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Dealing with pet allergies

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Pet allergies.  They’re nothing to sneeze at, and there are two sides to this topic, but good news, there are answers for both!

People who have allergies to pets but still want to have a companion animal do have options.  Hypoallergenic dogs do exist.  The most popular of these are poodles, bichons, soft coated wheaton terriers. Most people with allergies do not have a problem with these breeds. But beware of hybrids being touted as allergy-free, because many are not.

Alternately, there are wipes and liquids which can be applied to a pet to reduce the saliva and dander that are the sources of most allergic reactions.  Most people with mild allergies to cats find that the use of such a product (like Allerpet/C) reduces reactions almost completely for weeks at a time.

Another remedy for making pets less likely to cause allergic reactions in people is to properly maintain the pet’s coat. Having the animal regularly bathed and groomed can reduce the build up of allergens on the pet. Dander can also be made a lot worse by poor nutrition, so increasing the omega-3’s and improving the nutritional quality of the food can contribute greatly to reducing allergic reactions.

But the allergy problem isn’t just with owners. Many pets are now having serious allergy problems, mostly linked to foods and treats. You’ve probably noticed that many pet food companies are now claiming their products are free of wheat, soy and corn. The proteins in these grains have been linked to most dog food allergies. Less common allergies include meat proteins like chicken or even lamb. These ingredients are not only found in foods, but treats and even our table food that we share with our pets, so just changing the main food does not always address the problem.

The primary signs of allergies are licking of paws, scratching ears and ear infections, and even skin problems and excessive tearing. These symptoms often prompt owners to change their foods, but just changing the food is not always enough. Treats commonly contain wheat, soy, and glutens that are culprits in allergic reactions. Read the labels carefully, look for phrases like grain free, or items made from a single ingredient, like 100% beef liver.  And when giving treats from people food, avoid cereals, pizza or bread crusts and gravies thickened with flour.

Things like crackers and pasta are big culprits in triggering bouts of scratching and licking.  
An elimination diet can be the starting point for the most troublesome allergies.  When nothing else works, you can try a diet that contains only unique proteins and carbohydrates. Foods based on rabbit, venison, bison, salmon are now readily available, with unique carbs like peas, lentils, chickpeas, tapioca and sweet potato. Many people have even gone to frozen raw foods to limit allergens. If you go to an elimination diet, once all symptoms have stopped, you can start reintroducing foods to see if they are the cause of the reaction.

Changing the food and monitoring the treats can clear the issues, but even the smallest crumb of wheat-based food can cause the reactions to reoccur. Nothing good happens fast, it can take up to a month for symptoms to clear once all allergens have been eliminated. And one little goldfish cracker or wheat-based dog cookie (most commercial brands are not wheat-free) is enough to send the pet back into licking and scratching, and another month of waiting for it to clear again.

So, don’t let allergies stand between you and your pet, there are answers for both of you to make life more enjoyable.

Contact Jeff with your questions or ideas at aardvarkpets@shaw.ca or visit www.aardvarkpets.com

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