Is your dog scratching because of a meat allergy?

Scratching a lot can be one sign a dog is allergic to meat
CC BY-SA 2.0 Lee Haywood

Who knew that dogs can be allergic to meat?

I always thought our canine companions to be the ultimate carnivores. After all, they can make huge pieces of meat disappear down their gullets in the few seconds your back is turned. That is thanks to a special talent dogs have compared to humans: they don't have enzymes in their saliva to start the digestive process. Instead, dogs can skip the chewing and rely on their stomach to deal with the food they just "wolfed" down.

But in some cases, the digestive process goes wrong. The stomach and intestinal linings should keep the proteins in until they have been broken down fully into their building blocks, amino acids, which can then be absorbed and distributed into the body to be re-used for building new muscle and proteins. If the proteins manage to escape before they are fully digested, the immune system sounds the alert, mobilizing the reaction that we call allergies. Once the body is sensitized to a specific protein, the allergy will recur with every exposure. Food additives suspected of causing issues for humans may also be a factor in dog allergies.

So if your dog always scratching or licking, so much that red skin, loss of coat, or just plain old-fashioned doggie misery has ensued, it might be due to an allergy. You may have suspected as much and gone down the route of trying to treat your dog with home-made recipes, gluten-free diets, or by buying the most expensive exotic-meat dog food available at the local pet supply store.

But allergies can be difficult to pin down. In addition to food allergies, your dog may be reacting to other environmental factors. Enlist your veterinarian in finding the cause. Blood and skin tests may be needed. Or your vet may recommend a restricted diet. Once the symptoms have been stabilized, your vet will have you add back foods one at a time and watch for a recurrence of symptoms.

Tags: Dogs | Health | Pets

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