Common Myths About Allergies in Dogs
Even with the latest technology and information about allergies in dogs, there are still myths and old wives’ tales that continue to make the rounds among pet owners. Let’s bust some of the most common myths about dog allergies. Knowing the facts about allergies in dogs can help you make better decisions for your pet’s health and well-being.
Allergies are among the most common reasons for pets being brought to veterinary clinics for an exam. An allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Most allergens are proteins from plants, insects, animals, or foods. Allergies are a misguided reaction to foreign substances by the body’s immune system.
Unlike allergies in humans that are generally manifested by sneezing, runny nose, and eye irritation, allergies in dogs are more likely to have skin itching and ear infections. There is a long list of allergens that dogs can be hypersensitive to. It could be something in their food, environment, or something they come in contact with.
Myth: A dog cannot be allergic to food that he’s been eating for years.
Fact: Food allergies can occur at any time in a dog’s life. The development of food allergies takes time. It can occur when the dog’s immune system has been exposed to the same food allergen over a considerable length of time to develop a sufficient level of antibodies to trigger an immune response or allergic reaction.
Myth: The most common symptoms of food allergies are GI problems because it’s the digestive tract that is primarily exposed to the offending substance (allergen).
Fact: Skin itching is the most common symptom of food allergies in dogs.
Myth: The most common allergens are soy and corn so don’t give your dog foods that contain these ingredients.
Fact: The most common allergens that trigger food allergies in dogs are protein-based ingredients such as beef, wheat, and dairy. About 70% of food allergies in dogs have been associated with these three pet food ingredients.
Myth: Many cases of pet allergies are caused by grain or gluten.
Fact: Grain and gluten allergies in dogs are very rare. If your pet has a food allergy, it’s more likely a hypersensitive reaction to the protein components of his pet food, like beef, egg, or chicken.
Myth: Your pet’s allergies are caused by the new type or brand of pet food.
Fact: While there is a possibility that the new pet food you have given is the likely culprit for your pet’s allergies, food allergies generally develop from repeated exposure to the same type of protein ingredients in the diet. This means that the dog should have been exposed to the protein source(s) for a long time for the allergy symptoms to occur.
Myth: Switching to a different food can solve a dog’s food allergy problem.
Fact: Switching to a different type of food without a food trial will only be counterproductive because you haven’t identified the allergen(s) that your pet is allergic to.
Many pet foods are formulated with similar ingredients and switching to a new diet does not always mean that your dog won’t be exposed to the same allergen(s). If your vet suspects a food allergy, your pet will be placed on a special diet that contains a protein component that your dog has never eaten before such as rabbit, venison, or duck. The special diet will be given for several weeks and your dog will be observed for any sign of a hypersensitive reaction. If there’s none, the original diet will be reintroduced to see if your pet’s allergy symptoms will return.
Myth: My pet has itchy skin; feeding a grain-free diet can get rid of his allergies.
Fact: While grains are capable of triggering allergic reactions, they are not as common compared to chicken, beef, and other known food allergens. In many cases of food allergies in dogs, it’s the meat source that is commonly associated with allergic reactions.
Myth: My pet isn’t suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, or other GI signs, so he can’t be allergic to his pet food.
Fact: Vomiting and/or diarrhea can be present in pets with food allergies, but not always. If your dog has chronic or intermittent GI signs that accompany skin itching, a food allergy is among the top problems that your vet may suspect. Take note that a food allergy cannot be ruled out just because your pet’s digestive tract appears to be functioning normally.
Myth: I’ve tried changing my pet’s diet but he’s still itching. This is not a food allergy.
Fact: If you’ve been changing your pet’s food several times like you’re conducting a food trial, you should check out the specific ingredients of the pet foods that you’re using. It’s not usually the type or brand of pet food that is the issue but the ingredients, specifically, the protein components of the pet food.
You should also check the ingredients of the treats that you’re giving. It’s highly recommended that you work with your vet or a pet nutritionist when subjecting your dog to a food trial to make sure that you achieve the desired results.
Also, there could be a possibility that your pet’s allergies may not be triggered by an allergen in his food or treats but from environmental allergens such as pollen, dust, smoke, or mold.
Myth: There is a high incidence of food allergies in pets.
Fact: According to the 2018 Banfield Pet Hospital® State of Pet Health® Report, food allergies affect just 0.2 percent of dogs and 0.1 percent of cats. Dogs with food allergies are six times more likely to develop bacterial skin infections, while cats are fifteen times more likely to develop them. Confirmed cases of food allergy are pretty rare; only about 5 % to 10% of dogs with an allergy have a confirmed food allergy (Rosenthal, M., 2013).
Myth: Senior dogs are too old to develop a food allergy.
Fact: Dogs can develop allergy reactions at any age. Take note that a dog can experience a hypersensitive immune reaction to an allergen trigger with repeated exposure over time.
Myth: Raw diets are best for dogs with allergies.
Fact: If the raw diet contains the food allergen(s), it will still cause allergy problems for dogs. There are also other risks involved with raw diets, such as the possibility of bacterial and parasite contamination that can affect both humans and pets.
Myth: Changing my dog’s diet frequently can prevent food allergies.
Fact: Switching your pet’s diet frequently won’t guarantee allergy prevention. Doing so may also expose your dog to an allergen that he had not been previously exposed to.
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