BehavioRx Case of the Month
for April 1999

How High Carbohydrate Diets Can Affect Some Dogs

The following e-mail was received after our suggestion that the high-carbohydrate diet the dog had been eating might be producing hyper-reactivity.

"Mr. Campbell,

I e-mailed you a few weeks ago with some questions about the diet for hyperactive dogs that is outlined in your book "Behavior Problems in Dogs." As promised, here are the results after about two weeks of the new diet.

Our "problem pup" is a 17 month old male large breed that is prone to what appears to be panic attacks. This behavior occurs when he is over stimulated by a crowd of people and dogs, such as dog shows or the training arena, or when I arrive home, to a lesser extent. He is difficult to control and nearly impossible to teach in these situations.

I had been feeding him Nutro's Natural Choice Lamb Meal and Rice (1 cup in the morning and 2 cups in the evening plus meat), 1/2 cup raw chicken, 1 tablespoon of Missing Link, Lipoderm, 2000 mg. Vitamin C, and Pet Tabs Plus. Mackerel was sometimes substituted for the chicken. I also tried to substitute a mix of beef heart, green tripe and liver occasionally, but he does not appear to care for beef. In the past we have also tried feeding Natures Recipe for Working Dogs (turned black areas of his coat red), and Precise (developed hot spots). Sometimes, he finished his meals, sometimes not.

New Diet Effects

Currently, we are feeding Solid Gold (puppy food) and California Natural canned food, as you suggested. I have also been mixing in liver or mackerel. In the morning he eats 1 cup of Solid Gold, 1/3 can of California Natural, Lipoderm, 1000 mg. Vitamin C and 500 mg. Niacinamide.

In the evening, he is eating 2 1/2 cups of Solid Gold, 1 tablespoon of Missing Link, 1000 mg. Vitamin C, 500 mg. Niacinamide, 1 Pet Tab Plus,  1/3 can of California Natural and small amounts of liver or mackerel.  He (now) eats all of his food every meal.

His behavior is very remarkable. He is much calmer and has started to learn at a much faster pace than in the past.

I had him at a dog show yesterday, Sunday, and he worked very nicely in the ring and was quite calm while standing ring side. We did have a few growling episodes, but this not unusual for a male of this breed at this age. He worked through the episodes quicker than he has in the past. I also worked him last Wednesday night at the training arena with much better results than in the past. This diet is definitely working for this dog. I noticed a few improvements within 24 hours and he is settling more almost daily.

Thank you for providing the information that I needed to assist my dog.

A question, if you do not mind. Raising protein levels and decreasing carbohydrates is very contrary to everything that I have read over the years when researching diets for hyperactive dogs, but it is obviously correct for my dog. Will this type of diet have a similar affect on aggressive dogs that are triggered by fear, dominance or other dog aggression? Will it have any affect on dogs that are suffering from separation anxiety? Of course, behavior modification programs for both owners and dogs would also be implemented with the dietary changes.

There is a new calmness in the eyes of my pup that I have not seen in him previously. It is this calmness that I would like to also see in the eyes of the aggressive dogs and those suffering from separation anxiety.

Thank you for all of your assistance!"

Answers to queries:

This type of diet will benefit almost any otherwise healthy dog who is "hyper-reactive" and hyper-sensitive to high carbohydrate diets. We must bear in mind that most of the studies you may have read on this subject, if not all of them, may have been funded by high-carbohydrate diet dog food manufacturers.

I'm pleased to have been able to help.

Kindest regards,

Bill Campbell

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