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Let's Talk: Have You Had Your Dog Tested for Food Allergies?

I believe I've spared my dogs much unnecessary pain and discomfort by having them tested.

 |  Jul 7th 2014  |   3 Contributions


My wife and I learned about food allergies in dogs the hard way. Many years ago our Schnauzer, Buzz, began having seizures. At first they were mild "chewing gum" seizures that would make his teeth chatter as if he was out in the cold (though it wasn’t winter). They continued to progress until one day he had a grand mal seizure. He went outside to the backyard as usual and suddenly fell over on his side and lost consciousness. We comforted him for a few minutes -- which seemed much longer -- until he awakened and returned to normal. It was a total feeling of helplessness and scared the hell out of us.

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Buzz's seizures scared the hell out of us.

Our vet ran every applicable test on Buzz but didn’t uncover anything that was triggering the seizures. My wife mentioned Buzz’s seizures to her sister, who said that her Cocker Spaniel, Rocko, used to have seizures. Her vet had recommended allergy testing for Rocko to find out if he was allergic to certain foods, and she found out that he was allergic to the two main ingredients in his food. Once she changed his food to another type that didn’t contain those allergens, Rocko didn’t have any more seizures.

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Kramer turned out to have a number of allergies.

After hearing Rocko’s story, we read more about allergy tests that could be performed on dogs and cats. We also shared this story with our vet and suggested that she read the information that we had uncovered. She knew that dogs and cats can have allergies, of course, and was willing to run both environmental and food allergy tests on Buzz. At the time, allergy tests for animals were relatively new to the domestic animal world, but she was willing to give it a go.

The process was pretty straightforward. Our vet drew four vials of blood to run a full panel (less blood would have been needed if we only ran the environmental or food allergy tests individually) and shipped the vials to Spectrum Labs for testing.

A couple of weeks later, we received a very detailed report showing us exactly what environmental and food allergies Buzz was definitely allergic to, which ones were borderline, and which ones he had no allergic reaction to at all.

The report also provided a detailed list of soft and dry foods and treats that would be safe for Buzz to consume given his allergies.

Ironically, though the list was quite lengthy, the chief culprits were chicken and white rice. These were the main ingredients that were in the premium dog food we were feeding him at the time. They were also the main ingredients that our vet recommended we boil and serve to him when his digestive system was having problems.

We were so impressed that we decided to run the same tests for Buzz’s brother, Woody. We assumed that the results would be very similar since they were from the same litter.

Boy, were we wrong! Woody had no issues with chicken and rice. However, everything else excluding beef was on his list for potential allergy issues. So we eliminated grains from their diets and provided both dogs beef as their main protein.

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Woody and Buzz were from the same litter but had different allergies.

Skip ahead 10 years to when we adopted our Miniature Schnauzer, Kramer.

We placed him on a home-cooked, grain-free diet that consisted of lean beef or poultry and fresh vegetables, which I had used for the past year with our toy Schnauzer, Dusty. Dusty was thriving on it and I assumed Kramer would as well.

We eased him away from his previous kibble-based diet into the new freshly prepared food. For the first week or two he was doing very well and enjoyed it. Then, once the kibbles were out of his system, he started developing extreme stomach sensitivities, which included gas and diarrhea. 

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Our new veterinarian had heard of allergy tests for dogs but hadn’t run one before and didn’t know who did. We provided him all the information on Spectrum Labs, and we went from there. We had full allergy blood panels run on Kramer and, just to be safe, Dusty, too.

It took a little longer for the results to come in, due to the harsh winter this past year, but we had our answers. Kramer was extremely allergic to beef and venison, whereas Dusty was allergic to eggs. Both were allergic to flax seed, which seems to be a main ingredient in most kibbles. So we quickly learned that each dog is unique and allergies aren’t breed-specific.

My wife, Kim, has experienced stomach issues most of her adult life. Tests upon tests returned nothing conclusive, so her doctors wrote it off to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and lactose intolerance. For years she avoided food items that would trigger her IBS and stayed away from milk, including her favorite, ice cream.

Since the food allergy tests did wonders for all of our dogs, she talked to her allergist about performing food allergy tests.

Kim’s allergy tests were performed in-house at the allergist’s office. They simply placed different allergens on the end of a multi-pin applicator and gently rolled the pins over her arm or back. Within 10 minutes, they could see which allergens triggered a reaction, because a small, medium, or large bump would appear, depending how allergic she was to a particular one.

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Kim and momma's boy Kramer are both allergic to all beef products.

Kim quickly learned that she didn’t have IBS and she wasn’t lactose intolerant. Instead, she is allergic to wheat, soy and -- wait for it -- beef. That was actually quite amusing, since Kramer is allergic to beef, too, and Kim and Kramer are inseparable. He is a momma’s boy. Their beef allergies are so extreme that they can't eat anything containing gelatin, which is made from beef.

I would highly recommend allergy testing for your dogs and cats, as well as for yourself, should you develop any reactions to food such as migraines or stomach and digestive issues. I mention migraines because I’ve noticed that when I eat certain foods, I get migraines. So I guess I’ll be making an appointment soon with my allergist to get myself tested.

Does your dog have allergies? How did you find out? Would you have your dog tested? Share your stories in the comments!

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About Tim Link: All-American guy who loves to rock out to Queen while consuming pizza and Pinot Noir and prefers to associate with open-minded people who love all critters. Considers himself to be the literal voice for all animals. Author, writer, radio host, Reiki Master, Animal Communicator and consultant at Wagging Tales

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