Pet Health & Safety

Scratching = Food Allergies? Not Necessarily.

1 Comment 16 July 2010

Scratching = Food Allergies?  Not Necessarily.

I can’t tell you the number of times that we’ve heard, “I’m switching my dog’s food because he’s started scratching and I’ve been told he’s probably allergic to what he’s eating”. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction.

The reality is that it’s probably NOT his food.

Blaming the food is certainly an easy option because the “solution” is easy – switch foods and everything should be A-OK.

However, it’s reported by veterinary colleges and journals that food allergies only account for a very small percentage of scratching, skin, eye, and ear problems – anywhere from 1% to 10%.

The most common cause of scratching is flea bite dermatitis. I know we all work hard to keep those nasty pests away from our dogs and cats but all it takes is one or two bites and the scratching starts. The area gets inflamed, the scratching intensifies, the inflammation gets worse, the scratching builds and soon there are raw, hairless patches on your poor dog or cat.

Another common cause is the dog/cat equivalent of hay fever or inhalant allergies. Dogs and cats can suffer from different allergens in the air. Grass, too, can prompt the terrible itching or runny eyes. In fact, the grass in your backyard could be fine but the grass in the field your dog romps through every week when you go hiking could be the culprit.

Have you changed your laundry detergent recently? Are you using a different dryer sheet? Did you (or someone) slip your dog a piece of people food that he normally doesn’t get? Were your carpets cleaned last week? Was your lawn treated? Weeds wacked sending zillions of potential allergens into the air?

We had one pet parent who discovered that she had washed her dog’s bedding in a different soap and that was the cause of the scratching that was driving her and her dog crazy! She went back to the detergent she had been using before and everything was fine!

The point is that there are many, many possible causes of allergies or skin/eye/ear problems. If your four-legged best friend starts licking his paws or scratching, or his eyes get runny, or his ears start getting stinky with a nasty build-up, start by taking account of where he’s been and what he’s been doing and then what may have changed in his life including all that you do in and around your house. And, if you can, sit and paw through your dog (or cat’s) hair to search for those elusive fleas or ticks. You may find the culprit right there!

If you rule out pests and all of these environmental causes, then start looking at the food. Keep in mind that changing diets isn’t an automatic fix – an effective change involves a 12 week trial with a novel protein and carbohydrate source. If you’re interested, we can talk about this process next.

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- who has written 15 posts on Castor & Pollux Pet Works Blog.

Shelley Gunton is co-founder and “Top Dog” of Castor & Pollux Pet Works. Shelley and husband Brian’s passion for bringing the best possible products to dogs and cats started with their own dog, Joey, back in 1985 when they couldn’t find any quality food for him after being transferred to Hong Kong. So began their journey into the world of pet food that eventually lead to the launching of their own line of natural and organic dog and cat products in 1999 – Castor & Pollux Pet Works.

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1 comment

  1. DeeDee says:

    Our cats were happily dining on your dry food mixed with raw whole ground chicken. As we have two veterinarians, one traditional, the other traditional/now homeopathic, it turns out the grain in your products contributed to stones for one of our cats. The first time she suffered with this urinary issue,, she nearly had undergone surgery, that is, she was anesthetized,shaved and had an IV in her front paw. Fortunately, she already passed the stone and came home without surgery. Recently, it happened again. So, now we do not provide grain in their diet as our veterinarian (homeopathic) advises. If you have a grain free diet product, we will continue to buy from you.

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