Allergies, Sensitivity, or Food Intolerance

Healthy lifestyle
Let's understand the difference between a dog's food intolerance, sensitivity, and allergies.
dog's food intolerance

Allergy Vs. Intolerance: Finding The Difference

Let's start with a simple statement: Allergy is not the same as sensitivity, which also differs from intolerance. However, many use these terms interchangeably, as if they were the same thing. (And "many people" include veterinarians, leading medical institutions, dietitians, and dog owners seeking reliable information on this hot topic.) How can something so familiar and scientifically distinct cause so much confusion? This article will equip you with scientific facts to distinguish these three conditions. So be prepared to surprise your friends.

A Brief Overview Of Allergies

A person can die from an allergic reaction, but they won't die from sensitivity or intolerance, and the same goes for your dog. For instance, you may characterize yourself as intolerant to gluten, but it's different from being allergic to shellfish. We all know how dangerous peanut allergies can be; they can be fatal.

An allergic reaction is typically an immediate immune response. Think of histamine release, swelling, redness, hives, itching, coughing, diarrhea, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis. It's usually linked to exposure to certain "hyper allergenic" substances, like peanuts, bee venom, and even strawberries or fish. There are scientific records of dogs suffering from allergies, and although some veterinarians may tell you your dog has an allergy to something, it's not always the case.

Facts About Allergies

Allergy is an immune system response, precisely the IgE response.
It's not so much a problem with digestion, function, or the gut as it is a blood issue. Your body has an exaggerated immune response to what it perceives as trying to kill you. Ironically, the overreaction of your body is the most fatal element.

  • Some allergies require conscientious treatment and medical consultation.
  • You or your dog will ALWAYS react to what you're allergic to. The only difference is the severity.
  • Allergies in dogs can be both genetic and acquired.
  • Mild allergies have symptoms similar to food sensitivity and intolerance, hence the confusion.

Food Sensitivity Overview

Food sensitivity is another type of immune globulin response, most often IgG (although there are others), and it usually develops over time. It is now believed to be closely related to increased gut permeability and particles of undigested food repeatedly entering the bloodstream. Eventually, the body mistakenly takes these "undigested proteins" as pathogens and reacts to them similarly to the presence of bacteria or viruses.

Scientists essentially call food sensitivity "indirect IgE-mediated hypersensitivity." This means that when you eat sensitive food, you get a reaction, but your histamine levels don't rise in your blood. It also works differently: a small amount of food you're allergic to will trigger an immediate reaction, whereas a small amount of food you're sensitive to may not provoke a response. This is significant in calming our sensitivity and even reducing it over time.

How Food Sensitivity Works

If your dog eats something and exhibits symptoms, what should you do? That's what we're addressing here. And let me reiterate that while many symptoms are common, NONE are "normal." A symptom is a sign that something is amiss and needs to be addressed. Ignoring them can worsen the symptoms, make them more pronounced, and lead to chronic problems and possibly illness. So, let's quickly break this down.

Some unwanted symptoms of potential issues that can arise in the body due to food include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Swollen joints
  • Arthritis
  • Lethargy

Overview of Food Intolerance Food intolerance is neither an IgE nor an IgG response. It's not an immune response; it's simply a functional or mechanical problem digesting certain foods. A classic example of this is lactose intolerance. It's almost always linked to a lack of lactase enzymes capable of digesting milk sugar (lactose). Symptoms include bloating, discomfort, and an unpleasant odor. This differs from milk sensitivity, which arises from casein proteins found in cheese, milk, whey, and other dairy products. Classic symptoms of milk sensitivity include facial redness, skin itching, and facial swelling. Unfortunately, it's challenging to detect in dogs, except for the odor symptom. Every week, we see countless dogs transitioning from ultra-processed foods (UPF), often called kibble, to raw because their owners are delighted that their dogs' odor issues are resolving. Almost all dogs struggle with mechanically digesting binding agents in UPF, like wheat, lentils, peas, etc. It's primarily a mechanical issue but with subsequent immune reactions. The best way to stop this is to stop feeding your dog these items, just as you would if someone had similar symptoms.

What to Watch for in Choosing Food If your dog already has gastrointestinal issues, the first thing to do is to try and determine which foods your dog is sensitive to. Then, scrutinize the food's ingredients more closely. Important points:

  • The food you feed your dog should be entirely grain-free. Eliminate corn, soy, dairy, and eggs. Check the packaging to find out the food's composition. This is because these can contribute to increased gut permeability, allowing proteins, particularly undigested ones, to enter your dog's bloodstream.
  • Avoid ultra-processed foods. The proteins in these heated, processed, and chemically altered products are so unrecognizable to your dog's immune system that they are highly likely to provoke a reaction. They usually also come coated in grains, like corn or lentils.

Next, you need to help heal your dog's gut as much as possible, including using bone broth, digestive enzymes, probiotics, or their combination.

All unwanted items or allergenic foods can be eliminated from your dog's diet by transitioning to a natural, raw diet.