Food allergies in dogs

Food allergies in humans are now increasingly common, especially with the amount of processed artificial food and ingredients lurking in our pantries. I recently found out that dogs can have food allergies too and they manifest in all sorts of ways. It’s most certain that our Abroozi has been suffering all this time without us knowing. So this one is for those with dogs.

I had never heard of nut and gluten allergies until I went to the UK. In India, we seem to shove everything down our gullets and ten years ago we had far less access to processed food with artificial additives. Perhaps things are changing in India too as we have more access to foods that have not traditionally been in our diet. I recently checked all the meals we had eaten in a week and was pleased to find that they were all natural things, as in vegetables, rice, fish and lentils/dals that (apart from the pesticides) did not have any additives/preservatives.

Our Abroozi has been suffering from either hot spots or folicullitis on and off for almost 10 months now. This is a skin rash where he gets little red pustules, that become scabs and flake off. He itches, breaks the skin, bacteria get in to the skin, infect it and then it dries off. He’s not had it continuously for ten months, rather 1-2 bursts every 3 months. It’s not really visible unless you brush him and one can feel the bumpities on his side. He’s been on 2 week and 3 week courses of oral Cephalexin antibiotics, although one vet has suggested that this time he be on a 6 week course as the bacteria have clearly not been killed off. Our home remedy of neem paste gives him great relief from the itching and causes pustules to heal in 24 hrs and my post on it gets the most number of hits. But the neem does not prevent the pustules from coming back.

The last bout of hot spots was in April lasting for 1 week and now mid-July, they are back. The vets in India have suggested that it is a staph infection and atopic dermatitis – he’s allergic to some fauna in this woody area where we live. But a vet in the US has suggested that it could be a food allergy. Dog food allergies have been known to be responsible for not just skin problems but repeated ear infections as well. However, in India we do not have allergy tests which isolate what the dog is allergic too – they are frightfully expensive in the west as well. Most people believe that the culprit is found in dry dog foods (kibble) and all the unnecessary things (fillers) they add to it.

A combination of factors has me intrigued – we moved to a more humid, woody area and he started eating home cooked food including wheat and beef. The most common thing that dogs are allergic to is gluten, which is found in wheat (atta) with which we make chappatis/rotis. Symptoms of a food allergy include biting and licking paws, biting the bum and scratching the face. Abroozi does all of these things and since we had reduced his chappatis from 6 to 3 about 3 months ago, he’s been doing these far less. Beef is another food we have been warned about by many vets in India as causing allergies. I thought it was just a religious thing but there appears to be a lot of truth in this. Beef, chicken, fish, milk, wheat, soya are all things your dog could be allergic to.

The best way to find out what your dog is allergic to is by process of elimination. In the US there are special hypoallergenic foods but these are more difficult to find in India. common in big cities rather than smaller places like Vizag. As of today, we are eliminating wheat from Abroozi’s diet for a trial period of one month. This means no dog biscuits that have wheat. There is no point in eliminating all suspects at once because then you’ll never find which is the real culprit.

We now have to find something without gluten that can substitute his breakfast snack of wheat chappatis. (You an now get gluten free atta in India but not in Vizag). There are many gluten free snack options like idlis (made of rice) or even rice flour chappatis. But today we have gone with Ragi (millet flour).

Fingers crossed as I prepared the ragi porridge, I tried to get him interested in it. With the addition of milk and a little jaggery (cane sugar), literally 1/8th a tsp to 1 cup of porridge (a natural sugar so not bad for dogs, as is molasses). He lapped it all up and was looking around for more. Now we just have to wait and see if he has any diarrhea and if not, it means ragi is acceptable.

Dogs (as humans) can be eating the same food for years and all of sudden start showing symptoms of an allergy. So now we wait and see but I suspect we’ll be waiting and watching for over a year as we try to eliminate the culprit or even know if food is a cause for his skin allergy. The battle of the hot spot continues…

Update September 2012: Abroozi’s wheat/gluten free and beef free diet is now as follows:

Morning: Ragi porridge with milk and jaggery; Lunch: pressure cooked rice, horse gram lentils (or other lentils), carrots and fish.

Update Dec 2012: We were told by the vet to stop the ragi as this was too acidic for him so this has since been stopped.

His March 2013 diet is: Morning 4 slices bread+milk diluted with water; Lunch: rice, dal, beef, pumkin&carrot pressure cooked+omega 3/6+vitamin supplement+calcium tablet; evening post walk: 4 slices bread+100ml milk diluted with 400 ml water.

Update April/may 2013: the milk is being substituted with curds/yogurt+water

I have searched and tried many gluten free biscuit recipes and all have failed both the ease of preparation and the abroozi test. But the banana and peanut butter biscuits from Whole Foods is a winner. I replaced the oat flour with ragi/millet flour and halved the peanut butter quantity replacing it with honey instead. We get very high salt content peanut butter in India. Here’s the recipe, real simple. I make one batch of 35 biscuits every 2 weeks.

Banana, oats, dog biscuits

1 x mashed banana

1 cup x rolled oats

2/3 cups x millet flour/ragi or oat flour

1 tbsp peanut butter

2 tbsps x unsweetened natural  honey

1 x beaten egg

Mash the banana in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix to combine and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees centigrade. Using a tsp measure, roll balls of “dough” clump together and place on a baking sheet. You should get 35 of these. You can use a 1/2 tsp measure for smaller balls. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool before placing in an airtight jar.

UPDATE: JUNE 2013 : As abroozi’s skin condition keeps recurring, we are trying a yeast free diet. Foods to avoid are rice, wheat, flour, bread, fruit, carrots, potatoes, honey. Basically we are feeding him lentils, kidney beans, squashes (pumpkin, bottle gourd, ash gourd), yogurt and lots of beef (or chicken or fish).

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About nonsense girl

Galley slave, qualitative researcher working in development, married my best friend, writing about my life, my family, my dog, TV, Indian culture, astronomy and my garden. www.nonsensegirl.wordpress.com
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10 Responses to Food allergies in dogs

  1. Chaitanya says:

    Hi, my lab has similar problems.. Eukanauba for sensitive skin along wth ragi with a teaspooon of coconut oil works.. But ragi alone is not sufficient.. Also, rice wth chicken and a teaspoon of coconut oil keeps skin healthier.. My pet is highly allergic to wheat, soya, grains, egg, paneer, corn.. Avoid the small treats of these… Also, weekly massage wth neem oil keeps coat healthy.. Just try one kind of food and stick to it… Hope this helped..

    • Glad you’ve found what works and what doesn’t – this is key. Have not tried coconut oil yet, but yes i have heard it is good for skin. Luckily we have found what works for our Abroozi – no rice, no bread, no chappati, no sweet veges (carrot, pumpkin). Eggs are fine, curds is fine, beef, louki, dals. but i have nto tried soya becuase i have heard that most dogs are allergic to soy. He has not had a skin problem for over 2 years now which is such a huge relief!

  2. hi, I came across your post accidently while doing research on dog allergies. I have had a dog earlier he was a spitz / pom mix. Who passed away after 7 years due to birth-defect of heart-problems, though he had beautiful skin/coat …he was brought up like a baby of the house.

    The thing with allergies is one should refrain from giving anything sweet, as sweet makes it worse. And Milk/Rice is bad for Yeast Infection. As I am based in Canada, I was giving my current dog – dry food kibble (Lamb & potato grain free), but did not realize potato was also just as bad. He was also being fed Chicken/Rice.

    I’ve just started my blog, maybe we can help eachother out !

    • Thanks for your advice. I admit to being quite confused on the whole issue of yeast/bacteria infections and food allergies. My vet took a skin sample and said it was a staph infection which is being treated by antibiotics. http://suite101.com/article/my-dog-has-itchy-skin-red-bumps-and-scabs–what-does-this-mean-a370268
      But the infection (red pustules that form scabs on the skin) keep coming back. The vet thinks it’s either an immune deficiency or an allergy to the local vegetation or the antibiotic course is not being given for long enough. If it is a food allergy then we are, to put it nicely, buggered! Most things available to eat are either rice based or wheat based and we do not have the range of readymade food specially designed for allergies that you do in the west. I have heard that yogurt is very good as it is a pro-biotic and restores the natural bacteria to the system. I am going to try out some alternative medicines, homeopathy, as that is popular in India and some people say it works…I just hate the thought of giving him antibiotics for as long as we have been. I look forward to reading your blog.

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  4. Pingback: Canine Hot Spots and the Wonders of Neem « nonsense girl

  5. nandini korula says:

    you have aptly described simba’s problem. ALLERGY…….(u can get hypoallergenic kibble..veg)……when we took him to chennai, for his ear, they referred us to dermatology. ..where we were told the exact same thing re the foodstuff you mention.for awhile therefore we stopped his bread,his chappaties, and gave him just rice with veggies. how long can one do that? we are now back to usual favourites(no kibble-somehow our home bred dogs dont seem to tolerate this too well) and neem/haldi paste and weekly bath with antifungal shampoo…..i am also beginning to wonder whether fawn labs are particularly prone to skin trouble…

    • gkorula says:

      Interesting re: fawn labs. There’s a fawn lab that’s recently moved to Dolphin Hill (also a Simba) who has got all sorts of trouble from tick fever (now cured of) to hot spots to black pigmentation…Try ragi with a bit of milk and jaggery and idlis or chappatis with rice flour rather than atta – Abroozi is loving it and he can’t tell the difference between atta and rice flour.

  6. ashreyamom says:

    hmmm this is a new information for me.. never thought of it also.. hope u find the culprit soon, ur dog stays healthy..
    yes, anytime u want to scold vizag, i am there supporting u.. very difficult to find things here..

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