We rescued our dogs Sasha and Sergeant 4 years ago, and they came as a bonded pair, having been together since they were 6 weeks old. (We were told they are half brother and sister-their birthdays are 3 days apart.) In the first few months after we brought them home, we noticed that Sergeant kept getting a lot of ear infections.
He’s such a tough guy that we didn’t even notice until it was really bad and he yelped when we pet his ears. (How devastating is accidentally causing pain to your animal, by the way?) We brought him to the vet, and they confirmed it was a nasty ear infection, gave us the proper instructions and drops, and we went home, where the infection cleared up after a few days of medicine.
All better, right?
A few weeks later, because we were paying close attention to his ears, we noticed he had another infection, which didn’t strike us as terribly odd; we thought maybe we had stopped the medicine too soon. So, we started back up, and again, the infection cleared in a few days.
Another few weeks later, Sergeant got yet another ear infection, and at this time, my momma bear alarm was going off that something else was wrong with him. We made another vet appointment, and while waiting, I did a ton of research as to possible causes.
Because he was otherwise incredibly healthy and had no other symptoms, I narrowed the cause (in my mind) down to an allergy, specifically wheat. Lots of humans had issues with wheat, it would make sense that dogs, who evolved eating meat, would have trouble with it as well. I created a whole plan to transition him off of food with wheat, researched good wheat-free brands, and even thought about feeding him raw. Then our vet blew my mind.
Cue mind exploding
Our vet agreed that Sergeant likely had a food allergy. But, he explained that a lot of people (and other vets!) are very quick to diagnose a wheat allergy that may not actually exist. He said that a more prevalent, and undiagnosed issue, is a poultry and fowl allergy. Chicken, turkey, duck, and any kind of bird are a very common allergen for dogs, perhaps even more so than wheat, he said.
He had us put Sergeant on a poultry and fowl free trial diet. He said we would know by week 4 whether or not it worked. So, we swapped foods (slowly over a week, of course) and then we waited…..
And Sergeant has not had a single ear infection since we switched his food 4 years ago. Amazing! He does have other issues, but they are age-related like arthritis and fatty lipomas. As he has aged (he is 9.5 right now) he has needed to transition to more of a senior food, which is incredibly hard to find, but we found a brand that, while not designated specifically for seniors, he does very well on. We get Premium Edge from Amazon, and having dog food delivered to your door when you have two big labs to feed is a huge help. As he ages a little more, I’m sure we’ll have to swap him again, but this is a good fit for now, plus his coat is very shiny from all the fish in his food!