Allergies in Pets

MARCH 2023

Tags - Allergies, Cats, Dog, Food

In a dog or cat with an allergy, the immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to something that it would normally tolerate. That “something” can be a protein in food, flea saliva, dust, or storage mites, mold, pollen, or other substances the animal comes in contact with. Often, the allergy develops after prolonged exposure as antibodies build up, resulting in symptoms like hives, itching, diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing, swelling of the face, and red, inflamed skin.

Food Allergies

Like people, dogs and cats can have adverse reactions to certain foods. Most of the time, it’s a hypersensitivity or intolerance that happens through a different mechanism than a true allergy does, although many of the symptoms are the same. But why would an allergy to chicken cause intense itching? The answer goes something like this: As it’s digested, the protein in chicken is met by misguided, overeager antibodies in the blood, which then attach to mast cells. When this happens, the mast cells—in tissues throughout the body—release histamines that cause inflammation in the form of redness, swelling, and itching.

An effective approach to identifying and addressing food allergies is to start your pet on an elimination diet to find the culprit. It means starting with only one kind of protein (Shine has many bullk meat options) and one kind of carb, both of which your pet has never eaten before, and feeding this combo exclusively for at least 2 weeks or better yet, one month. If allergy symptoms subside, you can introduce one new ingredient per week (a protein or carb from the old diet) to see if symptoms occur—and keep adding ingredients, one by one, until there are signs that you’ve got your offender.   There are no simple or perfect tests for food allergies in pets, but your veterinarian may be able to get some good information by looking at serum IgE (antibodies) levels in the blood in regard to different foods.

Environmental Allergies

Pets can also develop allergies to substances in their surroundings—weeds, grasses, molds, dust and storage mites, to name a few.

For other environmental allergens, serum or dermal IgE testing may be able to identify the problem. Once you know what it is that’s making your pet miserable, it can be helpful to start a desensitization program with oral drops or injections that contain tiny amounts of the offending allergen, and “train” the body to learn to tolerate them. But that takes time. In the short term, you and your veterinarian will need to find ways to make your pet comfortable and discourage itching: daily wipe downs, frequent baths, washing bedding, and mitigating mold exposure, for example. The spring season is one of the hardest to get through when a pet (and people) have allergy issues. Spring is when new grasses are poking through, juniper and elm trees start to release their pollen, the wind is more active (especially here in the Southwest) and indoor allergens have accumulated due to closed windows and more time indoors.  According to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) principles, spring is when we should be considering gentle, herbal liver cleanses and eating foods that are bright and green to treat "Liver Stagnation". This condition is the result of increased indoor living, heavy winter foods and a traditional lack of fresh foods available in the winter.  A growing body of evidence connects allergies in humans to the state of their gut microbiome. The same is starting to happen in the animal research world. So first, try to reduce chemicals, antibiotics, and other substances that impact the GI flora. Using pre-, pro- and post-biotics are good ways to encourage healing and improve gut health.

At Shine Pet Food, we offer healthy recipes that are labeled with a key to guide you to warm, neutral or cooling foods. This allows you to further fine tune your approach to treating your pet as an individual. Using the "Food as Medicine" technique for pets that may run "hot or cold" and choosing seasonal meals that compliment the temperature of the season that we are in can be very powerful. Our Digestive Support recipe is grain-free (as is our Duck Recipe) and chock full of prebiotic fibers to help assist those with extra sensitive systems. We use healthy, sprouted grains in all of the remaining recipes to reduce allergens, phytates and lectins that all impact the gut microbiome.  We offer Gussy's Gut as a wonderful fermented veggie topper to serve as a "post-biotic". We carry refined fish oil that is in the Triglyceride form and supplies high levels of Omega 3 Fatty acids to help blunt the "inflammation cascade".

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Written by Dr. Kim Freeman

Dr. Freeman earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida in 1997. She has practiced small and large animal medicine as well as emergency/critical care in New Mexico and Arizona for 25 years. She engages in a stimulating combination of Eastern and Western practice as well as Chiropractic therapy at Gruda Veterinary Hospital. She is very interested in preventative medicine, seasonal health, and especially food therapy using Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Herbalism techniques.