An intolerance or an allergy is an often-overlooked factor in your pet’s health; they can affect the behavior of your dog too. The links between diet, nutrition and health and wellbeing are well documented. Humans have the ability to speak up and advocate for themselves; dogs have no such ability; they rely on their owners for everything. Allergies, intolerances and sensitivities are common in dogs and so understanding the difference and knowing the signs is incredibly important.
An Overview of Allergies
An allergy can, on occasion, be deathly, whereas an intolerance or insensitivity will never be fatal. An allergic response is often an overreaction by the immune system to some form of a trigger, whether food wise or an environmental factor. The response usually begins immediately. Symptoms include swelling, redness, hives, itching, rashes, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and, in the most extreme cases, anaphylaxis.
Allergies are rarely a digestive issue; they tend to be more of a blood issue. The body mounts an exaggerated reaction in response to something it believes could seriously harm you. The irony is, of course, that the reaction is often what causes the most harm. A dog will always have a reaction to something that it is allergic to; however that reaction can change in severity. Allergies often become worse over time. A minor allergy often has similar symptoms to that of an intolerance or an sensitivity which can lead to some confusion.
An Overview of Food Sensitivities
A food sensitivity is often categorized as a different form of immunoglobin reaction, and they often develop over time. The current school of thought on sensitivities is that undigested food particles find themselves passing through a leaky gut into the bloodstream repeatedly. Over time these particles are attacked because the body sees them as invading pathogens to protect against. A food sensitivity doesn’t tend to result in raised histamine levels and eating a small amount of the food that causes the sensitivity won’t always result in a reaction, whereas an allergy always will.
If your dog eats something and symptoms appear, how should you as their owner deal with it? Symptoms are indicative of a larger health issue, and unfortunately, a lot of the symptoms for an intolerance, allergy and sensitivity are interchangeable, which can make it difficult to diagnose. For example, the symptoms of a sensitivity often include itching, arthritis and lethargy. Itching can be seen across the board as a symptom. However, lethargy and arthritis are much more difficult to notice and diagnose within your dog.
An Overview of Intolerances
The biggest difference between an intolerance and the above two is that an intolerance is not an immune response at all; it is purely a digestive issue. A classic example of this is lactose intolerance, which does also occur in dogs. However, it is almost always due to a lack of lactase in the gut. Lactases are the enzymes that digest lactose. You can find more information on lactose intolerance in dogs from this blog post by Native Pet, which is a brand that also has a huge range of supplements and chews designed to work around your pets dietary requirements.
The symptoms of an intolerance often include bloating, discomfort, redness, itching, swelling, diarrhea and excessive flatulence. Again, because there are symptoms that are applicable across the board, it can be hard to know which one you are dealing with. The excessive wind is the best way to differentiate and diagnose an intolerance as opposed to the other food issues listed above.
How Are They Treated?
The best way to treat any one of the above is to avoid the ingredient which causes the reaction. However, this may be easier said than done. If you aren’t sure what is causing the reaction, it might take some detective work. If you suspect any of these issues, then you should always consult your vet. They can recommend the best course of action. Most of the time, this will include some blood tests and potentially a restrictive or elimination diet to work out what ingredient is causing the issue. For example, if your dog is fed exclusively on kibble, you might want to consider switching brands or incorporating more easily digestible food like meats or rice. You could even try the raw food diet which is said to circumvent a lot of digestive issues that your dog may have.
Dogs have health needs that can be just as complex as that of humans. The biggest difference is that they cannot speak for themselves to explain how they feel. As an owner, you should be monitoring your dog and doing your absolute best to safeguard them against these things. Educating yourself is the first step. Know that you have read the above, you know what to look out for, and you are in a better position to deal with them if they do arise.