Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Raw Food Diet, Day 134- Feasting and Food Allergies

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,
Big Pupi


Petra said...

How old are you, Stanley? I think you are one of the smartest dogs I've ever met! I learned a lot today.

Beckett said...

Hey Big Pupi,

My mom says she has noticed that my ears are much better now that I'm not eating a kibble full of corn!


I specialize in taking up as much room as possible so I'm afraid I won't be able to take up your challenge. But I'll do a Blue Steel in your honor.


Charlie Daniels said...

I don't know if I can make myself that small .. But I will try !



Mack said...

Hi Stanilovemuffin!
Paris Rain here!!

I am realllly long (and skinny), but I am gonna practice all week and see how little of a ball I can roll myself into!

Thanks for the info on the nasty yeasties BP.
I wish so bad momma would start us on a raw diet. I mean, my gosh, were practically wolves, right? You don't see wolves on Animal Planet scarfing down dry kibble, right??!! Get with the program mom. How can I convince her to go raw guys?????


Hero said...

Hey Stan! I've already posted my response to your challenge on my blog. Thanks for getting the word out on food allergies and intolerance, Big Pupi! I'm intolerant of chicken and it took a while for my family to figure it out. Now my mom prepares my food without any trace of chicken and my tummy feels so much better.

FleasGang said...

Great info Big Pupi! We're all pretty lucky 'cause we all have good ears. But Shelly does have runny eyes :-( She gets a cheesy covered Claritin ever morning so she doesn't mind.

The Fleas

P.S. Shelly says she can get pretty small, too. She'll have to show you some time.

andrahyb said...

BIG thanks for Big Pupi for the article!

Mummy calls me a rubbish bin because I am one Americano that eats everything with no issues. Even my big brother Rudolf (the Shiba Inu) is intolerant to certain foods!

As for your challenge, I am going to work on it now. Do stay tuned at our blog! Now how am I going to tuck my tail like Hero? Hmm...

Goofy and Rudolf

Molly the Airedale said...

Gosh, Big Pupi - you are one of the smartest doggies we know!
Hey Stan, we don't usually curl ourselves that tightly but we'll try, just for you!

Love ya lots,
Maggie and Mitch

Niamh said...

I think that Big Pupi was a vet in a previous lifetime! Good advice about the difference between allergies and food intolerance. Fortunately I can eat almost anything and don't get itchy but I am glad that your people figured out the foods that irritate you.

Your friend,