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Considerations for an Itchy Pet

Pets with environmental allergies tend to suffer in the spring and fall, but what about dogs and cats who seem itchy regardless of the season? In those cases, it’s likely there’s something in the pet’s diet that’s causing the miserable itching.

Pets with food allergies typically have symptoms such as itchy skin, skin and ear infections, and sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea. Unlike humans, who almost always have gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms with a food allergy, dogs and cats are much more likely to develop a skin problem first. Dr. Karen Becker provides some signs that your dog or cat’s allergies may be food related:

  • Your pet is less than 6 months old, or his allergies didn’t appear until he was over 6 years of age
  • Your pet is a breed prone to food intolerances
  • Your pet has received steroid therapy for allergies (which we do NOT recommend), but treatment hasn’t provided symptom relief
  • Your pet has sores or skin damage around the neck area, under the collar, and his whole head is itchy
  • Your pet is experiencing GI symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and/or constipation

How Food Allergies Develop

When your dog or cat has a food allergy or sensitivity, her immune system perceives that something in her diet is attacking her body. To deal with the “threat,” the immune system launches a counterattack. Certain substances in the diet are more likely to trigger the immune system than others, and protein is very often the culprit.

Although no research has been published on why carnivores become allergic to their natural evolutionary diet, we believe foreign contaminants may be the culprit, such as growth hormones, antibiotics and chemical residues rather than the actual protein.

Because a large portion of pet foods use conventionally raised farm meats, this will continue to be a problem for almost all susceptible pets. Often, it isn’t until the GI tract has been compromised by inflammation caused by an allergic response that your pet begins to show signs of digestive disturbance.

Identifying Food Intolerances

For pets over the age of 1 year old who are dealing with a food sensitivity, we recommend Glacier Peak’s Wellness Assessment Test to identify food intolerances. This simple hair and saliva test pinpoints over 300 food and environmental triggers that your dog or cat are sensitive to (highlighted in red below).

Pets fed the same food day in and day out for a period of months or years often develop a sensitivity to the protein source. Grains and vegetables can also be culprits. If the food is inexpensive and highly processed, chances are the meat is loaded with antibiotics and hormones, which can also cause the immune system to overreact.

Dogs and cats often grow sensitive to allergenic ingredients in food, typically grains and carbohydrates. The Wellness Kit’s test results can often identify the specific ingredient(s) in your pet’s food that are causing a problem, and the Barkery’s custom diet plan can most often resolve the issue.

Interrupting the Allergic Cycle With a Custom Diet

When your dog or cat is having an allergic reaction to some part of her diet, her body needs a break from the food she’s been eating. This gives the immune system an opportunity to settle down, which usually results in a reduction in symptoms.

After determining sensitivities from the Wellness Kit, the next step is to introduce a custom diet to start the healing process. Switching to a new diet involves transitioning your pet to a different food containing ingredients her body isn’t familiar with.

Because each case of food intolerance is unique, the Barkery’s nutrition specialists can formulate a protocol to get your pack member back on track. After two to three months, we encourage pet parents to find at least one or two other protein sources their pet can tolerate well. Every three to six months, they can rotate proteins and avoid further allergic reactions. Grass-fed, non-GMO proteins are better sources for a sensitive animal.

Supplements that support the immune system will also help your pet during its transition. If you’d like to learn more about the Wellness Assessment Kit, our Barkery Nutritionists are here to answer your questions! Click here for Wellness Assessment Kit customer testimonials.

The Secret to a Happier, Healthier, Longer-Lived Pet

We Are What We Eat: Good Food Is the Foundation for Good Health

Dr. Susan Klein, a veterinarian based in Colorado, spent several years in a conventional veterinary practice after graduating from Colorado State University. She now runs Alpine Meadows Animal Clinic, an integrative practice in the Vail Valley.

Dr. Klein’s passion for nutrition started about 15 years ago with a patient who had severe, chronic gastrointestinal (GI) problems. Her patient’s condition prompted her to begin investigating commercial pet food, since she had received no useful nutrition training in vet school.

One of Dr. Klein’s first adventures in nutrition was learning just how important a species-appropriate, real food diet is. She quickly learned that this is the foundation of good health.

If You’re Upgrading Your Pet’s Diet, the Change Should Be Gradual

For an animal that is sensitive (GI tracts, skin, or other sensitivities), switching the diet to raw will take some time. Starting with a grain-free and potato-free kibble is the first step before adding in some cooked foods that are easy to digest. Gradually work toward less cooking of the food, understanding that a pet who is in an extreme state of sympathetic nervous system stimulation may have a difficult time with a raw diet.

It’s important to understand that if you or your pet can’t seem to tolerate a diet of fresh, whole foods, there’s a problem in the body. The answers as to “why” can be found in nutrigenomics, but it’s a fairly new concept and interested veterinarians are trying to learn it on the fly.

Most Treatment Protocols Should Start With a Food Change

In her practice, Dr. Klein has to learn which patients need to make dietary changes in baby steps, and which can make faster transitions. She usually begins a patient’s treatment protocol with a food change. Many veterinarians, especially conventional practitioners, never address the diet at all.

No number of supplements or probiotics will be effective if the diet is not also addressed. Supplements are not bad, but should be used for specific reasons. Feeding your furry companion, a diet that creates disease in his body and then trying to fix the problem with supplements is not a good approach.

How Pet Food Creates Disease

Dr. Klein explains to us how commercial pet food can create diseases. From a nutrigenomics perspective, everything in the body runs on a protein-based metabolism. This means it’s very important that the body is taking in proteins it can recognize and use in an efficient manner.

Dr. Klein tells mentions that commercial pet food is sourced from ingredients unfit for human consumption, including remains of dead, dying, diseased, and disabled animals. The process involved in making the average dry pet food involves heating ingredients at high temperatures, which causes the core nutrients to be destroyed. They are then added back in synthetically, and they are foreign to pets’ bodies.

The food is then dried, pressed into cute shapes, and placed in bags with shelf lives up to two years. From a nutritional perspective, there is nothing living in that food anymore, but we’re putting it into living bodies. If we want to transcribe for healthy genes, we have to have healthy, live proteins.

Pet food contains a number of byproducts as a result of the manufacturing process. The most significant is advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Simply put, this means there’s way too much sugar in the food that is coating the proteins in the in the food in such a way that the body doesn’t recognize it as a food source. It also coats the tissues of the body such that the immune system doesn’t recognize them, and we start down the path of autoimmune disease and cancer.

Pet Parents Must Continue to Push for Change

The veterinary profession is the only healthcare profession that advocates feeding entirely processed foods versus fresh foods. Veterinarians are also the only healthcare profession with practitioners that tell clients fresh food could be risky and harmful to animal companions.

Because this information is difficult to replicate in a research setting, it is unlikely it will be taught in vet school, because where would the funding come from? This is why pet parents should be the ones to push for change. If it’s good for human’s, why isn’t it good for pets?

Good Food Is Good Medicine! Pass It On!

The bad news is that most people rely 100 percent on what their veterinarian tells them. When it comes to nutrition, misinformation about processed pet food will be perpetuated. In addition, there’s a lot of money being made by the processed pet food industry.

For the foreseeable future, it looks as though information about the importance of a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet will have to continue to travel by word of mouth from people who have experienced the tremendous healing of fresh, whole food.

Click here to watch Dr. Becker and Dr. Klein’s full discussion on nutrigenomics.