Helsinki researchers report that pet owners who want to know what to feed a dog with allergies and skin issues, could help prevent allergies in their dogs by feeding whole foods starting in puppyhood.
This 2021 study reports that when puppies are started on whole, raw foods, and continue this diet into adulthood, they significantly reduce the risk of allergies, skin diseases and atopy-related skin symptoms (AASS).
Atopic dermatitis (AD) in dogs is an inflammatory allergic skin disease that often occurs in the first 3 years of a dog’s life. In 2017, the worldwide prevalence of AD was 18.3%, as reported by owners in a survey … an increase from 10-15% in 2001.
RELATED: Read more about dog allergies …
The Puppy Diet Research
Researchers at the University of Helsinki studied 4,022 dogs from puppyhood. They looked at the diet and food the dogs ate into their adult years. Based on the information provided by dog owners, researchers listed raw tripe, raw organ meats, fish oil supplements and human meal leftovers as being beneficial to long-term prevention of allergies and skin issues.
This observational study (1) looked at the relationship between allergy and AASS at adult ages. Researchers used information from dog owners who completed the DogRisk online feeding survey for their puppies when they were 2 to 6 months of age. They detailed different types of diets as well as 46 food items fed to their puppies. Of the 4,022 dogs, there were 2,864 healthy dogs over 3 years of age used as control dogs. There were 1,158 dogs who were 1 year or older and had skin-related diseases.
In contrast, researchers also looked at other foods fed including fruits, mixed oil supplements, dried animal parts, and drinking from puddles. They found these were significant risk factors for AASS incidence.
Kibble Increases Allergies
“Puppies not getting any raw foods, eating most of their food as dry food … kibble, being fed fruits, and heat-dried animal parts, had significantly more allergy and atopy related skin symptoms in adulthood,” says DogRisk research group team leader, Dr Anna Hielm-Björkman.
Researchers also had helpful news for kibble feeders. Dogs who ate a diet that was 80% dry plus 20% whole, raw food had significantly lower risk of AASS later in life. But puppies who ate 80% dry food and 20% canned food, without whole, raw foods added, had increased allergy symptoms and skin issues later in life.
Dr Hielm-Björkman also commented:
“These findings indicate that it was the raw food component that was the beneficial health promotor, and that even as little as 20% of the diet being raw foods, already gives health benefits.”
Even puppies who ate dead animals they found outside showed reduced allergy and atopy related skin symptoms as adults.
How Diet Helps Prevent Allergies
The study concluded that puppies fed some of the whole foods listed below had significantly less allergies or skin issues later in life. When puppies were given a raw meat-based diet within their first 2 to 6 months, it significantly reduced the incidences of allergies and skin issues in adulthood.
And another study of 106 dogs highlighted the importance of the dam’s diet (2). Researchers found that when the dams were not fed whole food diets during lactation, the puppies had a higher risk of canine atopic dermatitis (CAD). This happened even if the puppies were fed a meat-based diet during their first 6 months of life.
When the dam ate a non-commercial diet of fresh foods, the puppies had the same risk as when they ate a similar fresh diet after weaning. That showed the importance of the dam’s diet on her puppies.
Best Foods To Prevent Allergies
The researchers found the following foods were prevalent in the diets of the dogs studied.
Raw tripe has a protective effect against AASS. Researchers credit the abundance of living beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus that supports the microbiome and the immune system.They noted exposure to probiotics at an early age provided beneficial long-term clinical and immunomodulation effects in humans and in dogs, by decreasing allergic and inflammatory factors.
Raw organ meats provide a good source of vitamins, minerals, high-quality protein and fat, as well as providing puppies with beneficial bacteria to help develop a healthy gut microbiota.
The more exposure puppies had to human meal leftovers that included fiber and prebiotics, the more protection they had against AASS. They included human foods of fish, meat, vegetables, mushrooms, berries, whole grains plus fermented meat and fermented dairy products that helped balance the inflammatory response in the gut.
Researchers also conjectured that by sharing food, humans may share their own microbes with their dog. They also mentioned the improved human-canine bond to reduce stress in puppies and impact the immune system.
Feeding too much fish oil resulted in risk factors for AASS later in life. But when given sporadically, it lowered the incidence of AASS. These researchers found there were non-beneficial effects on immune function when EPA and DHA were given in large amounts.
Researchers looked at puppies allowed to eat dirt through play or by eating food in the soil or carcasses of dead birds or animals. Swallowing the soil microbiome along with the carcass provided a naturally occurring soil-based probiotic. They determined that the more exposure to beneficial microbes during puppyhood, the more protection they’d have against AASS later in life.
Foods That Contribute To Allergies
The Helsinki researchers also listed some foods that contribute to allergies or skin issues:
High sugar early in life causes metabolic dysregulation and gut inflammation, with negative effects on gut microbes.
Sugary Fruit And Canned Fruit
Dog owners reported giving their dogs canned fruit with added sugar. Fructose in fresh or canned fruit is linked to health issues … including low-grade inflammation that leads to chronic disease. It’s also known that some new fruit cultivars have increased sugar levels.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Canned food is a source of BPA found in resins that coat the interior of cans. A study found elevated concentrations of BPA in dogs fed canned dog food for a short time. This was associated with changes in the fecal microbiome.
Mixed oils means single oils or combinations of vegetable and seed oils like corn, soybean and sunflower oil. These oils are high in inflammatory omega-6 fats such as linoleic acid (LA). This fat has been associated with a high incidence of atopic dermatitis (AD) in children.
Dried Animal Treats
These types of treats are processed under high heat for long durations, which destroys nutrients, antioxidants and digestive enzymes. It also causes protein denaturation and changes in food components, which can create an abnormal immune response like an allergic reaction.
Water From Puddles
Puddles can contain E coli and leptospira bacteria, as well as insecticides and pesticides in runoff from agricultural areas. These can lead to infection because of the puppy’s immature immune system.
Help your puppy avoid allergies later in life by feeding healthy whole foods while he’s young. Even adding 20% whole raw food to kibble can improve his odds! It’s the best first step you can make toward fighting the epidemic of allergic, itchy dogs.
1. Hemida, Manal BM, et al. Puppyhood diet as a factor in the development of owner-reported allergy/atopy skin signs in adult dogs in Finland. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Volume 35, Issue 5 p. 2374-2383. July 2021.
2. Sallander M, et al. The effect of early diet on canine atopic dermatitis (CAD) in three high-risk breeds. Open Dermatol J. 2009;3:73-80.