Food Allergies and Food Intolerance
(excerpted from an article on peteducation.com)
Food allergies account for about 10% of all the allergies seen in dogs. It is the third most common cause after flea bite allergies and atopy (inhalant allergies) Food allergies generally account for 20% of the causes of itching and scratching in dogs. Food allergies plus atopy account for another 20%.
The entire process of a pet being sensitized to a particular agent in food and the complicated antibody response that occurs in the intestinal tract in pets with food allergies are not very well understood. One theory is that the allergic pet has what we loosely term a ‘leaky gut’ that allowss abnormally large particles to enter the bloodstream from the gut. Despite our lack of full understanding of the actual disease process, there are many things that we do know including the symptoms, how to diagnose food allergies, and also how to treat them.
Food allergies affect both dogs and cats. Food allergies affect both males and females and neutered and intact animals equally. They can show up as early as five months and as late as 12 years of age. Many animals with food allergies also have concurrent inhalant or contact allergies.
Food allergy or intolerance?
There is a distinction that needs to be made between food allergies and food intolerances. Food allergies are true allergies and show the characteristic symptoms of itching and skin problems associated with canine and feline allergies. Food intolerances can result in diarrhea or vomiting and do not create a typical allergic response. Fortunately, both food intolerances and allergies can be eliminated with a diet free from offending agents.
Common food culprits
Several studies have shown that some ingredients are more likely to cause food allergies than others. In order of the most common offenders in dogs are beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish, chicken eggs, corn, wheat, and soy. Grains in general are now believed to play a very important role as well. As you may have noticed, the most common offenders are the most common ingredients in dog foods. This correlation is not a coincidence.
The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those of most allergies seen in dogs and cats. The primary symptom is itchy skin affecting primarily the face, feet, ears, forelegs, armpits and the area around the anus (scooting). Symptoms may also include chronic or recurrent ear infections, hair loss, excessive scratching, hot spots, and skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after antibiotics are discontinued.
It is difficult to distinguish an animal suffering from food allergies from an animal suffering from atopy or other allergies based on physical signs. However, there are a few signs that increase the suspicion that food allergies may be present. One of these, is a dog with recurrent ear problems, particularly yeast infections. Another, is a very young dog with moderate or severe skin problems. A third tip off, is if a dog suffers from allergies year-round or if the symptoms begin in the winter.
The diagnosis for food allergies is very straightforward. But due to the fact that many other problems can cause similar symptoms and that many times animals are suffering from more problems than just food allergies, it is very important that all other problems are properly identified and treated prior to undergoing diagnosis for food allergies. Flea bite allergies, intestinal parasite hypersensitivities, sarcoptic mange, and yeast or bacterial infections can all cause similar symptoms as food allergies. Once all other causes have been ruled out or treated, then it is time to perform a food trial.
Food trials and elimination diets: A food trial consists of feeding an animal a novel food source of protein and carbohydrate for at least 12 weeks. Our new diet from Raoyal Canin has potentially shortened this period to 4-6 weeks! If this diet is fed for this time period exclusively and the animals symptoms do not improve it is either not food allergy OR the animal has inhalant allergies (atopy) and is currently in the middle of the allergy season.
There are a number of such commercial diets available on the market. If we are going to use a commercial product you need to continue the trial for a full 12 weeks and choose a diet that is high end and contains one protein and one start. My recommendations is to choose rabbit and peas or potatoes. Fish and potato for dogs (but not cats) is also a good choice. Unfortunately other proteins such as duck, venison, lamb, have infiltrated a great deal of commonly available commercial diets and are no longer very reliable for elimination trial purposes.
For cats (and dogs), we have specialized diets that have the proteins and carbohydrates broken down into such small molecular sizes that they no longer would trigger an allergic response. These are termed ‘hydrolyzed protein’ diets.
Regardless of the diet used, it must be the only thing the animal eats for 12 weeks. This means no treats, no flavored medications, no rawhide or pig’s ears; absolutely nothing but the special food and water. In addition, the dog should not be allowed to roam, which may result in him having access to food or garbage.
Only the recommended diet must be fed. Preferably Revolution topical Heartworm/flea/tick preventative should be used and a tick collar if extra protection is needed in the spring and fall.
Do NOT give:
- Pigs Ears
- Cow hooves
- Flavored medications (including heartworm preventives) or supplements
- Flavored toothpastes
- Flavored plastic toys
- Any type of food when giving medications
If you want to give a treat, use the recommended diet. (Hint: canned diets can be frozen in chunks or baked, and these can be used as treats.)
If possible, feed the other pet the same diet as the patient. If not, feed other pets in an entirely different location than the patient, and do not allow the patient access to that food.
Do not allow the dog access to the cat’s litter box.
Keep your pet out of the room at meal times. Even a few small amounts of food dropped on the floor or licked off of a plate can void an elimination trial and require you to start over. Wash the hands and faces of any children after they have eaten.(Seriously, if we want the experiment to work, we need to be strict!)
Do not allow your pet to roam. Keep dogs on leashes when outside.
Keep a journal in which you can record the date and any foods, treats, etc. your pet may have accidentally eaten.
The treatment for food allergies is avoidance. If the food trail successfully eliminates the animals symptoms and the diet is balanced for maintenance, the diet may then be fed long term. If the diet is expensive, one can challenge the pet with a similar less expensive diet carefully and see if the symptoms return. If they do, the hypoallergenic diet should be fed exclusively until all symptoms are fully controlled again and a decision needs to be made whether the expense of the diet is more or less that of frequent vet visits for treatment of skin infections. The pet’s comfort should also be taken into consideration.
If the owner chooses to feed the homemade diet, then they can periodically challenge the pet with new ingredients and determine which ingredients are causing the food allergy. For example, if the animal’s symptoms subsided on a diet of rabbit and potatoes, then the owner could add beef to the diet for two weeks. If the animal showed no symptoms, then they could then add chicken for two weeks. If the animal began to show symptoms, then it could be assumed that chicken was one of the things the pet was allergic to. The chicken could be withdrawn and after the symptoms cleared up, a different ingredient could be added and so on until all of the offending ingredients were identified. A diet could then be formulated that was free of the offending food sources.
If homemade diets are used, it is essential that they be balanced, with correct amount of ingredients, vitamins, and minerals. Homemade diets for such long term use should be developed by a veterinary nutritionist we recommend Dr. Lisa Freeman at Tufts and Dr. Rebecca Remillard at Angell Memorial).
Be aware that some pets with food allergies may develop allergies to new foods if they are fed those foods long enough. If you see signs of food allergies returning, consult your veterinarian.
Join Dr. Valas for an evening’s discussion on Cold Low Level Laser Therapy. Part of the Hopkinton Drug Lecture Series, this talk will focus on how LLLT is being used to help pets with conditions such as painful arthritis, bad allergies, chronic organ dysfunction and more. Come find out about this fantastic new treatment and how it could work for your four-legged friend! The lecture will be held on Thursday, May 16th at 7:00 pm at the Hopkinton Senior Center. Please check out the link below for more information or to RSVP for any event. [Note: this particular lecture may not be visible on the link until the end of April or beginning of May . . .]
Would you like to make monthly payments for your pet’s preventative or wellness care? Would you like to give your pet the best quality medicine that money can buy to keep them healthy and happy for as long as possible? Would you say yes to the last question if you didn’t have to pay for everything all up front?
Well, this is exactly what these plans are designed to do. I have reviewed the American Animal Hospital Life Stage Guidelines and considered the following: what care would I give my own pets and what type of diagnostics would run I in order to help me diagnose and handle any diseases that may not have demonstrated clinical symptoms yet? What I have come up with are Comprehensive Wellness Plans for my clients’ pets.
The plans are available for puppy/kittens, young adults, middle age, senior and geriatric life stages. They offer additional office visits throughout the year, as well as money-saving discounts on products and other services. I also have come up with Basic Health Plans for adults and geriatrics, designed for those who may be struggling financially (and cannot do early or advanced diagnostics) but don’t want to neglect their pets’ basic preventative needs and want to keep them as healthy as possible.
If you hit the link at the bottom of the page, you will be able to view the available plans and the services are included in each. Also, please note that most plans will allow you to save on products and other services not included in the plan. The plans have an initial $50 registration/activation fee which will never recur for as long as the account is active; if it expires and you choose to apply/enroll again, you will be responsible for another $50 fee.
Those clients that are able to, or simply prefer to pay up front will be able to do so at an additional 20% savings – on top of what you already save by being on the plan!!!!
Your pets’ health is important to me. These plans will allow me to practice stellar veterinary medicine and ensure that I have all the information I need to help you take great care of your pet. Most importantly, it will help you better afford this level of care for your pets. Check it out!! Also, don’t forget to leave comments here or email me with any questions you may have. The Partners-N-Wellness crew is also very helpful and will answer all your questions to your satisfaction. You can contact them directly at the number on the website (you will see it when you hit the link below).
VETERINARY ORTHOPEDIC MANIPULATION
We now offer Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation (VOM) at our hospital with Dr. Valas. VOM is a healing technology which locates an area of the animal’s nervous system that has fallen out of communication and re-establishes neuronal communication, thus inducing healing. It is a totally non-invasive process that can be done in a series of appointments with Dr. Valas. Call our office today and set up an assessment to get your pet started on their adjustment plane. Be sure to visit the VOM website.
Also, watch these videos to see what VOM can do:
Non-contact laser incisions decrease trauma to the pet — the laser seals blood vessels (less bleeding), seals lymphatics (less swelling) and seals nerve endings (less pain).
Tumor excisions are more precise and complete with laser surgery. Due to the virtual lack of bleeding, the possibility of tumor seeding is greatly minimized.
Laser is the ONLY humane way to perform elective de-clawings in cats when this procedure is necessary.
DIGITAL DENTAL RADIOGRAPHY
“To pull or not pull, that is the question,” – at least until we got our digital imaging system. Now, we can determine if a tooth has an associated bone lesion (abscess) at the tip of the root – or surrounding that entire root – in which case it must be extracted. This takes the guess work out of “which tooth needs to go” and it saves your pet a lot of future pain and discomfort due to any slowly developing abscess in the bone.
Of course, with our signature “dentals under sedation,” no pet’s mouth need get to the point where teeth are abscessing! So, our recommendation is to brush daily and get the teeth cleaned at the first sign of gingivitis to prevent painful and expensive procedures down the road.
Digital radiology is a new addition to The Family Pet Hospital that will significantly increase the diagnostic value of your pet’s radiographs. The digital image allows us to zoom into an area of interest and take a closer, more personal look. In addition, images can be easily transmitted to board-certified radiologists (for an additional fee) in those cases that need a more expert opinion, without needing to transfer your pet to a referral institution. Unless, of course, it is an emergency situation and requires intensive medical management in a 24 hour ICU facility, or the surgical expertise of a board-certified veterinary surgeon.