Does your dog have allergies? How would you really know if they’re real allergies or due to the food he’s eating?
True allergies will present with symptoms like persistent biting, licking and scratching of the skin, inflamed skin with lumps, bumps or sores, inflamed ears with recurring infections, as well as diarrhea and vomiting.
Confusingly, enzyme deficiency can display in a very similar way.
You may think you’ve tried everything and still, your dog is itching and scratching away. You’ve followed your vet’s instructions, experimenting with protein sources, testing for different allergens and more. And when none of this works, you may be offered steroids as a last resort.
But before you give up hope, consider a second possibility as the source of your dog’s discomfort.
Allergy Or Enzyme Deficiency?
Your dog may actually be suffering from enzyme deficiency – especially if his skin symptoms are accompanied by chronic diarrhea, vomiting or pancreatitis attacks.
Enzyme deficiency can sometimes resemble an allergic state. It starts inside the body in the internal organs, particularly the pancreas, liver and gut. Sometimes the two problems are one and the same. Allergies appear worse because the body is overtaxed, malnourished and the immune system isn’t functioning as it should. This calls for a closer look at how to replenish the body, re-educate the immune system and allow damaged cells to regenerate and function in a healthy way.
Sometimes, when this deficiency is addressed, allergy symptoms mysteriously disappear.
Causes Of Enzyme Deficiency
Diet is the most obvious cause. If your dog’s eating anything but a raw diet, he’s probably enzyme deficient.
Live enzymes only exist in raw, whole foods. Commercial diets strain the pancreas by making it the sole enzyme producer for the body. If there are no enzymes in the diet, the pancreas can fail to produce enough digestive juice for the lifetime of the animal. This may not be noticeable in younger pets, but as they mature, the damage sets in. If your dog was switched to raw as an older animal, he may be in the same boat.
Certain diseases can also leave your dog enzyme deficient, especially if enzymes aren’t part of his diet. These diseases include chronic and acute pancreatitis, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and pancreatic acinar atrophy (PAA). Inflammatory conditions of the pancreas can greatly reduce this organ’s ability to produce adequate enzymes; EPI and PAA can prevent the production of digestive enzymes.
Long-term stress is another factor that can cause a myriad of health issues including enzyme deficiency. Take the time to assess how your dog perceives his world and interacts within it.
Repairing The Deficiency
Fortunately there are several ways to help correct enzyme deficiency in your dog.
Diet is a vital factor and your dog’s food directly affects his ability to produce enzymes, especially as he ages.
A raw meat-based whole foods diet is best because it contains naturally occurring live enzymes that supplement the enzyme production of the pancreas. Be sure your dog’s raw diet isn’t high in fat. For animals dealing with enzyme deficiency or pancreatic dysfunction, a high fat diet is a huge no-no. Feed lean meat and avoid naturally high fat meats such as lamb and duck.
Commercial diets strain the pancreas by making it the sole enzyme producer for the body.
If your dog can’t eat raw, a home-cooked diet with a high quality enzyme supplement is the next best thing.
Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Even some raw fed dogs are enzyme deficient and need the extra help of an enzyme supplement. If your dog has allergy-like skin symptoms or digestive distress, an enzyme supplement is a must.
Choose a supplement that contains a wide variety of enzymes, not just one or two. The dosage will depend on the brand along with the weight of your dog, so follow the package instructions.
Generally, where there is enzyme deficiency, there is a secondary mineral deficiency. This alone can cause skin disease.
Adding a high quality, natural-source trace mineral supplement is essential in the recovery stages. One excellent option is to give a 100 percent pure phytoplankton supplement. When using human supplements, always assume the dose is for a 150 lb person and adjust the dose according to your dog’s weight.
Once you have a good handle on your dog’s diet and your dog has healed, the trace minerals found in a properly balanced raw diet should suffice without supplementation.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
If you always use the same oil supplement, your dog may not be getting a good balance of omega fatty acids, which can cause allergy-like symptoms. Be 100 percent sure that your oils are fresh and have not gone rancid. Feeding rancid fats can cause allergy-like symptoms as well. It’s best to rotate fish and plant oils to offer the widest variety possible.
EFAs can be used in a therapeutic way to reduce inflammatory response, especially phytoplankton and coconut oil. Start low and work up to the recommended dosage levels for each.
Read more about the dangers of fish oil and oxidation here
Often where there’s enzyme deficiency, there’s digestive disease.
If your dog has suffered from pancreatitis, colitis or irritable bowel-like symptoms, his digestive lining and organ function may be impaired. The amino acid L-Glutamine can help the gut regenerate so that it can absorb nutrients correctly. Start low and work up to the following amounts:
- Small dogs: 0.5g twice daily
- Medium dogs: 1g twice daily
- Large dogs: 1.5g twice daily
- Giant breeds: 2g twice daily
Dimethyl Glycine (DMG)
DMG is an amino acid that acts as an immune modulator to help animals with overactive and underactive immune systems regain normal immune function. It’s a great supplement for truly allergic dogs and also for dogs recovering from enzyme deficiency or any type of immunological disorder. DMG is absorbed best in liquid form. Use the following amounts:
- Small dogs: 45-90 mg daily
- Medium dogs: 90-180 mg
- Large dogs: 135-270 mg
- Giant breeds: 180-360 mg
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can give the immune system a jump-start in the right direction. It’s best to use a whole foods sourced supplement; organic whole blueberry powder or other berry powders are a very good choice. Make sure your supplement is 100% food with no fillers.
Give ½ tsp per 25 lbs of your dog’s body weight per day
Vitamins B5 And B6
Enzyme deficiency can often be accompanied by digestive weakness.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is essential for healthy metabolic function, playing a vital role in producing hormones and digestive enzymes. Vitamin B6 is a natural antihistamine. Dogs suffering from enzyme deficiency are often deficient in this nutrient.
Combined with vitamin C, these B vitamins can be a cost-effective answer to your dog’s itchy skin.
Moringa leaf powder is an excellent source of B vitamins. Look for a high quality human supplement. Give ½ tsp per 25 lbs of your dog’s body weight each day. Liver is another excellent source of these vitamins and raw liver should be fed as 10% of your dog’s diet. Lean red meats such as venison are another good source of B vitamins.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help restore the balance of digestive flora in the gut.
There are several vitamins and bile acids that are manufactured by your dog’s gut flora. If the gut flora has been disturbed through antibiotic treatment, poisoning, digestive crisis or improper diet, this can play a role in enzyme deficiency. Foods like kefir and fermented vegetables can help, but animals with enzyme deficiency will also do well to have daily probiotic supplements for several months or longer.
Use high quality, refrigerated probiotics. If you buy a supplement for dogs, dose as instructed on the packaging. If you buy a human probiotic, assume the recommended dose is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.
Enzymes are an important factor in your dog’s health; so correcting enzyme deficiency may be the answer to your dog’s allergies.