Food Allergies In Dogs

Most raw feeders have had this type of experience …

“My dog had terrible, gunky ears that we just couldn’t fix, even with expensive veterinary diets or “grain-free” kibble. But when we switched to raw food, they simply went away forever.”

That’s a pretty bold statement, even for raw feeders. Yet these success stories happen all the time.

Food allergies in dogs are very common … so what’s the secret sauce?

Can a raw diet really result in those kinds of changes in health and happiness?

If your dog has allergy symptoms, joint pain or other common inflammation conditions, you’ll really want to read on and discover how cooked foods can be making these health issues worse … and why switching to raw foods can finally help.

But before I talk about the benefits of feeding fresh, raw foods, we’ll need to take a look inside the dog and his immune system.

What Are Antibodies And Why Are They Important?

You’ve probably heard of antibodies before. Antibodies (also called an immunoglobin or Ig) are an important part of your dog’s immune system. When your dog is exposed to unfriendly foreign invaders (called antigens), like bacteria or viruses, the antibodies detect the invader and activate the immune system, which will then try to attack and neutralize the enemy within.

Antibodies are found in many areas of the body and there are a few different types. But we’re mainly interested in the antibodies that can cause something called Type II and Type III hypersensitivity reactions.

What is a hypersensitivity reaction?

It’s pretty much what it sounds like … an exaggerated immune response.

Symptoms Of Hypersensitivity

Unlike a classic food allergy, or Type 1 hypersensitivity (for example, a child eats a peanut and immediately can’t breathe, or you might eat shellfish and suddenly get a big, red rash), food intolerance (also known as Type II and Type III hypersensitivity reactions) can take days to develop. You won’t see any real changes in your dog right after he eats the offending food but, over time, food intolerance can cause chronic allergy symptoms in your dog, including:

  • Dry, itchy skin and possibly hair loss
  • Irritable bowels and gas
  • Yeast infections and yeasty ears
  • Rashes, hives and hotspots
  • Licking and chewing at the feet or other body parts

It’s easy to mistake these symptoms for food allergies in dogs, but these problems are much more often associated with an abnormal buildup of antibodies in your dog’s body, which can result in inflammation and disease.

It’s this chronic inflammation that can cause your dog’s allergy symptoms (or even other inflammatory conditions including arthritis, diabetes, kidney failure and premature aging).

What Causes These Hypersensitivities?

Type II and Type III hypersensitivity reactions occur when the IgA and IgM antibodies form in the blood and in body tissues (typically the skin, kidneys and joints), where an immune response is triggered to eliminate foreign antigens. These special antibodies bind to the antigen, and these antigen-antibody complexes spread throughout the body. This reaction can take hours to days to develop.

When the antigen-antibody complexes get stored in the skin, kidneys or joints, tissue damage follows as the body tries to destroy them … and inflammation results.

The greater the number of antigen-antibody complexes, the more severe the inflammation …

… and this is probably a direct result of the food you’re feeding.

[Related: There are different types of antibodies, and they’re all important to your dog’s health. Find out more here]

Cooked Diets Increase Food Sensitivities

A few years back, an interesting study was done in London. If you’re not feeding your dog a raw diet now (and even if you are), you’ll be very, very interested in the results.

Researcher Aristo Vojdani took blood samples from 40 humans after eating several foods divided into two categories: raw and cooked. Then he measured the antibodies in the blood.

What he found was that IgA and IgM antibody levels were much higher in the people eating cooked foods as opposed to raw.

Why is that?

Food Allergies In DogsHeating and processing changes foods and their properties in many different ways. Proteins can be destroyed or parts of the proteins can form new proteins. Fats can also oxidize, forming new antigens. And these changes are so common, they have a name …

… neoallergen formation.

That literally means new allergy. So cooking foods creates new allergens in that food.

The study found that IgA and IgM antibodies were significantly higher in the people eating those cooked foods, across the board. From eggs, to beef, to salmon, the cooked foods had higher IgA and IgM levels every time.

So the next question is, how do you know if your dog’s health issues are caused by food sensitivities?

How To Tell If Your Dog Has Food Intolerance

If you suspect your dog has a food intolerance, you could try an elimination diet. But by the time you eliminate every food on your dog’s menu for 12 weeks each, it could take years to identify which foods he might be sensitive to.

Recently, tests have been developed to determine if your dog has food intolerance or sensitivity.

A saliva test called Nutriscan measures the IgA and IgM antibodies in your dog or cat. It tests 24 foods in total, and any foods that come back with elevated antibody levels indicate a food sensitivity … and that food should be removed from your dog’s diet.

If the food isn’t removed from the diet, the inflammation … and the allergy, joint or other health issues it causes … will remain.

Avoiding Food Allergies And Sensitivities

If your dog doesn’t have any health issues at all … then congratulations!

But if your dog has any symptoms of chronic disease (or if he’s eating a processed diet), then now might be the time to look at the food going into him and think about the harm it could be doing.

If you’re not yet convinced, there are a lot of other compelling reasons to avoid cooked processed foods …

Cooked meats and fish have been shown to contain cancer-causing substances (such as heterocyclic amines) and also acrylamides, which are a reaction between the amino acid asparagine and sugars found in foods.

A study conducted in Stockholm, Sweden showed that young animals fed a cooked, processed diet initially appeared to be healthy, but once they reached maturity, they began to rapidly age and develop degenerative disease symptoms. The control group that was raised on a raw diet didn’t age as fast and showed no degenerative disease symptoms.

Another study out of Belgium, Relation Between the Domestic Dogs’ Well Being and Life Expectancy, a statistical essay, used data gathered from more than 500 domestic dogs over a consecutive five year time period (1998-2002). The authors were able to statistically show that dogs fed a homemade diet, consisting of high quality foods used from their owners’ meals versus dogs fed an industrial, commercial pet food diet, had a life expectancy of 32 months longer …

That’s almost 3 years!

Historically, we’ve been taught to think that cooking food makes it safer. But research clearly shows there are real health risks with cooked processed foods.

What to do?

If your dog has any of the above issues, it might be a good idea to get him off cooked food and onto a raw food diet.

If you can’t or won’t feed raw, there are still better choices than highly heated kibbles. Look for freeze-dried foods or cook your own home diet using lower temperatures. This won’t eliminate the allergens in the food, but it can reduce them.

What if your kibble fed dog doesn’t have any of these issues?

That’s probably a bit like playing roulette. Because of the higher IgA and IgM antibodies, food allergies in dogs are a common result of feeding kibble … And, as the Stockholm study showed, it’s just a matter of time before processed diets start to cause premature aging and degenerative diseases.

So what you choose to do with this information is up to you.

But the next time you hear somebody brag about the amazing health changes raw foods have created for their dogs, you’ll know the success story was real.

[Related: Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of switching to raw. Find the steps here]