Feed allergy – an increasing problem

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Feed allergy – an increasing problem

Even if the symptoms are usually temporary and weak, around 10 percent of dogs develop a permanent allergy or intolerance to individual food components. In order to enable the dog to lead a symptom-free life, a diagnosis must be made. However, this process can be very laborious.

A classic case is the three-year-old golden retriever “Arko”: In recent years he has been a permanent patient in various veterinary practices. Symptoms were itching of the paws, occasional vomiting, and ear infections. Although any breed of dog can develop a food allergy, according to statistical analyzes, Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatians, Collies, Labrador Retrievers, Shar-Pei or West Highland White Terriers are more often affected by food intolerances. Even if dogs have got along well with their food for years and have absorbed the allergen without any problems, an allergy can suddenly develop. The body then suddenly recognizes the allergen as foreign and stores the appearance of the “intruder” in so-called T lymphocytes and begins to form antibodies. These antibodies are released on renewed contact with the allergen and then lead to symptoms typical of allergies.

Unfortunately, these complaints cannot be recognized by clear symptoms. The signs of a feed allergy can be gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence or changing stool consistency, but also skin problems. The itching is usually very stressful for both the dog and the owner. Skin areas on the head, ears, stomach, paws and armpit areas are often affected. Scratching caused by itching can cause redness and secondary bacterial infections.

Back to the example of Arko: In addition to digestive problems, the male got ear infections. A visit to the vet and a local antibiotic treatment initially improved the situation. The secondary infection was eliminated, but the cause was not identified. As a result, allergic reactions reappeared within a few months. A feed allergy was only suspected after further, unsuccessful attempts at therapy.

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Based on this example from the nutritional counseling of the University of Leipzig, it can be seen why the suffering is long for most allergy patients. Feed allergies are often recognized late due to unspecific symptoms and numerous differential diagnoses.

Diagnosing a feed allergy

The problem with the symptoms described is that they can only lead to suspicion of a feed allergy. The actual diagnosis is a lengthy and complex process. The aim would be to create a dog food for allergy sufferers, which is composed of a protein and a carbohydrate source. The aim of this so-called elimination diet is to improve the clinical symptoms by changing the feed and thus to uncover the individual feed constituents in the diet as the cause of the allergic reactions.

An improvement is not to be expected immediately, but can only occur after 12 weeks. If this is not the case, there is either another cause or non-compatible feed was selected. The selection of the ingredients is of great importance: It must be ensured that the dog has not yet come into contact with the raw materials (snacks or leftovers from the table) or that there is demonstrably no allergy to the individual components of the feed.

After determining the composition for the elimination diet, it must be ensured that no other feed is fed to the dog. Just a few grams of the allergenic ingredient are enough to trigger the signs of a feed allergy. Dog bones, rewards / treats or medication (with aromas) should therefore also be avoided. These challenges mean that around a third of all dog owners are inconsistent and do not get through the elimination diet to the end. This makes diagnosis more difficult.

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How did it go at Arko? Arko’s owner kept up the diet and created a recipe for his dog from ostrich meat and sweet potato. After just eight weeks, the symptoms could be alleviated, the agonizing itching and inflammation could be healed and the digestive problems were also put to an end.

The complaints are gone, but what happens now?

In order to determine which feed components Arko is sensitive to, its owner added a new component to the feed mix every week. This so-called “provocation” can be used to determine which raw materials are allergenic. The future nutrition is designed based on this.

The most common allergens in dogs include soy, wheat, beef, and dairy products. 60 percent of those affected not only react to a single feed, but to several components at the same time. A soy and beef allergy was also found at Arko. Since his owner did not want to cook the food himself and permanent feeding with ostrich meat is also very costly, he decided to switch to dry dog ​​food based on pork and sweet potatoes. Arko has tolerated this composition well so far.

Another option is the use of so-called hydrolyzed diets. With this method, all ingredients are broken down so that they usually no longer represent foreign substances for the body. However, this is at the expense of taste, as aromas are withdrawn from the feed.

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