Allergies in dogs can be a frustrating and confusing problem because symptoms take on many different forms.
They can appear on the skin as rashes, red feet and hot spots. They can appear in the ears or in the respiratory tract. Allergies can also manifest as digestive symptoms including vomiting or chronic diarrhea.
Regardless of whether your dog has digestive symptoms, good intestinal health is crucial if you are to treat his allergies permanently
Environmental causes of allergies include toxins from poor quality foods, pesticides such as flea and worm medications, fertilizers, drugs, vaccines, bacteria, parasites, heavy metals and more. Your dog’s body also creates its own toxins on a daily basis, as the by-products of food digestion and regular metabolism are released.
How Allergy Symptoms Start
Allergy symptoms appear when the major organs required to detoxify the body are overworked. When dogs have a heavy toxin load, the liver, kidneys and digestive tract not only become overworked and can’t keep up with demand, they also become overloaded with toxins. The result is impaired metabolic processes and free radical damage and this results in inflammation and immune issues.
When the liver, kidneys and digestive tract become unable to release toxins from the body, other organs will attempt to do the job. The largest organ in the body, the skin, will begin to show the impact of the toxins as it attempts to eliminate them. Allergy symptoms including hot spots, itchy and inflamed ears and red, itchy skin, are merely symptoms of a larger problem that has already developed in the liver, kidneys and digestive tract.
“Allergies are of gut origin unless proven otherwise” says Dr Eddy Beltram, DVM, of the Blair Animal Hospital in Ottawa. “Lungs, feet, ears, and skin are the tip of the iceberg. The problem is in the bowel.”
Why Conventional Treatment Doesn’t Solve Anything.
Conventional treatment of allergies is most commonly directed at blocking the immune response, or in more severe cases, at suppressing the entire immune function with steroids, both systemic and topical.
While this approach can provide symptomatic relief, it does nothing to address the underlying cause of the problem.
Dogs often become dependant on their medication, they suffer from numerous side effects, and more importantly, their overall health worsens because the immune system is constantly suppressed. If dog owners are to treat allergies permanently, they must address the cause, not the symptoms. The body needs a way to eliminate the toxins stored inside and your job is to help your dog do this. Drugs will only suppress the symptoms and if the toxins are no longer released through the skin, they will be driven back into the deeper organs and manifest as other diseases.
There are some important steps you can take to curb your dog’s allergy symptoms. First and foremost, the environmental toxin load must be reduced. This means replacing any drugs with herbs or homeopathy whenever possible.
Core vaccinations are not needed every three years, they last for the life of the animal, so should be stopped. Rabies is the only vaccination required by law; every other vaccine is given only by your choice.
Flea, tick, worm, heartworm and other medications can be replaced with herbal or homeopathic products as well and this should be discussed with a qualified holistic or homeopathic vet.
Other environmental toxins such as pesticides used around the home and toxic cleaning chemicals should also be replaced with more safer, more natural options.
Using Food As Medicine
Finally, diet should definitely be considered. Processed kibbles, regardless of ‘quality’, can be laden with toxins. Here is a short list of possible issues:
- Premixes – because most kibbles are processed and baked at high temperatures, they will not meet minimal AAFCO nutritional standards unless synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back in. Nearly all of these products are manufactured overseas, mostly in China, where quality standards are questionable. Remember the melamine that was added to pet foods in the late ’90’s that harmed and killed countless dogs.
- Bacteria – many kibbles contain dead stock which may not reach the rendering plant for a day or two and the carcass can be contaminated with bacteria including E. coli. and Salmonella. While the cooking process may kill the bacteria, it does not eliminate the endotoxins some bacteria produce. Pet food manufacturers do not test their foods for these toxins. Because sick and dead animals can be processed as pet foods, any drugs used to treat or euthanize them will also be included in the kibble. Antibiotics used in livestock production are also thought to contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans.
- Mycotoxins – these are toxins from mold or fungi. Pet food ingredients most likely to be contaminated with mycotoxins include grains such as wheat and corn and fish meal.
- GMOS – genetically modified plant products create inflammatory conditions. Most of the soybean, corn and cotton crops in the U.S. are now genetically modified.
- Acrylamide. This is a carcinogenic compound formed at cooking temperatures of about 250°F in foods containing certain sugars and the amino acid asparagine (found in large amounts in potatoes and cereal grains). It is formed in a chemical process called the Maillard reaction. Most dry pet foods contain cereal grains or potatoes, and they are processed at high temperatures (200–300°F at high pressure during extrusion; baked foods are cooked at well over 500°F); these are perfect conditions for the Maillard reaction. In fact, the Maillard reaction is considered desirable in the production of pet food because it imparts a palatable taste, even though it reduces the bioavailability of some amino acids, including taurine and lysine. The content and potential effects of acrylamide formation in pet foods are unknown.
By choosing high quality commercial raw or dehydrated foods – or better yet, feeding your dog your own raw foods – you will reduce the amount of toxins your dog’s body has to eliminate. Choose grass-fed, organic animals whenever possible.
Good Guts Just Makes Sense
Probiotics can be a very important part of your dog’s allergy treatment.
One important contributing factor to allergies is an unbalanced intestinal flora. The dog’s digestive system is loaded with bacteria – some of it is protective and some of it is harmful (for example, E. coli. or Salmonella). When dogs are given antibiotics, fed an improper diet, or exposed to bacteria and viruses, the intestinal flora can become unbalanced with the bad bacteria overcrowding the good bacteria.
When this happens, the immune system will become dysregulated and your dog will suffer the effects of either hyperactivity or immune suppression. A good quality probiotic such as Primal Defense will help restore the proper intestinal flora by crowding out the bad bacteria and yeast.
If the bad bacteria in the gut are left in check, it can lead to a condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Young dogs are more susceptible to this condition, as are dogs fed dairy products. In this condition, the intestinal barrier can become compromised and the permeability is increased. Small openings can develop in the lining of the intestine, which allow large molecules of undigested or incompletely digested foods to enter the bloodstream.
The liver is the main organ inside the body whose function is to process substances which are “foreign” to the body and to make them “friendly”.
If the quantity of incompletely digested foods which enters the bloodstream is too great for the liver to clear almost immediately, the immune system then recognizes these molecules as being foreign to the body and produces antibodies against them. When the food is eaten again and again and passes into the bloodstream undigested or only partially digested, the antibodies bind with the food. These antibody-food complexes can travel through the bloodstream to any part of the body where they then cause problems. The allergy and immune systems will continue unchecked.
Supplementing That Can Help
Here are some other helpful supplements for allergies:
- Vitamin C is a general anti-allergy vitamin that will help. Dogs experience allergic symptoms when an allergen-antibody complex causes mast cells to release histamine and other allergy mediating chemicals. Vitamin C helps to stabilize mast cells so they are less likely to release these substances.
- Omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate the inflammation associated with allergies. Digestive enzymes will also reduce inflammation. These can be fed with meals to aid digestion and feed beneficial bacteria. It is important to not supplement with digestive enzymes if the intestinal flora is out of balance.
- Bioflavinoids, including quercetin and hesperidin, contain antihistamine compounds.
- Finally, fresh, whole foods rich in antioxidants will reduce free radical activity and help to heal the gut and skin. These include grape seed extract, vitamins C and E, beta carotene and alpha lipoic acid amongst others. Bovine colostrum, whey protein isolate and L-Gluatamine are other products that can help heal the gut.
If dog owners address the factors at the root of their dog’s allergy problems, such as nutrition, digestion and intestinal health, their allergies can be overcome. It may take time, but good health is possible if the body is supported and not suppressed.