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Identifying and Managing Food Allergies in Dogs

Posted on October 25 2023


First let's look at the difference between allergies and intolerances. 

Allergies vs Intolerances
Allergies can develop over time and exposure to certain foods. Unlike humans, where children often outgrow their allergies, dog’s allergies can actually get worse over time. Often an allergy develops as a reaction to a certain type of protein but can be from any ingredient. It’s important to note that an allergy is not the same as a food intolerance. A food intolerance can cause a reaction or a flare up anywhere in the body whereas an allergy is an immune system reaction to a food the body believes to be dangerous. The immune system then creates antibodies to fight against the danger which triggers an allergic reaction.

On the surface, food intolerances may appear similar to allergies, but an intolerance directly affects your dog’s digestive system or other systems and not the whole immune system. Food intolerances are more difficult to identify as they may develop over time.

Identifying Food Intolerances
The best way to identify a food intolerance is testing out your dog’s diet. Feeding your dog with a single hypo-allergenic protein such as lamb or tinned mackerel and slowly integrating one protein every three days, back into the diet while monitoring your dog’s reactions, is recommended.

Food intolerances in dogs show up in a number of ways. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Swelling
  • Wheezing
  • Inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Constant licking
  • Scooting
  • Hot spots
  • Itching

Is Leaky Gut at play?
It is always important to bear in mind that Leaky Gut may be at play when symptoms such as those listed above are displayed and can be the underlying root cause of an allergy or a food intolerance.

Your dog’s gut health can be affected by things such as over-vaccination, antibiotics, pesticides etc. What happens is these factors and others cause inflammation which then causes the intestinal lining to become damaged, and ‘leak’, known as Leaky Gut aka Intestinal Permeability.

When the gut lining is damaged, undigested foods and bacteria are able to leak through into the blood stream. This causes chronic systemic inflammation and can be another cause of your dog’s allergies. As around 90% of your dog’s immune system lives in the gut, it is vitally important that we maintain a healthy balance.

Combating Allergies
When your dog’s immune system has been compromised it’s important to work on re-instating a healthy balance in the gut through probiotics such as MicroMed’s commensal (or ‘native’) microbes. There are also immune supporting supplements such as medicinal mushrooms or herbs such as Ashwaganda, that compliment this treatment approach.

Another fundamental area to consider is your dog’s diet. Feeding a raw food diet and staying away from ultra-heat treated, highly processed foods, such as kibble, is crucial, as a raw diet is species appropriate where kibble is not. A major factor at play with all kibble too, is that it contains 'glyphosate residues’ which can cause an instant Leaky Gut.
Note: Avoid beef and chicken as these are the top two hyper-allergenic foods followed by soy, corn and eggs.

Feeding your Dog Bone Broth
Bone broth is a great way to boost your dog’s immune system, detox the liver, and support the joints. It is packed with minerals including sulphur, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It’s also super easy to make.

  • Add a selection of grass fed, organic bones to a slow cooker or pot
  • Add 4 cloves of garlic for flavour, and a whole fresh turmeric grated (optional) & ½ tsp black pepper
  • Completely cover the bones in the pot with water
  • Add raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to the pot – about 3Tbsp
  • Cook on high for about 1hr, then turn down and cook for 24hrs
  • Remove the bones and discard
  • Cool in the fridge
  • Remove the hard, fatty top layer before serving, slightly warmed

Note: Make sure your bone broth is made with novel protein from a raw food supplier preferably.

Takeaways on Allergies
Understanding the difference between a food intolerance and an allergy is important. An intolerance can be managed by eliminating the food whereas an allergy needs to be treated at the gut-immune level. Once we have established that we are dealing with an allergy we know that focusing on getting the gut microbiome healthy and balanced is our priority.

So, get started on your healthy foods, probiotics and that bone broth today – many dogs are suffering Leaky Gut these days as so many factors cause it!