Canine Allergies: A New Look

Dog with allergies

Canine allergies are a frustrating and confusing problem.

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

… But just because your dog doesn’t have digestive symptoms doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Good intestinal health is crucial if you want to treat his allergies permanently.

How Allergy Symptoms Start

Allergies start when your dog’s body encounters something it doesn’t like. So it fights back.

And often the things it doesn’t like are found in your dog’s environment:

  • toxins from poor quality foods
  • pesticides such as flea and worm medications
  • fertilizers
  • drugs
  • vaccines
  • bacteria
  • parasites
  • heavy metals

Your dog’s body also creates its own toxins on a daily basis. These come from the by-products of food digestion and regular metabolism are released.

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 can’t keep up with demand. They become overloaded with toxins. The result is impaired metabolic processes and free radical damage. This results in inflammation and immune issues.

“Allergies are of gut origin unless proven otherwise.” ~ Dr Eddy Beltram, DVM

What happens when the detox organs can’t release toxins from the body? The other organs will attempt to pick up the slack. The largest organ in the body, the skin, will begin to show the impact of the toxins as it attempts to eliminate them. Symptoms like hot spots, itchy ears and red, itchy skin, are merely symptoms of a bigger problem.

Dr Beltram, DVM, of the Blair Animal Hospital in Ottawa goes on to say, “Lungs, feet, ears, and skin are the tip of the iceberg. The problem is in the bowel.”

[RELATED] Not guts, no glory. Here’s why that allergy treatment doesn’t work.

Why Conventional Treatment Doesn’t Solve Anything

The goal of most conventional treatment of allergies is to block the immune response. Or, in more severe cases, to suppress the entire immune function with steroids.

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, overall health worsens because the immune system is always suppressed. If you want to treat allergies permanently, you 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. If the toxins are no longer released through the skin, they’ll be driven back into the deeper organs.

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 natural products as well.

Other environmental toxins such as pesticides used around the home and toxic cleaning chemicals should also be replaced with more safer, more natural options.

[RELATED] Over-vaccination is such a huge problem for our dogs. Do you know which ones your dog actually needs?

Using Food As Medicine

Finally, diet should definitely be considered. Processed kibbles, regardless of ‘quality’, can be loaded with toxins.

Here’s a short list of possible issues:

  • Premixes – most kibbles are processed and baked at high temperatures. Because of this, they won’t meet minimal AAFCO nutritional standards. Not unless synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back in. Nearly all of these products are manufactured overseas. Most come from China, where quality standards are questionable. Remember the melamine that was added to pet foods in the late ’90s that harmed and killed countless dogs??
  • Bacteria – many kibbles contain dead stock. This stock may not reach the rendering plant for a day or two. And that carcass can be contaminated with bacteria including E. coli and Salmonella. Sure, the cooking process may kill the bacteria. But it doesn’t eliminate the endotoxins some bacteria produce. Pet food manufacturers don’t test their foods for these toxins. And remember: sick and dead animals can be processed as pet foods. And any drugs used to treat or euthanize them will also be included in the kibble.
  • Mycotoxins – these are toxins from mold or fungi. Ingredients most likely contaminated include grains like wheat and corn and fish meal.
  • GMOs – genetically modified plant products create inflammatory conditions. Most of the soybean, corn and cotton crops in the US are now genetically modified.
  • Acrylamide. This forms when foods containing certain sugars and asparagine are cooked at 250°F+. Asparagine is an amino acid is found in large amounts in potatoes and cereal grains. It is formed in a chemical process called the Maillard reaction. And it’s a carcinogenic compound. Most dry pet foods contain cereal grains or potatoes. And they’re processed at high temperatures. Think 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. Why? Because it improves taste. But it also decreases the bioavailability of some essential amino acids. The content and potential effects of acrylamide formation in pet foods are unknown.

So what’s the answer for diet? Choose a high-quality commercial raw or dehydrated food. Better yet, feed your dog your own raw foods. This 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’s protective and some of it’s harmful (for example, E. coli. or Salmonella). Certain things can throw the intestinal flora out of whack. This leads to the bad bacteria overcrowding the good bacteria.

And the most common culprits are

  • Antibiotics
  • An improper diet
  • Exposure to bacteria and viruses

When this happens, the immune system will become dysregulated. And your dog will suffer the effects of either hyperactivity or immune suppression. Probiotics help restore the proper intestinal flora by crowding out the bad bacteria.

If the bad bacteria in the gut are left in check, it can lead to a condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome.

[RELATED] What the heck is leaky gut syndrome and does your dog have it?

Young dogs are more susceptible to this condition, as are dogs fed dairy products. With leaky gut, the intestinal barrier becomes compromised and permeability increases. Small openings develop in the lining of the intestine. This allows large molecules of undigested foods to enter the bloodstream.

If the quantity of undigested food is too great for the liver to clear out, the immune system reacts. It sees these molecules as foreign to the body and produces antibodies against them. When your dog eats food again, t gets worse. When it passes into the bloodstream undigested, the antibodies bind with the food. These antibody-food complexes travel through the bloodstream to any part of the body. Then they 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. With allergies, an allergen-antibody complex causes mast cells to release allergy mediating chemicals. Vitamin C helps to stabilize mast cells so they’re less likely to release those chemicals.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids can help ease 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’s important not to supplement with digestive enzymes if intestinal flora is unbalanced.
  • Bioflavinoids, including quercetin and hesperidin, contain antihistamine compounds.
  • Finally, fresh, whole foods rich in antioxidants will reduce free radical activity. They’ll also help to heal the gut and skin. These include grape seed extract, vitamins C and E, beta carotene and alpha lipoic acid. Bovine colostrum, whey protein isolate and L-Gluatamine are also good for the gut.

If you address the root of your dog’s allergy problems, such as nutrition, digestion and intestinal health, the allergies can be overcome. It may take time, but good health is possible if the body is supported and not suppressed.

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