. For large breed puppies, there are moderate levels of protein and fat to help skeletal development keep pace with their weight.

Protein sources that are highly digestible include chicken, beef, lamb, fish, elk and venison. By-product meals are generally more digestible than named species. For example, chicken by-product meals are more digestible than chicken.

Vitamins and minerals are essential for proper metabolism. For minerals, a blend of organic and inorganic minerals is best to assure the best use of minerals.

For gut health, moderately fermentable fibers like beet pulp or tomato pomace are beneficial to puppies. Prebiotics are essential for healthy intestinal development as well as live probiotics.

Dr. Sunvold’s Responses to Unanswered Questions from Class

I have heard that wheat germ is important for heart health. Is that true What is it and what does it do?

WG is a source of protein but also contains a significant amount of fat.  Some thought that the fat is healthy for skin and coat.  Better option is a fish oil, algal oil, or Ahiflower.

I have been adding 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt in my puppy’s Royal Canin food in the morning and then 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in the dinner serving.  Is this good for him and would using virgin coconut oil be better for him instead of the extra virgin olive oil?

I love coconut oil over olive oil because it contains medium chain triglycerides.  MCT’s are unique FA that can cross the blood brain barrier.  MCT’s can be healthful for neural tissue development – just what a puppy needs to get a good foundation in life.  Good on you the Greek yogurt – lower sugar form of yogurt and possible source of probiotics.  If you can afford it, a better form of probiotics could be an actual probiotic supplement designed for development of puppies’ intestines.  I admire your commitment to good healthy nutrition.

There is so much controversy regarding grain free vs food with grain. Any insight?

Ahh the proverbial question about Grain Free and DCM in dogs.  In a nutshell, the science is not settled.  There was a lot of hype to begin with in promoting Grain Free diets.  Now it seems the hype has swung completely the other way.  FDA’s report in June 2018 rattled the industry about the possible association between Grain Free and DCM.  Unfortunately the only thing we really seem to know for sure is that genetics plays a role in DCM.  Does the diet’s composition?  That is far from being conclusively understood one way or another.  As an industry technical insider, I can tell you that most reputable manufacturers have modified diets as a preemptive move IF an association between certain diet ingredients and DCM is found to exist.  In closing, the burden of proof has now shifted to the accused (Diet is guilty!) to prove its innocence.  Unfortunately, “In the world of science, the absence of a negative is almost impossible to prove.”  You can quote me on that. Trustworthy, well-designed experimental studies will take long periods of time to conduct, will have multiple outcome variables, and will be expensive to conduct.  As a result, I suspect for the rest of my life we will be debating whether DCM is diet related.  I hope I am wrong, and we have more insight sooner as I prefer more ingredient options to be available.  The more ingredient options that are available, the more sustainable world we will all live in!

What is your opinion on starting free feeding at a puppy stage?

Good question.  It really depends on the food you are feeding, the puppy himself, and the puppy’s activity level.  We have a little more latitude in small/medium breed puppies.  Large breed puppies are susceptible to fast growing bone disease – hypertrophic osteodystrophy.  So LB puppies need to be very carefully monitored to assure they don’t gain weight too fast.  Regardless of breed size, take care to monitor backfat condition.  How do you do that?  Rub your fingers over your closed fist.  Fingers over knuckles represent malnourished.  Fingers over back of hand tendons represent too much condition (fat).  Fingers over clenched fingers next to your knuckles represent about right.  Translate that sensation to your puppy’s ribs to understand where your puppy is at.

Food recommendations for puppies with chicken and fish sensitivities?

Best recommendation is to switch diets to diets that don’t have chicken or fish in them.  They exist.  Many manufacturers have broad ranging lines of different protein options for just that specific reason.  I hope you can find a diet soon.  But don’t give up.  It’s out there.

Some articles I have read have said that other animals can get covid 19. Is that true or are they getting different disease?

There are a few scattered reports that seem like the owner received Covid-19 from a pet or vice versa.  But look, if it was easy to get Covid-19 from pets or other animals, we would know that by now.  Even if there is a risk, I’m keeping my pet.  Millie gives us way too much unconditional love!

Why are you saying by product is good when you should only have the protein and then protein meal?

Not exactly sure what’s being asked.  But here’s my thoughts on, for example, chicken by-product meal.  CBPM can, and most often is, be of very high quality.  CBPM and chicken meal are quite similar in how they are processed with the difference being things that may be included in CBPM such as necks and feet which don’t sound good to us – this becomes the “selling point” against CBPM vs. chicken meal (which doesn’t allow necks and feet, for example).  However, as stated the process by which either CBPM and CM are obtained is similar.  And it’s a good process because it involved cooking which helps liberate some of the amino acids ahead of process.  More importantly this process of obtaining CBPM and CM allows one to remove some of the undigestible components such as ash from the chicken.  Ash of course comes from bone.  This creates a more highly digestible/available form of chicken.  In contrast, chicken involves whole chicken which doesn’t normally undergo pre-processing like the meals.  Thus, you get everything with the chicken, not just the refined meals as with CBPM and CM.  Another important point about protein quality here is that processing methods can vary considerably.  So it’s up to the manufacturer to select different qualities of protein sources depending on the product design.  As a consumer I admit it’s impossible to understand the digestibility/nutrient availability of a pet food.  But just remember that not all by-product meals are of poor quality.  In fact, on balance they are generally more refined than specific named species such as chicken.  Sorry, just because something’s been marketed a certain way, doesn’t make it so.

Is it okay to mix two different brands of Large Breed Puppy food at every feeding?

Sure, if you properly transition the animal.  And I think this is an excellent feeding strategy to “de-risk” your pets health.  Why?  Because if there were ever a problem with one of the foods, then your pet would have the other to rely on for its nutrition.  Hopefully that never happens but I personally like the “backup” strategy.

I’ve changed my dog’s diet from grains to no grains, and he’s still had drainage from his eyes in an allergic reaction. What should I do?

I’m sorry for your dog’s condition.  The quick answer is see your veterinarian for health issues.  More broadly I would recommend you first look at his environment.  Get down on your hands and knees at his level.  Is there something in his environment that may be irritating his eyes?  If nothing’s obvious then go back to thinking about his diet.  Candidly, changing from grains to no grains is probably less likely to identify an issue than to switch protein sources or seek a diet more greatly enriched in n-3 f.a.  It is possible that a protein source may be irritating him.  Seek a different protein source with an n-6 f.a. / n-3 f.a. ratio of less than 6:1.

I used to feed my poodle a raw diet, my vet said sometimes raw can actual cause upset stomachs. Is this true and If so why?

If a raw diet has a high load of spoilage organisms such as pseudomonas, the pet may react to it.  Further, if the raw diet has partially spoiled, the rotten meat may smell interesting to the poodle but may not be well tolerated due to protein breakdown products from the meat’s degradation.  To be fair, many folks feed raw products without issues to their dog.  Your veterinarian may be taking an extra cautious step.  Certainly your veterinarian is intending to act in the best interest of your pet.  Again, if you feed a raw product take extra care to handle it properly to reduce any pathogen or spoilage organism growth.  And take care around indiscriminate children who may want to enjoy your pet’s meal – a big no, no!  Of course wash your own hands after handling a raw diet as well.

Let’s say by-product is better if processed correctly. There is no way to know how it was processed on the bag, so how would you know? Typically I’ve seen by-products in cheaply made products more so that I have no trust in.

You are an astute consumer.  This is exactly the problem.  I believe we have the world’s greatest regulatory agency governing pet food – AAFCO.  And yet there are still opportunities to improve our ingredient labeling and label disclosure process.  Ideally pet food manufacturers would test each product they market and disclose those results.  Even large manufacturers cannot afford to do this however. There is no obvious way to improve this communication.  But you are on to something.  Cheaply priced food often is just that – cheap.  Even though I’m a bit of industry technical insider, I still face the same dilemma you do.  How do I handle it with our own pets?  I try feeding different products.  Does the stool smell foul?  Do they seem to create excessive piles?  What happens to their skin and coat?  Breath?  Activity/energy level?  And so forth.  From a label perspective let me share one further insight – I like to see more ingredients rather than less.  Why?  Because more ingredients tend to decrease the variability of the product from bag to bag.  Limited ingredient diets have a place – addressing skin allergies as an example.  However, a risk with “concentrating” the nutrition from fewer ingredient sources is that from bag to bag the product is more susceptible to variation in changes in the few ingredient sources.  Hope that makes sense!

Isn’t meat protein more important to feed than plant since dogs are carnivores?

Good question.  I tend to stick with meat sources since they are more similar in their amino acid balance to the animal’s body composition.  However, I deeply respect folks that choose a vegan lifestyle for themselves and sometimes their pets.  It is most definitely true that all required nutrients can be met through plants/vegan diets.  So if veganism is your pursuit, those products exist which are definitely complete and balanced.

I have a lab mix puppy, and we are not sure what the mix is, but he has super long legs and big paws so we think he will be large when full grown. He was getting kind of chunky, but he is a 7-month-old baby, so should we be feeding him less or let him eat the recommended amount of Fromm puppy food?

Congrats!  Sounds like a lot of fun!  Large breed puppies are susceptible to fast growing bone disease – hypertrophic osteodystrophy.  So LB puppies need to be very carefully monitored to assure they don’t gain weight too fast.  Take care to monitor backfat condition.  How do you do that?  Rub your fingers over your closed fist.  Fingers over knuckles represent malnourished.  Fingers over back of hand tendons represent too much condition (fat).  Fingers over clenched fingers next to your knuckles represent about right.  Translate that sensation to your puppy’s ribs to understand where your puppy is at.  Feed accordingly.

Can you briefly summarize what you are recommending we add to the diet for our puppies?

The way I understand your question is what can we add to help our puppy’s development that is beyond what may be in a complete and balanced food.  My answer is:  live probiotics (speeds normalization of intestinal microbiota and may help fight off infection), digestive enzymes (helps with nutrient digestion), beta-glucan source (helps boost immune system), prebiotics such as galactoligosaccharides (helps push the intestinal microbiota towards a more protective, beneficial type such as bifidobacteria).

The vet told my grandma last week that wheat germ is essential for heart health. Is this true?

Well, he/she may be thinking about the n-3 f.a. ALA found in WG.  Better forms of n-3 f.a. are from marine sources such as fish oils or algal oils.

How do you feel about the presence of aflatoxinsmycotoxins in low quality carbohydrates and is there any link to cancer?

Yeah, this is a problem in the industry.  And the industry just has to be vigilant and on guard.  What happens is that crops grown under a variety of conditions can get fungus/molds growing on them.  And farmers don’t really know it or can control it well either.  Every growing season is different.  So again there are monitoring protocols in place that attempt to screen this out.  Unfortunately mistakes get made or “conveniently overlooked” due to obtaining “cheaper” sources of grains.  Okay to your specific question, there seems to be an association, at least in humans between aflatoxins and cancer.  But this is generally over a prolonged exposure period at low levels.  Higher levels are going to have acute effects ranging from digestive upsets to organ impairment.   My greater concern with fungal derived toxins is with acute affects due to “mistakes.”  Otherwise proper screening of grains should result in grains with no more than ordinary risk levels to the pet (or humans for that matter!).

Dandruff, even with omegas, can it be a yeast allergy? Is goat’s milk good for this?

Yeah, I suppose a topical yeast infection is always possible.  Goat’s milk topically or orally?  Not sure from the wording of the question.  Since we’re talking about nutrition, I’ll take it as “Is it helpful to feed Goat’s milk to control dandruff?”  I think that dandruff control is probably a stretch as to a benefit that can be gained from your pet consuming Goat’s milk.

Can dead dogs be in by-products How do you know what is in byproduct meal?

I do not know of any pets that are rendered into protein meals.  You can look here on AAFCO’s website for a definition of meals used in pet food.

For more information on pet nutrition, check out Dr. Sunvold’s blog here.

yellow lab eating kibble from silver bowl

What’s Important When Choosing My Dog’s Food?

When we are choosing a food for our dog, it can be rather intimidating! We want the best food for our dog that is within our budget-but what does that actually mean? Companies use TV ads with celebrity branding, doggy taste tests, fun music and charts and graphs to confuse consumers and to try to tell us theirs is the best food on the market. However, as the pet parent, we need to make sure that we look through all of the hype and get down to the facts about the brands we are considering.

We want to determine which foods are full of sugar and cheap fillers, and which are high quality, biologically appropriate diets. There are some special dietary requirements for giant breed dogs and for tiny toy breed dogs but the most important thing I would recommend for any dog is to feed a high quality formula or formulas that you can trust.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding on your dog’s diet:

Rotation Diet

All dog foods, which carry the statement of “complete and balanced” must meet AAFCO requirements for nutritional adequacy. Unfortunately, the AAFCO requirements are very broad and haven’t been substantially updated in more than 20 years, despite numerous nutritional advances in pet care. So, you will find foods with wildly varying levels of calcium or protein, but which are all considered complete and balanced.

A great way to make sure your dog gets a variety of all of the nutrients he needs is to try a rotation diet. This is what I do in my home, as do many other experts and nutritionists. At home, my husband and I feed 5 different brands of food to our 3 dogs and 3 different brands to our 2 cats. Within these brands, there are a variety of formulas, each with different levels of nutrients such as calcium, protein, fat, phosphorous and fiber.

Many pet owners are concerned about feeding a rotation diet because their experience has been that you should never switch a dog’s food because it can make the dog sick. This can be true, but the logic is somewhat flawed. When a dog…or a person for that matter, eats the same thing day in and day out, the digestive enzymes which are each activated by specific nutrients will start to go dormant. Eventually, on the same diet, most of the enzymes become dormant and only the specific variety and quantity of enzymes to digest that specific food are active in the gut. By contrast, when a dog is accustom to a variety of foods, all of the available digestive enzymes and bacteria are active and engaged in the gut. This allows for better overall digestion and nutrient absorption of any food. If your dog is only used to one food, you’ll want to gradually introduce new foods and new ingredients slowly, but with increased frequency.

Food Brands

There are hundreds of dog food brands available on the market today. They’re manufactured by a variety of different types of companies. There are some with celebrity endorsements and that carry a celebrity namesake. There are some manufactured by major multi-national conglomerates and still others that are operated by large marketing firms. Unfortunately, many of these have the primary goal of profit over all else. Writing as the representative of a “for profit” organization, I completely understand that if a product isn’t profitable, it can’t continue to be produced. My concern, however, is that many of these companies are under increasing pressure from investors and shareholders to increase profit, which at a certain point means decreasing cost. In the food industry, there are only a few reliable ways to reduce cost, and most of them involve decreasing quality.

It’s for this reason, many of the brands in Hollywood Feed’s stores are brands of which most people may have never heard. Fromm, Orijen and Answers are some of these brands. (Read more about these brands here: Fromm  Orijen  Answers) These companies were each begun with extremely high standards and have adopted a customer base that demands those standards. They’re aware that a reduction in quality could make them more profitable in the short term. However, they also know that if they take this approach, their core customer base will abandon them for one of the other up and coming food brands.


When discussing quality, there is a lot to consider. Organic, grass fed and grass finished beef is typically going to be of higher quality than factory beef. However, if you want to get a 30lb bag of dog food with all organic ingredients and an appropriate amount of meat, you would have to spend hundreds of dollars per bag. On the other side of that coin, you can find some 50lb bags of dog food for about $16-but when your bag of dog food costs less than a bag of fertilizer, it’s a pretty good sign that it’s not going to be nutritionally sound.

Additionally, most of the ingredients on a bag of food must be specifically defined by AAFCO and those definitions are potentially misleading. For example, there are big differences between chicken, chicken meal and chicken by-product meal, but none of these ingredients are necessarily better or worse than the other 2, just based on their name. Suppliers can buy chicken by-product meal with various ratings, and the by-product meal could potentially be of higher quality than chicken meal. Also, when you consider that plain chicken is approximately 70% moisture, the volume and weight of that chicken product is reduced greatly when the food is cooked and/or dried.

Ingredients are listed on the back of the bag in descending order by their weight prior to cooking. If chicken is the first ingredient and rice is second, then after cooking chicken will lose about 70% of its weight but the rice will only lose 8 to 10% of its weight. So, looking at the food on a dry matter basis, it’s easy to see that there is actually more rice than chicken in that formula. This is why I prefer foods that have a mix of a whole muscle meat as well as a meat meal (the dried form of the same, previously mentioned muscle meat). There are some foods which contain high-quality chicken by-product meal, but most brands have abandoned that ingredient due to customer perception.

Raw Diets

Perhaps the best foods available to our dogs is a high-quality raw diet. Many people are concerned by raw diets due to potential pathogen contamination. While this is possible, it’s much more of a risk for people than it is for our pets. The digestive tracts of dogs are naturally equipped to digest raw meat without regard to things such as e-coli or salmonella.

The veterinary and pet industries are divided on the benefits of raw diets, but I can personally attest to their benefits and safety. My 11 year old Lab/Golden mix was having some mobility issues, so I put him on a raw goat’s milk fast for a month. His blood levels were tested before and after the goat’s milk fast and every single value was improved after the fast. Additionally, he has started eating an all-raw diet since the goat’s milk fast ended, and his health has continued to improve. Read more about Skeeter’s health problems and goat’s milk fast here.

The primary reason some veterinarians are against a raw diet is because they say there haven’t been enough studies done to warrant the benefits. However, it’s only been in the past 8 years that large companies have begun to look into raw diets. It’s these large companies that can afford the expensive feeding trials and clinical studies, and most of them produce kibble so it’s not necessarily in their best interest to research or promote a raw diet. History, on the other hand, has proven that dogs, wolves, foxes and other canine species have, can and will thrive on a biologically appropriate raw diet.

I know this is a lot to consider, and a lot of information to process, but remember: the associates at your local Hollywood Feed attend 60+ hours of training classes each year so that they can become experts on nutrition and different brands of food. Please ask them your questions and to help you pick out the right food next time you are shopping!

itchy dog biting leg, thinning hair

What are Food Allergies and How Do I Stop Them?

When our pets have food allergies, it can be very frustrating for pet parents and for our dogs and cats. We don’t want our pets to lose hair, itch, and develop hot spots from excessive licking, and neither do they. But, where to start? There are so many foods on the market, so many ingredients to consider, and there are always conflicting opinions. There is also a lot of confusing information and marketing about what we should be feeding to our dogs and cats. I’m going to break down food allergies and solutions for you right here!

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is an inflammatory response to food, grass, dust, pollen, flea bites, etc. that causes an allergic reaction, or symptoms, that drive humans and pets crazy. Common allergic reactions are expressed through inflammation of the skin, which leads to itching, redness and hair loss.

An allergic threshold is the point at which we start to physically manifest symptoms. When allergens stay below that threshold, our body manages them well and symptoms are not expressed. Take a look at this chart:

The actual numbers on the chart are arbitrary and appear only to give scale. The yellow line would be the point at which these dogs begin to experience symptoms from the allergens listed in each column. As we can see, depending on how allergic our dogs are to each allergen, we can reduce the occurrences of allergic reactions by simply reducing the amount of contact our pets have with them. It is not necessary, or probable, to completely eliminate most allergens.

In addition, the more natural antihistamines, digestive enzymes and anti-inflammatories we introduce to our pets, the higher their allergic threshold will go and the less likely they’ll be to have symptoms manifest.

It is also important to remember that hypo-allergenic does not mean non-allergenic. Instead, hypo-allergenic means less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Advertisers love this word, so we should make sure we know the definition!

Questions To Consider When I Think My Pet Has an Allergy:

Have I tried an elimination diet with my pet to determine potential allergens?
To what ingredients do I suspect my pet is allergic?
What are the symptoms my pet experiences?

What is an Elimination Diet and Why is it Necessary?

An elimination diet is used to determine food ingredients which our pets can tolerate and isolate ingredients which we should avoid.

The most important thing to consider when feeding an elimination diet is that we must avoid ALL ingredients which are not part of that temporary diet. An elimination diet can take 12 weeks or even longer, but the results are very trustworthy and the cost is minimal compared to other less effective methods of determining allergens.

Before We Begin an Elimination Diet:

  • We need to isolate the primary ingredients in our pet’s food down to 2: one meat and one carbohydrate.
  • The selected protein and carbohydrate sources should be something which we can be relatively certain is not causing the problem.
  • I prefer to select protein sources with which our pet has had minimal contact. Some options include: pork, bison, turkey, duck and kangaroo.
  • Some great carbohydrate source options include: sweet potatoes, lentils, tapioca and garbanzo beans.
  • Other ingredients in the food should either be a healthy fat source, such as: fish oil, coconut oil or olive oil; or a simple vitamin or mineral supplement which should contain little to no allergic potential

Let’s Begin:

  • Now the diet we have carefully chosen should be fed as the sole diet for our pet. This includes any dog treats or table scraps we feed our dogs or cats. Absolutely nothing else!
  • We should observe our pets for an increase or decrease in symptoms. If symptoms begin to improve, then our pets should remain on that diet for up to 12 weeks or until the symptoms have completely subsided. If symptoms begin to worsen, it’s time to abandon one of the two primary ingredients and replace it with a different novel source.
  • It’s important that we only replace one ingredient at a time and then make note of the dates, ingredients, and any noticeable changes or benefits in our pet’s response.
  • We should continue to rotate through ingredients until we find a combination that drastically decreases or completely eliminates any symptoms.
  • At this point, we can start adding one ingredient at a time to your pet’s diet, in the form of treats or other similar pet food formulas, all the while taking note of your pet’s responses to each ingredient.
  • This is how we figure out, one by one, which ingredients our pets can tolerate.

Tell Me More about Ingredients

A true food allergy is caused by a protein. Almost all food items contain some form of protein, but many food items have a much higher percentage of protein than other food items. For example, a dog can be allergic to carrots. This is because their body recognizes the proteins found in carrots as a threat and will try to eliminate it from the body. This is why blood and skin tests done at veterinary offices will often return positive allergic responses for foods such as carrots, flax, potatoes or other produce. The problem with this classification of allergic reactions is that they typically fall well below the allergic threshold we discussed earlier, and probably do not need to be eliminated from our pets’ diets. When we are deciding on food for our dog or cat who is displaying allergy symptoms, we should avoid all foods containing beef, wheat, chicken and soy. These are the most common food allergens. Wheat and soy, while being grains and not meat, still contain a high percentage of high allergen proteins.

To replace those very common pet food ingredients, we should instead look for the novel ingredients we spoke about earlier: rabbit, duck, pheasant, kangaroo, and bison, all of which are commonly available in pet food. Again, good novel carbohydrate sources include sweet potato, tapioca, garbanzo beans, and lentils.

*Remember that any consumed food items can potentially trigger a reaction, not just our pets’ primary diet. We should be sure not to feed our allergic pets table scraps or treats which contain any of the most common allergens. Especially while we are doing an elimination diet to determine the source of our pets’ allergy. Most of the treats sold in grocery stores contain wheat, soy, beef or all three. Additionally, something as simple as the crust from a slice of white bread can set off a dog with severe allergies.*

What Are Some Brands to Consider?

Hollywood Feed carries many diets great for pets with allergies and for trying an elimination diet in all of our stores. The brands below have novel ingredients as well as high levels of natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories. A few of my favorites are: Answers Pet Food, Orijen, Acana, Fromm, Holistic Select, and Natural Balance, which all have hypo-allergenic formulas. Also, the most common food allergens such as beef, wheat and soy are absent from the majority of the formulas and brands that we carry.

What Else Should I Know?

Finally, I should point out that food isn’t the only thing that can cause an allergic reaction, it’s simply the easiest to manage. Grass is another very common allergen, but because there’s virtually no way to escape it, we should minimize exposure. But we also need to be realistic about dogs being dogs. By eliminating as many other allergens from our pets’ lives as possible, we can most likely bring them under the allergic threshold to a point of comfort.

For an outline on skin/allergy disorders as well as some of the best nutrition available, watch and read: Dermatology and Our Pets, Cats, Dogs and DermatologyI Have an Itch that Needs Scratching and Solve 90% of Pet Health Problems through Answers Raw Nutrition .

older yellow lab looking happy getting cuddles on the floor

The Power of Prayer…and Goat’s Milk

November 18th, 2014

Halie Snider knew exactly what she wanted for her 14th birthday. She wanted a puppy…a yellow lab mix, rescue puppy to be exact. The dog she would adopt would soon become the love of the entire family. A loyal companion, Zayda, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, loved to spend time doing anything with any of the Sniders. Life was good. Move forward six years to April 2014 and tragedy strikes the Snider family. Their beloved Zayda was in danger and not expected to live much longer.

Dogs Have A Way of Finding The People That Need Them…

Excited about finding a furry best friend, Halie scanned the Birmingham-Jefferson Animal Shelter’s available dogs online. That’s where she spotted six month old Zayda.

“She found Zayda’s picture and fell in love,” said Halie’s mother, Vanessa. “The next Saturday, which was her birthday, we went to the shelter and found Zayda. There were so many cute dogs, and we encouraged her to look around. We even got several others out of their enclosures and took them out to play with them. But she would not be swayed! We ended up adopting Zayda!”

Zayda quickly became a steadfast member of the family and everyone’s favorite playmate. Games of fetch and tug were a mainstay around the house, and car rides were a MUST. The Snider girls had to spell out the words to keep Zayda from getting too excited about an R-I-D-E, but they took her regularly. She even befriended the neighbors and began a routine of running next door to visit them to snag an extra treat every now and then.

Keep Calm and Hug Your Dog

Things were great until April of this year when Vanessa had shoulder surgery and was home for the next four weeks for recovery and rehab.

“I began to notice that Zayda didn’t want to go out with our other dog, Zoe. She just wanted to lie on the ottoman next to my chair,” said Vanessa. “I thought she didn’t want to leave me. Although she is my daughter’s dog, she and I are very close and very attached to one another.”

Then, one night, she began vomiting. Zayda couldn’t keep anything down, and the Sniders decided to take her to the vet. The doctor feared she had pancreatitis and kept her overnight. The next day Zayda was doing much better and was allowed to go home with a few food and water instructions to help her further recover from the illness.  She did well that Saturday but soon started vomiting again Sunday evening.

“She refused food, and threw up even the little water she was drinking. She just lay in one spot and didn’t want to move,” explains Vanessa. “First thing on Monday, I called the vet and took her back.”

The veterinarian kept Zayda for further testing and called back that afternoon with results of an x-ray showing a mass in her abdomen. Not being able to tell much about where exactly it was, he wanted to keep her for another night and perform exploratory surgery the next day.

The Snider family had been anxiously awaiting the call, and when it came, the news was grim.

“He said he had bad news…there was a large tumor attached to her pancreas and it had metastasized to her liver,” Vanessa explained. “He said there was really nothing that he could do. He suggested that we take her home and ‘love on her as long as we could stand it.’ He thought she might live a week at the most.”

The Sniders didn’t want to lose their beloved Zayda, but they also didn’t want her to have to endure anymore pain. After talking with her husband and children, Vanessa decided to wait a day before making the decision. Kate, the oldest Snider daughter, was celebrating her 22nd birthday and Vanessa didn’t want her to remember it as the painful day they lost Zayda. Vanessa’s husband, Jimmy, called to tell the doctor the decision, and the doctor explained that Zayda was standing up and wagging her tail. She wasn’t in too much pain at the time. The Sniders knew if Zayda wasn’t in pain they had to bring her home. The decision wouldn’t be made until Zayda let them know the time was right. The vet sent her home with pain meds, and left the shunt in her leg to easily inject the medication to put her to sleep when the need arose.

“Because she really couldn’t eat or hold down much food, I wanted to try to find something I could give her that would give her the nutrition she needed, and ANYTHING that might help her condition,” said Vanessa. “I looked online for ‘holistic pet stores’ and Hollywood Feed is the only one that popped up. Although not far from my house, I didn’t know anything about it.”

All You Need Is Love…and Goat’s Milk

Vanessa drove to Hollywood Feed in Mountain Brook, Alabama, not knowing what she would find, if anything, to help her sweet Zayda.

Vanessa explained to the staff that she had a “sick dog – very sick – who couldn’t really eat.” She was hoping to find something to give Zayda that provided the vitamins and minerals that she needed. The Hollywood Feed employee immediately recommended goat’s milk and led Vanessa to the store’s freezer.

“She told me it was raw and had all the nutrients my dog would need, even if she couldn’t eat,” explained Vanessa. “She told me how much to give Zayda, and told me about grain-free food, and I left with several cans of food and two quarts of goat’s milk.”

Vanessa immediately started to mix the goat’s milk and food for Zayda (and even mixed some goat’s milk with Zoe’s food).

“I began to see immediate gradual improvement. At the end of the first week, the vet’s office called to check on Zayda (because I truly believe they thought we would have already brought her back). I told the vet’s assistant that she was doing better, eating and keeping her food down, and seemed to have more energy. She sounded a little skeptical, but told me to keep in touch.”

The same happened multiple times. The vet’s assistant would call to check on Zayda and Vanessa would explain that it seemed that every day and every week Zayda got a little better. “I also told her about the goat’s milk at that point. I could hear the skepticism and maybe a little doubt (like maybe I had gone crazy), but she said ‘well, just keep doing what you’re doing I guess.’

“The same pattern continued for the next several months, with Zayda improving and either the vet’s office calling me, or me calling them to check in. At one point, the vet’s assistant told me, like she had to defend their diagnosis, ‘I was in surgery with him with Zayda, and I saw it – I saw the tumor!’ I told her I didn’t doubt them, and also couldn’t explain Zayda’s improvement. I told them, and pretty much everyone, that the only things I could attribute her recovery to were goat’s milk…and prayer!”

You’ll Never Walk Alone Because I’ll Always Be With You

Jimmy took Zayda back to the vet just two weeks ago for the first time in six months. It was time for her annual visit and rabies shots. After a physical exam, the veterinarian thought he could still feel something in her abdomen but was completely amazed at how well Zayda was doing. Jimmy answered lots of questions the doctor had and told him all about the goat’s milk. The vet excitedly said “it’s working so don’t change a thing!” and recommended they “keep doing EXACTLY what you’ve been doing!”

The family and doctor don’t know for sure if the cancer is still there or not. There’s no way of knowing without doing another surgery, and that’s something neither wants to do. “The disease could progress again at any point, but everyone is AMAZED she lived beyond a few days, much less almost seven months now. And she hasn’t just stayed alive, she is happy and appears healthy, she has a great appetite, and runs and plays with Zoe and the family.

“She’s just a joy to have around, and we are so thankful to have been given more time with her, and that she’s been happy and felt good,” Vanessa said. “She is such a sweet dog and loves each of us and I can’t imagine our family without her. But even if the illness returned today and she passed, we are still SOOOO thankful that the folks at Hollywood Feed cared enough to ask me what I needed and took the time to talk with me and show me the goat’s milk, and the other grain-free food. They have been so caring…always asking about Zayda when I go in every couple of weeks for milk.”

“The Journey of Life is Sweeter When Traveled with a Dog.” -Bridget Willoughby

As for now, things are back to normal for the Snider family. The only difference? Goat’s milk is now a staple in the Snider canine diet! Fetch, tug, visits to the neighbors, and car rides are again part of everyday life.

We can all learn a lesson from Zayda. When the going gets tough, hang your head out the car window, feel the breeze rushing through your hair, then lean back in the car and give your favorite human a big, slobbery, kiss to let them know how much you love them. Never take one minute for granted, and never stop putting one paw in front of the other and moving forward. With the help of God, family, and friends you can make it through anything.

A Note From Hollywood Feed About Our Beliefs on Health and Nutrition

At Hollywood Feed, we live for days like this – days when we get to hear remarkable stories about how nutrition has made a life-changing difference in a beloved pet’s life. We’re delighted to provide paramount nutrition for dogs and cats and offer a veterinarian-trained staff to help guide consumers to what’s right for their specific pet. When customers return to us with stories like Zayda’s the feeling is indescribable. The only way I can think to express it is the feeling a puppy experiences when they FINALLY catch their tail; relief that we helped make life better for an animal, excitement that we now have more successful information to provide to the next customer, and joy – pure joy – that one more cherished pet gets to spend more time with his treasured human family.

We work hard to stay up-to-date on the latest health and nutrition needs of dogs and cats (and lots of other animals, too). We discuss our own research and reading amongst ourselves at the office and the stores, speak with veterinarians about different issues, and listen to customers when they tell us what has worked and what hasn’t all in order to provide our clientele with the best advice possible. We, in no way, want to undermine a veterinarian’s recommendations, and we don’t suggest that you ever stop giving medication or prescription food without talking with your pet’s doctor first. We also know that many times holistic nutrition choices aren’t enough. Sometimes God is calling your pet home and nothing can change His plan. This breaks our hearts and pushes us to learn more and more about providing nutrition that paves the way for a long and healthy life for our pets. Many times, desperation sends pet owners our way and a change in nutrition makes a huge difference in the pet’s life. Other times, we aren’t so lucky. We are, in no way, trying to make anyone believe that goat’s milk is the answer to all problems, but it’s definitely worth a try! But obviously, nothing can replace excellent care and, of course, prayer!

two women feed dog at kitchen counter, pride

Do You Cook for Your Dog or Cat?

Do you ever think about your dog or cat when you are preparing a home cooked meal for your family? Do they let you forget about them? I know my three dogs sit and wait expectantly anytime I’m in the kitchen, hoping to get a piece of whatever I am preparing. If we take the time to prepare healthy and fresh meals for our children and spouses, then why don’t we do it for our pets? Are we worried that it will be too time-consuming or too difficult? This is not the case! As you will see when you read on, there are many ways to prepare meals at home for our pets, so consider cooking for your pet today, on National Cook For Your Pets Day-November 1st!

Home-Preparation of a Complete Diet

The main thing to remember when we are preparing meals for our pets, especially if the meals we prepare are the only thing they are eating, is to make sure we are feeding them a whole diet with all of the vitamins and nutrients they need to be healthy and happy.


If you decide to start preparing all of your pet’s meals, you MUST consider nutrition! Here is an easy to understand article by The Whole Dog Journal about your dog’s nutritional needs. The main thing to take away from this is that we should feed our pets a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairy and grains, which are full of vitamins and nutrients, and not just chicken and rice forever! Just like with humans, not every meal needs to contain everything your pet needs in his diet. You must just make sure that your pet gets a variety of meals, which when combined add up to a balanced and complete diet. You will want to be especially careful about this with growing puppies and kittens. Also, pets with certain health concerns may need a more specific diet. You may also need to add some supplements to your home-prepared diet.


If you want to cook meals for your pet at home, I recommend preparing a big batch in advance and then freezing portions to make your life easier. There are some cookbooks available for purchase if you plan to start cooking your pet’s meals regularly: Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats and K9 Kitchen are two good ones with which to start.

Remember when cooking for cats: Make sure your recipes include taurine, very important for cats, through heart and liver meat or through supplements. You must include taurine in your cat’s homemade diet!

Home-Preparation of a Partial Diet

If preparing your dog’s meals from scratch sounds like a little too much, I do understand! There is a way to partially prepare food at home to supplement packaged pet food. The Honest Kitchen has several different base mixes for dogs, which only need the protein added to make a complete diet. That’s something everyone can do, no matter how little time we like to spend in the kitchen.

Check out The Honest Kitchen’s story here.  They make great foods for dogs and cats, and you can find their base mixes (and complete diets) at your local Hollywood Feed.

A good option for the protein you can mix with Honest Kitchen’s bases, is Answers Straight chicken, beef or pork, which are raw! Answers makes many great raw products for our pets, including a complete diet called Answers Detailed. However, Answers Straight is a great option if you want to be a little more involved in mixing your dog’s meal at home.

Scraps From the Kitchen

If cooking for your pet just isn’t your thing, don’t worry-I have an idea! It is completely okay to toss scraps from the kitchen to our dogs (and cats if they will eat it) when we are preparing meals for ourselves. My dogs love to eat carrot tops, celery ends, potato and cucumber peel, slices of pear and apple, and pretty much anything else that I was going to throw away or of which I have a little too much for my recipe. I know that some people may have picky dogs who turn their nose up at anything that isn’t meat scraps, but if you teach your dog that veggies are good from a young age, then they will be able to enjoy them all their lives-and you won’t have to waste any food!

So let’s all make a little time today to make some dog tails wag and some cats meow with delicious and healthy home-prepared foods-no matter if we cook a full meal or just toss them a few scraps. Your furry friends will definitely thank you!

dog begs under the table for food

The Pros and Cons of Feeding Table Scraps

To me, the thought of feeding my dog table scraps is not offensive in the least, but the debate is out there and people come down very strongly on both sides. I can understand some of the arguments against feeding table scraps; however, I think that they can each be countered with a remedy, and I will discuss those below. First, here are some pros and cons:


Good Source of Nutrition

I enjoy feeding my dogs the tops of carrots and the bottoms of celery stalks as I am prepping food for a meal in the kitchen. All three of my dogs really enjoy eating them. They actually mistake veggies for treats! These vegetable scraps are a good source of vitamins for people and for dogs. Other foods that are safe for your dog include lean meats, cheeses in moderation, and most fresh fruit and veggies. Processed lunch meats, chips, candy, and other pre-packaged and processed foods are not great for dogs just like they’re not great for humans.

Waste Not

No food scraps go to waste in my house! If I have enough to make a stock, I will feed vegetable scraps to my dogs. If I feel full when there is still a bite or two of dinner on my plate, I share with my dogs instead of throwing it away. Those calories will be put to use to give my dogs energy instead of being thrown away to rot. Just make sure that you adjust your dog’s next feeding to account for the calories you have fed him in people food!

Less Cleaning

When food is spilled on the floor in my house, I never have to clean it up. That can be very helpful.

Bonding Experience

I find that sharing my food with my dogs brings us closer together, and the dogs are very excited when they are given this treat. I understand how some people may find begging while at the dinner table annoying, but to me, it can be a good way to teach patience to your dog. Don’t reward your dog with table scraps when he is pushy at the table. Reward him for sitting or lying quietly nearby, or even in another room, and being patient through your meal.


Weight Gain

One of the main concerns and arguments against feeding table scraps that I can truly support is that it can easily lead to obesity in dogs. Many people will let their dogs finish half of their plate of food at every meal and think of it as a treat while still serving that dog his full daily allotment of calories in kibble as well. This will obviously lead to weight gain. Your dog needs to be burning as many calories as he consumes each day to maintain his current weight just like we humans do! This is why very active dogs can eat and should be fed a lot more food than lazy dogs who like to sleep all day. It is your job to keep track of this for your dog, as he will most likely eat whatever is put in front of him. Responsible pet owners can walk this line by monitoring their pets’ overall health daily, keeping track of what their pets are eating (by not free-feeding), and keeping lazy dogs active by making them go on walks and get up and play. It is not the act of feeding table scraps in itself that leads to obesity, but instead consuming way too many calories! Don’t be a sucker and over-feed your dog. It is bad for his health and quality of life, it reduces his life span, and it costs you more money in food and medical expenses, not to mention lost quality time with your pet.

Some Human Foods are Harmful to Pets

Another legitimate concern when feeding table scraps to your pet is the concern that it may cause him some kind of harm. For example, did you know that cooked chicken bones can be very harmful to your dog while raw ones are usually fine? Did you know that most fruits and vegetables are very healthy for your dog to eat while grapes (and raisins) and onions can be harmful? Did you know that fatty meats can cause digestive upset while lean meats are usually okay? Too much sodium from processed foods can also be harmful to pets. If pet owners arms themselves with knowledge and research (the internet is at our fingertips after all) then we can safely decide what we can feed to our dogs!

I Hate Begging

Some people feel very strongly about their dogs begging for food while they are eating dinner. I can understand this. And it is, of course, your right to not feed your dog table scraps! But teach your dog to wait patiently until the end of the meal for a small reward, and begging really isn’t so bad.

Refusing Kibble

Dogs can also learn to refuse to eat their kibble and instead hold out for you to feed them the rest of your dinner. Don’t get bullied by your dog! If this happens, stop feeding human foods to your dog COMPLETELY. Offer your dog his regular serving of kibble twice a day and take it back up if he hasn’t eaten it in 5 minutes. Dogs are NOT likely to starve themselves and may be able to hold out more than a couple of days without getting too hungry before gobbling up a bowl of food. If your dog already has some (ahem!) extra fat reserves, then he can probably go longer without eating and will burn some fat for energy instead.

I think the main thing to keep in mind when feeding table scraps-as in all parts of life-is that moderation and quality are key! Giving small amounts of table scraps occasionally is no problem. Giving healthy human foods to dogs is no problem. Giving unhealthy junk food to dogs for every meal is a problem!

Do you feed your dog table scraps? Let us know how you feel in the comment section below!