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Dermatology 101

Food Allergies and Common Pet Food Myths

Mary Sakai

While flea and environmental allergies (Atopic Dermatitis) account for the majority of skin allergies, food allergies account for about 15% of allergies in pets.  There is a lot of misinformation about food allergies and foods for our pets.  Here are 6 True or False questions that relate to food allergies, with the answers and explanations following.

1)      Grains are the most common cause of skin problems.  T or F

2)      Raw or organic foods do not cause food allergies.  T or F

3)      Dogs do not get food poisoning (salmonella or E. coli)  T or F

4)      Carbohydrates and sugars in the diet will make the yeast on the skin worse. T or F

5)      Yogurt, Probiotics  and / or vinegar  will help with the yeast on the skin T or F

6)      Allergy testing can pin point the exact foods my pet is allergic to.  T or F

All of the above are false!

1)      The most common ingredients that dogs and cats are allergic to in their diets are chicken, beef, (fish- cats), dairy, egg, wheat, and corn in roughly that order.  Two scientific studies have demonstrated that some over the counter  “limited ingredient diets” contain chicken, beef, and soy – ingredients that are not indicated on the labels.  So, unfortunately changing to different diets that you can find over the counter may not help diagnose or treat a food allergy.

2)      If a dog or cat is allergic to say chicken, then he/she will be allergic to chicken whether it is raw, cooked, organic, chicken meal, or chicken byproducts.  They are all sources of chicken.

3)      At veterinary emergency clinics dogs are frequently seen for “food poisoning.”  There have also been reports of people getting food poisoning from handling raw pet foods (JAVMA 2001, 219:9; JAVMA 2005, 226:2).

4)      Yeast skin infections are very common in allergic pets, especially dogs.  The yeast that normally lives on the skin of both dogs and cats is Malassezia.  Unlike Candida yeast, Malassezia does not live in the intestines and is not kept under control by the gram positive bacteria in the intestines.  So all the carbohydrate and sugar restrictions and ProBiotics will not affect the Malassezia yeast living on the skin.  The carb and sugar free “anti-yeast” diets were developed for humans having problems with Candida yeast which lives in the intestines.  Unlike Malassezia, Candida does “feed” on the sugars in the intestines and is kept under control by gram positive bacteria that live in the intestines.