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About Dr. Chip

Dr. Chip Coombs is Pets Plus Us’ Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), and has practiced veterinary medicine since 1976, initially in the United Kingdom, then in Western Canada and, finally, in Toronto, where he owned a multi-veterinarian practice for 33 years.



My dog is an extremely picky eater (Shepherd/Husky). She’s almost five years old, exercises daily, and has tried many different kinds of dog food -  all with no success… I’ve tried kibble, raw dehydrated, wet, and nothing seems to be pleasing her. The vet seems to blame it on the fact that she is not food driven and that is apparently common in the Husky breed. Is something wrong with her? I would also appreciate your recommendations on dog food choices for her to try.

Much appreciated,




Hello Michelle,

Having a dog who is not food motivated can be a real challenge, especially when they are puppies and you want to use food as a training tool. However, you've made it through that stage and your dog remains a very picky eater. The first thing I would suggest, if you are not already doing it is to meal feed vs. free feed. I would also set a time limit of 20-30 minutes for the food to be eaten, before it is picked up. The rationale is to make the food appear more "valuable".

Other tricks that work with some dogs is to add warm water to the kibble vs. feeding it dry. This additional heat releases the fats in the food which makes it smell better and hence taste better. One can try one of the many meal supplements or gravy/stews that are designed to be mixed in with the regular food to make it smell and taste better. You can even resort to using pieces of chicken and other good protein sources mixed in with the regular diet. Again, offering it warm vs. cold will usually make it more appealing. 

There is no ideal food for all dogs. However, there are many excellent foods available. You can even get a recipe from your veterinarian and prepare meals out of human food. The underlying principle is that the diet must be balanced.

Although you have tried many different foods, my guess is that there is one out there that will appeal. I remember a standard poodle in my practice who wouldn't eat anything and was consequently very thin, but otherwise normal in all other respects. After trying countless types of food, the owner tried a tooth diet called t/d made by Hill's and the dog devoured it and continued to for the rest of its life. Don't despair, with patience most owners will finally stumble upon a food that appeals.

Good luck,

Dr. Chip


Hello Dr. Chip,

My question has to do with dogs with allergies. With the elimination of food environment etc... are steroids the only answer? Are there additional options? Can stress, anxiety, etc. contribute, even if it isn’t really obvious?





Hello Susan,

Allergies are a complex, multi-factorial (usually) and very frustrating for pet owners, the pet, and their veterinarian. Assuming that over a period of time, through the use of elimination diets (a minimum of 12 weeks), that food has been ruled out and that the trigger factor is environmental, then drugs may well be the only solution. It is not easy to rule out food as either one source, or THE source, of the allergic response. Your dog, for a full 12 weeks, must ONLY get air, water and a very specific elimination diet and not all elimination diets work. This is a nightmare for most owners to achieve, especially if there are other pets and kids in the household.

Stress is not traditionally one of the trigger factors, but most veterinarians wouldn't rule anything out, if the problem is severe enough. Steroids used to be the "go-to" drug, if an anti-inflammatory was necessary. However, there is less use of steroids today, due to their side-effects and more veterinarians are using drugs like Apoquel and a biological called Cytopoint. These drugs can be very effective, but they are very expensive. Another option would be to use high levels of a liquid Omega Fatty Acid preparation for dogs. OFA's (OFA 3 specifically) are proven anti-inflammatories for dogs and when used in conjunction with certain antihistamines, can sometimes be very effective.

One also has to rule out other causes of itchy and inflamed skin, including parasites, bacterial infection, fungal infection, hormonal and behavioural issues. Allergies are a huge challenge, but in most cases can be controlled offering excellent quality of life for your dog.

Good luck,

Dr. Chip