I challenge everyone to a competition!
How tiny can you get??
Big Pupi should have gone to vet school:
Some people believe that cocker spaniels are prone to ear infections. I have to say that is absolutely.... true, but with a caveat. Cocker spaniels are also infamous for having a long list of food allergies and intolerances. Could the two be linked?
Any animal with chronic ear infections should be looked at for reactions to their meals. Barring water in the ear from swimming, a foreign object in the canal... or any obvious cause of infection, if a pup is plagued by yeast or bacteria then their feasts may actually be the cause. I'll use myself as an example.
When I was first adopted, I was put on all sorts of new foods and I entered into a world of tummy pains and terrible digestive reactions. I became terribly ill, and on top of it I had a reoccurring yeast infection in both ears. A few months went by and the discovery was made that I cannot tolerate corn, wheat, soy, shellfish, sweet potato, some preservatives and certain colorings. Once those were eliminated, so were the ear infections. My ears never need cleaning, there is no maintenance, I've never had an ear issue since, and yes... my ears are terribly floppy! So how did I go from being prone to yeasty beasties to a picture of macrotous greatness? The answer is in the allergies...
The first time a body is exposed to an allergen, there is no reaction. However, and for reasons that are not completely understood, the immune system recognizes this new item as a danger and will create immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE). Antibodies are used by the body to identify and neutralize those yucky things that can find their way into our bodies, like bacteria and viruses. IgE is one of many types of antibodies found in the immune system, and these particular antibodies are made to bind to the allergen and trigger the release of histamines. Histamines are those tricky little guys that give us outward symptoms of allergies, usually swelling and itching.
An allergy, or atopy, can be a constant in one's life. Allergic reactions occur quickly, and once known they can be extremely predicable. For example, once a human knows that they are allergic to peanuts, they know that every time they eat a peanut they will have a reaction. Well, allergies work the same way in us dogs.
Food intolerances are a different sort of animal. These can be much more difficult to diagnose since the time span from exposure to reaction can be hours or even days. Unlike allergies, these reactions do not use the IgE antibodies and instead are suspected to be caused by multiple issues. One of these issues is a lack of digestive enzymes. Humans call a insufficient amount of the lactase enzyme "lactose intolerance." Basically, they are unable to digest the sugars in milk and this causes pain and other digestive upsets. While this is not necessarily related to the immune system, some intolerances may be connected to the IgG antibody which would make them an immune response.
Food intolerances can cause a myriad of symptoms, ranging anywhere from fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, rashes, headaches, hair loss, gas and the list goes on and on. While most creatures will react to a bee sting with immediate swelling and pain (an IgE or allergic response), those that suffer from a gluten intolerance will each have a different symptom or combination of symptoms that appear at any length of time after exposure. Again, this makes an intolerance extremely tricky to diagnose.
So, how do we figure these things out? There is an elimination diet that your vet can prescribe. I do not recommend that you go this one alone. It will have to be a home-made diet that takes place over the span of a few weeks. As the body adjusts to the new and very bland food and symptoms begin to subside, old foods are added back in one by one and notes are made about any adverse reactions. If your human suspects an allergy or intolerance, the best thing to do is keep a food journal, as this is the most effective way to catch those sneaky intolerances and to narrow down offending foods. The only true treatment for food allergies and intolerances is avoidance, and most items will have to be removed from the diet for life. Pin-prick tests can be useful if testing for allergies, but they do not function for intolerances. So, a negative reaction in a skin test to an item, does NOT mean that the item isn't causing any problems.
There is no such thing as a pre-made, hypoallergenic diet. Allergies and intolerances are an individual thing, and any hypersensitive dog can have a reaction to any one of the ingredients in these supposed "safe" diets. If a dog is severely allergic and is found to have lots of no-no foods on the list, sometimes the only option is a home-made diet. If there is only one or two items on the "must avoid" list, then finding a high-quality food that eliminates those would work just fine. But there is never a one-size-fits-all solution to these problems.
What about those yeasty ear infections? Well, allergies and intolerances can cause inflammation. Swelling in the ear canal or sinuses can cause improper drainage, and the fluids that collect can keep the canal too moist and it becomes a perfect breeding ground for unfriendly yeasties. Food reactions can also create a general imbalance in the body, sending good and bad bacteria levels askew and making the immune system perform less than perfectly.
You might remember that Stanley had a yeasty ear infection 2 weeks ago. Our humans suspect this was caused by the re-introduction of brown rice into his diet which happened about a week before things started to go stinky. Stanislaw, as it turns out, cannot handle any grains whatsoever, and is also extremely sensitive to potato. He is thought to have a mix of allergies and intolerances, and it has taken a long time to discover them all. But... it's well-worth it! A healthy pup means a happy pup and our humans are thrilled to save some cheese money on our vet bills. And more money means more feasting!
If you or your human thinks you might have some food issues, tell them they should keep a diary. Write down what you've eaten and when, and how you reacted and when. After a few days or weeks a pattern might be revealed. And of course, if there are chronic issues your human should consult your doctor and be wary of treatments that alleviate the symptoms but don't get to the cause. Sometimes things like yeasty ear infections can be an indicator that something bigger is going on. Keep your eyes - and ears - open!
Eat some healthy chow,