Hi everyone! We’ve been on quite the journey with our 2 yo doodle girl and her food sensitivities, and allergy. We would love to hear from your experiences and what may have helped! I will do my best to summarize it.

Teddie had anal gland and GI issues since she was a puppy. Every now and then she would have diarrhea. Eventually (around 1 and a half) she also started scratching the side of her mouth and licking/itching her paws. This was in the middle of winter, so vet discarded seasonal allergies possibility. It took us some time but we identified that chicken was an issue. We switched to a beef and brown rice dry food. It got a little better, but still not great; sometimes her stool would have mucus, very soft, and itching persisted. 

We decided to start mixing dry food with homemade food. It didn’t do much. Only when we started feeding her 100% homecooked food her stool improved very quickly, no more diarrhea, no more mucus, solid healthy stool. Itching improved a bit but not much.

We heard from our breeder that other dogs had issues with brown rice and beef, so we decided to change her diet to ground turkey, sweet potatoes and veggies homecooked food only. No more treats nothing but those few ingredients.

It has been a month and a half, GI tract looking good, and while we saw improvement with the scratching, it’s been ups and downs. Some weeks she will rarely itch. Others it seems like a lot. We are doing our best to feed her those elimination diet ingredients only, but every now and then someone will give her a dog treat without knowing her issues. It’s so hard!

The past week we have been super vigilant and strict, but still have been seeing her go at her paws and scratch her mouth. We feel so bad for our baby girl and wish we knew what the issue is. 😔

She went on strong allergy pills prescribed by the vet for a while, and it improved but not completely. Also, we’d rather try to find out what the root cause is instead of just suppressing symptoms with pills forever. She’s been tested for mites, parasites, and everything else. All clear.

Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?

Thank you so much in advance!

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  • Okay, so the first thing to know is that only 1% of all dogs has an actual food allergy. An allergy is a disease of the immune system, and it cannot be cured, only managed, and management is for life. A food sensitivity or intolerance is different.
    Next, digestive issues are never, ever ever the first, main, or only symptom of an allergy. There is always going to be itching, and that itching is going to be intense. 
    It is also virtually impossible for a puppy under 6 months old to have a food allergy. Food allergies develop over time and repeated exposure to the offending proteins. (All allergies of every kind are immune responses to specific proteins.) 
    So, it is likely that the early issues were not due to food at all, but rather because Teddie was most likely given repeated courses of metronidazole (Flagyl) for the anal gland and GI issues, and metronidazole in puppyhood has been shown to cause ongoing GI issues, particularly when a high quality probiotic is not also given and continued for weeks beyond the metronidazole. There are documented cases right here on DK of puppies who developed serious Gi issues because of this.

    Next, GP vets, even the best ones, are not experts in allergies or immunology and should not be treating them. They should be referring you to a veterinary dermatology specialist. To illustrate this, the fact that seasonal allergies were discarded as a possibility because Teddie was itching and licking her paws in winter shows that your vet was unaware that two of the most common allergens in dogs as well as people are dust mites and storage/cereal mites, and these are present in winter. You should also know that in 9 out of 10 dogs with actual allergies, the allergies are due to environmental allergens. This is referred to as seasonal allergies, but its actual name is Atopic Dermatitis. Labs and Goldens are among the breeds most affected by Atopic Dermatitis.

    The improvement you saw with homecooked food was due to the high water content and  possibly the absence of storage mites, which live in dry, cereal type foods. Obviously, if a dog (or a person) has an food allergy, they are going to have an allergic response to the specific food whether it enters the body in kibble form, or raw form, or cooked form. A molecule of chicken, for example, looks exactly the same to the immune system whether it is cooked, raw, dehydrated, etc. But the fact that the homemade food got rid of the GI symptoms tells us that the GI issues were not due to food allergies. The fact that the itching continued tells us that you are likely dealing with Atopy. We are in the middle of peak allergy season, due to the ragweed and other weed pollens. 
    I don't know what the strong allergy pills are, but you need to be aware that they are almost certainly a form of immunosuppressant drug. Some of these drugs, particularly Apoquel, have been shown to cause cancer. There are currently class actions lawsuits in several states. 

    Atopy gets worse as a dog gets older. There is a treatment for allergies that is virtually free of side-effects and drugs, and that is immunotherapy. The younger you start it, the better the chances of it working for your dog. It worked for mine. 
    Immunotherapy involves skin testing by a dermatology specialist. Once it is determined what allergens are causing the allergic response, and how strong the response is to each of the allergens that come up positive, a serum (antigens) is custom made for your dog. You then have an induction period in which gradually increasing concentrations of the antigens are injected over a month or so, until you get to a maintenance dose, at which time your dog will usually need a shot every two-three weeks. (You will be taught to give the shots at home). What you are doing with immunotherapy is increasing your dog's tolerance to the allergens so that eventually, they will not cause an immune response, and then bye bye itching. it worked beautifully for my labradoodle, and I will forever be grateful to my vet for referring us to a specialist rather than trying to treat it himself with heavy duty drugs.

    I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get Teddie to a vet derm specialist NOW, while she is young and has a good chance of having a successful treatment. immunotherapy takes time to work, and works best in younger dogs.

    Ask your vet for a referral. Here's the ACVD website where you can locate a specialist yourself if need be. https://www.acvd.org/tools/locator/locator.asp?ids=16_Find_Dermatol...

    acvd.org | Find Dermatologist | Veterinarians with specialized training in skin, ears, and allergy
    The ACVD is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association to advance excellence in veterinary dermatology, oversee postgraduate training,…
  •  This discussion contains some good helpful info about allergies in dogs as well as easy tips for controlling the itching:

    Notice that itching can be helped (not eliminated) by giving the Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. This is something every dermatology vet knows, but I rarely see GP vets telling their clients to give their dogs fish oil. Nor do they ever seem to be familiar with the use of antihistamines other than Benadryl to help control itching, or the use of topical treatments for paws. These are just a couple of reasons to see a specialist. 

    Some Basic Facts About Allergies in Dogs
    Dogs, just like people, can and do have allergies to many different things. Since my guy Jackdoodle has a very severe allergic condition called atopi…
  • And a recent discussion about similar issues:

    Over the counter medicine for itching
    Hello all! Our 3 year old GD has some irritation spots turned scabs that I assume are from bug bites that got scratched raw. We are (not so) paitentl…
  • I also wanted to comment on this part of your post:
    "We heard from our breeder that other dogs had issues with brown rice and beef, so we decided to change her diet to ground turkey, sweet potatoes and veggies homecooked food only. No more treats nothing but those few ingredients."

    Breeding dogs does not make you an expert on health or nutrition. Nor does grooming dogs, training dogs, or selling dog food in a store. You need extensive formal science education for that. :)
    In order for a dog to have "issues" with beef or brown rice (or beef and brown rice, lol), that dog would have to have been continually exposed to the proteins in beef and in brown rice over a period of time. The odds that many other dogs from your breeder were all eating beef and brown rice diets is slim to none. 
    I would expect an improvement in stool quality in any dog if you switched their diet from something-and-brown-rice to something-and-sweet-potato. That's because sweet potato is very high in fiber, which we know improves stool quality, and because sweet potatoes are much easier for dogs to digest than rice is. I'd guess that had you simply switched to beef and sweet potatoes, the improvement would have been the same, even without the ground turkey. :) 


    • Karen, thank you so so much for taking the time to respond and provide such helpful resources! My husband and I will thoroughly read everything and decide what makes sense as a next step. It's a little overwhelming, not gonna lie! But we certainly won't stop trying! Thank you! 

  • Good luck. Sincerely. Our labradoodle, Toby, now 11, came to us at 10 weeks old with little red dots on his belly. I had no idea that those little dots were the first signs of a lifetime of skin allergies. Similar to your issue, Toby had skin eruptions and severe itching year round and we tried countless so-called remedies, including allergy shots for 8 months which made absolutely no difference in his condition. We have settled on a diet of Zignature pork kibble as 1/3 of his diet and the other two thirds is home cooked pork butt (crockpot) peas & carrots and cooked sweet potato. Whenever he is particularly itchy, I give him a fairly low dose of Apoquel. (1/3 of a 16 mg. tablet) He is a mini and weighs 36 lbs. Since he is relentless when he is itchy, sometimes we must resort to keeping him in an Elizabethan collar. Oh, and it is extremely effective to bathe him twice a week with a medicated shampoo. Since your dogs feet are a problem, I would wash the feet at least once or twice a day. Hope some of this info is helpful.

    • Barbara, immunotherapy can take up to 18 months to have a full effect. It was extremely successful for Jack, and for many others here, but it does take time, and sometimes, the antigens need tweaking. Fatty acid supplements, antihistamines, topical medications and frequent baths also helped us get through. 
      Were you working with a dermatology specialist? 
      I'm wondering what Toby's allergens were. I do know that the mold allergies are the ones that respond least well to immunotherapy. Mites allergies have the best response, and the pollens usually fall somewhere in the middle. I'm sorry that the therapy didn;t work for Toby. 

    • Aww Barbara, I feel for you and Toby! Thank you for sharing your experience and tips! We will def look into the medicated shampoo! Thanks and good luck to you too!

  • We replaced Nexgard with plain Revolution. That, and advice from Karen helped tremendously. 


    • Very interesting advice! She is currently on nexgard and sentinel. Maybe it's worth switching it up!

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