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Food intolerance or allergy? Think outside the box.

Sue R

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I have written about this briefly in another topic, but I want to bring it to everyone's attention. It might save someone quite a lot of concern and their dog quite a lot of discomfort. 

I have an elderly dog (he was 16 in November) who was raised on chicken-and-rice based kibble with very good results and consistently good health. Throughout about the first dozen years of his life, we used three different brands, a couple of premiums and a mid-range but still very good brand. A few years ago, I switched the two male dogs to a lamb-and-rice based kibble for no particular reason except that I liked the protein/fat proportions just a little bit more. Or maybe I was being arbitrary and bored...

Anyway, when the issue came out last summer about grain-free diets for dogs being implicated in DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy), I was glad I was never into feeding grain-free. Then I also read that lamb-and-rice could possibly be an issue, at least for some dogs - anecdotal, maybe, but a possibility. Now, I have no concerns about Dan (who was 9 years old at the time) and issues with heart problems but Celt (who was 15, and who always did not like the heat) was showing some real signs of slowing down, more than I expected.

So, I thought, why not try going back to feeding him the chicken-and-rice, and just see if that made a difference. So I did, and as summer progressed, I saw no improvement but I did see some loosening of his stool and poor coloration of his stool. Since my dogs walk the dirt roads, pastures, hay fields, and woods around our area, and drink from "wild water" (puddles, ditches, ponds, creeks), I found last year that it's sensible to run a course of Flagyl and Panacur in the fall, and so I went ahead and took him to the vet, and we did that this year a little early.

No improvement for Celt - in fact, he kept getting worse to the point where I put him on a home-cooked diet of poached boneless skinless chicken breast and white rice. Initially, I added a little pumpkin but since his stool was so nasty, the vet said to drop that and just feed those two super-easily digested components. His bowel movements were nasty - bright yellow to Halloween orange in color, and anything too-soft in texture (often like pancake batter). And he was obviously in discomfort, straining when he went, with the lips of his anus brick-red in color as he everted them as he strained. The vet could feel his abdominal discomfort when she would try to examine him. She's been seeing him for several years and never had he acted in pain like this when she would touch him. 

We ran blood work. No problems. We ran an ultrasound (he'd had surgery for a tumor on his liver two years ago and we didn't know if that had returned). No problems. We tried different approaches - stomach/intestinal relaxers, Vitamin B12 injections, different antibiotics (I am reluctant to use much in the way of antibiotics but we needed to do something), probiotics. Nothing helped. 

Then I was talking to my daughter on the phone one evening and she asked if it could be the chicken. I said it couldn't be because he'd been fine with chicken all his life. She told me I should try replacing that with beef or another protein source and see. Well, I did, that very night. The next morning, he had the last loose stool. I fed him on raw beef and white rice with a dab of pumpkin for about a week, and then began switching him back over to the lamb-and-rice kibble. His stools stayed much, much improved and he was no longer straining so hard and in obvious discomfort. 

But, the stools were still a little softer than I would like to see and then I stopped to think - I was feeding him an egg yolk each morning and evening. Eggs come from chickens. Duh! So I dropped the egg yolks from his diet and, knock on wood, his stool today was a bit better formed. 

And then I read the ingredient label on his lamb-and-rice kibble. The fat source? Chicken fat! So I did some searching and have a bag of kibble on the way with a different protein source (fish-based), no peas/lentils/beans/etc., and no chicken fat. We'll see how that works for him. 

The moral of the story? When a dog has diarrhea or vomiting or other digestive issue, what do we tend to turn to? The CRaP diet - chicken, rice, and pumpkin. In rare cases, that might not be what a particular dog needs. I found out the hard way, dealing with loose stool and discomfort in my old boy for several months. Multiple vet visits, multiple attempts to deal with the symptoms (because we didn't realize the cause), multiple worried days and nights, and a dog that was hurting. 

Think outside the box. 

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And the question remains, "What caused this intolerance/allergy in a dog that never had a problem with chicken before?" I have absolutely no idea. But we did have a dog that never had a problem with turkey who, one Thanksgiving, became deathly ill from eating a very small amount of turkey and licking a well-scraped roasting pan, and could never eat turkey again without unhappy consequences. In fact, our daughter's remembering back to Rocket (the dog mentioned here) was likely how she thought to question Celt and chicken. 

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As someone with allergies and having been tested several times throughout my life I can say for certain; allergies can come and go.  Things I tested positive for as a child I am no longer positive for now and the reverse is also true. The only constants for me have been allergies to dust mites and dog dander.

My mother developed gluten and dairy intolerances later in life.

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Also in people, foods that you eat when your body is under stress, you can develop an intolerance for.  My partner once ordered a burger when he was sick, and when he bit into it, the bacon was raw.  He threw up everywhere.  Now he cannot tolerate any pork product, but this has developed over time.  When we first began our relationship over ten years ago, he could still eat pepperoni and salami, but now he cannot even tolerate those.  My mum cannot tolerate apricot chicken, because she ate it once when she had bad morning sickness.  These are obviously not allergies, but intolerances.

If a BC can develop an fear reaction from one bad external experience, is it outlandish to posit an intolerance from an internal experience?

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