This blog covers much in the way of anecdotal evidence.
Having been raw fed as a puppy, my 4 year-old Labrador ‘Action’ began scratching his face and head a lot in May 2020; at this point in time we had been feeding a fairly high quality kibble for 18 months, owing to financial and storage constraints. Upon cleaning out his ears, I noticed they smelled terrible, and the right one was producing a brownish-black gunk in large amounts.
A trip to the vet unsurprisingly ended with a diagnosis of infection, and we were dispatched with a week of oral antibiotics, which he tolerated remarkably well owing to the presence of salami wrapped around them. We were also given a proprietary ear cleaner for daily use. When it appeared to clear up I thought nothing further of it, as he’s a fairly disgusting creature with an affinity for jumping into dirty water and enjoying a good paddle.
Two weeks later, having changed insurance companies in the interim, his ear began discharging heavily again and we had to return to the vet. This time he was sedated and had his ears surgically cleaned; an in-house microscope examination revealed the presence of a bacteria well known for it’s antibiotic resistance. They also told us the worrying news that they couldn’t visualise his ear drum. So we commenced a regime of daily cleaning and twice daily antibiotic cream to go straight in the ear.
Within a fortnight the infection had spread to the left ear as well, despite my best efforts to keep it clean. I was speaking to the vet at least once a week, and Action had been on the antibiotic cream for three weeks by then with no real sign of improvement. Upon paying for a full microscopy I was given another set of bad news. The swab had revealed three infections; as well as a yeast infection he had two types of antibiotic resistant bacteria, one of which was the canine equivalent to MRSA. A second antibiotic was added as well as the ear cleaner and by this point he had gone from fighting us at ear cleaning time to a quiet resignation, which was actually quite sad to see as he’s usually very stubborn and strong willed.
After six weeks on the in-ear antibiotics I had begun my own research into deafness in dogs, as the next step was surgical removal of the ear canals and I was fairly convinced I was going to end up having to teach him to live his life deaf.
I had already begun to teach him hand signals for his regular commands. A lot of my reading was pointing me in a similar direction, namely that a lot of ear infections in dogs were allergic in origin. On discussing this with the vet he agreed there was a strong possibility and antihistamines and steroids were added.
By this point we had been looking at him being treated for two months, with no improvement in the output of gunk from his ears and I began to consider that perhaps allergy was a strong component of the problems we were facing with Action. We had changed insurance policy between the initial week of treatment and the second wave of the infection, which meant we were paying for the medication and doctors trips ourselves, and on one income it was proving costly, meaning having to have help from family.
I was reading a lot that pointed to a kibble allergy. He had been a fairly regular bum scooter as well in the previous year, despite no gland issues, as having a coarse coat and was now licking and chewing his paws and tail end frequently. I decided to drop the kibble and convert him back to raw.
I managed to obtain him his own freezer for free from a local selling site as well as finding a local supplier, something that had proved difficult previously. A lot of kibble related allergies seem to be caused by the components of the kibble. Chicken and beef are often used as proteins and allergies to these are not uncommon. The other common allergy related components I was coming across as I read, were grains, corn, soy, milk, and wheat. Since Action had never had problems with chicken or beef I was fairly convinced by now that the culprit was all the extra things besides meat that make up kibble.
I would be exaggerating to say the result was instantaneous, and the antibiotics, steroids and antihistamines continued. However, after two months with zero improvement, the raw feeding began and at a vet appointment two weeks after starting raw, and having been pessimistic at the one three weeks previously, the vet was genuinely astonished at the change in Actions ears. He said they were now 80 per cent clear and I could stop the antibiotics, and continue with steroids and antihistamines only. Despite many vets being resistant to raw feeding, when he asked what I was doing differently, and I replied I had switched his diet from kibble to raw, he admitted it had been absolutely the right call for Action and it was clearly the source of the problems.
He’s been on raw now for eight months and the difference is incredible. His coat gleams, to the point I often receive comments upon it; he has lost nearly three kilogrammes in weight and has much more energy. The biggest difference however is his ears. I maintained a regular cleaning schedule for some time after the medications ended; however, having also read on the marked benefits of apple cider vinegar in helping to treat yeast infections, itchy ears and skin, as well as being a natural flea and tick repellent, I had begun adding this to his meals. I had also created my own ear cleaner, which contained apple cider vinegar and aloe vera amongst other researched components. I was able to drop his ear cleaning schedule to fortnightly by the September, and now I only do it every six weeks and check visually in between. However, when I check his infections have totally disppeared.
These days he has his regular raw food, plus apple cider vinegar, spirulina for fatty acids and immune system protections, and has gone from the overweight dog with appalling ear infections and coarse fur in the first gallery, to the shiny coated, trim, and infection free dog in the second.
Raw may not be for everyone, but this is my testimonial to the changes it causes, backed up fully by my vet.
If you think kibble is causing problems in your furry friend the answer may not be casting about to find a ‘hypoallergenic’ formula, but a simple switch to an all natural diet that, thanks to complete minces and plenty of information for the feeder who wants to make up their own portions, is nowhere near as scary as it sounds.