Diagnosing Food Allergies In Dogs
Although many companies claim to offer blood, saliva, or hair sample tests to diagnose food allergies, none of these tests are actually reliable. The only way to accurately diagnose food allergies is by performing an elimination diet trial. This involves putting the dog on a strict diet based on either a novel protein something the dog has never had before or a hydrolyzed protein, in which the proteins are broken down into smaller fragments.
The dog must eat this diet and no other foods or treats for a minimum of 8 weeks. If the patients symptoms have improved during the 8 week diet trial, then a diet challenge is performed. This involves reintroducing the dogs original diet to see if the symptoms return. If the symptoms return within 14 days of restarting the original diet, the patient is diagnosed with a food allergy.
Food Allergies In Dogs
Allergies are an immune system response to a trigger. And no matter what you seem to do to treat the symptoms, if your dog continues to be exposed to the allergen, the problems and discomfort will continue.
Actual food allergies are not very common in dogs. About 10 percent of all allergy cases in dogs are due to a food allergy. Dogs also can suffer from food intolerance, which is not the same as a food allergy.
What Happens When Food Proteins Are Injected
When food proteins are injected directly into the bloodstream via vaccination, they can cause a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction against the new allergen. That creates a response in a type of immune cell called a TH2 lymphocyte which belongs to a subset of T cells that produce a cytokine called interleukin-4 .
These TH2 cells interact with other lymphocytes called B cells, whose job is to produce antibodies. Coupled with signals provided by IL-4, this interaction stimulates the B cell to begin production of a large amount of a type of antibody specific to food proteins, known as IgE.
Secreted IgE circulates in the blood and binds to an IgE-specific receptor on the surface of other kinds of immune cells called mast cells and basophils, which are both involved in the acute inflammatory response. The IgE-coated cells are then sensitized to the allergen .
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Less Common But Serious Allergy To Dogs Symptoms
Unfortunately, some individuals suffer from other medical conditions e.g. various lung diseases, which can exacerbate the symptoms associated with an allergic reaction to dogs. Also, the person may just be unusually hypersensitive and thereby exhibit more intense symptoms that can be both painful and distressing. In such cases, medical attention may be required and prescription medication administered.
Uricaria describes when a person develops hives, welts or wheals which are very itchy, red, swollen and inflamed areas of skin that range in size from a pea to a peach or larger. They frequently appear in clusters that may last for just a few hours up to days, weeks or even months in more extreme cases. This condition can be caused by allergic or non-allergic factors.
Furthermore, there may be possible long-term health ramifications resulting from recurring allergic reactions or allergy flare-ups. In some instances and especially in children, repeated flare-ups have been shown to cause permanent lung scarring and damage.
Crickets Promote A Healthy Gut
Crickets have been found to contain 58% to 78% crude protein and up to 18% fat, as well as minerals and vitamins, all of which makes them a high-quality food source. They also contain a lot of fiber, specifically the fermentable fibers chitin and chitosan. That especially interested AnimalBiome, because fermentable fiber is a prebiotic, meaning that it feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome.
The fibers chitin and chitosan are known to have significant beneficial effects on the immune system. They also increase the concentration in the gut of short-chain fatty acids, which are good for overall health as well as digestive function.
No research existed yet on the effects of crickets on the gut microbiome of dogs, so AnimalBiome conducted a study in partnership with Jiminys, a company that makes dog food and treats with cricket meal. Over 30 days, they fed four groups of healthy adult beagles on diets containing up to 24% whole cricket meal and assessed the dogs microbiomes using DNA sequencing of the bacteria in fecal samples.
The study found that whole cricket meal is prebiotic and supports a healthy gut microbiome in dogs. Crickets are also a sustainable food source, since cricket farming has a much lower environmental impact than raising cows or chickens, for example. And because they contain complete amino acids, crickets can be especially useful as a novel protein.
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When To Contact Your Vet
Make an appointment with your vet if you notice any of the symptoms above or you think your dog may have a food allergy. There are many other conditions that can cause these symptoms as well as a food allergy.
You know your dog best. If they dont have the symptoms listed above but you are still concerned its always best to contact your vet.
Facts You Need To Know About Allergies In Dogs
Dog allergies can be very distressing for dog and owner alike. With proper management, however, allergies dont need to stop your pup from leading a full, happy and healthy life.
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Food Allergy Vs Food Intolerance
Unlike in people, dogs that have an allergy to a certain food will not express a reaction as soon as they eat it for the first time. For example, if a human is allergic to peanut butter, they might exhibit an intense reaction as soon as they ingest it. Dogs, on the other hand, can eat a type of food for several days, weeks, or months before you begin to see signs that they might be developing a food allergy.
When a dog has an immediate reaction to a new food, we call this a food intolerance. Food intolerance is not genetic, as food allergies are, and do not involve the immune system. Both food allergies and food intolerance can sometimes express the same symptoms and may be difficult to tell apart without the guidance of a veterinarian.
What Are The Best Food Options For A Dog With Food Allergies
In addition to novel foods, i.e. choosing new protein and carbohydrate sources for your dog in an elimination diet, you can also feed them a hydrolyzed diet. A hydrolyzed diet is one made with intact proteins that have been broken down into such small molecules that your dogs immune system cannot recognize them as allergens. Starch or rice also make great sources of carbohydrates for your dogs diet because they rarely cause allergic reactions. Prescription foods and those approved by your veterinarian are preferable to those available over-the-counter. If this all seems overwhelming, consult the experts at Hungry Bark, they can help you choose the best diet for your pup in no time and offer nutritional guidance from a Certified Pet Nutritionist
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Treating Itchy Skin And Ear Issues Caused By Food Allergies
The only way to treat a food allergy is to remove the offending food from the dogs diet, but there are options for temporarily treating the symptoms caused by food allergies.
Oral and topical medications are sometimes prescribed to help minimize itching. Any secondary problems, like skin or ear infections, will also have to be addressed.
If youre concerned about any symptoms your dog is experiencing, or youre simply wondering whether the food youre offering is the best choice for your pet, speak with your veterinarian.
Where To From Here
We know that good health starts in the gut, so a high-quality diet thatâs minimally processed and free of artificial additives and synthetic ingredients is an important first step in supporting your dogsâ overall health and wellbeing and reducing the risk of an allergy developing in the first place. Incorporating pre- and probiotics into the diet has also been shown to improve the integrity of the gut lining, promote a healthier skin barrier, and maintain healthy immune system function in dogs.
We all want our pets to be happy. While environmental allergies, food intolerance and dietary indiscretion are far more common in dogs than true food allergy, if youâve ruled out the other culprits and you still suspect that your dog has a food allergy, you should definitely speak to your vet or a qualified animal nutritionist to diagnose and manage this.â
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Prevalence Of Food Allergies
With food allergies in humans being reported at an all-time high, many pet owners are becoming increasingly concerned about food allergies in their pets. But as it turns out, food allergies are not as common as many large commercial pet food companies try to make you to think. According to a 2018 State of Pet Health Report that analysed data from over 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats, food allergies affect just 0.2% of dogs and 0.1% of cats . So while food allergies are one possible cause for your dogâs recurrent ear infections and itchy skin, there are many more likely causes which may have nothing to do with the food theyâre eating.
Your Dog Has Chronic Ear Infections
Relatedly, many dogs with allergies will experience ear infections that recur frequently or never seem to fully go away. As with the feet, this problem is often caused first by the allergies.
The allergies break down the healthy skin barrier, then opportunistic bacteria or yeast create an infection, which all further contributes to the itch .
Dogs that have gone years with allergies that are either undiagnosed or undertreated will often have ears that are raw, smelly and thickened.
In severe cases, ear infections may become so resistant to treatment that surgery to remove the ear canal may be required. To avoid this situation, it is important to have your dog examined by your veterinarian as soon as you suspect that your dog may have allergies or ear infections.
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Is It Food Allergy Or Intolerance
First, theres a difference between a food allergy and intolerance.
Food intolerance is the result of poor digestion. The symptoms normally include diarrhea or other chronic, low-level symptoms.
Food allergies are an over-response of the immune system to a food protein. Nearly all food your dog eats contains protein and these proteins can all trigger food allergies. The most common proteins that cause allergy symptoms in dogs are beef, dairy and chicken. Some plant based proteins like corn, wheat and soy can also be triggers.
Food allergies are an increasingly large problem in dogs. Most vets treat them with food elimination diets or immune suppressing drugs. If youve ever had a dog with allergies, you know theyre notoriously difficult to treat, so focusing on prevention is essential. And the first step toward prevention of allergies is identifying their cause.
Diagnosing Your Dogs Food Allergies
An elimination diet is the only real way to diagnose your dog’s food allergy.
If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has a food allergy, they will prescribe specially formulated hypoallergenic dog food. You will only feed your dog the prescribed food for a minimum of 8-10 weeks in order to see if the diet change helps relive your dog’s symptoms.
It is extremely important you only give your dog the hypoallergenic food while they are on the elimination diet. Unfortunately this means you can’t sneak in the odd treat. This special 10 week diet lets your dog’s body get used to the food, and allows your vet to examine your pet’s overall health.
If your dog’s symptoms go away while on the elimination diet, your veterinarian may request that you return to feeding your dog their regular food. If your dog’s symptoms return then your vet could be confident in the fact that your dog has a food allergy.
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What Is Ringworm In Dogs
Despite the name, ringworm isnt actually caused by worms, but rather by a fungal infection. Ringworm is contagious to humans and can be transferred from dogs to humans and other animals.
The symptoms of ringworm in dogs are itching and patches of hair loss, usually located on the head, ears, and forelegs. This helps to differentiate it from a flea bite allergy.
Other Things That Cause Digestive Troubles
Is there some kind of food that just doesnt agree with you? The same thing can happen with your dog or cat. Maybe its eating something that has too much fat, for instance.
Vets call this food intolerance. The difference between this and a food allergy is that food intolerance doesnt involve the immune system.
To figure out if this is whats wrong with your pet, youll have to follow the same trial-and-error process as you would for a food allergy, described above.
Diarrhea and vomiting can also come from:
- A virus
- An infection
- A parasite
- A condition in your pets digestive system. One example is pancreatitis, which is inflammation in the pancreas, the organ that makes chemicals that digest food.
- An obstruction. This is when something is stuck in the stomach or intestines.
To figure out whats wrong with your dog or cat, your vet may need to:
- Consider your pet’s age, past illnesses, other animals it has been around, and other information about its health
- Do a physical exam
- Do lab tests on its blood or stool samples
- Do X-rays or an ultrasound
- Do a biopsy or other tests on samples of its fluids or tissues
After your vet figures out whats wrong, your dog or cat may need:
- Medicine that kills germs or parasites
- Drugs to help with diarrhea or vomiting
- Fluids to replace what it has lost because of diarrhea
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What Are The Common Allergy
A very large number of substances can act as allergens. Most are proteins of insect, plant, or animal origin, but small chemical molecules can also cause allergy. Examples of common allergens are pollens, mold spores, dust mites, shed skin cells , insect proteins such as flea saliva, and some medications.
What Food Is Best For Dogs With Skin Allergies
Once you’re sure that your dog has food allergies through an elimination diet or a vet, the next step is to give your pet the right food. Avoid food with ingredients that trigger any symptom.
You can use prescription dog food from your vet, make food from scratch, or try various types of allergy-safe food until you find what’s best for your pup.
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Recognizing The Symptoms Of Food Allergies In Dogs
If a dog has a food allergy, then the itching will start after he has eaten something that he is allergic to. If a dog has a food allergy, that means he or she has a hypersensitive adverse immune reaction to something he or she ate.
The most common food allergens are chicken, beef, pork, and soy.
Food allergy is a nonseasonal problem, it happens year round. In comparison, flea allergy and atopy are more seasonal problems.
Itchy dogs with food allergies are less responsive to steroid therapy, so if your dog has received a steroid shot and is still itching, then your dog might have a food allergy or another problem such as a skin infection, that doesnt respond to steroids.
Best Foods For Dogs With Allergies
Following the diagnosis, your vet will work with you to determine the best diet for your dog. A number of food options are available to help alleviate your dog’s allergy symptoms.
Prescription Dog Food
If your dog’s food allergy symptoms are severe, your vet may recommend that you feed your dog a prescription dog food. While this option can be pricey, novel protein and hydrolyzed diets available by prescription only are typically superior to those that can be purchased over the counter.
Grain-Free Dog Food
If your pet has a sensitivity to corn, wheat and other grains a grain-free dog food may be ideal. These foods have the added benefit of also being gluten-free.
Limited Ingredient Dog Foods
Limited ingredient dog foods address the presence of allergens by including just one protein source, , often combined with just a single carbohydrate source. When shopping for limited ingredient dog foods it’s important to check for a seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control , as well as a “complete and balanced” claim from the manufacturer.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Allergies In Dogs
In the dog, the most common symptom associated with allergies is itching of the skin, either localized or generalized . In some cases, the symptoms involve the respiratory system, with coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing. Sometimes, there may be runny discharge from the eyes or nose. In other cases, the allergic symptoms affect the digestive system resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.
What To Do If You Suspect Your Dog Is Suffering From Food Allergies
First and foremost, make an appointment to take your dog to your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has a food allergy. Food allergies symptoms can mimic other diseases, so its vitally important that you have your dog checked out by a professional.
Treatment of food allergies in dogs may include medication, topical creams, dietary changes or a combination of any of these three remedies.
In rare cases, a life-threatening allergic reaction may occur and your dog may not be able to breathe. If this happens, call an emergency animal hospital right away.
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