My 3-y-old 6 lb male Chihuahua started out on Royal Canin dry food for Chihuahuas before I got him at 16 months old. Since then he has had no grains, no sugars, no ‘meat or animal derivatives’.
I changed him over to Natures Menu Country Hunter wet food pouches, and he continued to do well.
After about six months, I changed him to Lily’s Kitchen wet food trays because these were more readily available to me, and there were no adverse effects (at first). I would give him a variety of LK trays, including the Organic variety, which I increased to every other day.
He started to get loose, and more frequent, mucousy stools.
I suspected his food was not suiting him. Maybe the LK Organic was too rich... I then gave him a half-wet-half-dry diet (the dry was Barking Heads small breed, grain free) so he had LK wet trays in the morning (alternating organic with non-organic trays on different days) and dry in the evening. After that his stools firmed up, but were often bright yellow, and often normal consistency but marbled brown and yellow.
I emailed the company and they told me that they had never heard of this problem with their food. With hindsight, his stools firmed up not because he was eating half dry food, but because it meant he was eating less of the LK Organic.
At some point last year he developed occasional symptoms (about six episodes in total) in the morning which included, but not all at the same time, gurgling stomach, vomiting bile (twice had specks of blood in it), loss of appetite, shaking, gulping, head-bobbing, licking the air, licking the carpet, strange posture, yelping, frantic running, once even eating his Vetbed! His symptoms would clear up after he had eaten, but he would lose his appetite during the episodes, and he would get worse if he didn't eat.
I took him to two different veterinary practices where he was given an anti-nausea injection and I was told by both to feed him Chappie to settle his stomach and come back next day if he didn’t improve. He improved as soon as I got home.
I strongly started to suspect it was his food that was the problem and, eventually, specifically CARRAGEENAN in the Lily’s Kitchen Organic. Carrageenan is an unnecessary and dangerous thickening agent used to make the food look prettier. It firms up the product to make it loaf-like.
I have recently removed the LK Organic / carrageenan and, so far, he has been right as rain. He used to also do wicked-smelling farts two to four times a day, and now does none. His stools are perfect in colour and consistency.
I now keep a very detailed food and symptom diary which includes every single thing he eats, the time he eats it, the amount he eats, and any symptoms at all. I have eliminated the dry food, too, and feed him three times a day instead of two.
I now email all companies BEFORE I feed my dog (and cat) on a new food to ask them if their food contains carrageenan, and what other thickeners their food contains, because they don't have to declare them on pet food labels. Please do this if your pet has any of the above symptoms I mentioned. If a food contains carrageenan, don’t feed it to your pet. It can cause inflammation (anything with ‘itis’ on the end of it refers to inflammation) and severe digestive upset, and I believe these are the milder, short-term symptoms.
It is hard to find a dog food that contains no thickeners at all (Barking Heads uses none, and Meowing Heads for cats has none). Some companies use cassia gum, xanthan gum, guar gum, locust bean gum as thickening agents. After an absolute ton of research, I believe these are less harmful by far than carrageenan, and some or all may not cause harm.
He is still eating some LK non-organic foods that I have in the cupboard, which contain either locust bean gum or cassia gum, and he has been well ever since dropping the organic version which contains carrageenan.
Lily's Kitchen is up front about naming thickeners on its labels, but not all companies are. It is best to check with them with a simple email before you feed their food to your pet.