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Long term use of Lamb and rice diets


I found the following link to information regarding research and the link between copper toxicity and long term use of lamb and rice diets. this is an excellent read and very important information as Dobes are one of the breeds that has a problem with processing and/or storing copper leading to copper toxicity - In my ignorance I have fed Lamb and rice on a rotation with beer/ric and chicken/rice because I thought the protein source would be a safer one than the chicken & beef - WRONG

Again - great information - 1 step forward and 2 steps back - its no wonder the roll we as dog caretaker has inadvertantly contributed to the major health issues we have today - but then again the dog food companies are the not best with sharing the nutritional information either. There is not one warning about long term use of Lamb&Rice on any of my dog food bags!

As we wait for the research to provide a DNA test for DCM - Its just as important that we educate ourselves about the enviromental causes that can also induce heart disease -

Long Term Use Of Lamb and Rice Diet?

Straight Lamb/Rice diets were NEVER meant to be used as a long termed diet. It was designed to be used for a short period of time while the dog was dealing with allergies.

There have been known issues from long term use of this food, Taurine deficiency and heart disease. Chronic liver disease from copper toxicosis. Dogs lose muscle mass - heart is the biggest muscle in the body.

I personally have found that lamb and rice diets doesn't give danes enough fat and protien. The stay way to skinny on this formula.

Email From Dr. Jean Dodd!

Dear Renee:

There was a time about 10-15 years ago when lamb and rice foods were used for dogs that were allergic or intollerant to standard other foods. But, over the years many dogs have now become reactive to lamb especially, as it now is "overused". When you couple that with the increasing incidence of chronic liver disease from copper toxicosis in young adult dogs of an increasing number of dog breeds, reducing the copper content of commercial foods becomes very important. Most cereal-based kibbles marketed today have 16-33 ppm copper -- way above the 8 ppm minimum or the 11-13 ppm of the foods that are properly balanced in copper. The companies putting in so much copper say that they counteract that by adding more zinc -- what a stupid way to offset the copper (by adding too much of another mineral !). Lamb is a high copper containing food, so we want to restrict its use. See attached. Jean


W. Jean Dodds, DVM Hemopet 938 Stanford Street Santa Monica, CA 90403 310-828-4804; Fax 310-828-8251

Abnormal accumulation of copper in the liver leads to chronic liver failure, and is an heritable or familial trait recognized in an increasing number of dog breeds, including the West Highland White Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Skye Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, Keeshond, and American Cocker Spaniel. Other breeds may also be affected. Certain diseases of the liver, especially those that cause blockage of the bile duct or bile flow (cholestasis), also can result in excessive hepatic copper accumulation.

While the level of copper and other metals stored in the body generally tends to be higher in newborns, levels in the dog remain fairly constant throughout life, and are higher than those normally seen in humans. The mean copper concentration in the liver of normal dogs of any breed is 200-400 ppm on a dry weight basis. Dogs with copper toxicosis (also known as chronic active hepatitis) may exhibit concentrations of copper up to 10,000 ppm, while levels of 2000 or greater ppm areexcepted to be toxic.

Copper toxicosis, a copper storage disease, is known as Wilson's disease in people. A similar disease was first recognized in the Bedlington Terrier breed, and there is now a specific genetic DNA screening test for this trait. Investigators at theUniversity of Utrecht in Holland have recently identified the specific gene locus associated with copper toxicosis in theBedlington Terrier. Unfortunately, with the exception of the West Highland White Terrier, current North American research efforts are not directed at the other affected breeds, such as the American Cocker Spaniel, in order to have a breed-specific DNA screening test. Hopefully, research in this field will allow development of a specific test, once a sufficient number of samples from affected animals are available for study. We hope to work with the Dutch group in order begin a project to identify the affected gene in Cocker Spaniels. To accomplish this goal, we need the cooperation of American Cocker Spaniel breeders so that a sufficient number of tissue DNA samples can be obtained for genetic analysis from affected dogs and/or their relatives.

Clinical and Pathological Findings

In affected dog breeds, whether the defect is an heritable trait involving the metabolism of copper itself or is a copper storage disorder --- such as might be involved with the Doberman pinscher --- does not affect the outcome. There are three progressive stages of copper toxicosis. In the first stage, the dog is young and not clinically ill, copper levels are beginning to accumulate in the liver, and values are reported to be as high as 1500 ppm. Regardless of the breed, this accumulation begins very early in life, and the rate of accumulation will vary among different breeds and also within individual animals. Wedge biopsy of the liver at this stage will look normal, although special copper stains of biopsy tissue will reveal the excess copper. Stage two of copper toxicosis occurs when the copper level in the liver reaches 2000 ppm. The dog is typically not ill at this point but wedge biopsy of the liver will show hepatitis and is the definitive test to make a diagnosis. Laboratory findings at that time may include an increase in ALT and alkaline phosphatase enzyme levels, but these are nonspecific findings, not necessarily indicative of copper toxicosis. As an elevated ALT enzyme concentration reflects specifichepatocellular disease, it signifies a toxic or other form of injury to the liver cell. There are other pathological changes in blood profiles which can include: low platelet counts, thyroid dysfunction, increase bilirubin in the blood and/or urine,hypoalbuminemia, and anemia. Finally, in stage three disease the dog becomes clinically ill, may have a poor appetite (anorexia), depression, abdominal pain, vomiting, excessive drinking (polydipsia) and urination (polyuria), icterus or jaundice,ascites, high amylase and lipase concentrations, and weight loss, the latter is commonly seen and may be the only clinical sign. These clinical signs usually result from liver necrosis, which is triggered by copper concentrations above 2000 ppm.

In the end stages of copper toxicosis, the concentration of copper in the liver may actually decrease, as the cells that die during the necrotic process are those that have accumulated copper. Because of the progressive nature of the disease, most affected animals are not presented for diagnosis and treatment until the late stages, when clinical symptoms are present, or after some significant body stress event such as a pregnancy. In fact, most of the severely affected, fatal cases in American Cocker Spaniels have occurred in females within a few weeks to months after a pregnancy. An intriguing possibility is the potential relationship between the high incidence of autoimmune hemolytic anemia in American Cocker Spaniels [the breed with highest risk worldwide] and copper toxicosis due to the free radicals produced by copper accumulation. Such a relationship has been suggested in the Bedlington Terrier.

Management and Treatment

Treatment of copper toxicosis can include dietary, medical, or a combination of these methods. Please see the accompanying two-page handout which discuss dietary modification to reduce copper accumulation. When copper accumulation is detected early on and the dog is asymptomatic, initiating treatment at that time may slow down the accumulation of copper before irreversible damage to the liver has occurred. In addition to the dietary changes mentioned in the accompanying handout, chelating agents can be used which bind or chelate copper, thereby enhancing its excretion in the urine or bile. The most commonly used chelating agent is d-penicillamine given at 10-15 mg/kg. However, the use of this copper-chelating drug is somewhat controversial because it also binds zinc, which made deplete tissue levels of zinc and have undesirable side effects. Also, d- penicillamine has other side effects such as anorexia, nausea, and vomiting. In treating some canine cases, the adverse effects of d-penicillamine were counteracted by using a homemade low copper-low protein diet with additional zinc supplementation. Other drugs that have been used in chronic active hepatitis are corticosteroids, such as prednisone, andcolchicine. Of the two drugs, prednisone would be preferred as it helps the body excrete excess copper while fighting the inflammation and fibrosis of the liver. Side effects of both these drugs include inducing liver enzyme levels, and colchicineoften produces nausea.

Selected References

Dodds W J. Pet food preservatives and other additives, Chapter 5. In: Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine. Mosby, St. Louis, 1997; pp 73-79.

Dill-Mackey E. Chronic hepatitis in dogs. Vet Clinics N. Amer, 25(2): 387-397, 1995.

Dodds W J, Donoghue S. Interactions of clinical nutrition with genetics, Chapter 8. In: The Waltham Book of Clinical Nutrition of the Dog and Cat. Pergamon Press Ltd., Oxford, 1994, p.105-117. Schilsky M L , Sternlieb I. Animal models of coppertoxicosis. Adv Vet Sci Comp Med, 37:357-373, 1993.

Thornburg L P. A study of canine hepatobiliary diseases, Part 4: copper and liver disease. Comp An Pract, 2(7): 3-6, 1988.

Hardy R M. Chronic Hepatitis in dogs: a syndrome. Comp Cont Edu Pract Vet, 8: 904-914, 1986.

Thornburg L P, Polley D, Dimmitt R. The diagnosis and treatment of copper toxicosis in dogs, Can Pract, 11(5): 36-39, 1984.


Lamb and Rice Diets Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant http://www.greatdanelady.com/articles/lamb_rice_diets.htm_

Here is a portion of an email that Linda sent me.

The Premium Select (lamb & rice) should only be used for skin problems, and not long termed use, even Eagle will tell you that, and that is true of all Lamb/Rice (straight lamb and rice formulas) because it won't hold muscle mass over the long haul. Especially with showing,working and I do not suggest it for pregnancies or young weaning puppies. Use all lamb/rice diets for times of digestive upset and/or food allergies. That is the original intent of all those diets and when we feed them on a daily basis, we have not place to go if there is a real need for them. Linda

Food Allergies: The Truth About Lamb and Rice Mixes http://www.cvm.uiuc.edu/petcolumns/showarticle.cfm?id=113

Long Term Use Of Lamb and Rice Diet? - Great Dane Fun


Thank you, Gail, for finding this very valuable info for us. I have personally always chosen to use chicken as the main protein source for our dogs as I believe the fat content is much easier for them to digest and take advantage of.
If it's not the Lamb in the dog food, it's the over vaccination or unnecessary over medicating or irresponsible breedings. The heart is a very delicate muscle that we are learning can severly be affected by many outside sources.


DCF Owner
Administrative Staff
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Thanks for posting this - great information! I generally avoid the lamb and rice, but I do happen to have a bag I'm mixing in with the the Merrick Campfire Trout Feast right now since we had the issue with not being able to get the Merrick for a while. I'll be going back to all Merrick after this bag of Pro-Plan is gone, so we won't have to worry about this sort of thing then.


As a breeder IMHO we have assumed the lions share of the responsiblity for the health and longevity of the pups we produce, everyone usually wants to lay all the blame for DCM, liver and cancer solely at the feet of the breeder or the pedigree - sometimes this is justified.

But in truth, in the bigger picture.... everyone in the dogs life plays a role - the breeders and the owners are equally responsible for becoming educated on how best to help our dogs live healthy lives. When breeders do the best they can with the health tests we have today an unknowing owner can contribute to the early death of their doberman. Education is the key - this forum is awesome for getting the word out to a lot of people - just think back to just 5 years ago - we had the internet, but we did not really use it as a social media! what a great tool for us to help educate each other!

Teufelhund in AZ

Active Member
After reading this I am so glad I have never fed Lamb & rice blends to my dogs! Right now Teufel is on a venison single protien source grainfree kibble... Are there any know issues with venison?? Now I am a little noided out about kibble. Thanks for posting this article.


I too always thought that the Lamb and Rice was a great food compared to most others. My first girl, this is about all I fed. Lexi however has had a variety of foods, Lamb & Rice, a little beef, buffalo, some turkey, and now at the moment Venison & Rice grainfree. But in the past the main contributor to her diet was Chicken and Rice.

Sad thing is, you just never sure of WHAT is right. It seems findings change all the time as well as the minor ingredients that may have bad effects. its a constant battle to try and keep up on all this. I suppose that is another reason that feeding RAW might be the way to go. If I had the freezer space/money/time /knowledge to make a easy or smooth transition...I would do it.


Notable member
It really makes you wonder what type of product we are getting anymore. The recent egg scare along with bad ground meat. Whether it is meat or vegetables, they all contain antibiotics, HGH, pesticides, herbicides, etc. And that is our food! So it makes me think, what are we really feeding our dogs? A new prescription drug comes on the market, only to find out a few years down the road it can be harmful, if not fatal.
Teufelhund mentioned venison. I personally eat a fair amount of deer and elk. It is low fat, high protein and I have never seen anyone running around the woods trying to stick a needle in it's azz, full of drugs, LOL.
If you never saw hidden videos of slaughter houses, you would think they are clean and very well inspected. Well that is far from the truth.
There are some things that go on that would make you gag, or at least think about eating meat.
Immunizations in humans and our pets is another issue. In fact another whole thread.


DCF Owner
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It is low fat, high protein and I have never seen anyone running around the woods trying to stick a needle in it's azz, full of drugs, LOL.
LOL, we eat quite a bit of wild meat too, and that way we know for sure what "isn't" in it...
It's definitely scary to think of all the things that could and do go into the commercial food both us and our dogs eat.

What brand of food are you guys feeding that has a venison formula?


Hot Topics Subscriber
In my ignorance I have fed Lamb and rice on a rotation with beer/ric and chicken/rice because I thought the protein source would be a safer one than the chicken & beef - WRONG

So it shouldn't even be fed as a 'rotation'?? I, too, always thought that lamb/rice was a good 'staple'. I usually will rotate bags and canned food between that and beef and chicken and sometime salmon.


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Thanks Kim, I'll have to check that out!