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4-Year-Old American Staffordshire Terrier Finally Allergy-Free

October 26, 2009

Specialists estimate 50% of American dogs have allergies

Dexter was a 4-year-old rednose tan and white American Staffordshire Terrier. He was itchy every day of his life since he was 8 weeks old.

Allergy skin testing, blood testing, special baths, antibiotics, Omega-3 fatty acids, nothing worked.

True food allergies are thought uncommon.  I beg to differ in the case of the APBT…

Only an estimated 5-10% of dogs have food allergies.  The APBT must be overrepresented.  It seems like at least 50% of APBT’s have food allergies!

But, no veterinarian had suggested properly testing for food allergies. Many “pit bulls” have food allergies. It takes 72 hours for a food allergy to run its course. No matter what a laboratory report lists with fancy numbers, There are no accurate blood tests for food allergies.

Food Allergies must be discovered through and Allergy Elimination Diet and Food Trials

First Step: The Allergy Elimination Diet Takes About 8-12 Weeks Maximum

“What Dexter needs is an allergy elimination diet.”

“What’s that?”

Ultrahydrolyzed technological food can provide a “clean” base to start the food trials

So, here’s how it works. Your dog eats a truly allergy-free diet for about 12 weeks. Your vet can prescribe Hills Z/D, Royal Canin HP, or Purina HA. These foods are technologically engineered from hydrolyzed protein. Hmm… “What?”

The local immune system in the gut cannot react to amino acid chains smaller than about 16 kilodaltons. These are the tiny building blocks of proteins.

(Nov 10, 2009 Update: New research shows some pets with allergies to the parent protein, say, soybean, will show adverse reactions to the ultra hydrolyzed soy protein isolate product in spite of the scientific theory which states they should not have a problem with it!  Be careful!  No one food fits every pet or situation.)

Allergy Elimination Diets Can be Designed (Carefully) at Home

Now, if you can’t or won’t call your vet to consult with you, there is another way to start an allergy elimination diet. Pets have the most likelihood of being allergic to ingredients they eat the most. In America, dogs are most likely to be allergic to:

  • beef
  • chicken
  • corn
  • soy
  • and egg

In Australia, dogs often react to lamb, because the commercial food is made with abundant and cheap lamb.  Australia imports beef for their allergic dogs!

“But he’s eaten the same food his whole life.” (Everybody says that; reread previous paragraph!)

Pets have the most likelihood of being allergic to ingredients they eat the most.

(Cats in America are most often to beef, chicken, fish, corn, soy, and egg. Same rules apply for finding a hypoallergenic diet.)

Your dog is unlikely to be allergic to an ingredient he or she has never eaten before.

Back to novel ingredient diets. The theory is, your pet will be unlikely to be allergic to a protein he or she has never eaten before. There is a slight chance of cross-reactivity. For example, if you are allergic to chicken, duck may make you itch. Beef allergy may make you react to venison. The potential list goes on. That’s why the expensive prescription diets are often the way to go.

Careful Reading and Interpreting of Ingredients is Key

If you go the novel protein route, read the ingredients carefully. Look for “poultry fat” which could be chicken. Read the ingredients! All natural and organic are just as likely to be allergenic.  There is no legal definition of “natural” in the United States, or federal law for “organic” regarding foods in the US.  Many producers and companies use the California Organic guidelines or follow guidelines published in other countries, hopefully in all good faith.

Now, realize that anything that goes into your dog’s mouth could trigger the allergies.

  • Rawhide is beef.
  • Cow hooves are beef.
  • Pig’s ears….well, duh.
  • Heartworm preventatives are often flavored. Call your veterinarian for hypoallergenic options. Do not stop preventative! Heartworms are deadly.
  • Laxatone for cats is fish and corn syrup.

Seriously, read your labels.

Continue Feeding the “Hypoallergenic” Diet Until Your Dog’s Symptoms Subside

Your veterinarian can help you interpret symptoms of secondary infections versus just the plain old allergy itself.  In general, if your APBT has yeast, bacteria, demodex, or other skin issues, vomiting, intermittent soft stool, etc., then those conditions need specific prescription therapy to help the body clear them up.  You will not be able to tell if the medicine helped the allergy, or the food.

But you know your dog.  You’ve probably given antibiotics and medicines before, only to have the problem return within ___amount of time.  One month, 3 months, you know what the pattern is for your dog.  So, while you are using the food allergy elimiation diet, you are looking for the pattern NOT to rear it’s ugly snout!

For example, if your veterinarian has your dog on medicated baths, antibiotics, and maybe even anti-inflammatory medication like prednisone, you know if your dog flares up again “as soon as the medications stop.”  Maybe that is why you searched for this posing in the first place.  You are not alone.  Many, many people have this situation with their dog.

You have taken the problem and the solution into your own hands (with your veterinarian’s counsel), and the allergy elimination diet should help your dog become less reactive with allergic symptoms.

No Treats or Homemade Treats

Your dog may be used to treats, and there are few safe options.  More and more companies are putting out vegetarian treats and biscuits (some of these are appropriate).  A small, reputable, caring company will probably answer your concerns of there are any unfamiliar terms on the labels.

Many of my clients use homemade cookie recipes. These must also be modified to your dog’s situation, but they are a starting point.  The longer they cook, and the longer they sit out after cooking, the crunchier they get!

Second Step: The Food Trial May Take 6 Months or More of Investigation

So, after 12 weeks on the special diet, Dexter did not itch anymore, and his skin cleared up! Now for the real work.

Each week, Dexter was given 1 ingredient with his special food.

The first week, 1 piece of popcorn caused his face to swell and his eyes to water. Bingo!

The next week, beef caused him to have nearly instant diarrhea. Another hit! In between weeks, we let his system reset with the special diet.

Overall, it took 25 weeks to determine corn, beef, chicken, milk (cheese) and potatoes.

The final step in the food allergy elimination diet (think: process of elimination) is fun! Read ingredients and find food that matches. Work with your vet to find hypoallergenic medications without real allergenic ingredients.

Dexter’s skin cleared up, his ear infections stopped, his occasional vomiting and diarrhea stopped, he grew calmer and less hyperactive. It was totally worth it!

P.S. If you are frustrated and your dog is not better with the food allergy elimination, remember that allergies are additive.  This means that each dog has a threshold for allergic reaction.  Perhaps mold, a food, a flea, and a certain tree pollen sets your dog off, that explains why flea and food are important, even if you only see symptoms certain times of the year.  Stunning facts, 50% of dermatology referral cases in dogs are flea-allergy related, and 50% of dogs in America are thought to have atopy, or inhaled allergen reactions.

50% of dermatology referral cases in dogs are flea-allergy related, and 50% of dogs in America are thought to have atopy, or inhaled allergen reactions

Do this:

  • Keep a calendar of basic food, and pollen, hayfever counts from the news, etc.
  • Rate your dog’s itchiness on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being unbearable and not sleeping, and 1 being virtually nothing.  This helps you track your progress and objectify your observations.
  • Close the windows and run the AC on high pollen count and smog warning days, keep your pooch indoors with you.
  • Be certain your dog has no exposure to fleas.  Ask your vet about Comfortis organic prescription flea preventative pills.
  • Treat your home and yard with IGR Insect Growth Regulator products to eliminate fleas, eggs, cocoons, READ the LABELS, these products can kill fish birds, etc.  Repeat procedure in 2 weeks.  Then maintain every 3-6 months. (Doc Truli likes VetChem and Zodiac brands, available from Petsmart and other pet supply centers.)
  • Ask your veterinarian about intradermal allergy testing or allergy blood testing
    • no steroids before the testing
    • best done during an allergy flare-up
    • changes over the years, may be worth retesting!

Good Luck!  Look for more allergy strategies from VirtuaVet.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2010 6:39 am

    Definitely a very helpful information about dog allergy and the Allergy Elimination Diets.

    This will surely help the dog/pet owners and can take good care of their dogs and pets


  2. Stephani permalink
    January 10, 2010 9:58 am

    Very helpful ~ my itchy Yorkie and I thank you!!

    • January 17, 2010 6:43 pm

      Yorkies are an especially tricky and allergy-probe bunch of little dogs. Many, many Yorkies start out itchy. They get cortisone (depo-medrol / terrible for dogs BTW / vetalog a.k.a. Triamcinolone, prednisone, and the itch stops while they take the medication. As soon as the meds end, the itchiness resumes.
      Then, many of the Yorkies I treat, end up with thin skin, little pot bellies, and/or flakey dry skin probe to turn rather red quickly.
      They need to be tested and treated for secondary yeast infection. Many, many Yorkies go untreated for the yeast, and their skin deteriorates into black skin in the groin region, all over body odor, and thin, stringy fur.
      Good luck with the allergies!
      Thank you so much for reading my musings.


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