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7 Food Allergy Myths

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

An article by the BBC published in 2019 on why the world is becoming more allergic to food, revealed that even just traces of an ingredient can trigger life threatening reactions especially in children nowadays.

One factor is that improved hygiene is to blame, as children are not getting as many infections. Getting parasitic infections, in particular, is important as they are normally fought by the same mechanisms involved in tackling allergies. With fewer parasites to fight, the immune system turns against things that should be harmless.

As much as this is true for human children, it is also true for our fur children. Over grooming, constantly bathing, little socializing and little exposure to true nature combined with over medicating can all contribute to a weakened immune system later on in life.

A newer, "dual allergen exposure" theory, suggests that food allergy development is down to the balance between the timing, dose and form of exposure. This translates into, the importance to exposing puppies and kittens to a variety of food types early on in life to build up their immune system strength and therefore to avoid allergic reaction in their future life.

Unfortunately in my own opinion the BBC article missed to address what damage extreme food processing causes through structural changes in the ingredient molecules.

Myth 1: If your pet is allergic to a certain protein he/she should never have it!

It’s not that simple, many times it’s a matter of processing, depending on what food your pet is on. For example exposure to highly processed foods, may lead to allergies. Over cooking and heavy processing changes foods and their properties in many different ways. Proteins can be destroyed or parts of the proteins can form new proteins. Fats, especially plant based oils can also oxidize, forming new antigens which eventually can cause a reaction.

Many dry pet foods are simply overcooked to remove all water before being further heavily processed and then more heat treated. After all this is done, protein molecules have significantly changed and may create new types of allergies. Sometimes simply changing your pet’s food to a new type of diet such as fresh food, may resolve the issues entirely.

So before you think it’s the chicken in your pet’s food, try feeding your pet some pure, fresh chicken to observe.

Myth 2: Soft poo translates to food allergies!

Not every reaction to a food is caused by an allergy, which is an immune-mediated response.

Most allergies that involve skin and ear infections are due to environmental (e.g. weather) and pests such as mites, ticks, fleas or due to a contact allergy (check your water and feeding bowls, avoid using plastic and stainless steal), check your pet’s bedding especially the filling as well.

Associated with inconsistencies in stool are food intolerances that identify themselves as long term gastrointestinal signs of soft stool or constipation, where the digestive system doesn’t handle the ingredient well.

Myth 3: Pets are allergic to grain, gluten and soy!

Grain, gluten and soy allergies in dogs and cats are rare, the culprits usually are animal proteins HOWEVER grain, gluten and soy have been known to trigger allergies.

Imagine a Hand Grenade, none functional until you pull the pin out and that’s when the explosion gets triggered.

Myth 4: Pets can react allergic to new food!

It’s certainly possible but more often allergies happen from repeated exposure to the same protein or type of food. Allergies can take years to present themselves.

Myth 5: Senior pets don’t get allergies!

It’s very possible your pet may develop an allergy very late in life, either due to constant exposure to a certain protein or to certain triggers, or simply because changes in hormones and immune system functioning.

Imbalances of certain hormones such as histamine, cortisol, and thyroid hormones can result in allergy symptoms.

Some of us may have heard our parents say, I used to be able to eat this type of food x but now whenever I eat it this and that happens. The body changes with age, so allergies can even present themselves in your pet’s senior years.

Myth 6: Prescription diets are the answer!

Prescription diets have been designed to avoid triggering immune responses. That may sound good and your very first observation will be, “it’s working” as the prescription diet may have removed a certain trigger that has now silenced your pet’s allergies but the long term problems are, that your pet may experience nutrient deficiencies. This may take a few months or even a few years to become apparent.

Myth 7: Hypoallergenic diets are the answer!

There are no diets that are completely “hypoallergenic”, meaning that they will not cause allergies. Dogs and cats can be allergic to pretty much any protein or carbohydrate ingredient that can be found in pet food.

So what can you do?

  • Expose your puppy and kitten to diet changes more often, feed variety to desensitize them.

  • Socialize your pets with other animals earlier on in life, being exposed to other pets has a positive impact on the immune system and many psychological benefits.

  • Change your environment, enjoy the great outdoors more often.

  • If you suspect a food allergy, please read the following article that I wrote about food allergies, here.

  • Before starting a limited ingredients diet, you want to rule out environmental, pest and contact allergies. Most pets are allergic to mites, fleas and ticks.

  • Protein quality matters, avoid overly processed diets.

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