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    PeterDobias.com / Blog / health knowledge

    5 most common causes of allergies in dogs and people

    By Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

    Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM has 30 years of experience as a veterinarian. His love of dogs and passion for natural healing and nutrition led him to writing, teaching and helping people create health naturally, without drugs, chemicals and processed food.

  • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Is allergy testing useful?
      • 3. So what are allergies?
        • 4. Here are the five main factors that play a role in allergies :
        • 5. One more thing!
          • 6. A 5 step program to start for dog's with allergies
            • Raise your hand if you have not heard someone complain about allergies in the last few weeks! I would love to see if there was a single hand going up in our community, and I dare to guess if so, there were not many…

              When it comes to allergies, much of my writing has been focused on the topic of dogs who have been misdiagnosed. A large portion of these dogs scratch, chew, and itch, not due to allergies but because of back injuries, inflammation, or tightness, which are often mistakenly labelled as allergies. Dogs can’t tell us what is bothering them, all they can do is try to get our attention by scratching and chewing with the hope that we get their point. Here are more details.

              However, today I would like to focus on true allergies, the immune system’s exaggerated reaction to a harmless common substance such as protein from food, dust, plants, or pollen to name a few. Please note, a protein (the antigen) is always involved, and it is important to distinguish other non-protein related sensitivities, for example to chemicals, which from the medical point of view are not allergies.

              More than twenty years ago, I worked in a veterinary practice located in the British Columbia Coastal Mountains. The practice was busy, and my colleague, let’s call him Dr. Rob, and I used to get together once every few weeks to discuss patient cases. One time, we met at a Thai restaurant, and the server reassured us that there were no peanuts in the food my colleague ordered.

              A few minutes after the food had arrived Dr. Rob’s face turned red, and it was clear he was having a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. I could see him starting to heave and turning red, frantically looking for his EpiPen. He was very lucky to have it with him.


              Witnessing such a situation, most people would blame the peanuts as the culprit, and the allergic person or dog would be seen as the unfortunate victim who has been dealt the allergic gene. But this is not exactly true. Experts have confirmed that DNA itself is only about 20% of the puzzle and that the cumulative effect of internal and external factors such as stress, diet, health, weather, toxins and everything else, play a key role in gene expression. In other words, our genes often stay dormant even for a lifetime if the external factors are eliminated, which is great news for those of us who have a history of a certain health problem within the family.

              As to Dr. Rob’s reaction, this also made sense because whenever I saw him in the office, he had a bottle of Coke or a big box of sugar-loaded chocolate milk on his desk. Rob also loved fried food, potato chips, and other processed foods, and didn’t like to eat vegetables and fruit. By the time he was thirty, there was a toxic soup of chemicals, sugar, and preservatives circulating in his blood.


              But going back to dogs, as I said above, if they scratch and chew it doesn’t mean that all of them have allergies if their skin is red, inflamed, and bumpy. The key to a correct diagnosis is to first examine their joints, muscles, and back for injuries before we label them as being allergic.

              However some dogs are truly allergic, and they are the focus of my writing today.

              Is allergy testing useful?

              The answer is yes, and no.

              Over the years, a whole array of allergy testing options have become available, but the results often yield false positives. And even if they didn’t, all they tell us is what our dogs react to but not why.

              When helping dogs who have environmental allergies, we can’t really put them in a sealed plastic bag or a doggy space suit in order to protect them against pollen when the spring bloom arrives.

              An elimination diet for food allergies may be easier to apply, however, allergic people or dogs often end up with few options left. In dogs, hydrolyzed (denatured) protein diets have often been used, but to me such a practice is hugely flawed. Nutritionally, such food is inferior, and tricking the body into thinking that food is not food is “messed up.”


              In the early days of my practice, I found dealing with allergies frustrating but gradually I discovered why. I was taught to focus on eliminating allergens instead of focusing on what was going on with the body and the immune system.

              Elimination diets can be helpful temporarily, for example in the case of acute diarrhea, but this step usually doesn’t lead to better health or a long-term resolution of the problem.

              So what are allergies?

              Allergies are the body’s over-reaction to a common harmless protein from the environment, or food. In essence, the problem is not the allergen, but the immune system that has lost its ability to distinguish between harmful and benign substances.

              Allergies are the symptom but not the cause, the same way a house fire is not the cause but the result of an electric malfunction, for example. An allergic reaction is the result of multiple factors overwhelming the immune system and making it “malfunction.”

              Here are the five main factors that play a role in allergies:

              1. Foreign substances
              2. Digestive tract imbalance
              3. Deficiency of nutrients that the body and immune system need
              4. Excessive and unnatural immune system stimulation
              5. Stressed and overburdened body

              1. Foreign chemical substances in the body

              One does not need to have a PhD to know that we live in a very toxic and polluted environment, from which there is no escape. 37 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 (37 thousand billion billion) chemical reactions take place in the body every second and the immune system can only be as strong as the body’s metabolic and organ function.

              Toxins play an important role in most diseases, because they interfere with healthy cellular function. This means that if your dog is allergic, the first step you need to take is to detox and cleanse.

              But back to Dr. Rob’s allergic reaction to nuts. It is safe to assume that his regular junk food, Coke, and sweet chocolate milk consumption were part of his problem.

              FYI: Milk is considered hyper-allergenic due to a high content of foreign animal protein and bacterial antigens (even after pasteurization). Also, in nature, no mammals consume milk past weaning.

              When it comes to Coke, do I need to go any further? I just hope that one day, it will be labeled the same way as cigarettes. We wage war on drugs and let companies poison people with sugar and addictive substances of the “legal kind.” A wild and crazy world we live in! If you are addicted to Coke, I don’t hold it against you at all, but I would love if these lines inspire you to quit. Your dogs need you to be and stay healthy.

              2. Digestive tract imbalance

              Research has confirmed that the immune system is very closely linked with digestion. As a teenager, I had severe hay fever and noticed that when I had, for example, pizza (dough and cheese combo) or sweets, my hay fever got worse.

              About eighty percent of the immune system depends on a healthy gut, and it is difficult to have a healthy gut with processed food, sugar, or kibble. This is why a high potency dairy free probiotic should be a part of the treatment plan.

              I also suggest that you do not give any treats to your dog that contain sugar. Recently, I received dog treats as a gift for Pax, and because they were human grade and plant based, I tasted them. I was surprised to see how sweet they were.

              Pax’s regular treats are just cooked and cut pieces of meat. I usually put them in the freezer in small packages and take them out as needed for training, or as a reward.

              3. Deficiency of nutrients that the body and immune system need

              Research has confirmed that proper immune function can only be achieved when your diet is not only healthy but also complete. Intensive agriculture and nutrient depleted soils have caused a cascade reaction that affects our health and our pets too.

              Sadly, food remnants such as compost and manure almost never go back to the fields where they originated, because it is financially impossible for farmers. This is the core problem of dietary deficiencies, as depleted soils produce depleted food, including meat.

              This is why so many people see such profound changes when they put the essential supplements in their dogs’ food. From my perspective, it is the only way to ensure there is nothing missing.

              Here are the Fab4 essentials I give to my dog Pax. (GreenMinSoulFood, GutSense and FeelGood Omega.) Without the essentials, the body can’t function at its optimum level, and allergies may be one of the symptoms.

              The essential supplements for dogs

              4. Excessive and unnatural immune system stimulation

              This is probably the most controversial part of treating allergies, but it needs to be addressed.

              In the past decades, vaccination has morphed from a lifesaving proposition into a big business. For a very long time, we veterinarians had been told that dogs had to be vaccinated annually. I believed this too for some time, until I started to see dogs suffering from allergies, immune-mediated diseases such as lupus, and a rise in cancer.

              In nature, most pathogens, with the exception of rabies, malaria, and tick-borne disease, enter through the airways or the mouth. The body has time to mobilize its defences, and there is usually just one single serious pathogen entering the body at a time.

              However, when a multivalent (multiple disease) vaccine is given through an injection, the body is shocked with sometimes five or more pathogens, which can overwhelm the immune system. This leads to an allergic (exaggerated) reaction, auto-immune disease, or failure of the immune system to detect and destroy cancer cells.

              A good analogy would be an office worker who has been given an unreasonable amount of work. They will either “freak out” and overreact, or go into depression, and the immune system is no different.

              The key to healthy immunity is to ensure that your dog is protected with the absolute minimum of vaccines that will achieve a good immunity level. If your veterinarian insists that vaccines have to be done every three years, politely ask to get antibody titres done instead. Most of the time the antibodies are still present. For more info click here.

              5. Stressed and overburdened body

              Perhaps you have noticed that people get sick more often when they are stressed. The simple flu or a cold sore episode are good examples.

              One of the reasons why stress affects the immune system is that the adrenal gland response leads to a release of corticosteroids that lower immune function. A little bit of healthy stress is fine, like healthy exercise, but repeated surges of stress hormones negatively affect immune function and allergies.

              Dogs love to explore, they love to be active, and it is relatively easy to keep them happy when they go for at least two walks a day. I try to do at least two hours but every dog is different. If you have an office job and your dog has to stay alone for an extended period of time, I suggest that you connect with another like-minded dog lover with a dog, who your dog can be with.

              As an alternative, many seniors would love to have the company of a dog during the day, and your dog would enjoy the same.

              One more thing!

              I realized that I forgot to mention kibble. Similar to Dr. Rob’s less than ideal food habits, kibble and processed food in general is one of the primary causes of allergies. It is not because of the proteins they are made of, but the fact that such foods are made with unnatural processed “dead and sterilized” species inappropriate ingredients that lead to gut inflammation, immune disease, and allergies.

              No one would think of feeding a horse a steak, yet, many kibble manufacturers are doing the same when they put cellulose, wheat, rice, and corn in dog kibble.

              Also, there are no MDs who recommend processed food over a wholesome diet, and it is just about time we veterinarians do the same.

              If your dog is on kibble, I hope you will give raw or cooked food a try, and add the essentials to make it complete. With this dietary change, most dogs will stop being allergic. Just remember that you must rule out muscle and back injuries too.

              Here is a link to my free Recipe Maker for dogs.

              If your dog is allergic, here is a 5 step program to start:

              1. Check for neck, back, and muscle injuries and find a good physical therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist or a massage therapist.

              2. If your dog is obsessive about certain activities, cut them back and see if the scratching stops.

              3. Start your dog on natural raw or cooked food.

              4. Add the Fab4 essentials.

              5. Add LiverTune detox one month later.

              This is good for starters! Keep me posted on how things are going!


              Featured products related to this article

              Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM has 30 years of experience as a veterinarian. He graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1988 in the Czech Republic and obtained the Canadian Certificate of Qualification in 1995. He is currently licensed in the European Union, and his unique approach to healing and nutrition helps holistically minded dog lovers worldwide.

              Dr. Dobias strongly believes that disease prevention, natural nutrition and supplements, the right exercise and a drug free approach to medicine can add years to your dog's life.

              As a formulator of his all-natural vitamin and supplement line and co-inventor of natural, chemical free flea and tick control, FleaHex® and TickHex®, his unique healing system and products currently hold the highest independent five star customer rating. For more information click here.

              Any general recommendations that Dr. Dobias makes are not a substitute for the appropriate veterinary care and are for informational and educational purposes only.

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