Would you recognise a food allergy if your dog had it ?

1. Mirka, 10 year old female Border collie:
recently, she started rubing her face on the ground, licks her anus, chews her paws and scrathes her ears.

2. Max, 3 year old male german shepherd:
he scratches so much his armpits and groins that he lost its flanks and belly hair. His skin is red and thick and he has hot-spots regularly (purulent infections on the skin’s surface).

3. Boris, 1 year old male jack russel terrier:
he licks his front paws when he is not active. It started when he was 5 months old.

4. Venus, 7 year old female labrador:
she has repeated external otitis for 2 months.

These dogs have very different ages and belong to different breeds and to both sexes. However they all share skin-related symptoms that gradually began a few months ago: repeated external otitis, itching of the face, forearms, paws, armpits and groins, along with hairloss, skin lesions or skin infections.

Their veterinarian has rulled out parasitic causes (fleas, ear mites, sarcoptic mange) as well as other types of allergies to different allergens found in the environment (pollen, dust, etc).

Diagnosis: those four dogs suffer from food allergies.

It is surprising to see that, unlike humans, dogs suffering from food allergies not often experience digestive symptoms (diarrhea or vomiting). They instead show a characteristic itching targeted to specific parts of the body and, eventually, skin problems. The itching can be light and not well recognised (only licking), up to the point of a severe and constant scratching with hairloss, skin lesions and secondary infection. This condition can occur at any age, it affects both females and males, without breed predisposition. It accounts for approximately 1/5 of the causes for itching and scratching in dogs.

With food allergies, the dog’s immune system gets sensitized to a particular ingredient in the regular diet and initiates an antibody-type response. The exact process is not clearly understood. What is known though, is that close to 80% of the allergens are animal protein : beef, chicken, eggs, milk products, fish, lamb. In some cases cereals or vegetables (wheat, soja, corn) are also incriminated.

Note: dogs can also suffer from food intolerances with digestive disturbances. Nevertheless, food alllergy and intolerance are two different conditions.

Both intolerances and allergies have the same treatment though : a new diet, free from the offender (or offenders). The diagnosis must be confirmed with a 12 week long trial with a food that contains an unique source of animal protein and carbohydrates, different from what the dog had been eating in the past. Secondary skin infections and external otitis must be adequately treated if necessary and all other sources of the possible allergenic ingredient(s) must be removed (treats, table leftovers, rawhides, flavored toothpaste).

The entire family must be informed!

When the symptoms have disappeared, the diagnosis can ultimately be confirmed by challenging the immune system with the old food (symptoms will reappear).

What is an appropriate hypoallergenic dog food to treat food allergies?

The unique long term treatment is to avoid any food with the allergenic ingredient(s).

Different solutions exist :

1.Commercial diets with hydrolysed proteins and carbohydrates: the proteins and carbohydrates are broken down into such small molecular sizes that they no longer trigger an allergic response.

2. Home-made diet with an novel source of animal protein and carbohydratesthat would not induce an immune reaction (horse, rabbit, sweet potatoes, amaranth, etc). Important, a veterinarian must balance the diet adequately for your dog (protein, fiber, fat, vitamin, mineral content).

3. Commercial hypoallergenic food with an unique source of animal protein and limited carbohydrates content. Several foods exist on the market like rabbit, kangaroo or venison meat for instance.

Eine innovative Alternative ist Hundefutter aus Insektenprotein. Insektenprotein ist genauso effektiv wie Fleisch bei Behandlung von Futterallergie oder -intoleranz bei gleichwertigem oder gar höherem Nährwert. Darüberhinaus braucht es sehr wenig Wasser, Land und Futter, um sie zu produzieren – das macht sie zu einer der nachhaltigsten tierischen Proteine, die zur Zeit erhältlich sind.

An innovative alternative is the new generation of hypoallergenic dog foods made from insect protein. Insects (protein) are as efficient as meat to treat food allergies and intolerances with an equivalent – or even higher – nutritional content. What’s more, they require a minimal use of water, land and food to be produced – thus are known to be among the most ecological and sustainable animal proteins available. Eat Small, insect Power Some brands like are already available on the market. You must be sure though, that none of the secondary ingredients come from an animal source (which is sometime the case to increase the palatability). In its tasty dry food, WALD Eat Small uses the protein of the specie Hermetia illucens as unique animal protein and amaranth and sweet potatoes as carbohydrates. It is a delicious gluten free and grain free recipe that helps most of allergic dogs and which healthy dogs can enjoy too. Eat Small also offers 3 tasty flavors of cold pressed snacks with insect protein: perfect hypoallergenic treats without additives or preservatives.

Find out more about hypoallergenic dog food made of insect protein hier

Veronique Glorieux is a canadian-board veterinarian who cumulates more than 10 years of medical work and experience with dogs and cats. Animal wellfare and environment are 2 topics that moves her. She lives now in Berlin, where she co-founded Eat Small and uses her experience in a different field of practice. With healthy and sustainable insect-based pet food she aims to support both the health of pets and of the planet.

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