Allergies are perhaps the single most frequent reason a pet might visit the vet. Itchy skin, ear infections and gastrointestinal upset may be symptoms of a food allergy, and switching to a raw diet can be the answer to treating the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.
So how can you make switching to a raw diet the solution for your pet’s allergies?
And, why is raw so successful in treating allergies?
What is a Food Allergy?
Allergies are an over-response of your pet’s immune system to a particular protein. Proteins are present in almost all the food your dog or cat will consume. We know that meats are a source of protein, but even vegetables and grains contain proteins that may be problematic for your pet.
Nearly 70% of the canine and feline immune system is located within the digestive system (mouth, stomach and intestines). So, when the intestines absorb a protein before it is properly broken down or digested, the immune system reacts, and your pet will show signs of a food allergy.
How Does This happen?
Whole Proteins to Amino Acids
- Dogs and cats’ digestive systems are designed to break down complex protein structures into absorbable amino acids. To properly accomplish this, your pet’s digestive system relies on its highly acidic stomach, naturally occurring digestive enzymes, mucosal liner, and immune system cells.
Enterocytes – Gate Keepers of the Digestive Tract
- Enterocytes have two purposes; both to accept and absorb the amino acids the body needs for energy, and to reject whole proteins or harmful substances that the body does not need. When the enterocyte cells do not stop whole proteins from being absorbed by the digestive tract, the first signs of a food allergy can occur.
Raw Solutions for Dietary Health
Mucosal Intestinal Barrier
- The digestive tract of your dog or cat should have a thick mucosal barrier. This liner in the gut contains immune system components that help to prevent the absorption of proteins that are not properly broken down, or harmful substances that your pet has ingested, into absorbable amino acids. The mucosal liner relies on proper hydration and a steady source of naturally occurring enzymes found in fresh raw food to maintain its existence in the stomach. Diarrhoea, dehydration and vomiting will strip the mucosal liner.
IgA Cells and Digestion
- IgA cells are secreted by the immune system in the intestine. The purpose of the IgA cell is to prevent whole proteins from coming into contact with the enterocytes. Their job is to attach themselves to whole proteins and push them back into the intestines for further digestion. Amino acids and small proteins do not get bound to IgA cells and are therefore absorbed into the body as nutrients.
System Failure and Hertamine Release
- An unhealthy digestive system that lacks a mucosal barrier and has damaged enterocytes will allow whole proteins into the body. Once a whole protein has broken through, the digestive system defences an allergic response and a hypersensitivity occurs. Every time the protein that causes an allergic response is consumed, the immune system releases hertamine, and the amount of hertamine released increases as well. Eventually if the hertamine release is great enough, it will start to cause symptoms associated with allergies; including itchy skin, skin infections, yeasty ears etc.
How is Switching to LUNA & me the Solution?
Food trials, or elimination diets, are the single most effective way to determine food sensitivities. Most commercial pet food has multiple ingredients, so determining which protein is causing the allergic response can be very difficult. We can clearly identify the protein triggering the allergic response when we feed a single protein diet for a period of time. LUNA & me offers a wide selection of proteins, including more novel proteins such as venison, pork and duck. Feeding LUNA & me means we can offer your pet complete nutrition using just one protein. For example, LUNA & me Beefy Beef contains ONLY beef protein, using beef muscle meat, beef bone, and beef organ meats in the correct ratios to create a balanced complete diet.
Restoring the Mucosal Barrier
Dry commercial pet food requires an abundance of moisture to rehydrate the food. However, when your dog or cat doesn’t have adequate amounts of moisture in the gut, the digestive system strips this mucosal barrier to help break down the food. For most pets fed a dry commercial pet food, the mucosal barrier is very minimal. For pets that have chronic diarrhoea, this mucosal liner is non-existent. Raw is 60 – 70% moisture with an abundance of naturally occurring digestive enzymes that can quickly restore the mucosal barrier.
Raw is more easily digested by pets because it requires a less acidic digestive tract. Raw food also contains an abundance of live, naturally occurring digestive enzymes. Enzyme rich food can easily be digested and broken down into digestible amino acids. For this reason, pets with sensitivities to particular proteins in highly processed cooked pet food can often eat the same raw proteins with no similar reactions. Many commercial pet food manufacturers use low quality proteins in their formulas to reduce cost and increase profits. Low quality protein is not easily broken down into absorbable amino acids. A good example of this is comparing chicken by-product meal to raw chicken meat and organs. By-products including feathers, feet, intestines and fat are certainly less digestible, requiring a more complex digestive process that creates these digestive system breakdowns, including kidney and liver disease, diabetes, and food allergies.
Restoring Immune System Health
Healthy Digestive System = Healthy Immune System = Healthy Pet
Restoring the health of the immune system is key to resolving complex health conditions including allergies. Compromised immune systems, due to life stages (senior age) or reoccurring stress (e.g. poor diet), will result in a reduced ability to create immune cells, and a further breakdown of your pet’s immune system. A less efficient immune system function will lead to increased susceptibility to infections, autoimmune disorders, and even cancers. Providing a diet that has a rich source of essential nutrients that are highly digestible will directly influence the health of the immune system.
Creating a Meal Plan
LUNA & me recommends the following process when creating a meal plan for your allergen-sensitive pet:
- We recommend starting with LUNA & me Bare recipes. LUNA & me Bare contain no fruit and vegetables that can be introduced later for dogs, but skin allergies tend to mean your dog has yeast infections, and eliminating all sugar and starch (including fruit and vegetables) typically results in a quicker response to improved health. If feeding LUNA & me Bare recipes to your cat, you will need to supplement.
- Choose a novel protein choice. This typically is a protein that your pet has not been fed previously. Most dry commercial pet food is made with chicken, beef, and lamb. For large breeds we suggest trying Turkey, Beef, Pork and/or Duck. For small breeds, Venison, Pork and/or Duck.
- Feed just one protein exclusively for 10 – 14, days excluding all treats, supplements etc. You can offer treats that are protein specific. For example, if you choose ?, you could feed ?.
- If allergy symptoms are subsiding, continue feeding this protein until healing has occurred, this normally can take 4 to 6 weeks.
- Introduce a second protein and feed exclusively for 3 - 5 days. You should follow the same routine as when you introduced the first protein choice, which includes offering no treats and supplements (except supplements for cats). If your pet shows no symptoms of an allergic response after 5 days, we would consider this protein choice to be good. Continue to offer this protein in rotation with protein one and protein two for a period of 2 - 4 weeks. If your pet responds with increased itching, hives, goopy eyes, or an ear infection, switch back to the first protein that was tolerated well for a period of 3 - 5 days, or until the symptoms are gone, before trying another protein choice.
- Introduce a third protein. Ideally, we would like to be able to offer your pet at least 3 to 5 proteins, so continue to repeat steps 2 through 4 until your pet has tried at least 5 proteins, and is eating at least 3 proteins in rotation on a regular basis. LUNA & me offers ? protein choices, so finding at least 3 proteins should be possible for even the most sensitive pet.
Tips for Success
- Start with a white meat protein (turkey/duck) versus red meat (beef) as red meats are more difficult to digest and can cause loose stools, especially in the beginning during transition from cooked food to raw. We suggest trying red meats once your pet has transitioned successfully to raw with firm, formed stools.
- It is important that your pet be fed a variety of proteins. Even on raw, allergen prone pets can still develop protein allergies quickly, so offering a wide variety of proteins can prevent this process from occurring. Variety also widens the spectrum of nutrients and provides an interesting and well- balanced, nutrient rich meal plan for your pet.
- Add Apple Cider Vinegar (5 ml per 25 lbs body weight) to your pet’s food daily. Apple Cider Vinegar helps restore a proper pH level to your pet’s digestive tract resulting in improved digestion. It also has anti-fungal properties to provide relief for pets with yeast infections.
- Offer a probiotic supplement, such as Organic Bio-Live Yoghurt, with your pet’s food to improve digestive health.