Category: Atopy

The Lowdown on Food Allergies & Diets

1Is your pet having ongoing skin or gastro intestinal issues with unknown causes? Have you exhausted all the other causes such as infection, parasites, or anatomy issues? Is your pet’s Veterinarian now recommending a food trial? If so, below is the lowdown on food allergies, what exactly a food trial is, how to properly execute a food trial, and what food options there are.

 What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs after eating a certain food. Ingredients in pet food may be combined or changed into substances recognized by the immune system as foreign invaders to be attacked. The target of this attack include the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or other organ systems, but in dogs and cats it is the skin that most often suffers the most. The classical signs of food allergies in pets can be itchy lesions on the face, limbs, anal area, and ears. Some other symptoms are ongoing diarrhea and/or vomiting. Symptoms start when the pet is less than 6 months old or starts when the pet is older then 5-6 years old. Food allergies can develop even if a pet has been eating the same food for years with no issues. It takes time for them to develop the allergy. Symptoms do not happen seasonally like with airborne allergens, they are always present.  It is also noted that corticosteroids do not help with most food allergy issues.

The pet food companies have done a great job of advertising “grain free” diets, but unfortunately the pet usually is having a reaction to both the protein and/or carbohydrate in the diet. Grains are not bad for our pets. There is no simple test to see exactly what is causing the reaction. To solve the problem the culprit must be removed from the pet’s world. This is why we do food trials.

What is a food trial?

Before beginning a food trial we want to make sure all other possible culprits have been ruled out (parasites, infections, anatomy issues). If there is any secondary skin infection from the lesions, they must be cleared before starting the trial.

A food trial is when a hypoallergenic diet is fed for a period of time deemed by your Veterinarian. If the symptoms resolve, you then switch the pet back to its original food for 2 weeks to see if the symptoms return. If we see relapse, it is recommended to return to the food trial diet and staying on the food indefinitely.

There are no other ways to diagnose a food allergy. Blood tests are not helpful. Blood tests can detect antibodies against certain food proteins but this does not mean that the pet has an allergy. It could just mean the pet has eaten that type of protein before.

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What is involved in a food trial?

Food trials are VERY strict in order to see accurate results and everyone in the household must be on board with the instructions. This means the pet shouldn’t have any other protein sources besides the test protein. This includes rawhides, flavored chew toys, flavored chewable medications including heartworm/flea preventions, flavored vitamins, and all treats. Chewable medications will need to be switched to non flavored tablets/capsules and chewable heartworm/flea preventions may need to be switched to a topical brand.

As stated above, the pet is put on a hypoallergenic diet for at least 3 months. No other food/treats can be fed. If symptoms resolve then the pet is put back on their original diet for 2 weeks. If symptoms resume then we can diagnose a food allergy. The pet can then return to the hypoallergenic diet indefinitely. Some owners opt to not go back to the original diet because they do not want their pet to go through the horrible symptoms again. They will just continue the food trial diet indefinitely.

A food trial is very easy in that all you have to do is feed the hypoallergenic diet, but owners tend to find it hard to not feed other treats. Owners will state that the food trial failed, but in reality they were not being as strict as needed.

What are current food trial options?

There are three different types of diets that can be used in a food trial: a novel protein, hydrolyzed protein, or a home cooked diet.

Novel proteins are most commonly used in food trials. They are diets that contain a single protein source and single carbohydrate source. The most important part of choosing a novel protein, is that it has to be one that the pet has never come in contact with before. For example if you choose a venison and sweet potato diet, the pet must not have eaten either one of these protein/carbohydrates in any other food (treats, dry food, canned, etc). It takes years for a pet to become allergic to a food source, so the pet should not be allergic to something new. Pet food companies are starting to make a huge variety of flavors of food/treats, so it can be very hard to find a diet for the pet if the owner tends to feed a variety of different flavored food/treats.

Examples of novel protein diets include venison and potato, fish and potato, egg and rice, duck and pea, and even kangaroo. Several of these diets have been released to the public markets, so it is very important to choose ingredients for the trial that is not found in the pet’s regular diet. Public markets tend to sell these novel protein food for a lot less then Veterinary prescription diets, but they cannot guarantee that there are no additional proteins mixed in. Contamination easily happens because the machines are not thoroughly cleaned with each new batch of food made. Veterinary prescription diets can guarantee that the product does not contain any contaminants. The the machines are thoroughly cleaned/disinfected between batches of food. Most Veterinary prescribed diets have a 100 percent guarantee. This means that if the pet does not like the food, it can be returned for a refund.

Hydrolyzed proteins are diets that contain the smallest amount of molecules of a protein so that the body cannot detect them.  Basically, the immune system is tricked into no longer recognizing the protein so it does not trigger a reaction. The downside of hydrolyzed protein diets is that it is not as palatable as it would be with the protein in its original form. Examples of hydrolyzed protein diets include Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d, Purina HA HypoAllergenic Canine Formula, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine Hypoallergenic. These diets also have a 100 percent guarantee. If the pet does not like the food, then it can be returned for a refund.

Home cooked diets are rarely used in food trial diets. It can be very inconvenient for the owner to have to cook the pets every meal and important vitamins/minerals are easily left out of the diet. If an owner wants to pursue a home cooked diet a nutritionist should be involved so that they can make a balanced diet for the pet. Recipes for appropriate diets can be purchased through BalanceIt, rpetdiets.com, or by any nutritionist listed at the American College of Veterinary Nutrition web site.

So how do you find out exactly what protein/carbohydrate the pet is allergic to?

2The process to find out what exact protein/carbohydrate a pet is allergic to is not a simple task but it can be done. It can be a very lengthy process. To do this, you add a single/pure protein source (such as cooked chicken, tofu, wheat flour or any other single food) to the test diet with each meal. If the pet begins to show allergic symptoms within two weeks, then that protein source causes an allergic reaction. You must return to the test diet until the allergic symptoms stops and then you can try another pure protein source. If no symptoms show after two weeks of feeding a test protein, then the pet is not allergic to that protein.

What if a diet is unsuccessful?

To determine if a diet was truly unsuccessful we need to make sure the owner was 100 percent compliant (meaning they only fed the test food), parasites are under control, infections are under control, and that the food trial was done for long enough time. If all those boxes are checked, then it is strongly suggestive that an inhalant allergy is the culprit. If this is the case, biopsies by dermatologist is recommended.

By: Jamie McAfee

Sources:
Brooks, Wendy C. “Food Allergies.” Veterinary Partner, 2001,      http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=652

H, Heidi. “Royal Canin Veterinary Diet® Canine Selected Protein Adult PR Dry Dog Food.” Canine Selected Protein Adult PR Dry Dog Food | Royal Canin Veterinary Diet, 10 Aug. 2015,  http://www.royalcanin.com/products/royal-canin-veterinary-diet-canine-selected-protein-adult-pr-dry-dog-food/1396

“Allergy – Food Allergy in Dogs.” vca_corporate, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/allergy-food-allergy-in-dogs

Clinical Nutrition Team. “What Every Pet Owner Should Know about Food Allergies.” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 30 Jan. 2017, vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2017/01/food-allergies

https://www.hillspet.com

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I Gave the Medications – Now What?

cat_at_vet_examWhile annual exams are crucial to your pet’s health, medical progress exams are also an important part of your furry pal’s health plan. In fact, they are just as important as their annual exams!

Medical Progress exams can help us with keeping track of any changes in your pet’s individual values. Bringing your pets in for regular exams also allows us establish a baseline of what is considered “normal” and “abnormal” for your animal. This leads to better health care because of the consistency, allows us to diagnose conditions sooner, and allows us to better assess and address chronic issues.

Ear Exam Dog 5For example, let’s say your pet comes in for an examination. Her ears are all red, inflamed, have an odor and are painful to your pet. The doctor looks sets up an ear cytology and looks at it carefully under the microscope. She confirms that there is an abundance of yeast and bacteria on the slide. To treat the ear infection, the doctor prescribed ear cleaner/antibiotics, with instructions to see your pet back in 2 weeks for a medical progress exam.

In about a week, you notice that your pet’s ears appear to be better. No more itching or shaking their head, and you’re pleased. The medications must have cleared up the infection! You figure that there’s no need to come back in for that medical progress exam because the ears are better and there’s no need to spend more money.

615473-dog-and-sadA few weeks later, however, you discover her ears have doubled in inflammation, redness, soreness, and she’s in a lot of pain. Not only is the infection back, but it’s worse than before! That’s because the infection was never completely gone before and has flared up with a vengeance.

Now you have to return to the clinic and the veterinarian must repeat the cytology and other necessary tests, which in turn costs you more. Odds are that the infection won’t even respond to the same treatment this time because it is now resistant to the previous course of medications. Your girl is going to need different medications now as well. Animals’ bodies are changing all the time, so it’s important that tests are redone, especially if a medical progress exam was not followed through the first time.

Now your pet’s ears are having double the trouble, and so is your wallet!

moneyHere’s the catch! Your dog or cat could be free of symptoms and still have an underlying infection or other disease that your veterinarian will be able to monitor best with medical progress exams.

This doesn’t just apply to only ear infections. Skin infections, urinary tract infections, eye injuries, wounds, upper respiratory infections…all of these (just to name a few!) are common issues that require following up with your veterinarian. In some cases, especially for reoccurring issues, further diagnostics (such as cultures or blood work) are needed to pinpoint the exact treatment needed for your pet.

It is important to follow through with medical progress exams so that we can ensure that all infections and diseases are being properly controlled and treated. After your pet’s initial visit for whatever issue is causing them discomfort, you’ll be asked to schedule their medical progress exam before you’re invoiced out. That way you don’t have to worry about remembering to schedule something later on, it’s already been taken care of!

All of us at TLC know that your pets are family to you. We want to do everything we can to make sure that they stay healthy and happy!

happy dog

By: Alexus Farr

Derm Defense! Take a “Bite” Out of Allergies!

By: Tara Sansing

Everyone knows someone with hay fever. Airborne pollens, molds, dust particles, etc. are inhaled and soon the sneezing and sniffling begins. What you may not know, is that pets can suffer from allergies too!itchy-dog-overlay

Does your dog constantly lick their paws or shake their heads? Have you noticed them scratching or rubbing on things? Are they losing hair or does their skin look red, thickened or have an odor? Then your dog may be suffering from Atopy or Chronic Itch.

A simple way to think of atopy for pets would be simply saying that the pet inhales an airborne allergen but instead of sneezing and sniffling, the pet gets itchy skin. In fact, the situation is probably far more complex. The allergen is not only inhaled but is in contact with the skin and it is no longer considered accurate to think of atopy as an inhaled allergy. Exactly how we get from particles floating in the air to itching and scratching is not entirely understood but the important issue is that the allergen comes from the air.

Airborne particles (pollen, dander, etc.) are harmless to someone who is not allergic to them. Allergy develops in individuals who are genetically programmed to do so.

There are many types of environmental allergens that surround us and our pets each and every day including flea bites (even just one), pollen and even the dust in our homes. For some dogs these allergens can lead to a skin condition that makes them itchy which leads to scratching, sometimes excessively and can damage the skin. This is unpleasant for your dog and can also be difficult for everyone else in the family.

Some dogs will suffer from seasonal itch but after years of seasonality the itch can start to last longer until finally it is a year round problem. This is true in about 80% of dogs with seasonal allergies. In dogs, seasonal allergies usually start early between the ages of 1 and 3 years.

Breeds predisposed to develop atopy include (but are not limited to): Dalmatian, Golden retriever, West Highland white terrier, Shar Pei, Labrador retriever, Cairn terrier, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Boxer, and Pug.

In the past, the only way to manage atopy was through medications such as antihistamines and steroids but Hill’s nutritionists and veterinarians have developed a new Prescription Diet® specially formulated to help manage environmental sensitivities in dogs. Derm Defense™ is the first and only nutrition formulated to reduce signs of environmental allergies by disrupting the internal allergy response and creating a barrier against future episodes.

How It Helps:

  • Helps strengthen skin barrier- repelling allergensderm defense
  • Drives healthy skin from within and helps resist secondary infection
  • Formulated to help soothe and nourish skin & coat
  • Helps skin to recover naturally
  • Holistic long-term solution supporting healthy immune system and continuously normalizes the body’s immune response to allergens.
  • The fist defense against future allergy outbreaks

How It Works:

  • Histaguard Complex- a proprietary blend of bioactives and phytonutrients- decreases the release of histamines and cytokine that cause dogs to itch
  • High levels of omega-3 & 6 fatty acids- decrease inflammation
  • Clinically proven antioxidants, including vitamin E
  • No corn, chicken by product meal, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

Derm Defense has been created to help manage non-food related skin conditions. Like with all of our prescription diets, Derm Defense has a palatability guarantee—this means that if your dog does not like it, you can bring it back for a full refund. Please note that when first starting the diet, it can take anywhere from 6-8 weeks before you see results while the body responds to the diet and the skin restores its protective barrier.

If you would like more information about Derm Defense, contact the clinic at 281-282-9944.

** Purchase any size of Derm Defense or case of cans and receive $10 OFF (while supplies last)  **

 

The Atopic Dog- Help is Here!

By Marie Slutz

Does your dog constantly lick their paws or shake their heads? Have you noticed them scratching or rubbing on things? Are they loosing hair or does their skin look red, thickened or have an odor? Then your dog may be suffering from Atopy or Chronic Itch.

Some scratching is normal in dogs, but when it starts to cause damage to the skin it can be a problem.

There are many things that can cause your dog to be itchy including parasites, allergy to flea bites (even just one), food allergies, environmental allergens or even secondary infections.

Some dogs will suffer from seasonal itch but after years of seasonality the itch can start to last longer until finally it is a year round problem. This is true in about 80% of dogs with seasonal allergies. In dogs, seasonal allergies usually start early between the ages of 1 and 3 years.

Some dogs develop food allergies and this usually starts later in life about the ages of 5 to 6 years.

The good news is we now have a drug that goes straight to the itch to help give your pet relief while we figure out the cause of the itch. Apoquel is a new drug that is safe, effective and unique.

Safe:
Apoquel is safe to use in dogs 12 months and older
It is safe because it goes right to the source of the itch which means minimal effects on other parts of the body like some other drugs.
Side effects are mild and similar to those dogs who took placebo (sugar pill) most common side effects were vomiting and diarrhea, these only showed up in a small percentage of dogs and usually stopped on their own.
Unlike other treatments for itch, Apoquel is safe to use in combination with other things such as vaccines and NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

Effective:
Apoquel starts to relieve itch within 4 hours (comparable to steroids)
It effectively controls itch within 24 hours
It relieves the itch in the long term

Unique:
Only drug of its type and it has minimal side effects.
Works quickly and is safe to use long term or as needed to relieve itch

If you think your dog could benefit from this drug please call to schedule an appointment and find out how we can help your dog be more comfortable!