Can you prevent food allergies in your dog?

Last week I talked about food allergies in dogs. After reading that post, you’re probably wondering if there’s anything you can do to prevent your dog from developing a food allergy.

Well, the answer to that is mostly no, unfortunately.

There does seem to be a genetic component to allergies. So, if you are planning to buy a purebred dog, you can ask the breeders you interview if their lines tend to have food allergies. A responsible breeder won’t breed a dog that has allergies.

But if a dog is already a member of your family, or if you rescue a dog, your dog’s genetic makeup is water under the bridge.

Can the occurrence of food allergies be minimized and/or simplified?

Maybe.

Some veterinarians recommend probiotics to dogs older than 6 months. They keep the gut flora healthy.

As I’ve discussed in an earlier post on probiotics, they have many health benefits, and some premium dog foods like Husse incorporate them in their recipes.

If you’re not currently giving your dog a probiotic, talk to your vet about adding one to their diet.

Some veterinarians believe that gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach caused by bacterial toxins or a viral infection) in a young dog can predispose them to food allergies.

I’ve been unable to find any hard research that that is the case. But I can’t imagine that avoiding gastroenteritis, to the extent that’s possible, would be detrimental.

The problem is that gastroenteritis in a dog is usually caused by them eating something they’re not supposed to. Like a dead animal or rotten food from the garbage.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most loving dog owners do what they can to prevent their beloved pet from getting into something dangerous like that. In spite of all of our efforts though, dogs still get into trouble some times and eat things they’re not supposed to.

If you think your dog has eaten something dangerous, get them to the vet immediately. If you’re a responsible dog owner, I think that’s probably the best you can do to prevent or minimize gastroenteritis.

There are some veterinarians that recommend you feed your dog a food with only one protein and one carbohydrate source so that it’s easier to find a food for them if they do become allergic.

This seems like a reasonable approach to simplifying the difficulties associated with a food allergy.

If your dog eats a food that consists of chicken as its sole protein and potato as its sole carb, it will be pretty simple to find a food with a different protein and a different carb should they develop a food allergy.

Can a rotating diet prevent allergies?

This is a question that doesn’t seem to have a definitive answer. Ask 6 different people you’ll get 6 different answers.

In order to understand the answers, you need to understand what a rotating diet is.

Changing the protein and carbohydrate sources in your dog’s diet regularly is rotating the diet. Some people feel this is beneficial, particularly in minimizing food allergies.

My research has uncovered absolutely no hard and fast proof of this.

Here are the arguments FOR and AGAINST a rotating diet:

“Dogs get bored of eating the same thing every day. Wouldn’t you?”

Dogs aren’t humans even though we treat them like they are. They don’t have the same sense of taste we do and don’t crave diverse foods like we do.

 

“Some commercial dog foods have small amounts of toxic ingredients that will cause harm to your dog if they eat it everyday for their entire life.”

Don’t feed your dog any food that you think may have toxic ingredients, no matter how small the amount. Feeding a super premium food like Husse will assure the ingredients are wholesome.

 

“It’s the only way to be sure your dog’s diet is nutritionally balanced. Your dog’s wild ancestors had a varied diet that gave them everything they needed and your domestic dog needs that variety too.”

Commercially sold dog food must be nutritionally balanced. Even if you’re feeding a home cooked raw diet, every meal should be nutritionally balanced.

And our domestic dogs are not direct descendants of their wild ancestors. Hundreds if not thousands of years of domestication have created adaptations in our dogs’ biology to account for the fact they don’t hunt for their food anymore.

 

“Changing the protein and carbohydrate source regularly doesn’t allow the body time to become allergic.”

In some dogs, exposure to an allergen can result in a reaction after only a few months. After rotating through all the protein and carb sources available, you’ll have to start repeating them. After a number of years, your dog will have eaten each protein and carb source long enough to become allergic. And then what?

There will be no protein and carb they haven’t had that you’ll be able to feed them with certainty that they won’t become allergic to it.

In addition, changing your dog’s diet frequently can cause an upset stomach, even if you introduce the new food gradually.

If you are thinking about feeding your dog a rotating diet, talk to your vet first. A rotating diet may be beneficial for some dogs, and your vet who knows your dog’s health situation, is the best person to decide along with you if it’s right for them.

More often than not, what’s most important is feeding your dog a balanced diet that matches your dog’s age, level of activity, and health issues.

 

Do you have a dog that’s developed a food allergy despite your best efforts to prevent it? We’d love to hear about it. Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 signs your dog may have a food allergy

There’s a lot of talk in the dog world about food allergies. This conversation usually goes hand in hand with the grain-free diet conversation and the raw diet conversation.

Very often, people think grain-free and raw diets are the answer to the allergy problem. But are they?

Do you wonder if your dog is suffering from a food allergy?

Allergies bring up lots of questions, but luckily the answers are pretty straightforward.

What’s the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance?

If your dog has a food allergy, they will show signs of itching and skin problems, problems characteristic of any allergy.

If your dog has a food intolerance, they’ll have stomach upset like vomiting and diarrhea, just like a person would. Fortunately, food allergies and food intolerances can be treated by avoiding the offending food.

So how do you know if your dog suffers from a food allergy?

Here are 5 signs to look out for:

1)            Excessive scratching

2)            Chronic or recurrent ear infections

3)            Hair loss

4)            Hot spots

5)            Skin infections

It can be difficult to differentiate between a dog suffering from a food allergy and a dog suffering from atopy, which is an allergy brought on by inhaling airborne pollens, mold spores, dust mites and other environmental allergens.

Atopy can cause atopic dermatitis, which is an inflammatory chronic allergic skin condition that looks very similar to a food allergy.

Here are a few indications that your dog’s skin problems may be a food allergy and not atopy:

– Chronic ear infections that subside and return, particularly infections caused by yeast

– Your dog is very young and is suffering from moderate to severe skin problems

– Your dog is suffering from allergies year-round, or the symptoms begin in winter

– Your dog’s itching fails to respond to steroid treatment

What are common dog food allergens?

Food allergies account for about 10% of all dog allergies, and can occur at almost any age, male or female, neutered or in tact, and there is no breed predisposition…although some breed lines may be genetically predisposed to allergies.

The most common offenders in order of prevalence are beef, dairy, chicken, lamb, fish, chicken eggs, corn, wheat and soy.   If you are reading this list and thinking that the most common allergens are the ingredients most likely to be found in your dog’s food you are correct.

This is no coincidence. The likelihood of an allergic reaction goes hand in hand with the amount of exposure to the allergen. Your dog will become allergic to something they eat every day, like the chicken in their kibble, not something they’ve only consumed a few times.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from a food allergy, the trick is to figure out what it is they are allergic too.

How do you isolate the culprit?

Food allergy symptoms mimic the symptoms of many other illnesses and conditions so first and foremost, see your vet to rule out other problems.

Once you’re certain the problem’s a food allergy, you’ll need to do a food trial. For 12 weeks, you’ll feed your dog a diet with a novel food source. This would be a diet with a new source of protein and carbohydrate that your dog has never had before, like venison and potato, or lamb and rice.

Whatever the diet you choose, it must be the only thing your dog ingests, besides water. That means no treats, no chew toys that could be swallowed, no table food, and no delicious remnants of lunch licked from your child’s hands.

It will take 12 weeks on the new diet for your dog’s symptoms to completely disappear. Once all symptoms are gone, you’ll go back to feeding your dog its original food.

If symptoms reappear, a food allergy is confirmed and you will need to switch your dog to a food with a completely different protein and carbohydrate source.

The challenge in finding a new food is that many commercial foods contain multiple protein and carbohydrate sources.

The sole protein and carbohydrate in the food you choose should also be a protein and carb that your dog has never had before to ensure they’re not allergic.

Husse’s Lamm & Ris (Lamb & Rice) or Lax & Ris (Salmon & Rice) are ideal for dogs with food allergies. Rice is highly digestible and gluten-free. Gluten can be a problem for a dog with food allergies. And all Husse foods are balanced to provide your dog with the nutrition they need.

It’s not necessary to feed your dog a raw diet if they have a food allergy. Raw diets can be problematic if you aren’t careful about providing all the necessary supplements for a balanced diet.

And a grain-free diet is only beneficial if your dog is allergic to a grain. It isn’t going to provide any benefit if your dog is allergic to the protein source in their diet.

And you may remember from my post about GMOs that what appears to be a grain allergy may actually be a reaction to eating a genetically modified grain, and not actually an allergy to the grain itself. An exposure that can be easily avoided by feeding an organic food or one that doesn’t contain any GMOs.

Husse super premium dog food is one of those foods you can trust to never contain GMOs.

Do you have a dog that’s had a food allergy? How did you know and what did you do about it? Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could your dog fall victim to this deadly condition?

If you are the owner of a large breed dog, you may have heard of bloat. If you haven’t, it’s really important that you learn about it.

Bloat can be deadly and it comes on very quickly.

Being the owner of large breed dogs my whole life, I’ve stressed about this condition but fortunately have never had a dog suffer from it.

But I do have a friend who did, and it was terrible. She lost a very young German Shepherd that she had only a few months. It was tragic.

There are some things you can do to try to prevent it. And knowing the signs so you can get immediate medical attention for your dog is critical.

What is bloat?

Bloat, or gastric dilatation, is a condition where the stomach dilates or becomes swollen with fluid or air. It’s really a two-part condition, first the dilation of the stomach, and then in many cases, the torsion or twisting of the stomach. It’s the twisting that can become deadly in a hurry.

When the stomach twists, it traps blood from flowing from the stomach to other organs including the heart. This can cause your dog to go into shock, which is often the cause of death.

You can see the expansion and twisting of the stomach in this illustration, as well as the demeanor of a dog with bloat.

bloothound

What are the signs of bloat?

Knowing the signs and detecting them quickly can mean the difference between life and death. Initially, your dog may seem like they have an upset stomach. They may:

Try to vomit but nothing comes up

Pace

Seem anxious

Drool

Have a swollen stomach

Look at their own stomach

Act restless

 

But then as their condition worsens they may:

Collapse

Have a rapid heart rate

Have a weak pulse

Have pale gums

 

If you think your dog has bloat, get them to the vet immediately.

What causes bloat?

No one really knows for sure what causes bloat, and not all dogs are prone to this condition. There is a breed predilection.

It is the number one cause of death in Great Danes. Other large barrel-chested dogs like German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners and Setters are also at risk.

And there seems to be a genetic component too. It tends to run in families. If you’re rescuing a dog, there may be no way of knowing if any of the dog’s relatives suffered from the condition. But if you are buying your dog from a reputable breeder, they should be able to tell you about the health history of close relatives.

Dogs with a close relative that has had bloat are more likely to get it.

There are some other factors that are associated with the onset of bloat. You increase the risk of bloat if:

You feed your dog one large meal a day

Your dog eats quickly

Your dog is very active before or after eating

Your dog overeats or drinks too much

Your dog is particularly anxious

Your dog eats from an elevated bowl

What is the treatment for bloat?

Even with treatment, 25-30% of dogs with bloat die, according to peteducation.com.

If your dog has bloat, the vet will first try to release the buildup of gas by inserting a tube into the stomach, or using a large needle if a tube won’t pass. They’ll administer IV fluids if the dog is in shock or shock seems imminent.

Once the dog is stabilized the vet will do an x-ray to see if the stomach has twisted. If it has, surgery is the only solution. They untwist the stomach and stitch it into place (a procedure called gastropexy) so that the stomach can’t twist again. Without this procedure, 75% to 80% of dogs with gastric torsion will get it again.

It sounds like surgery solves the problem and the dog will be fine. But in reality, so much damage is often done to other organs as a result of the blood supply being cut off that surgery is sometimes not enough.

If the damage to other organs is so severe, the dog may die in spite of best efforts to save them.

Can bloat be prevented?

 The best we can do if we own a dog at risk for this dreadful condition is to be educated about the signs and try to prevent it as best we can.

Feeding your dog 2 or 3 small meals a day is better than 1 big meal. Don’t raise your dog’s food bowl unless they have some other condition that your vet says warrants it.

Don’t let your dog consume too much water after eating.

Keep activity to a minimum before and after eating. Avoid vigorous exercise and excitement 1 hour before eating and 2 hours after.

And if your dog is a fast eater, try slowing them down with a food bowl that is specially designed to do just that.

The best we can do as owners of large breed dogs is educate ourselves about the risks of bloat, the symptoms of bloat, and how to best prevent it.

Even armed with that information, things happen. But if you know the signs, you can act quickly to get your dog help and hope that that’s enough.

Have you had a dog with bloat? Share your experience in the comment section above. Maybe your knowledge can save another dog’s life.

Brushing your pet’s teeth

The beginning of the year seems like a good time to try something new. And what better than a new routine that keeps your pet healthy.

I don’t know about you but when I was a kid, my dogs never had dental exams under sedation and my parents never brushed their teeth.

As a result, I didn’t worry too much about my dog’s teeth in my early days as an adult pet owner.

But veterinary medicine has come a long way in the last 40 years, and we know a lot more now about the importance of good oral hygiene for our pets.

Dental disease can cause health problems that could potentially shorten your pet’s life, like damage to the heart, lungs and kidneys. And maybe you didn’t know this, but it can in humans too.

And how about the pain…if you’ve ever had a toothache or inflamed gums, you know what that feels like. Not to mention the expense of oral surgery!!!

Nobody wants their best friend to suffer or have a foreshortened life. So how come dental disease is the most common disease in cats and dogs? Some veterinarians estimate that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have oral disease by the time they’re 3 years old.

I think the reason is that most people don’t understand the importance of taking care of their pet’s teeth. And if they do, they think maintaining an oral health routine will be too difficult, especially brushing their pet’s teeth.

But prevention is the only way to avoid the unnecessary pain and suffering of dental disease, and it’s really not that difficult.

Ideally, you start young. Dogs and cats get their adult teeth between 6 and 9 months of age, but you can start getting them used to brushing when they are a puppy or kitten.

What if I’ve never taken care of my adult pet’s teeth?

Fortunately, it’s never too late to start a good dental health care regiment for your dog or cat.

If you haven’t had your pet’s teeth checked in a while, start the year off with an oral exam at the vet.

During the exam, your vet may recommend a thorough cleaning under sedation. When your pet is sedated, the vet can remove the tartar, not only on the teeth, but under the gum line too. If a tooth needs to come out, they’ll do it while your pet is sedated.

Once you’re pet’s teeth have been professionally cleaned, it’s time for you to maintain those pearly whites by brushing them.

How do I brush my pet’s teeth?

Regular tooth brushing is really important. Ideally, you brush every day. But realistically, 3 to 4 times a week is good too.

If you haven’t been brushing your pet’s teeth, don’t feel bad. Nearly two-thirds of pet owners don’t, according to the American Animal Hospital Association.

But now’s the time for you to start and it’s not only easy, it can really be fun for you and your pet. It’s bonding time.

Like anything new that you try to teach your pet, it’s going to take some time and a lot of patience.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Dip your finger into chicken, beef or tuna flavored water (whichever you think your pet would like) and call your pet over for a “treat”. Let them lick your finger and then rub your soaked finger gently over their gums and teeth. You may only be able to do this for a few seconds. Talk to them with a very upbeat voice and praise continually. Do this a few times and your pet will start to look forward to it.
  • Once they’re used to having your finger in their mouth, wrap your finger with gauze soaked in that flavored water you’ve been using. Rub their teeth in a circular motion. Repeat this for a few days until your pet is comfortable. Always be upbeat and praise, praise, praise.
  • When they’re comfortable with the gauze, start using a finger brush with bristles. Let them lick something tasty off the bristles so they get the feel of the bristles in their mouth. Brush over some of their teeth with the finger brush.
  • When they’re used to the finger brush, add a pet toothpaste, and only a pet toothpaste–never human toothpaste. There are some ingredients in the human stuff that can be dangerous to a pet.  Pet toothpaste is flavored so they’ll like it. You can put some on your finger for them to lick first. Then put it on the finger brush. Don’t forget to continually praise as you’re brushing, and speak with a happy voice.  Start with the canines, the big teeth in front. They’ll be easiest to get to. You may only be able to do a few teeth at first. Each session, increase the number of teeth until you’re getting your finger all the way in the back. You only need to brush the cheek side of the teeth.
  • Once you’ve had a number of sessions with the finger brush, try to progress to a pet toothbrush. It will do a more thorough job than the finger brush. But if your pet can’t get used to it, stick with the finger brush.

When teaching your dog or cat to get their teeth brushed, the most important things to remember are:

Be patient.

Do a little bit at a time…keep sessions short.

Praise continually.

Be upbeat.

Don’t overly restrain your pet to keep them still. If they like what you have for them they’ll come to you. And they’ll stay longer and longer the more comfortable they get with the process.

 

My lab, Honey, is afraid of everything. If I even walk near the cabinet where I keep the ear cleaner, she beelines it to her crate. When I started brushing her teeth, she would run away as soon as I walked toward her with the finger brush. But now, she’ll actually stand next to me and wait for me to get the toothpaste on the toothbrush at brushing time.

Before my greyhound passed, he would come over to me in the evening when he was ready to go to sleep for the night and stare at me until I brushed his teeth.

But it took time to get my dogs to this point. You can do it too.

Do you brush your pet’s teeth? What worked for you? Tell us in the comment section above.