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If your pet has ever experienced what appear to be persistent random symptoms, such as itching, obsessive licking, paw biting, chronic ear issues, hot spots and poor coat quality, and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea, you may have spent countless hours and trips to the vet trying to figure out the cause only to be given medications to treat the symptoms.


Once the medication is done, the symptoms return, your dog or cat is miserable and so are you. Sound familiar? Those random symptoms may not be random at all. Rather, they may be indicators of food sensitivities or intolerance to certain ingredients. The reoccurrence is the result of treating the symptoms, but not the underlying cause.


Why So Sensitive?

Food sensitivities may be hard to pinpoint, as it takes some trial and error to figure out exactly what ingredient or ingredients may be the “trigger” for your dog or cat. They vary from pet to pet and can include proteins, as well as wheat, corn, and soy, to name a few. Chemicals used to enhance flavor or color, as well as preservatives, fillers or meals should not be overlooked as contributing factors.  


What is certain is that these ailments are likely outward signs of an inflamed, unbalanced immune system. The body is a sophisticated system that senses foreign substances (i.e. trigger ingredients) and overreacts resulting in many of the symptoms described earlier, as the body tries to rid itself of these substances and get back into balance.


Where to Start?

If you suspect your dog or cat may have a food sensitivity, here are four action steps you should take:

1. Have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian.

2. Ask your veterinarian to run a swab-based DNA, or a blood-based, allergy panel.

3. If you suspect food allergies and can’t run an allergy panel, ask your veterinarian for instructions on running a “food elimination” trial at home for 8 to 12 weeks.

4. As you progress consider joining an online support group such as the dog allergy international group available via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/dogallergyinternationalgroup/


More about a food elimination trial

Many veterinarians will recommend you start with an elimination diet using just one novel protein and just one novel carbohydrate, foregoing any grains or grain by products. A novel ingredient is one your dog or cat has never eaten before. Some examples include rabbit, duck or venison.   


This type of diet also removes any unnatural ingredients from your pet’s diet. Look at the label of your current food – How long is the ingredient list? Can you pronounce all of the ingredients? Does it contain fillers, preservatives or artificial flavors or colorings? They could be the cause of the food intolerance and the allergic reaction.


Watch your pet closely and see how he/she responds to the new feeding plan. Are the symptoms improving? As you learn more, it is important you continue to consult with your veterinarian or a holistic veterinarian to rule out any more serious conditions.


Finding the Balance

Since 65% of the immune system’s cells are located in the GI tract, adverse reactions to food can be lessened, or may even abate by making a change to your pet’s diet.


It has been our experience that most dogs and cats do well once transitioned over to a highly-bioavailable (easy to digest and absorb) raw diet with unaltered, naturally occurring micronutrients in natural proportions. By doing so, you are providing his/her immune system with the best support possible at a cellular level. This nutrition is the body’s best chance to rebalance its immune system and tone down the reaction.


It is critical that this process is done properly, as any changes to your pet’s diet should be made gradually over time to avoid digestive distress.


Raw to the Rescue/Let’s Get Raw

What to feed is a personal choice, but we strongly believe in the benefits of wholesome, species appropriate foods like a raw diet including nutrient-rich meat and organs. Bravo’s limited ingredient formulas are a good fit for pets with food sensitivities. We use single proteins (which includes the meat, organ meats and bone) and just three vegetables. That’s it! We never mix proteins so when the label says “chicken” you are getting all chicken. When it says “beef” it’s all beef – you get the idea. Our ingredient list is very short so you can identify exactly what your pet is getting and can avoid any ingredient to which he/she is sensitive.


A high quality, species-appropriate diet is a vital factor in maintaining good overall health and longevity for our companion animals. If you suspect your pet may have a food sensitivity, take a closer look at his/her diet. It may take some time to figure out exactly what will work for your pet, but don’t give up. Finding the right combination of foods will be worth it as you will have a happy, healthy companion animal.


We’d like to share a case study from The Healing Power of Food: Exploring the Connection Between Diet and Health in Dogs and Cats.  


Case Study: “Jasper” was a 5-year-old, neutered male Viszla.  He had always been an “itchy” dog, but his symptoms had progressed to the point that he was licking the bottoms of his feet multiple times per day for long periods, and was also licking at the base of his tail until there were sores.  Jasper’s owner felt the problems were environmental.  He seemed especially sensitive to grass, and she suspected dust and/or dust mites were also a problem.  As for diet, she explained that she fed only 100% organic, locally-grown ingredients in a food that she cooked herself.  Since she was feeding such high-quality ingredients, and since Jasper had no digestive issues, she declined her veterinarian’s offer to run food allergy tests.  When Jasper was 6, his symptoms became worse and he was licking his feet until they were bloody.  Out of desperation, Jasper’s owner then decided to run a complete allergy panel that included food.  The allergy panel did indicate that Jasper was allergic to a wide variety of environmental items.  But it also indicated that Jasper was allergic to fish.  Because fish oil is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, it is often recommended, in high doses, for people and animals with active allergy issues.  Jasper was getting large amounts of fish oil.  Based on the allergy report, the fish oil was removed from the diet.  Within three weeks, he stopped licking at the base of his tail and never did again.  Though the environmental allergies that caused the paw licking remained, the licking was less severe after Jasper was placed on a grain-free, raw diet. He passed when he was almost 12 years old.  

This case highlights the need to know the specific foods to which an animal is allergic, and that an allergy to even a single ingredient can cause real distress.  The best foods and intentions won’t help your dog or cat if they are allergic to what you are feeding. An immune system that is fighting the very foods it needs to function properly is an immune system that cannot be healthy and balanced.  This case also highlights another poorly known but proven fact: food allergy and environmental allergies frequently occur together, and the presence of food allergies may exacerbate the environmental allergy symptoms.


Interested in receiving a copy of The Healing Power of Food: Exploring the Connection Between Diet and Health in Dogs and Cats? Email us at: info@bravopetfoods.com to request a copy.


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