Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dog Food Allergies

This is Marley. Marley was my first dog (American bulldog/mastiff mix). We adopted him from the Humane Society. He was 2-yrs-old and had never been outside. He wasn't house trained and had food anxiety (he would get nervous and start shaking if a human was in the same room when he was eating... tells you something, right?) We had A LOT of work to do with Marley, but eventually he became a somewhat normal dog (like eating 2 lbs of burger right out of the pan which is on the stove or leaping over the back of the couch to be the first one to greet whomever was at the door). BUT, Marley always had food anxiety on the back burner of his mind. It just sometimes lurked around the corner as a subtlety that we forgot about...Until we put him on a diet.

Looking back on the infamous diet, I probably should of done a lot of things differently. I should have added fillers (like pumpkin!) to his food instead of giving him smaller portions. That would have been the more intelligent option since I was dealing with a dog that had a complex relationship with food. Regardless of the past choices I could have made, the stress of the diet triggered Marley's food allergies to surface. Suddenly, I had a dog that was frantically and ALWAYS getting into the garbage! It became an extremely stressful situation because he was ALWAYS sick (think getting up at 3am every night to wash out his kennel.) At first, I thought he was always sick because he was always getting into the garbage. But it was vice versa. He was getting into the garbage because he was sick. His body was rejecting the food I had been giving him for THREE YEARS.

Before "the diet", Marley had been slightly obese at 90lbs. He went down to a 65 lb skeleton in a very short time. During that time, I did everything I had learned I was supposed to do with chronic gastritis. I fed him a simple diet of rice and chicken and tried almost every exotic pet food on the market. Nothing worked and he just kept getting worse. Finally I had his blood tested, and when the results came back I found out he was allergic to almost everything... Including RICE. The acute gastritis diet was making him worse. We ended up putting him on a special prescription diet.

Marley is an extreme case of food allergy. But, I wanted to share my story to help dog owners spot allergies before it gets as extreme as Marley. Here are the top symptoms:
  • Chronic ear inflammation (Marley always had ear infections (usually yeast) and patches of fur missing around the edges of his ears.)
  • gastrointestinal issues.
  • chronic diahrrea
  • chronic gas
  • obsessively licking the feet (I would wake up at night from Marley licking his feet in his kennel)
  • itchy rear end
Why does this happen? Food allergies don't necessarily surface during puppyhood. They can suddenly show up later in life. According to WebMD it is a multi-factorial issue. Scientists think it is hereditary and animals become more predispositioned to allergies during puppyhood. Sometimes, it can be something like an antibiotic altering the environment in your dogs stomach that triggers the allergy to surface.

What can you do? If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, the first thing I would do is TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE VET. If you cannot afford to go to the vet, check to see if there is an agency in your area that will help you with your veterinary costs. This link is a great resource for finding such agencies. Preventative measures that you can discuss with your vet are things like a rotation diet or giving your puppy probiotics. If your dog does indeed have food allergies, you will need to find a food that is right for your dog. Some people opt for a raw diet. If you choose to make your own dog food, I would suggest you work with a dog nutritionist or your vet to make sure your pet is getting the nutrients it needs.

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