Food for Thought

A long time ago, in one of my earlier books, I wrote about the possible contribution of dietary (and other) allergy to aggressive behavior. I reported that I had recommended to an owner that she should switch her dog’s food to Nature’s Recipe – a 20% protein ration – to help address its aggressive behavior. Weeks later she called me to thank me profoundly for helping her to appreciate the effect of diet on her dog’s behavior. She said the diet I recommended made her dog so much worse it was barely believable. Apparently, this dog’s skin erupted into inflamed and itchy patches and its aggression became much worse. Then she owner made the connection: her dog was allergic to carrots and (apparently) all Nature’s Recipe rations contain carrots. She switched her dog back to a hypo-allergenic diet and its skin and temperament improved again. She gave me the credit for drawing her attention to the impact of diet on behavior. A kind of back-handed compliment, if you will.


Well it happened again, recently, that a similar situation arose again in a dog seen by my colleague Dr. Ogata here at Tufts. The dog in question, an 85-pound black German shepherd, had conflict aggression and fear aggression. Midst was was reasonable effective treatment, the dog suddenly started becoming much more aggressive. His owner thought, “what has changed.” Then she figured it out; it was the food. Coincident with the increased aggression was a diet switch she had made to California Natural. This diet change exacerbated underlying allergic skin disease causing the dog to start itching and become more aggressive. The owner eliminated the California Natural ration, put him back on his previous diet, and both his skin and temperament issues were addressed. “Amazing,” was the comment she made in a follow up email.


Although there is no science to backup the claim that allergies make aggression worse, it seems only reasonable that when a dog is made more irritable by allergies that his “fuse” will be that much shorter when it comes to aggressive responding. Think of it as “irritable aggression.” Where it comes to diet, I spend most time in the clinic considering the role of high protein diets in various types of aggression but am reminded, once more, that allergy and may sometimes make things worse … and that is food for thought.



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