1 Introduction: Symptoms of Dog Allergies
You’re likely on this page as your dog has a recurring, skin, gut or ear condition. He might be nibbling his paws. He probably has weepy eyes and maybe even anal gland issues. You’ve tried everything – every dry food available (and are probably now feeding a grossly over prices bag of prescription food), he’s on steroid tablets, shots and creams, antibiotics, he’s had bloods, scrapes and you have probably received a number of different diagnoses including atopic (no known cause) dermatitis on the skin or irritable bowel / colitis gut. You have been given a list of potential allergens, flea bites and dust mites are a favourite. Nothing has worked and now you find yourself exploring potential dog allergies to food, usually without help from your vet.
Ironically you may even have been recommended to move to the dog to some plain chicken and rice which the dog does well on while the “right bag of dry food” is found! So close!!
You are terribly concerned for your dog’s prospects. You have spent a fortune and you are at your whits end.
You are another victim of food sensitivity in dogs and we can most certainly help you.
For more a more in depth look at symptoms please go to Dog Allergies Part 1 Introduction
2 Food Allergy Versus Food Intolerance in Dogs
All the skin, ear, eye and gut conditions are a result of inflammation originating in their gut. Your dog is eating something that is not agreeing with him. The immune system that patrols the gut sees a protein it doesn’t like and sends out the troops. Once all the “baddies” are rounded up they need to be ejected from the body. The bum is a common exit point but so is the skin (zit-like pustules), ears (dark brown, smelly wax), eyes (weepy) and mouth / nose (phlegm).
Vitally your dog is experiencing a food sensitivity but it’s not an allergy per se. When you think allergy think of the man allergic to peanuts on his hands and knees gasping for breath after eating something once made in a factory that contained peanuts. Thankfully true allergy is rare, less than 1% of the human and dog population.
But allergy is just one type of food sensitivity. What your dog is experiencing is a food intolerance which in the very least 50% of (dry fed) dogs today are suffering today. It’s a similar beast, also involving the immune system, but it’s slower, it slips under the radar. When it pops up it can look like many different things (a skin rash, IBS, ear infections, anal gland issues, itch, arthritis, depression).
So when your vet says it’s not an allergy they’re kind of right. Unfortunately that rarely get passed that point. Food intolerance is not taught in vet school as it’s caused by dry food and dry food is the only food for dogs, according to your vet!
For more a more in depth look at dog food allergy versus intolerance please go to Dog Allergies Part 2
3 What Are Dogs Allergic To?
When an issue pops up we are always looking for what we can put in to stop it happening. An amazing pill. But if you are a man with a shrimp allergy, all the anti-histamine and steroids in the world aren’t going to cure you if you eat shrimp for breakfast every single day of your life. Those harsh drugs only tell your immune system to quit complaining. The question should be what do I stop putting in. The top 3 things causing this in your dog is (in order):
1. Wheat (wheat-based dry food, dental sticks, bread, pasta)
2. Chicken or beef (and possibly all red meats, a result of the highly processed gunk used in dry food)
3. Chemicals (all the stuff you can’t pronounce in the dry food ingredients but also neurotoxic chemical flea treatments, heavy wormers and needless annual boosters).
For more a more in depth look at allergens in dogs please go to Dog Allergies Part 3
4 Hypoallergenic Dog Food
Now you know what to take out to stop all the bad stuff happening, next you want to know what to establish a base diet for your dog. A base diet is simply one food that you know you can put into your dog and he will not get his symptoms. It is a platform where you can both pause, take a breath and think “ok, this is working”. It is his safe meal, something he can eat without reacting, a platform from which we can build. Studies show 10 out of 12 vet prescribed, single protein dry foods designed for this purpose are contaminated with meat proteins not listed in the ingredients so dry food, as ever, is most certainly out. In this regard I strongly advise you move your dog to plain, fresh, raw turkey or duck mince with a small amount of cooked veg. To this you should add good, strong cod liver oil tablets and nothing else. Not a treat. Nothing. Tell everyone in the house. If the turkey or duck meal doesn’t work fish is sure to. You need to start this diet with a good quality meat, ideally not a “dog food” product. I would shop at a butchers for these meats.
For more a more in-depth look at how to make hypoallergenic dog food please go to Dog Allergies Part 4
5 The Elimination Diet
Now you need to find out which protein(s) was causing all the trouble so you can avoid including it down the road. No problem. Once you see him doing better on his new diet we’re going to run an Exclusion Diet. This is where you test him with a new protein each week and watch for a reaction. If his symptoms come back then you may have one of a possible few culprits. This is the safe, easy, painless, FREE and most importantly definitive way to find out what’s going on.
For more a more in-depth look at the elimination diet please go to Dog Allergies Part 5
Good luck. Any problems whatsoever, please get in touch with Dr. Conor Brady!
It’s what we do and we’re very good at it.