Wet Food Additives

Since my miniature poodle became very ill last December aged 19 months, she has been on Purina Pro Plan HA. I was sceptical at first but she has done very well on it. Now she mostly refuses to eat it, also noticed that her scratching had become worse - apart from a bit of scurf here and there, there is no obvious reason for the scratching on her skin. I started adding tinned sardine and mackerel as a topper to get her to eat the kibble and hopefully reduce the scratching. This has progressed to include some wet dog food - I have been very careful to avoid Carrageenan (which I note has now gone from red to amber on the AADF site). Some of the foods that guarantee Carrageenan free, use Cassia Gum instead, sometimes Cassia Gum 5 other Cassia Gum 1. I cannot find out what that means exactly. I have found this:

'Gel (Synergy) with Carrageenan or Xanthan Gum Cassia gum forms firm, thermoplastic gels with carrageenan. As the level of cassia gum is increased, the gel strength of carrageenan solutions is also increase. Cassia gum and carrageenan gel is stable due to the excellent retorting stability of cassia gum.

Cassia gum and xanthan gum, on their own, do not have the ability to form gels. But cassia gum combined with xanthan gum, aqueous dispersions of cassia gum form cohesive, elastic gels. As with carrageenan, cassia is more efficient at forming gels with xanthan gum than other galactomannans, enabling lower total hydrocolloid levels in finished formulations. This is due to the unique branched polysaccharide galactose/mannose structure of cassia gum’ on the cassiagums.com website. I also found this:

‘Conclusions on safety for the target species: The FEEDAP Panel concludes that only purified semi-refined cassia gum that meets the specifications of cassia gum as a food additive can be considered safe for cats and dogs, at a maximum content of
13 200 mg/kg complete feed’.

at the end of a paper looking at the use of Cassia Gum in cat and dog food.

I am no scientist but I really would like to know what this means as the suggestion is that if Cassia Gum is used so is Xanthan Gum or Carrageenan.

I am trying to keep my young bitch healthy.

Hello and welcome to the forum. Please can you say why the vet suggested that particular food and what was the illness that she had last year?
The fact that your little bitch has begun to scratch and is refusing the food seems to indicate that there could be a problem with it. Dogs can instinctively know when something is not suiting them and it can be a reason for food refusal. There is an article here about fussy eaters that mentions this and it may be useful - Feeding the Fussy Eater.

The ingredient list for the food you are using is here: Maize starch*, Hydrolysed soya protein *, minerals, coconut oil, sugar, rapeseed oil, cellulose, soya oil, fish oil. Close inspection of that list tells you much about the quality (or lack of) of the product. There is more about prescription diets here. As it was your vet who advised you to use this food, your dog seems to have done well on it and I don’t know what the initial illness was I can’t really give any detailed advice about diet.

You asked about wet food to make the food more palatable but in view of the fact that your dog has problems I think that it would be better not to use wet food at all but to try adding some fresh cooked food to your dog’s bowl. There are plenty of videos on YouTube about home cooking for dogs but as a start, check out Rodney Habib. Why Fresh “human food” is so important for dogs and What to Add To Pet Food To Make It Better! may be useful.

Your dog is very young and I think that long term it would be useful to do more research into her particular condition and dietary management. Prescription diets are usually not good quality but (arguably) can be useful in the short term. However, I would not want to keep a dog on them long term if at all possible, particularly a young one. There is a wealth of information on this website and if you would like to tell us more and need further advice, please ask.

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Sorry, I should have given more details.

My got my girl in October 2018 at the age of five months. She has scratched for England from the start. She came with some raw food and Purina Opti Start Medium Puppy. I was told it would be ok to change from raw, I do not have facilities to deal with raw food so changed her gradually to wet food but continued to use the Opti Start, she was doing copious soft poo. She is also very fussy which doesn’t help. Eventually, I had her on Lukullus wet food and Arden Grange kibble, she was doing very well, eating it and putting on weight. In December 2019 she had eaten her breakfast, done a three mile walk, then late afternoon threw up bile. Refused any food until the next afternoon when I tried her on boiled white fish, that was ok. Tried some more later with rice and seven hours later the lot came back undigested. Vets next day, the vet examined her and said she wasn’t uncomfortable and gave an anti sick injection. She did eat boiled white fish or boiled chicken breast but was sick again after a couple of days so took her back, different vet on duty and she was dosed up with antibiotics and omeprazole, told to use Purina en wet food. She was very hungry by then but the whole lot came back all over the carpet and was told to cut the amount of antibiotics etc. and put her back on boiled food. Eventually she was passing just mucus and gas. Nine days from the start they had her in for xrays, scan and bloods. Thickened intestines and enlarged lymph nodes. She was opened up and apparently intestines very inflamed, so much so they have difficulty closing the duodenum after biopsies. Histology report said IBD or possibly enteric lymphoma, so PARR test carried out. The conclusion was IBD, I did hear mention of enteritis but to be honest, I never did get a reason for it. Before I could get to her, she had licked some disgusting diarrhoea type poo over the field the afternoon before this started but the vet thought it too quick to be the cause of the problem.

The vet had said to keep her on the Purina HA until mid April, since when I have been adding boiled white fish, boiled chicken breast, tinned sardines and mackerel to the Purina HA - all in small quantities and that seemed ok, I have also tried some Butchers wet food (she used to have that in rotation with the Lukullus) and that was ok but I have added a bit of Country Hunter in the last couple of days and she has had mucus and diarrhoea again so back on just the Purina. I would say the scratching got worse on the Purina. Vet doesn’t think she has a food allergy.

Sorry for the length of this but difficult to explain in fewer words.

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It’s good that you have your vet on board with this complex problem. It doesn’t sound like typical allergy/intolerance to any particular food but a good diet can go a long way to improving general health and immunity.

In view of the fact that you are already giving some home cooked toppers and your dog tolerates these foods, your dog might do OK on a fresh cooked diet. You can do this yourself and we have some useful links in the Home Cooking for Dogs. We Cook for Dogs might be useful and more recently VetChef has been launched. Links for both in the aforementioned section of the forum.

If you don’t have time or facilities to home cook, have a look at Different Dog. You don’t need much freezer space for this as they deliver fortnightly. If you decide to talk to the staff at Different Dog, ask them to leave a message for their vet to ring you back so that you can discuss the problems and get advice. There are varied meals and they are low in carbohydrate which is useful for itchy dogs.

Regarding the itching, the usual advice is to check for fleas etc. Some cases (not all) of itching are due to yeast overgrowth and this often responds well to a suitable shampoo. You would need to discuss with the vet as they are prescription only. In the past I’ve used Malaseb on my dog and it has worked well. Even if your dog doesn’t have yeast, bathing with a mild, unperfumed shampoo can be helpful. Sebocalm is one such product. Scratching dogs often introduce bacterial infection into the skin so it’s worth checking for this and seeing the vet for a course of antibiotics specific for skin infection.

Another useful product for dogs with intestinal problems is a suitable canine specific probiotic. YuDigest from Lintbells is one such product.

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Thank you for your reply Dottie. I will have a look at your suggestions. I have to say that I haven’t spoken with the vet for some months because of lockdown but I am planning to get her spayed in mid-September so will need to speak with him about that. Basically my dog is fit, energetic, naughty and a bit of a scavenger (other animal/bird poo) this IBD flair up was very scary, the itching is an ongoing problem.

I was worried about the additives in wet food, particularly carrageenan but now trying to find information about Cassia Gum 1 and 5 and what that means.

I did look at the YouTube links you gave me and was interested in the idea of adding vegetables to their food.

Many thanks.

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Vivann - now that you have mentioned different types of wet food that you have tried, I am wondering if low fat would be helpful. Wet foods are usually higher in fat but you can check this out on the Dog Food Directory. With regards to your query about Cassia Gum, I can’t help but they are thickening agents so more commonly found in pate type foods. You might therefore wish to avoid this type of product. It’s difficult because as we discovered with carrageenan, they are not usually listed.

I forgot to mention turmeric. This is known to be anti inflammatory and might help with your dog’s IBD. I have read that dogs can respond well to this and in fact one of mine has it and I have found it to be beneficial. Turmeric can be found in Golden Paste which can be bought ready made or you can make it yourself. Dorwest Herbs sell turmeric tablets. To increase bioavailability it needs to have black pepper and an oil (usually coconut oil) added.
Turmeric For Dogs: 5 Surprising Health Benefits.
Healing With Turmeric Golden Paste For Dogs

I don’t know if it will help, but with your vet’s consent, I can only suggest that you try a fresh cooked diet, 60% of which should be the protein source and with a simple recipe (single protein). You can easily choose low meat or poultry and also use white fish. It’s important to get this right because all home cooked food needs the addition of calcium in the right quantity and some sort of oil to get the omega 3:6 ratio correct. You would need to study this carefully and with the right dietary advice it might be helpful to your dog.


Vivann - I have asked David to look at your thread re Cassia Gum. Please watch your thread for his reply.


Sorry I’m so late to the conversation. Really sorry to hear about your little girl’s poor health. It sounds like a very complex issue so it’s hard for me to give too much in the way of feeding advice but Dottie’s suggestion of home preparing food is a great one as it gives you total control of what goes in. By providing a basic but nutritious home prepared exclusion diet, you should be able to fairly quickly find out which ingredients are fine and which are not.

On the subject of wet food additives, I’ve been attempting to get my head around the various thickeners and gelling agents that are used for some time but, as you have found, information is pretty thin on the ground and most manufacturers simply will not answer questions. I have, however, been able to speak with one very reputable wet food producer and they have shared the following information:

  • Thickening and gelling agents are typically only needed in ‘paté’ or ‘loaf’ type wet foods (so not slurry type foods or chunks in jelly/gravy type foods)
  • Thickening and gelling agents are not the same. Thickening agents include Cassia Gum, Locust bean gum, and Guar gum. Gelling agents (Agar-Agar, Konjac, Carrageenan, Alginate) will be used alongside these ingredients to then set the product.
  • Quote: “Thickeners will not form a gel alone and so one of the above gelling agents would need to be included”
  • Cassia gum always needs to be declared on the label since it has a legal maximum percentage
  • Quote: “Cassia is used to enhance the gelling strength of Carrageenan. Cassia serves absolutely no purpose in a system unless Carrageenan is also present and there is zero merit to using it unless also using carrageenan.”

Again, this is a highly reputable, well established wet food producer so I have total faith in their information.

So, essentially, if a food contains cassia gum then it must be declared on the label and it stands to reason that the food also contains carrageenan. Carrageenan can also be used in conjunction with other thickeners that do not need to be declared on the ingredients list so if you are determined to avoid it, your best option would be to steer clear of pate and loaf type foods altogether.


Thank you for your response David. It does help to explain how the thickeners are used.

I too am struggling to get my head around thickening agents and gelling agents. I have been seeking out wet food brands that say manufacturer guarantees no carrageenan. However, they do declare Cassia 5 and Cassia 1 (I still don’t know the difference). This being the case, even though they guarantee no carrageenan - how can I be sure this is true??

My fuss pot prefers the loaf type food which does have Cassia in it. In fact I have just found a Cassia Gum 4 in the one of the ranges. I am currently in conversation with this manufacturer as their website says one thing and the labels on the cans say another.

I think I am going to have to stick with the current Purina kibble and continue to add home cooked fish or chicken to enhance it. I will see if she will eat some veg with it, she does have a piece of raw carrot to chew

I think I am going to have to stick with the current Purina kibble and continue to add home cooked fish or chicken to enhance it. I will see if she will eat some veg with it, she does have a piece of raw carrot to chew?
That sounds like the best thing for now. It will give you some breathing space to decide how you want to proceed. Vegetables need to be cooked and mashed so that the dog can make best use of the nutrition that they afford. Try to limit the starchy ones.

With regards to the thickeners, as David mentioned, you just need to avoid the pate/loaf type wet foods, even if your fussy dog likes them. Normally it’s ok to mix foods but your dog has digestive issues so it’s best to keep things as simple as possible.

Your dog is quite young and has complex issues. I agree with David in that a home cooked exclusion diet would be useful. That way you will know exactly what has gone into the food and can monitor response. It’s important not to give anything other than the food though. Rather than trying this or that and not really knowing why it has or hasn’t worked, with an exclusion diet you should be able to pinpoint the things that your dog can’t tolerate. It is well worth the effort in the long run. You have already made a start because you know that your dog is ok with chicken and fish.

I mentioned supplements earlier in the thread but just a reminder that a good canine specific probiotic such as YuDigest might be helpful.

We have a recent thread about allergies here which you may find useful. The video is well worth watching.

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Thanks for the response Dottie, I was wondering if the vegetables should be cooked or raw - so your recommendations are very helpful. I will have a look at the YuDigest you mentioned. Actually, when she was ill before being opened up, one of the vets gave her a dose of prebiotic (I think) it was black I believe. She threw that up too. However, a previous dog had probiotic which did help him to some extent. Turned out he was very sick with an aggressive liver cancer which had spread to his pancreas - came on very quickly and the first thing the vets noticed on the xray was thickened intestines! Gave me quite a scare when I was told thickened intestines and enlarged lymph nodes for this little girl.

Many thanks for your help. I will report back on how we progress.

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Vivann - I forgot to mention Pure Vegi Plus Mixer. The ingredient list is Carrot, Potato, Egg, Apple, Parsnip, Cabbage, Green Beans and Minerals. You only need to add the protein source. The calcium, vitamins etc are included. You would have to speak to the company’s staff about adding oil because the food is dehydrated.

Thanks Dottie. I was looking at this earlier and wondering if it would be a good idea. Another food to speak with the vet about. All I know is that he said raw would not be a good idea for this girl - although the breeder fed raw to all their dogs including mine. Her sisters have had no stomach issues and do well in the showring.

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It’s tricky when you have a vet who doesn’t advise raw food, especially when the dog has an ongoing health problem. Due to the family background of your dog I would imagine that it is tempting to try raw. If you decide to give it a go, choose a reputable supplier who sells complete meals. A good company will have staff who can advise and support you. Nutriment might be worth looking at. Personally I would start with low fat varieties. Some dogs do well on raw, others less well and some simply don’t like it.

If I do decide to try her on raw it will have to wait until I can move house, I just don’t have the space for another fridge/freezer and mine too small to get frozen dog food in, plus I don’t fancy sharing my food space with raw dog food.

I would certainly research it before trying though. My vet definitely said raw not for Mia.

Sounds like it is best to try for a low to average carbohydrate diet with a simple recipe for now. Raw is not suitable for all dogs and as you say, freezer space is needed.

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Sorry to hear how poorly your little girl has been, not easy as they can not tell us how they feel.
I have used different dog, as Dottie said about, they are very good, but sadly not putting on weight for my thin dog. And if I was to increase the amount , (he is on 800gs already) it would be too expensive. You do need lots of room in the freezer, and they can deliver every 4 weeks,or longer, up to 8 weeks, but again it depends how much freezer room you have.
As Dottie said the pure range is good, they do small packets and you can try a small amount. They also have reviews for itchy dogs who have been helped by this food.
The cobby cold pressed food has got turmeric in so this may also help, and they do samples.
I hope that you can help your little girl recover. :slight_smile:


Vivann - My Pet Nutritionist has a Facebook Live session about IBS/IBD on Friday, 4th September at 7pm.

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Thanks for the heads up Dottie, I will try to follow that.

The Cobbydog Cold Pressed food looks interesting! My girl doesn’t eat a great deal so it may be a problem getting her to eat 170g per day (that was suggested amount on their website).

I will be contacting the vet tomorrow morning to speak to him about getting my girl spayed so I may be able to get some information from him about what type of food I should try i.e. low fat, not too much carbohydrate.

I could only see three of their range on the Food Directory page but their website has a lot more.

So Pure Vegi plus mix or the Vet Chef recipies or this Cobbydog. Getting a good choice now.