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Veterinarian POV: Dr. Suzee and her experience on feeding hypoallergenic fresh dog food

Allergies are a tricky disease. The immune system is made of many cells that ‘look out’ for dangers to the body and try to defend healthy cells from damage and death. However, our dog’s environment and food is ever changing. These have challenged the normal function of animal and human immune systems. 

‘Allergens’ are substances or chemicals that induce an abnormal immune response. These are found in the air in our homes and outside, in food, in shampoos and creams and everyday items like latex gloves or certain medications. The resulting reactions vary. It can be itchy skin, rash, hair loss, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating. 

A Pekingese chewing his fur because of allergies

Dogs with food allergies have become a much bigger problem in dogs over the last 15 years. More and more research is showing that components in food have changed due to climate change and soil nutrient depletion. There are also more artificial preservatives, highly processed ingredients, and less fresh food items put into pet food than ever before. Even overcooking can lead to poor nutrient absorption even in the best quality ingredients. This can lead to overall poor nutrition and a less than stellar immune system.

bracco italiano puppy scratching outdoors in spring

Protein is the most common, but not the only, source of allergies in dog food. Animal meat like chicken, beef, turkey and lamb are the most common culprits of an allergic reaction when it comes to food. Other common food allergens include grains (such as corn, wheat and barley), soy, gluten and dairy products, not to mention artificial ingredients like preservatives, colors and flavorings.

Research to show the effectiveness of foods giving positive results in health are lagging compared to what veterinarians and owners see in clinics. This is why so many owners go to their vet reporting positive changes when switching to fresh food for their dogs. It is quite simply the same as when us humans take highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners and preservatives out of our diet. 

kabo hypoallergenic salmon recipe

Have you ever noticed the difference in yourself when you started to eat ‘clean’? Better mood, more energy, less bloating, shinier hair? Well it is the same for our pets! Luckily all of these anecdotal reports are pushing scientists to produce more studies on the outcomes of fresh quality foods and dog health results. The evidence is growing and it is not surprising. 

My name is Dr. Suzee Camilleri and I have seen these differences in both my canine clients and my own dogs. Many dogs would come into the clinic with hair loss and inflamed skin, with their owners complaining of incessant paw licking and ear scratching. I would often recommend that we try to figure out what their dog was allergic to before proceeding with a treatment.

Dr. Suzee Camilleri - Scientific Advisory Board - Veterinary Advisor -  BioCache™ Lab Solutions | LinkedIn

The best way to determine if a dog has a food allergy is to do food elimination diets and get tests to allergens. Once the source of the allergy is identified, we can remove that component from the dog’s diet and allergy symptoms will usually begin to recede. However, it is important to keep in mind that dogs can be allergic to more than one food ingredient. They may even be allergic to food AND something in their environment.

Since there are multiple factors that affect allergies, I will usually recommend that my clients try feeding their dog a hypoallergenic diet. These types of diets usually contain limited ingredients, are grain free and contain a novel protein like duck or salmon to reduce the likelihood of triggering an allergic response to food. Even if a dog’s allergies are caused by something in their environment, they can still benefit from a hypoallergenic diet. This is because a hypoallergenic diet will contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients like flaxseed, blueberries and leafy greens to help fight redness and inflammation.

fresh ingredients in kabo hypoallergenic salmon recipe

While I would love to recommend that my clients make their dog’s food at home, I understand that homemade dog food is not something that everyone has time for. Fresh cooked food is a fantastic option for any pet owner who has a dog that might be a little more sensitive to certain foods. It is essentially made the same way that you would cook your own food at home, using the same ingredients that you would buy for yourself from the grocery store. I feel safe recommending this type of food to my clients because not only is it not over processed but it also does not contain any sketchy ingredients like preservatives or artificial colors or flavors.

Allergies are a complicated disease that are influenced by many different factors. My advice to dog owners that are struggling against allergies is to try a fresh cooked diet and/or hypoallergenic diet for their dog. Sometimes switching up your dog’s food to something that is more healthy and nutrient rich is the key to helping them live their best life!

Veterinarian holding a dog
Veterinarian holding a dog
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February 20, 2024
5 minutes
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