Companion to the German Shepherd Dog Email List (GSD-L)

by Tiffani M. Beckman
Vet Asst. & Student of Veterinary Medicine

Disclaimer - I am not a vet. Please check with your vet before trying any new treatments or diets.

Introduction to Allergies:

Have you ever been told your animal companion has allergies, or maybe suspected she did? Many vets see allergy cases by the thousands. Routine steroids, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, salves, creams and ointments are prescribed, although their success is variable and the price the animal's body pays may be very steep. Here are some natural ideas to help get rid of or lessen - permanently - allergies.

First of all - what are allergies?

Allergies happen when the body's immune system goes overboard and overreacts to something. This can be a multitude of things from grass to pollen to food to chemicals to laundry detergent. Allergies are rarely life-threatening (although death can result from a severe attack, like anaphylactic shock) but they are uncomfortable to say the least. Your animal may be allergic to something and show it right away, or it may take time to build up an allergy to something. Also, something else entirely may trigger an allergic reaction to something else, for example, your animal companion may be allergic to beef and not show visible signs, however when fed corn with that beef, the allergic reaction will arise.

The body has many many different sensors for foreign things... in the nose for inhalants, in the digestive system for food particles, etc. Once the immune system sees something they recognize as foreign or bad, the gears are set into motion.

What are signs of allergies?

Sometimes they are very obvious - after running through the fields your dog develops a red itchy rash. Or it can be a little more subtle - after a diet of beef and oat kibble your cat's ears are red and itchy and smell bad. Or they could be almost unnoticeable... chronic loose stools. Many people have the same reactions as animals - stuffed up noses, lots of mucus, sinus headaches, etc.

What can I do about the allergies?

Well, first things first - let's get the animal more comfortable without suppressing the immune system. It is in high drive right now - we will strive to balance it out. If the allergies are irritated ears, let's soothe them with some aloe or calendula. Since I have a whole list of treatments for irritated ears, please contact me for them. I would rather not write out everything twice! It is important we get to the ROOT of the cause rather than just cancel out the symptoms. Allopathic medicine is infamous for suppressing the symptoms until they come up in more difficult ways. Can we determine where the allergies arise, or whether they are allergies at all? Yes, sometimes. If you know your animal is allergic to chicken or chickweed, then you have a good start. Allergies are not the normal expression of a healthy immune system, so we will want to try to set it right. Diet is perhaps the easiest factor to change, yet people resist this one the most. You can get a bit by changing kibbles - going from a beef-based to a lamb-based sometimes, although to truly change the diet and get started you need to feed raw. All raw meat and bones with some veggies, some vitamins, and some herbs. No grains, yeast or dairy. Eliminating these 3 things tends to clear up allergy signs right away! They are either the allergic items or the trigger. Either way, eliminating these 3 things can really make your animal healthier and much more comfortable. I, of course, have posts on getting started feeding raw, so please email me if you would like to receive this information. I personally feed my 2 cats and 2 dogs a completely raw and species-specific diet every day. You can too!

Something else to think about if you suspect the allergies are inhalant is to install an air purifier in your house. Many people (and animal companions too!) find a lot of relief with the use of an air purifier.

Different forms of medicine such as homeopathy, Ayurveda and Chinese medicine may really help too. Check to see if there are any good practitioners in your area. Some may do phone consults, so if you are in an area with no alternative medicine doctors, get out the yellow pages or hit some websites and see what you can turn up!

Antioxidants are SO important. A raw diet contains many of these, but supplementing the diet can also help. Vit C and E are two very well-known antioxidants. Minerals like selenium and zinc boost the immune system too. Check with a doctor about proper supplementation, or simply include lots of foods that contain natural selenium and zinc.

What are some common allergens (things that cause allergies)? Well, most grains, yeast, dairy products, legumes like soybeans, as well as molds and spores and any variety or chemicals, such as lawn fertilizers, carpet cleaners or laundry detergents. An animal may also be allergic to a beef-based kibble but do fine on raw beef. Your animal is designed to eat raw meat and therefore anything that isn't a species-specific food is potentially an allergen. This is why it is important that you feed your animal a diet that is appropriate for them. And you will have to read labels....on some pet vitamins, yeast and dairy and soy are included. These can cause a reaction too.

Anything else I can do to help the allergies?

Once you have established your animal on an all-raw diet, you can still add some natural supplements to your animal's diet if the allergies are still present. Vit C is a natural antihistamine and helps the immune system not overreacted *naturally*. Vit C can be given to bowel tolerance every day. It is perhaps THE most important vitamin to supplement with, especially for allergy sufferers. Vits E and B should also be supplemented.... E in a capsule or liquid form and B in the form of raw liver. Vit B complex tablets can be given also - at the lowest human dosages and free from soy, yeast and dairy. It is excreted out of the body in about 6 hours so overdose is not likely. Always give B complex rather than just one B Vit. Cod liver oil is an excellent source of Vit A and helps in immune stabilizing too. Your homeopathic vet may have some individual ideas on supplementing that include herbs and homeopathic remedies. Ask him or her about supplementing with bee pollen for inhalant allergies.

Give up those cigarettes! Not only is smoking bad for you, but it is equally bad for your animal companion. Smoking has been shown to increase asthma and allergies in those breathing second-hand smoke. It also dramatically ups the need for extra Vit C in the diet.

Fish? Some studies with children have found that children eating fish cut their risk of asthma compared to children who don't eat fish, or don't eat a lot of it. Raw fish can be beneficial to your cat or dog as well. Pacific salmon and tuna are about the only fish that should not be fed. The oil in fish and flaxseed has been shown to help out allergy sufferers too - especially EPA and DHA fatty acids. So maybe upping the amount of fish in a diet as well as supplementing with flaxseed oil could help. For more info on EFA's (Essential Fatty Acids) please email me.

What if I put my animal on the raw diet, and the allergies persist? Two things can be happening here. One is detox, and that is covered in the raw feeding information. This will be a transitory-type thing and won't last. It is a healing crisis that your animal must go through to get better. The other thing is that you are including something in the diet that they are still allergic to. Say you are feeding mostly chicken, with bits of beef and turkey. Try and see when the symptoms are at their worst - right after feeding the turkey? Or maybe the beef? Or are they bad all the time? If you can rule out one of the meats, try keeping your animal off that meat for at least a month and observe. If nothing gets better, then you may have to look at a different meat. Sometimes you will have to start from scratch. Give ONLY one meat, say lamb, for about a month. How does your animal do on lamb? If fine, go ahead and try the addition of turkey. How does your animal react? Take notes. Most animals are over the large extent of their allergies just by switching to a raw diet, but some may need some more tinkering.

Kinesiology may really benefit your animal too. Read more about Kinesiology in Volhard's book.

Will any of the suggestions work for MY allergies??

YES!!! A grain-less and dairy-free diet, supplemented with Vit C can really make a difference in people's allergies too. Grains and dairy really aren't people-specific foods either.

One last thing to just think about, is what if your animal is allergic to the hormone/antibiotics/chemicals that can come with most of our meat and animal products anymore? Some (again rare) animals are so sensitive to these foreign things that they require organically-produced meat only. So if it is available in your area, it may be a good idea to try!

Tiffani M. Beckman

Copyright 1998/99 Tiffani M. Beckman.  No reprints without expressed permission.

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