Whole Dog Journal's Blog October 26, 2017

Is Your Dog Itchy? Consider a Food Allergy.

Posted at 09:32AM - Comments: (10)

A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, I received a message from Patty, a massage therapist I know. I’d call her “my” massage therapist, but it would be overstating how often I engage her massage therapy services – not more than two or three times a year, usually when I’ve done something bad to my shoulder or neck. I most recently saw Patty in early April.

The message I received started, “Hi, I wanted to update you on Pepper.”

Pepper is her senior Cattle Dog-mix. The last time I had a massage, we spent a good deal of the time talking about Pepper’s itching, chewing, and scratching. In the course of the conversation, we eliminated fleas as a potential cause for Pepper’s itching (because Patty hadn’t seen a flea on any of her animals for ages, and all the animals in the household were receiving regular topical treatments for fleas), and discounted the possibility that it was environmental allergies (as the itching seemed to have no seasonal component; Pepper had been itching for months and months).

I proposed that Pepper might have an allergy to something in her diet. I suggested, as I always do when I hear a similar story, that Patty write down the ingredients in any food that Pepper had received in the past few months. Once she had all the major ingredients written down, she should try to find a food that contained none of the major protein sources or carbohydrates that were found in the foods she had been eating. In other words, she should try an informal food elimination diet, by feeding only foods with ingredients that were novel to Pepper.

Patty had been considering whether a food might be triggering an allergic response in her dog, and had tried a number of different foods, but to her dismay, realized on the course of our conversation that she hadn’t really kept track of the ingredients in the foods. She told me she’d try to recreate what she had fed Pepper and look for something with ingredients that Pepper had not yet experienced.  Again, that was back in April. I hadn’t heard anything else from Patty until the note I received a couple weeks ago. After her greeting, the note continued:

“Your allergy suggestion, I believe, cured [Pepper]. Her dermatitis is almost gone, the itching has stopped. She is a much, much, happier dog. Thank you so much! I would like to give you a free massage as a special thank you from Pepper. Please give me a call.”

I happily took Patty up on her offer; my chronically sore shoulder had been bothering me! When we talked during my most recent massage, Patty explained that she had gathered the ingredients list from every food she could remember buying and feeding to Pepper. When she compared the ingredients list, she realized that every single food she had fed to Pepper contained chicken. She looked for a food that contained no chicken and started feeding that to Pepper – and within two weeks, she observed that the dog was scratching and chewing far less. By the end of a month, Pepper was no longer spending any significant amount of time chewing or scratching at herself, and her coat was growing back in! Her skin, which had been red and bumpy in the places that Pepper could most readily reach, looked like the skin in places where Pepper could not reach! She really was on the mend.

I warned Patty to keep an eye out for treats that might contain chicken, too, and Patty said, “Right! We already learned that! A client came by with some treats for Pepper, and not a day later, Pepper broke out in itching and scratching and chewing again. It took another week or more before the itching stopped.”

I’m grateful that Patty shared both the good news about Pepper with me. As nice as the free massage was, the fact that such a nice dog is more comfortable and healthy was wonderful for me to know.

For more information, check out this article about benefits of a food elimination trial.

Comments (10)

You may want to consider "yeast" as a culprit as well. I have a Blue Healer (75% Australian Cattle dog 25% border collie). We determined that yeast was attacking him. . . So we too, changed his food to beef w no chicken and made sure it didn't contain sugar products (yeast loves sugar) and grains (breads and carbs) - look at the first 5 ingredients of their dog food! Nick has issues with yeast on his feet, coat and ears. We use "coal tar" soap and do lots of foot baths. In the warm months, he gets baths several times a week to keep the yeast at bay (and unfortunately he doesn't get to stay outside when it's hot out). We keep his hair cut very short. When he sweats the yeast starts to try and take over (you will see black or elephant like skin - patches with no hair). He licks his feet and gets his mouth "yeasty" too. You must "scratch off" the yeast (it colonizes and grows on top of each other in a crusty form). The coal tar soap suffocates the yeast and stops it from growing. Do NOT get steroid shots - this could cause more issues (cushings disease) and have serious effects on your dog. We have been dealing with this for the last 3 years. It took us almost 1.5 years to get him back to normal, but we did it - it was a lot of work, but he is so worth it. Coconut Oil is also something we use to help alleviate itching once he's had a bath. Our wonderful Groomer- Ellen at Bokhara Grooming and boarding in Elk Rapids said she's never seen a dog come back from skin yeast issues like our Nick. Once it freezes, life is much easier for our guy. MJ from Acme

Posted by: MJ in Acme | October 30, 2017 3:52 PM    Report this comment

Good to know, my dog isn't having this problem but I wouldn't have thought to change his food. Glad to hear Pepper is better too.

Posted by: Third Eye Dog Bakery | October 30, 2017 11:09 AM    Report this comment

I finally gave in to have our Goldendoodle allergy tested. Found out she should not eat chicken, beef, potatoes, peas, salmon etc. Her high allergy is to Bananas and Potatoes. Trying to find a kibble and canned that only has Venison without potatoes or peas. Right now I have her on a Lamb and rice kibble which she, sort of, likes. So much chicken and potatoes and peas in the foods. I figured because chicken is cheap and plentiful. Reading the labels is paramount to find the right recipes.

Posted by: LovemyGD | October 29, 2017 2:05 PM    Report this comment

There are other causes of itchy skin, and my response, as a professional dog trainer and licensed medical professional, when people tell me about their dog's itching, is to discuss the possible causes, but also refer them to their veterinarian.

Posted by: Clickerpro1 | October 28, 2017 10:55 PM    Report this comment

Ellie our 2 yr old GSD mix started having itching and licking her paws all time, and her skin seemed really pink and irritated. Her diet was mostly chicken as well. We got allergy shots at first; but finally found a food with limited ingredients of bison and sweet potato. That with a little fish oil seemed to do the trick. It is surprising such large percentage of the dog food and treats have chicken in them.

Posted by: Stevehb | October 27, 2017 10:25 AM    Report this comment

Our last dog, adopted at 18 months, had digestive issues. He had an endoscopy and his whole digestive track was inflamed! The specialist suggested taking him off the 7 most common food allergies for dogs (beef, chicken, soy, wheat, corn, eggs and dairy)!!!!!!, He did great after that, but you must read the label for eveything!!!

Posted by: Tmalven | October 26, 2017 8:06 PM    Report this comment

My mini doxie is allergic to chicken as well. You would be surprised to learn how hard it is to find food and/or treats that have NO chicken in the ingredients. Even if it says beef or lamb, check the ingredients! One brand (can't remember which, but, it was a decent brand) had a lamb wet food and the 1st ingredient was chicken.

Posted by: joandmar | October 26, 2017 2:56 PM    Report this comment

I think chicken is the culprit here as well. My dog chewed a paw occasionally, but not too often to be normal, but periodically had loose stools with bloody mucous for a day or two. The warning sign it was coming was a morning vomit. I took him off all poultry and dairy, and only gave high quality treats without fillers trying them out one package at a time. He has not had an episode since. I think chicken is a problem for a lot of dogs.

Posted by: Alice R. | October 26, 2017 1:30 PM    Report this comment

My GSD Gracie was scratching, bald patches on her ears, dark red on her underside, under arms, etc. Poor thing never slept well because she would be jumping up to scratch.
I ended up getting an allergy test done. Big money, but I was really concerned. Turns out, she is allergic to beef, chicken, white fish, other proteins. Also environmental.
She can eat turkey though, go figure! But my vet says chicken seems to be a common problem for allergic reactions -- and so many treats, etc. have chicken in them.
Gracie is on sublingual allergy drops, and she's fine with pork, rabbit. Food allergies can be so frustrating for both humans and animals!
All experts seem to agree they have never seen so many cases of allergies in pets before.

Posted by: LoveGSDs | October 26, 2017 1:12 PM    Report this comment

Oh boy, this is right on target for us! Esmé has had weepy eyes and chewed her feet on and off for the 5 years she's been with us. Our holistic vet recently suggested trying to pinpoint a food allergy (we'd been convinced it was environmental and/or seasonal). Chicken is a big part of her diet and I often give her homemade chicken broth when reconstituting dehydrated raw (which could be chicken, or another flavor). If I cook for her, chicken is normally an ingredient. Long story short, looks like chicken is very likely the culprit -- her eyes are clearing up and she hasn't chewed her feet in weeks! What a relief -- for both of us!

Posted by: Carolyn M | October 26, 2017 10:48 AM    Report this comment

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In