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Spend Less Money Treating Your Dog's Food Allergies | Special Dog Food Recipes, Breeds Prone to Allergies

By Vicki McClure Davidson

 

Brie is one of the lucky dogs. Her owners recognized the allergy symptoms that the miniature Schnauzer/terrier mix breed was displaying that many pet owners can easily fail to recognize as being life-threatening. For months, the little dog continually scratched herself and developed abrasions that wouldn't heal. Her owners, Gary and Cheryl Bang, became concerned and took action. They suspected a number of infections or illnesses, but they had no idea that the extent of allergies Brie had would include most canned dog food and, of all things, people.

Many dog allergies linked to canned dog food can be treated inexpensively. In photo, Brie, left, with "big brother" Bentley, outside their home in Arizona. | Photo credit: Gary and Cheryl Bang

 

Many dog allergies linked to canned dog food can be treated inexpensively. In photo, Brie, left, with " big brother" Bentley, outside their home in Arizona. | Photo credit: Gary and Cheryl Bang 

Brie's vet examined her and discovered she had an ear infection, prompting the doctor to suspect that the dog could have allergies. Many dogs that have allergies also tend to get frequent ear or eye infections because their immune systems are impaired or compromised. Brie was referred to a canine dermatologist. After an extensive scratch test (much like the one used on people, a total of 64 pricks in all), she was diagnosed with a startling number of allergies.

Not only was Brie allergic to all wheat, corn, and barley products, it was discovered that she was also allergic to chicken, feathers, and human dander. Born with a genetic defect, the miniature Schnauzer/terrier mix had a weakened immune system that had worsened as Brie grew older. She was on the road to a premature death.

Gary and Cheryl took immediate action. They filled her allergy prescriptions, which, while pricey, helped Brie on the road to recovery. They also researched how to alter her diet so that she would stay away from those foods that her body rejected. They were surprised to learn that Brie was allergic to many of the common ingredients found in regular dog food.

According to veterinarian/writer Donald R. Strombeck, in his book, Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative, the addition of so many animal by-products, cheap grains, chemicals, artificial coloring, and other suspicious ingredients in canned pet food may be responsible for an increase in canine and feline allergies. Many dogs suffer from allergies to corn or wheat, and a lot of the pet food that you buy in stores contain these products as fillers. They are considered a cheaper energy source than meat, which is why they are so widely used in the manufacture of pet foods. Commercial pet foods are filled with preservatives and additives, which can also contribute to a pet's allergies or other problems.

Back in the 1950s, before commercial pet food became a staple for feeding dogs and cats, few pets had the number of allergies, gastric problems, and obesity problems vets see today. Canned pet food is being looked at more closely now, although nothing conclusive has been determined. Food allergies now account for about 10 percent of all the allergies seen in dogs and cats.

Dog Breeds Prone to Allergies

While all dog breeds can develop allergies, there are certain dog breeds that seem to be more predisposed, which include the following:

  • Beagles

  • Boxers

  • Bulldogs

  • Cocker Spaniels

  • Collies

  • Dalmations

  • Golden Retrievers

  • Irish Setters

  • Labrador Retrievers

  • Lhasa Apsos

  • Poodles

  • Pugs

  • Schnauzers

  • Shih Tzus

  • Terriers

Puppies generally don't show any signs of allergies at first, but can develop allergy symptoms, or a combination of symptoms, after they reach about a year old.

Dog Food Industry

German Shepherd eating | Photo credit: pirate john, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

German Shepherd eating | Photo credit: pirate john, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved 

According to Rudy Edalati's book, Barker's Grub: Easy, Wholesome Home-Cooking for Dogs, the pet food industry is not regulated like the Food and Drug Administration, which scrutinizes and evaluates food intended to be eaten by people. The industry does have its own self-regulatory board, the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), but there are growing suspicions that the board is lacking in a number of protocols.

While Edalati does not attack the AAFCO for its practices, many facts are alarming. The feed eaten by chickens or cattle that are eventually used as one of the protein sources in commercial dog food (and human food) may be contaminated by chemicals. Sludge-fed meat may find its way into dog food.

Regulatory practices in other nations are becoming lax. This was tragically discovered in 2007 when a substance used as a rat poison tainted millions of cans of dog food imported from China. The rat poison killed many American pets and sickened untold thousands. The toxic substance in the food was identified as aminopterin, a cancer drug that once was used to induce abortions in the United States and is still used to kill rats in some other countries. Wheat grown in China, later turned into wheat gluten as a pet food additive, was determined to have been sprayed with toxic pesticides. The tragic pet deaths led to a recall of 60 million cans and pouches of dog and cat food the Menu Foods company produced and sold throughout North America.

"Allergic" vs. "Non-Allergic"

It's important that you understand that no single food can be designated as "allergic" or "non-allergic." For instance, lamb, rabbit, and rice can be tolerated by many dogs with other food allergies, but there are some dogs that cannot tolerate lamb, rabbit, or rice. The same goes for soy and eggs. Immune systems between dogs vary greatly. Also, atopy, flea bite allergies, intestinal parasite hypersensitivities, sarcoptic mange, and yeast or bacterial infections can all cause similar symptoms as food allergies. Therefore, it is imperative that the culprit foods be identified by your vet or by implementing a food elimination trial. A food trial consists of feeding an animal a novel (new) food source of protein and carbohydrate for 12 weeks. A novel food source would be a protein and carbohydrate that the animal had never eaten before. An example would be rabbit and rice, or venison and potato, or duck and rutabagas. From that, the dog's reactions and tolerances would be analyzed and conclusions drawn. This is best supervised by a trained vet.

It is important to know specifically to what foods, if any, your dog is allergic. No single food is good or bad. | Photo credit: Jon Sullivan, Public-Domain-Photos.com

 

It is important to know specifically to what foods, if any, your dog is allergic. No single food is good or bad. | Photo credit: Jon Sullivan, Public-Domain-Photos.com 

Also, be aware that not all allergies in dogs are caused by food. The most reoccurring and most difficult allergy to prevent in dogs and cats is atopy, or inhalation allergy. These seasonal allergies are caused by inhaled allergens, such as dust, dust mites, house dust mites, mold, mildew, and tree, grass, and weed pollens. Dust mites have been found to be a leading cause of non-seasonal atopy in as many as 80 percent of dogs and cats. The dust mites live in mattresses, upholstery, carpeting, pet beds, and cloth toys. If you suspect dust mites are causing your pet problems, washing the suspected items in hot water can help alleviate the problems. As always, consult your vet.

While many human foods are safe for dogs to eat, one that surprisingly is not is the avocado. It contains persin, which, according to Planet Green, is a substance that dogs are extremely allergic to and cannot ingest. Persin is found in the meat, skin, and bark of the avocado.

Other foods and substances that are unsafe for dogs to eat are onions, garlic, grapes, macadamia nuts, caffeine, chocolate, and raw meat, fish, and eggs. These foods can make your dog extremely ill, even in small quantities — some can injure a dog's internal organs and even be lethal.

What You Can Do: Possible Food Remedies

There are a number of websites and books that offer recipes for dogs with food allergies. Be sure that your dog is not allergic to any of these ingredients before making it for him or her. Be sure to consult your vet. With all homemade canine diets, it is essential that they be balanced, with the correct amount of ingredients, vitamins, and minerals.

Gary and Cheryl found special dog food that Brie could tolerate, but again, it was expensive—much more so than regular dog food. They decided to prepare some of her food at home to save money. Cheryl found an easy, inexpensive recipe that was especially good for Brie that used potatoes. Potatoes were one of the few fillers (rice was another) that Brie could tolerate. This easy treat recipe is a good one for many dogs with allergies, since fewer canines are allergic to potatoes.

 

Brie's Homemade Potato Crisp Treats

Marshmallows, according to Gary, also make a great and inexpensive dog treat and can be tolerated by many dogs who are allergic to grains. According to Brie's vet, something in the cooking process for marshmallows changes the molecular structure of the corn syrup, making it allergy-tolerant for many dogs.

Here are a few recipes for dogs with allergies that use ingredients that typically are less prone to cause problems and are inexpensive to make when compared to allergy-prevention commercial dog food.

Well-fed puppy, now sleeping...

 

Well-fed puppy, now sleeping...  

 

Ground Turkey & Rice Recipe for Dogs with Allergies

Thoroughly cook the ground turkey, eggs (chop after hard boiled), rice, oatmeal, and vegetables. Make sure all ingredients are cooled, then in a large bowl, combine the ingredients together, mixing them well.

Gauge how much your dog will eat in one meal and separate the homemade dog food into separate portions. Keep the old dog food cans and use these as a measuring device so that you'll know how much your dog can be expected to eat. Remember this food is much more nutritious than what is provided in commercial dog food, so your dog may want more. Monitor the portions to make sure your dog does not overeat.

Keep about three days worth of food in the fridge and freeze the rest in individual plastic freezer bowls or bags.

 

Chicken Puppy Food

From Barker's Grub: Easy, Wholesome Home-Cooking for Dogs

This recipe is for an approximate 1-serving yield, depending on the size of the dog. Gauge how much your dog will eat in one meal and separate the homemade dog food into separate portions. Monitor to prevent overfeeding and overeating. To save time, prepare several days' worth at a time and store the unused food in a sealed, refrigerated container.

Boil the chicken for 20 minutes. Drain. Reserve broth for another use.

Set chicken aside.

Boil the green beans until they are soft, approximately 20 minutes.

Combine the chicken, beans, carrot, and rice in a dog bowl. Stir in the yogurt.

Serve at room temperature.

 

Dinnertime for Poodles - One bowl, seven dogs | Photo credit: poodle_mom2002, Flickr, Creative Commons

 

Dinnertime for Poodles - One bowl, seven dogs | Photo credit: poodle_mom2002, Flickr, Creative Commons 

Chunk Chicken and Sweet Potato Treats

From The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook: Homemade Goodies for Man's Best Friend

Makes 40 to 50 bite-size treats

These treats have tasty chunks of chicken and sweet potato and appeal to even the fussiest eaters. Only make if you know with certainty that your dog is not allergic to whole wheat flour. There is an amazing amount of nutrition in one sweet potato, and most dogs with allergies can usually tolerate them.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.

Mix all the ingredients together well, making sure the pieces of chicken and sweet potato are thoroughly coated. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto greased cookie sheets.

Bake 14 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven, let cool thoroughly, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

Turkey and Egg Puppy Food

From Barker's Grub: Easy, Wholesome Home-Cooking for Dogs

This recipe is for an approximate 1-serving yield, depending on the size of the dog. Gauge how much your dog will eat in one meal and separate the homemade dog food into separate portions. Monitor to prevent overfeeding and overeating. To save time, prepare several days' worth at a time and store the unused food in a sealed, refrigerated container.

Boil the turkey for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Drain. Reserve broth for another use.

Set turkey aside.

Scramble the eggs in a skillet with the olive oil. Set aside.

Boil the broccoli for approximately 25 minutes, or until very soft.

Combine all the ingredients in a dog dish and serve at room temperature.

 

Easy Chicken Dinner

From The Little Foxes website

Buy hormone-free, skinless, boneless chicken thigh or breast meat. Trader Joe's has it in a bag.

 

Active, alert dogs don't often have debilitating allergies, but if your dog exhibits other suspicious symptoms, be sure to consult your vet. | Photo credit: Jon Sullivan, Public-Domain-Photos.com

 

Active, alert dogs don't often have debilitating allergies, but if your dog exhibits other suspicious symptoms, be sure to consult your vet. | Photo credit: Jon Sullivan, Public-Domain-Photos.com 

If your dog has an allergy (or allergies), it may not be noticeable at first that there is a serious problem. Many pet owners think it is just a touch of flu or a cold or a seasonal reaction that will run its course in a few days or weeks. Possible symptoms/allergies to be alert to include lethargy, listlessness, vomiting, atopic dermititis, rashes, mange (not really caused by an allergy), signs of food allergies, infections such as yeast or fungal, and sensitivity to detergents. There is evidence that dogs with food allergies may sometimes have an increased incidence of bowel movements. If you suspect that your dog has allergies, or that something just isn't right, the smart course of action is to quickly take him or her to the vet for a professional diagnosis.

Additionally, for all pets, NEVER give them chocolate. Chocolate does a whole heck of a lot of damage to dogs and other animals. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both stimulants. Unsweetened bakers chocolate is especially high in both, with just 1 ounce being enough to be the cause of toxicity in some small to medium-sized dogs, often resulting in death. Milk chocolate, although not as potent as bakers chocolate, should still be avoided at all costs, as even small amounts nibbled on frequently can lead to poisoning.

When using vegetables in homemade dog food, be sure to leave the peel on (especially potatoes) because there are important nutrients and vitamins found there. Dogs have a difficult time digesting most vegetables because of the fiber content (except carrots), so be sure to cook until very soft. Carrots, when grated, can be used raw.

Note: Allergies in dogs can manifest themselves in hyper-sensitive or dry skin. As far as dog grooming of Brie and Bentley, their other dog, goes, Gary and Cheryl discovered that Head and Shoulders shampoo has been effective in soothing dry skin (whether caused by allergies or weather). The ingredients in it seems to make the dogs more comfortable and gives them both softer coats. Gary shampoos both the dogs with it and has had excellent results; the price of Head and Shoulders is much lower than that of special dog shampoo. Brie's allergy to human dander necessitates medication injections every few days. Gary administers them himself to Brie at home to save money on the vet's fee.

 

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Sources:
Bang, Gary, Interview, Summer 2008.
Cicione, Maryellen, "How to Recognize Allergies in Your Dog or Cat," Associated Content, (http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/50448/how_to_recognize_allergies_in_your.html?cat=53), August 21, 2006.
DogsOnly website, Food Allergies, Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc., (http://www.dogsonly.org/FoodAllergies.html).
Edalati, Rudy, Barker's Grub: Easy, Wholesome Home-Cooking for Dogs, Three Rivers Press, Crown Publishing Group, NY, NY, 2001.
Food Allergies in Dogs website, (http://www.dog-food-allergies.com/).
MSNBC news site, Associated Press, "Experts: More Deaths from Pet Food Likely, Contamination Still a Mystery as at Least 16 Animal Fatalities Are Reported," (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17754681/), March 24, 2007.
Palika, Liz, The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook: Homemade Goodies for Man's Best Friend, Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2005. Puppy Dog Place website, "Dog Allergies - Symptoms & Treatment" (http://www.the-puppy-dog-place.com/dog-allergies.html).
Strombeck, Donald R., Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative, Iowa State University Press, IA, 1999.
The Little Foxes website, Dog Allergies/Recipes, (http://www.thelittlefoxes.net/basic_formula.html).