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A QUICK INSIGHT TO FOOD ALLERGIES IN DOGS: MYTHS AND FACTS

A QUICK INSIGHT TO FOOD ALLERGIES IN DOGS: MYTHS AND FACTS

Nutrition plays an important role in overall wellness and good performance of dogs. Quality nutrients prevent dogs from a variety of diseases and support the optimum functioning of the immune system. Just like humans, there are various diets which cause allergic reactions in dogs. This is the utmost responsibility of a dog owner to keep an eye on what his/her dog is actually eating. Additionally, an owner must be highly careful before deciding a diet plan for his/her beloved canine friend.

Here we will discuss several kinds of food allergies in dogs along with related facts and myths in detail under the light of scientific literature.


WHAT ARE DIFFERENT FOOD ALLERGIES IN DOGS?

 

Food allergy is one of the five most common hypersensitivities which impact the dog


Food allergy is an immediate reaction of the body's own immune system against any particular type of food/ingredient. Food allergies may be categorized under type-1 hypersensitivity reactions. Generally speaking, dogs show allergic reactions to a number of foods and ingredients. For better understanding, we have categorized food allergies into major kinds. The most important and common food allergies in dogs have been enlisted below:


Dairy allergy

Allergic responses to dairy based products have been commonly seen in dogs. Dogs show a variety of signs and symptoms after eating milk and milk made items. For example, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and bloating in dogs is observed after feeding them milk made products. The major reason behind this allergic response is the lack of lactose degrading enzyme (lactase). Lactose is a major carbohydrate that is found in milk & milk made items. By natural default, dogs are unable to digest this carbohydrate and show lactose intolerance (milk allergy).

 

Chicken allergy

Chicken allergy is also one of the commonly seen protein allergies in the dogs. This is important to know that dogs don’t have chicken allergy by birth. Several research studies have revealed that dogs develop chicken allergy over the period of time (during lifetime). If you regularly feed your dog chicken, its body stops responding to the proteins present in the chicken. The body’s immune system considers chicken proteins as a foreign antigen and starts responding against it by generating various defensive proteins (antibodies). The most common signs & symptoms of chicken allergy in dogs are vomiting, itching, hives, swelling of ears, eyes, face, sneezing, diarrhea, red/inflamed skin etc.

The best way to prevent chicken allergy in dogs is to provide a rational/well balanced diet containing all essential nutrients in a proportionate way. Additionally, try to choose a hypo-allergic diet (if you are planning to use any manufactured diet) and consult your veterinarian before giving it to your beloved canine friend.

Note: If your dog is showing any allergic response to a particular diet, then stop feeding it to your dog immediately.


Other allergies

There are various  allergies which can be seen in dogs including beef allergy, grain allergy, soy/gluten allergies, egg allergies etc. Remember, signs and symptoms can vary from one type of allergy to another allergy. This is better to timely consult a registered veterinary practitioner and get fixed this problem as early as possible.


COMMON SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

Here, we have summarized some key signs and symptoms that can be seen in almost every type of food allergy:

1) Itchiness (inflamed/red skin)

2) Hives

3) Digestive disturbance – diarrhea and vomiting

4)Hyperactivity

5) Reduction in weight and dullness

6)Lack of energy & aggression

 

COMMON MYTHS AND FACTS

Here are some common myths and facts related to food allergies in dogs. This article is going to refine the actual picture by taking support from authentic scientific literature and logics.


Myth#1 Are corn and soy the most common allergens for dogs?

Fact- Yes, this is a fact that dogs can develop allergic reactions to soy and corn but the most common allergens for dogs are dairy items, wheat and beef. These three ingredients account for almost seventy percent of the dog food allergies. So, precautions must be taken while feeding these ingredients to dogs.


Myth# 2 Can only protein cause food allergies in dogs?

Fact-No, this is not actually true. However, proteins are the major players which provoke allergic reactions in dogs but the immune system of dogs can react to other feed ingredients too.


Myth#3 Do gastrointestinal symptoms are the major signs of food allergy?

Fact- Actually, the most common sign of food allergy is itchy skin. However, gastrointestinal disturbances including vomiting and diarrhea can also be seen in dogs.


Myth# 4 Dogs can’t become allergic to diets they have eaten their whole lives- Logic.

Fact-This is one of the biggest misconceptions which is found among the most dog caretakers. In fact, dogs become allergic to those ingredients/food items which they have been eating since so long or on a regular basis.  This logic is quite true in case of protein allergy, for instance, protein sensitizations (allergy) in dogs develop over lifetime when the dog's immune system recognizes chicken protein as an antigen and begins reacting against it.


Myth#5 Grains free diets are hypo-allergic: Explain

Fact- This is not always true. Remember, most food allergies in dogs occur due to protein based diets including beef, chicken, egg, lambs etc. However, the incidence of food allergy by eating grains is very rare in dogs. Note, certain grains can cause food intolerance in dogs which is quite different from food allergy.


Myth# 6 Food allergy and Food intolerance both are the same: Logic.

Fact-This is one of the biggest myths. Actually, both things are different from each other. However, their signs and symptoms can confuse and correlate with each other. The important differentiation point between food allergy and food intolerance is skin itching. In case of food allergy, you will observe skin itching, scratching, hotspots along with gastrointestinal troubles. On the other hand, in food intolerance, gastrointestinal complications such as vomiting, bloating, diarrhea and cramps are significant along with a few or no skin problems.


Myth# 7 Allergies are a common cause of chronic ear infections: Explain.

Fact- Not at all: this is not actually true. Sometimes, food allergies are confused with yeast or any other bacterial infection. However, in food allergies, ear infections are rarely seen.

Hint: ear infections due to food allergies will not respond well to antibiotic/antifungal treatment but these medications will work on ear infection of yeast or bacterial origin.


Myth#8 Steroids give best results in treating food allergies: Logic

Fact- Remember, food allergy is over activation of the immune system. Steroids are a group of medications which suppress the normal functioning of the immune system. They simply reduce the over activation of the immune system and temporarily suspend the itching and skin rashes. But after stoppage of steroid treatment, skin itching and other systems return back. Hence, steroids are not the ultimate solution to combat food allergies rather they further contribute in weakening the immune system.


Myth# 9 Switching to other diets is a good idea, if a dog is showing allergic response to a particular diet/ingredient: Explain

Fact- actually, this is not a good idea. However, this has been observed that most of the pet foods contain almost similar ingredients. Switching to another pet diet will expose your dog to the same allergen. However, it is a nice idea to take suggestions from a registered pet nutritionist and get a suitable diet plan for your dog.


Myth# 10 Home cooked or raw diets are better for allergic dogs: Explain

Fact- No, this is not actually correct. Dogs may show allergic responses to the cooked or homemade diets, if it contains the same ingredient from which that dog is allergic.

CONCLUSION

Food allergies in dogs are caused by a number of diets/ingredients. This is necessary to monitor which ingredient is provoking allergic response in your dog. A thorough veterinary examination can help in this regard. But keep in mind that diagnosis of food allergies is a very difficult task that requires high expertise and complete feeding history of your dog. Stay in touch with your veterinarian and tell him/her any abnormal sign & symptom, if you report that in your beloved canine friend.

 

 

REFERENCES

Hill, Peter. "Diagnosing cutaneous food allergies in dogs and cats-some practical considerations." In Practice 21, no. 6 (1999): 287-294.

Jeffers, James G., E. K. Meyer, and E. J. Sosis. "Responses of dogs with food allergies to single-ingredient dietary provocation." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 209, no. 3 (1996): 608-611.

Kennis, Robert A. "Food allergies: update of pathogenesis, diagnoses, and management." Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice 36, no. 1 (2006): 175-184.

Verlinden, A., Myriam Hesta, Sam Millet, and G. P. J. Janssens. "Food allergy in dogs and cats: a review." Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 46, no. 3 (2006): 259-273.

McDaniel III, Lawrence, Dorothy P. Laflamme, Steven S. Hannah, and Robert M. Stuckey. "Hypoallergenic pet food." U.S. Patent 6,403,142, issued June 11, 2002.

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