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Going Gluten-FreeJuly 20, 2011

I Think My Dog Has Food Allergies

My Canine Best Friend Is on a Special Diet.

In an ironic twist that isn’t lost on me, it turns out that Buster, my mixed-breed dog, has started reacting to something in his dog chow. I say it’s ironic because, as editor of Living Without magazine, I’m writing, thinking, reading, talking about and living with food allergies and sensitivities every day. I’m so attuned to the possibility of someone having celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or a food allergy that my adult children regularly tease me that I tend to think everyone has a food issue.

My daughter: Hey, Mom! I just broke a nail. Do you think I’m having a reaction to gluten?

My son: Hey, Mom! Looks like I got a bug bite on my arm. Do you think it might be celiac disease?

Ha, ha. Very funny, kids.

But back to Buster. My concerns about him started several weeks ago when I noticed that he was scratching a good bit and chewing on himself. It’s true that he was shedding his thick winter coat at the time--but still, there was something funny going on with his fur. It was beginning to look like he was losing it. And there were dark patches of skin showing up where his fur should have been.

I took him to the vet who said he had a yeast infection on his skin. She gave me anti-fungal medicine and a medicated shampoo.

This is all well and good—but I couldn’t resist heading to my computer when I returned from the vet to look up more about his diagnosis. Could it possibly be related to a food allergy? (I did not mention this suspicion to my kids.)

A quick Google search revealed that an allergic reaction was enough of a possibility to warrant taking Buster off his regular kibbles and trying him on a temporary diet of boiled chicken and rice. (I threw in some peas for good measure.) No more preservatives, grains, additives, chemicals. I figured, what could it hurt?

Buster loved his new food. He slurped his dinner up every night with extraordinary gusto. Over the next several weeks, the changes I saw in him went way beyond the anti-fungal medication. His scratching stopped, his skin healed, and his coat began to grow back in more shiny and lustrous than ever before. In addition, he dropped 15 pounds (a welcome weight loss for this chunky guy) and he rediscovered many of his lively puppy ways. Pretty good for an old boy of 9 years.

Looking over the lengthy ingredient list on the label of Buster’s dog food, I’m still not certain what he reacts to. It could be a number of things. What I am certain of is that he’s looking and feeling better than he has in many years--and I credit his special diet for this.

Not very scientific, I know. Don’t tell my kids.

 

Comments (17)

My dog has had allergies all her life (now 11 yrs old). I battled for years with finding the right dog food for her. If you are making your own dog food, make sure you provide the supplements and vitamins that your dog needs, otherwise they could become deficient. I have heard great things about the B.A.R.F. diet but never had time to prepare my own dog food. Also, my dog is still having some issues from time to time - different than the excessive licking of feet, skin irritations, etc, so now that I have been diagnosed with food allergies (wheat, dairy & soy), I have decided to try a gluten free diet for my dog. She is already wheat and corn free, but I am double checking barley and all the other gluten grains. It is in the beginning stages so I will have to write back later on the final outcome

Posted by: MARGIE J | January 20, 2012 10:29 AM    Report this comment

I have a blue & white cocker that has had itching her entire life. She was tested for mange because of it when she was a wee little pup. Finally, we tried no grain, no chicken, sweet potato & whitefish, etc. I tried every medication, allergy shots, you name it -- we did it but nothing seemed to work. We ended up with a dog dermatologist and an array of ointments (eyes & ears) along with pills to give her for outbreaks. Steroids, anti-biotics, etc.

I was taking a probiotic and just started popping them down her throat as well and it's been over a year since she had a flare up. I used Sustenex -- not sure if the brand matters or not. Thought it was very interesting that a probiotic could work so well. I had tried using a probiotic for dogs way back at the beginning of all this & got no response from it. I think different strains or cultures address different issues.

Posted by: Unknown | July 31, 2011 8:47 PM    Report this comment

I've had 3 dogs that had allergies. One dog would start sneezing uncontrollably about a week before my ragweed season started. He took antihistimines. My last dog was a Rottweiler who had stomach problems which progressed to diarrhea. Tried all the expensive Science Diet dog foods but no help. Finally a friend told me about a dogfood made from vegetables. One meal of that and the diarrhea stopped and she lived 4 more years when we had been told to take her home and love her because the end was coming soon. Price was 1/2 the special Science Diet cost.

Posted by: Lola L | July 27, 2011 10:14 PM    Report this comment

I can chime in with a brief account of my border collie's problems. Poor guy suffered so much that he would vomit every week or so. Vet didn't have any good ideas except try a different brand of dog food. As I studied gluten intolerance I suddenly realized that this was probably his issue too. I was surprised how difficult it was to find a grain-free dog food. Blue was the only one in our stores here at that time. After a couple of years, his coat looks better, he has fewer joint problems and of course no more vomiting unless he has sneaks a tasty meal of squirrel jerky with a pond algae salad.

Posted by: Daniel S | July 22, 2011 8:20 AM    Report this comment

We feed our cats and kittens strictly grain and dairy free all natural food. They all have food allergies being wildcat mixed. Cat's are obligate carnivores, and ours get sick when they have grain: hair loss, skin problems, bowel issues, and internal bleeding. We feed ours Acana and Nature's Variety "cereal" half and half mix, (both are all natural, grain and dairy free) as well as Almo Nature wet food for a treat, and Waggin' Trail grilled dog treats broken into little bits when it's bed time. The kittens are also started on raw when they're about 4 weeks, usually starting with poultry hearts and livers, then moving to cow and bison, raw chicken and other meats as they get older and better at chewing. They're active, happy, healthy, and their eyes sparkle with an intelligent shine that can't be put into words. Their coats are so glossy and sleek, and they're HUGE cats. Every litter has given us bigger cats than the last...and our vets are simply amazed. Combined with much love, and a steady treatment of bentonite clay and diamotaceous earth, they never have problems with worms of parasites.

Posted by: clearly o | July 21, 2011 10:21 PM    Report this comment

I have a cat with asthma. She went from a depo shot every 3-4 months to taking prednilose (sp?) pills every other day. I went round and round with several vets asking about food allergies (she had problems with salmon, eating anything with salmon in it caused distress, wheezing and sneezing and eventually vomiting) or allergic to something else in the environment (had a previous cat who was allergic to scoopable cat litter, although that was a skin condition) and literally got nowhere. I was told "Food allergies manifest on the skin." "She had heartworm damage, she had this, that, blah, blah, blah, but food allergies don't cause asthma."

In the meantime, another one of our cats got sick and kept throwing up repeatedly and so I removed all canned cat food from the house and controlled how much they all got of the dry for two weeks. Before the end of the week the asthma was 90% better and I gave her only a single pill the second week. As soon as I started up the canned food again, the asthma was back again full force.

So I hit the internet and then the library and spent some serious time in research and it turned out that food, in particular fish (and gluten and grains), can be an asthma trigger. And then came the second half of the nightmare, trying to find a cat food without fish. Even most of the ultra healthy special diet no-grains stuff has fish in it (most often the major problem causer salmon). But I finally found one that was both fish and grain-free (fish was the major trigger but corn and/or wheat or maybe both was also a problem) and switched her over to it (only now my nightmare is them going out of business).

She still has asthma but it's nothing like it was before. I've almost completely stopped the medication (although I still keep it on hand). She's had a single pill in the last 3 weeks and she very rarely has attacks and when she does, they're much more mild and very short (10-20 seconds of mild wheezing a couple times a day versus multiple repeated attacks that were 2-3 minutes long).

Posted by: Rebecca K | July 21, 2011 8:19 PM    Report this comment

We had similar problems with one of our poms. We got her as a rescue when she was 3 years old. When she came to us she was almost completely furless. her skin was covered in black spots and open sores from all the scratching she'd been doing. (The breeder we got her from had several problems, told us there would be vet records - there weren't, told us she was just a year old until we managed to wrangle the papers from her to prove otherwise, and had kept her in a kennel in the garage so no one would see this poor thing, and, oye! the separation anxiety this poor mite had once we got her.. bad, bad breeder/show lady...) We took her to the vet and asked what we should do. First suggestion was that it could be allergies, or it could be serious medical problems, allergies were easiest to deal with so they had us start with that. We tried several foods and got lucky fairly quickly. Seems she had problems with animal protein. So we put her on a whitefish/sweet potato blend and she started doing great. Took about a year for all of the sores and black spots to heal up and go away, but once they did she became a full on healthy, full coated pom. We've kept all our dogs on that formula since then, trying different brands, and a vegetarian variety a few times (when we could find it..) The other dogs we've had come in to us do well on it, gives em nice soft and shiny coats and their poop isn't as smelly as with some brands (though our JRT can turn anything to noxious fumes..) We always check the ingredient list for them and make sure that if there are grains, it's WAY down on the list and, for preference, rice or oat, though haven't noticed a problem for them with grains. Allergy we are currently dealing with is our little defect boy seems to be allergic to all forms of soap, even the hypoallergenic ones.. (FYI, hubby jokes that we are a pom rescue. In the 8 years we've been married, we've had 4 poms, and 1 JRT, all of the pommies came to us as medical rejects from others of one sort or another. Pepe - the food allergy and Rocky - heart condition leading to kidney failure, have both passed on. Currently we have Willow the JRT that everyone swears is mellow for a JRT but we can't believe that, Gir who has bad knees and had way too many teeth and was extremely underweight when we got her, and Gobo, our defect boy who was born with several visible birth defects and who knows how many invisible ones, is slightly neurotic and a total momma's boy who seems to be allergic to soap, he comes away with mild chemical burns)

Posted by: Davina S | July 21, 2011 6:40 PM    Report this comment

I have an English Bulldog who couldn't stop scratching. She would actually keep me up at night with her itching. The vet suggested a limited ingredient dog food from the pet store, so I bought duck and potatoes (which was frightfully expensive) and she hated it!!! wouldn't eat for two day. I kept switching dog food and decided that she was allergic to wheat and corn. Right now I am using Purina Beyound One and she has mostly stopped the scratching. I , too , am celiac and had already tried to cut out the wheat for her, but knew that it had to be something else also. She still scratches a LITTLE bit, but not nearly anything like before. She has only gone through half the first bag, so maybe she will continue to improve. If not, I'll try something else!!

Posted by: Rose | July 21, 2011 6:39 PM    Report this comment

I was already gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free before I brought my Boston Terrier home. On the way into the house from picking him up, I chucked the food that came with him. It was full of corn, wheat, and other crap. He started eating grain-, dairy-, and soy-free food immediately. He has the shiniest, softest coat and a trim waist. In giving him variety, I found that he is allergic to turkey and chicken. So he gets fish, lamb, deer, and beef for his protein (not all at once). When I brought a new Boston home, I started him immediately on the same diet. His poops went from pale, runny, and foul to perfectly formed, less stinky within 24 hours. His coat went from dingy to shiny in a matter of weeks with a grain-free diet. He also is allergic to chicken. Whenever they get into another dog's food (like at their cousin's house), they end up with itchy skin and the runs.

To the person with the gluten intolerant Boston, yes, he should have meat. Fish, lamb, and venison tend to be less prone to being allergens for Bostons. He won't get all of the nutrients and protein he needs without meat.

Posted by: taconista | July 21, 2011 1:40 PM    Report this comment

I switched to a grain free kibble years ago and all of my dogs, except one have done great. The one in particular had chronic ear infections that we could never clear up. The vet finally said to eliminate all chicken, lamb and venison because they cause the most problems. I didn't use the latter two, so it turned out to be the chicken. I was very surprised, but he has not had an infection since. I have always felt that the grains in kibbles are such an unnatural food for a dog. I also had a dog years ago that had cancer. I was told to take her off her grain food because the grains turn into sugars and feed the cancer. Hence another reason I use grain free. The foods are a little pricey, but for people who are Costco members, they now carry a grain free food that my dogs love.

Posted by: Ann M | July 21, 2011 1:19 PM    Report this comment

I just found out my Boston Terrier is gluten intolerant. We are looking at home made food like rice and veggies. But don't know it any meat should be included.

Posted by: Unknown | July 21, 2011 12:18 PM    Report this comment

Dogs and cats ARE gluten intolerant! In fact, neither species is able to benefit from the grains at all. Dogs can tolerate small amounts of whole GF grains, as they are less reactive, but the microscopic intestinal reactions still occur.

The challenge is that we live in a fast-paced society and pet food diets are created out of the need for convenience. The ingredients that are utilized in processed pet foods are included for purposes of profit more than nutrition. Reading the label is only half the battle. You must know what each ingredient actually encompasses to get a full perspective of what really goes into pet foods. It takes a keen awareness and time to research, which most people don't have the inclination or desire to do. Though, I would suspect those who have food allergies are more likely to "do the work" because we know how much better we feel when we eliminate the things that create issues for us.

All skin allergies in pets have a nutritional base, though other factors can play a role as well. Nutritional shifting can assist pets in improving allergies, but care-givers must also pursue repair of the underlying issues as well to truly resolve issues. A well-trained holistic veterinarian is more likely to have the tools to help each care-giver select an appropriate diet and truly treat the underlying imbalances that contribute to skin allergies, rather than simply using medications to mask the symptoms. As with Celiac disease, treating the symptoms doesn't make it better, rather it only suppresses the reactions for a short period of time. To locate a holistic veterinarian in your area, see www.ahvma.org.

Dr. Pam Holistic vet

Posted by: Pam F | July 21, 2011 9:49 AM    Report this comment

Our dogs started getting that same scratching and losing fur and lackluster fur, and our vet suggested trying food without grains in it, and they are thriving on it. Our German Shepherd mix is 13 years old and the vet can't believe how healthy she is. We have been using Taste of the Wild dog food.

Posted by: Oliveoyl123 | July 21, 2011 9:47 AM    Report this comment

When petfood companies learn to ditch the meat by-products, corn gluten, corn, and all the other "fillers", our pets will be alot better. I, too, had to begin reading labels for our Persian cats who could not tolerate these fillers and went to Wellness by Mother Hubbard Foods. Since then they are thriving, their bodies in greater shape then ever. The same goes for folks who are gluten intolerant like me but do not have Celiac Disease, just keep reading labels.

Posted by: Sharon M | July 21, 2011 9:40 AM    Report this comment

My pom had the same issues. Balding areas, dark spots on his skin, scratching, and chewing on his front paws immediately after he ate. Ran into another pom owner with beautiful fur and she commented that the dog had been nearly bald a year before. Turns out it was a wheat allergy! I immediately changed my pom's food and within 6 months, he has all his hair back! Still chews his feet, but we are working on that, it is a habit now. Wheat feed do food is of course more expensive, but my pom is now 13 1/2 years old and going strong!

Posted by: Carin R | July 21, 2011 9:36 AM    Report this comment

My dog had digestive issues for many years. On my own, I put him on a grain-free, gluten-free diet. Even though now a teenager, she acts younger and is healthier than before. I have been teased by friends and family members, but I could care less. I can choose what to feed my dog. It is my responsibility to provide for my beloved pet what I feel is best suited for her health and well being. I do know her food is more expensive, but I have more than made up for the extra costs in lower and less frequent vet bills! It is common sense that what we (and our pets eat) is at the root of many health issues.

Posted by: commonsense | July 21, 2011 9:32 AM    Report this comment

Our dog was definitely either lactose intolerant or allergic to milk. He would vomit and have diarrhea every time he ate any dairy. People thought I was crazy too! Funny thing is, this was all before I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy myself. Noticed it in him but didn't put two and two together for myself.

Posted by: Sharon W | July 20, 2011 8:43 PM    Report this comment

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