Find out more about dog allergy types, synonyms and distinctions. Dog food allergy, dog food intolerance, food sensitivity and hypersensitivity are terms that are sometimes used as synonyms.
“What is food to one, can be bitter poison to others”
Lucretius (75 BC)
However, there is a clear distinction between allergy and intolerance. In both cases your dog would be reacting in an abnormal hypersensitive way towards a certain substance. Since this website focuses on dog food, the substance in this case is a particular ingredient in his dog food.
Whether we speak of dog food allergy or dog food intolerance is defined by the role the immune system plays in the hypersensitivity response. The immune system is a good thing. It gives protection from bacteria and viruses. Because of the immune system we can have dog vaccines. Memory cells are created after vaccinations which confer protective immunity for longer periods of time.
Every working body part and body system can malfunction or break down. The immune system can malfunction and overreact in several ways one of which is allergy (the other being auto-immune disease where tolerance to own body proteins is lost). An allergy is an abnormal reaction against a normally harmless substance, in that case called allergen. Continue reading to learn about the different dog allergy types and dog food intolerance.
In case of a dog food allergy, the immune system of your dog is activated in the hypersensitive response of his body (see list of dog food allergy symptoms).
“It is not the substance that defines what is toxic and what isn't, but the amount”
Four dog allergy types exist. The main ones are listed below.
Of all dog allergy types this one is the easiest to recognize. It is characterized by an immediate allergic reaction (a response occurs typically within 30 minutes) involving cell bound IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies. Mast cells are sensitized and bind IgE via their Fc receptors. Upon second or subsequent exposure to the allergen, the IgE becomes cross linked inducing amongst others the release of histamine. The histamine causes the itching and redness of the skin.
An allergic reaction can occur hours or even days after the exposure to the allergen. Late phase IgE reactions or IgG mediated responses can be involved. Because the reactions are not immediate, this type of allergy is almost impossible to detect without sophisticated testing.
Remember that true allergy to dog food ingredients is rather rare. More common is, for instance, flea bite allergy. In case of dog food hypersensitivity, it is not really that important to know which of the dog allergy types your dog is suffering from. But a bit more knowledge never hurts and it will boost your understanding of the relevance of allergy testing and hypo allergenic dog food. Just as long as you know how to recognize the allergy symptoms and know how to deal with this you and your tail-wagger will be fine!
In case of dog food intolerance your dog may experience the exact same hypersensitive response and show the same allergy symptoms as in a true allergy. However, the immune system is not involved. This is an important difference. The problem your dog is having with his food may lóók the same, but the cause and the biological mechanism is very different. Let me illustrate this with an example.
Dogs that are lactose intolerant can't metabolize lactose. This is because they don't have enough of the enzyme lactase that breaks down lactose (hypo-lactasia).
Puppies drink milk by their mother for the first weeks of their life. Grown up animals don't drink milk in the wild and perhaps this is why the activity of the enzyme lactase fades as years progress. This is true for most mammals. Certain human populations have a chromosomal mutation resulting in a bypass of the common shutdown in lactase production. So in reality those people actually are the abnormal ones.
Normally lactose is processed in the small intestines, where lactase cleaves it into glucose and galactose. These two sugars are small molecules that easily pass through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream to be used as fuel in the body. When there is no or not enough lactase, the milk sugar lactose just passes through and reaches the large intestines. Lactose is then attacked by gut bacteria that don't do the job as neat as the enzyme does. The fermentation process is accompanied by the production of copious amounts of gas and certain acids. This leads to stomach aches, excess gas production and often diarrhea.
Since this is not caused by an immune response but is a result of having insufficient amounts of lactase, your dog can digest lactose to some extend without problems. However, it's best to avoid the lactose at all and minimize the risk of unpleasant gastro intestinal upsets.
Both food intolerances and all dog allergy types can be eliminated with a diet free of the offending agents.
Well? Do you remember anything about dog allergy types by now or tomorrow? It's a bit scientific and perhaps difficult to digest. But no worries! It's 'nice to know' stuff only and I'll alert you when you really need to bite into it.
When your dog is suffering from allergic symptoms, look for clues that help you find the cause of this. Observe your dog (use the 10 step dog health checklist ), analyze the dog food you feed him, observe the time window between eating and onset of symptoms or between change of environment and onset of symptoms. This can be a difficult and lengthy process. Finally, serological allergy tests provide a method to identify which type of food hypersensitivity your dog is suffering from.
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