***This page will keep being edited over the years as we continue learning more about this important topic***


Does your dog have symptoms of allergies?


And is it possible to prevent or naturally treat inflammatory irritation in dogs?

 


Like you, we are always learning, and we try to stay informed and educate ourselves about any health issues our dogs may face. All dogs can develop allergies, and labs are no exception.

We closely follow the work of Dr Karen Becker, who wrote a wonderful article on the topic of allergies in July of 2020.

 It is nice to hear this information coming from a vet -->

In the first several years we raised Labradors, we knew of only one dog that was tested for allergies. While more was known about hip and eye exams, this was the first time we had ever heard of allergies in dogs. 

Fast forward the the present day, and it is a hot topic in the canine world, with more and more dogs showing skin irritations and other symptoms.

Several years ago that we first suspected one of our own pets was allergic, or was experiencing systemic inflammation for the first time. In her case, we thought a surgery was the trigger. She was fine before surgery, and experienced inflammation soon afterward that came and went. We learned months later her symptoms may have been caused by a whole host of allergies and intolerances, and she isn’t even a lab! She’s a mix/mutt/melts-my-heart-and-makes-me-mushy kind of dog. We have learned so much since, and while she still experiences the odd symptom, she is still medication free. 

(We’ll share the 3 steps we took to get her there below.)

Why are so many people and dogs experiencing allergies? 

In the past six years, we have seen a dramatic increase in both diagnosed and suspected food allergies in pets. 

Not just labs, not even just dogs or cats, but even humans too! “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), its prevalence increased by about 50% between 1997 and 2011” 

In our own labradors, we have seen dogs with either environmental or food related intolerance. Unfortunately, like cancer, epilepsy, kidney disease, and many other major concerns, there is currently no genetic testing available to help breeders eliminate these issues.

Having consulted with many veterinarians, and a couple human allergists/immunologists, we’ve learned that even allergy testing is far from an exact science. Allergy panels can yield very different results when conducted over several months, demonstrating that the immune system can overreact to different substances at different times of the year. The most frustrating in our experience is that dogs can develop intolerances at any time in life. So even a clear allergy panel (which rarely happens) prior to breeding (like all of the other health testing we do) doesn’t mean a dog or their pups won’t develop allergies later in life! 


Here is what we have seen in our Labs so far...

We have seen female dogs who developed ear infections in pregnancy. All the veterinarians we consulted with at the time suggested that it was likely hormonal, and we thought no more of it until more recently. We have reached out to veterinary specialists again recently, who have confirmed again that yeast and other infections (ear or paw) are not uncommon in pregnant/lactating dogs, due to the fluctuation in hormones and its impact on the immune system.

Most of those dogs were fine and didn’t develop further issues, while only a few went on to be suspected of having allergies later in life! In those cases, it wasn’t apparent or conclusive until after they were spayed. We wondered if, like our own pet, there was something about surgery that could trigger the immune system.

Anyone who has owned a Lab for its lifetime knows that they can get ear infections from just about anything (more on that later), but ear infections alone do not equate to allergies. 


Here’s another example: we once had a dog who developed a full-blown reaction of systemic hives when she ate red meat. Unfortunately her intolerance to red meat wasn’t conclusive until after she had her first litter, at which point we retired her from our breeding program. It can take months or years to diagnose allergies, and we didn’t know until it was too late, so to speak. 

So while genetics are thought to play a role in allergies, thankfully the severity of her symptoms and reaction to red meat were not passed on to her puppies. With that said, some of her pups’s families have suspected their dogs are experiencing intolerance to other things.

"True food allergies may not be as common as people think, according to AKC Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein. True food allergies result in an immune response, which can range in symptoms from skin conditions (hives, facial swelling, itchiness), gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and/or diarrhea) or a combination of both. In some rare cases, a severe reaction resulting in anaphylaxis can occur—similar to severe peanut allergies in humans.

What most people mean when they say that their dog has a food allergy is that their dog has a food sensitivity, also known as a food intolerance. Food sensitivities, unlike true allergies, do not involve an immune response and are instead a gradual reaction to an offending ingredient in your dog’s food, for example to beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, or milk. Dogs with food sensitivities can present with several symptoms, including dermatologic signs like itchiness, poor skin and coat, and chronic ear or foot infections.”


In reports we’ve read by dermatologists and immunologists, it is suggested that about one third of dogs will experience allergic disease of one kind or another (environmental or food). This means that in a litter of nine puppies, three of them will likely be diagnosed with a food or environmental allergy. Thankfully, our numbers haven't been this high, and we have only seen a very few dogs with severe cases. 


Still, the examples above are concerning to us, and we take this issue to heart.




Veterinarians, including specialists from around the world, have seen a dramatic increase in allergic disease in dogs of all breeds, 
and so we will dedicate ourselves to keep learning and improving with the hope of finding more answers. 

The sad truth is that Labs may be more prone to allergies than many other breeds. Knowing this, the leading pharmaceutical allergy shot “Cytopoint” features many labs on their site.  

Unfortunately, there is no formal source of canine education for pet owners or breeders alike. In this regard, both groups are together in the same boat when struggling with allergies, and we have to rely on self education. No one is perfect, and our dogs are not perfect, either.  All any one of us can do is make choices with the resources and information we have at the time.

In the words of a wise man, “Remember, I am pulling for you. We’re all in this together!” - Red Green


When it comes to allergies, there is so much we can not control or prevent, even with the best testing in place. The good news is, we have found many things we can do as pet owners.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. What are “allergies", anyhow? In simple terms an allergic reaction is caused by an immune system that is over-sensitive, or too stressed. 

There are many different factors that can add up against the immune system, there are things you should do to protect your dog’s immune system, and prevent it from becoming stressed and overreactive. 


For example, many dogs (most people too) are intolerant to grass, juniper/evergreen oils, flea bites, mosquito bites, wasp stings, etc. Medications, common household cleaners, and herbicides/pesticides are strong chemicals that can cause the body to become reactive and enflamed.

Every dog will have its own threshold for allergens, with some having much higher (or lower) thresholds. But “my dog is allergic to [insert chemical or food product that doesn’t belong in or on your dog’s body]” is like saying your Ferrari is allergic to diesel fuel. Once an intolerance threshold is met, these things make us all itchy. We just don’t think of those intolerances as allergies, instead we think of that as common irritants.


And then, let’s consider what we (as humans) have done to make dogs genetically predisposed to diseases of all kinds.


Canine Evolution (and how people changed them)  

In Five Minutes or Less

Let’s compare our Labs to a natural canine, who wasn’t selectively bred for coat colour, temperament, eye colour, and lifelong neoteny: The wolf. 


The Grey Wolf is classified as the same species as all of our domesticated dogs. But when compared to a Lab, you can see that mankind selfishly bred domesticated dogs to suit our desires. Firstly we selected for “flop-over”, rather than erect ears. Erect ears are arguably healthier as air movement and sunlight are not conducive to most fungal, bacterial, and yeast infections, but they are intimidating to humans (talk about genetic memory!) 

Then, humans bred dogs for colour and other physical attributes. When given priority over health and longevity, selectively breeding for a certain “look” involves in-breeding. While Starstruck Labradors does NOT practice in-breeding, and we actively work towards undoing this in purebred Labradors, in this case, there is so much damage to be undone after hundreds of years of selectively breeding dogs for physical attributes. Boil that down, and here is what happens if a breeder line-breeds or in-breeds (click on the dog) -->

This doesn’t mean that the colour is unhealthy, but the choice to produce only that colour will result in unhealthy genetic overlap.


Finally, humans bred dogs for personality traits. Which means dogs like the Labrador Retriever are well known for being “neotenous” through into adulthood. Labs have also been bred for an unnatural obsession with water, which introduces a whole host of wet bacteria into their cute, flop-over ears… 


What about paws that smell like CORN CHIPS? Is that genetic too?


Yes! You may notice that your dog's feet smell like corn chips. This is because dogs have sweat glands between their pads on the underside of each foot! 


 "The one thing I always tell people is a normal dog foot should smell like they just had their paws in a bag of corn chips, because they do sweat through their feet," Carrier [DVM] said. "It has a salty smell."

We have more information about this below too! 


We could go on and on about this for days. But let us cut to the part where we get to the solution. 


Here are the Three Easy Steps we took to Prevent and ameliorate the symptoms of Allergies or Intolerance in our own dog  


1) If you don’t want to upset your dog's immune system, use titre testing rather than re-vaccination. Logic would suggest that unless humans need to be continually re-vaccinated for MMR or Polio, adult dogs also likely do not need to be re-vaccinated for DAPPv or Rabies. 

Our human vaccines seem to last for at least 80 years (average human life) while our dogs will only live 10-15 years. So why do they need more vaccine than we do?

Remembering that allergy symptoms are a by-product of an over-stressed immune system, we recommend not unnecessarily stressing the immune system with vaccines that your dog does not need. 

(MORE references on the bottom of this page) 

While titre testing is more expensive than annual vaccines, the AAHA now admits that annual vaccination (and therefore titre testing) does not need to be done annually, instead saying that a dog can go, “at least 3 years”, between vaccination or testing.

“Administer subsequent boosters at intervals of 3 yr or longer. Measuring antibody levels (quantitative or qualitative) provides a reasonable assessment of protective immunity against CDV, CPV, and CAV2. Following completion of the Initial Vaccination series and the initial booster dose, MLV and Recombinant Core vaccines will provide a sustained protective response lasting beyond 3 yr.”

And since we’ve just triggered the immune system with each vaccine, let’s remember that commonly CHICKEN products are used in manufacturing vaccines. So each time we vaccinate, and the immune system becomes inflamed (responsive) to the virus (to provide immunity) we have also delivered chicken protein into the body in the same injection… also teaching the immune system to become reactive to that protein! 

“Disease micro-organisms are often cultured on animal tissue including embryonic chickens or cow fetuses. When a vaccine is manufactured, it is impossible to divide the wanted virus from the unwanted animal tissue. It all gets ground up together and injected into your dog’s body.” https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/five-vaccine-ingredients-that-can-harm-your-dog/


2) Use only natural flea/tick/mosquito spray that is safe for human use too. 

This should be common sense, but it isn’t. If a product isn’t safe for humans to use, is it safe for any member of your family? Always read the warning label, and do not use anything that says “Call Poison Control” if it is applied to humans. Turning your dog’s skin into insecticide is not healthy for your pet. 

There are many safe and natural ways to prevent fleas and ticks from bothering your pets (and you too). 

Here are some examples of what you DON'T want to use on your family members:-

Advantix Label - https://img.chewy.com/is/content/catalog/45601_UseAndCareInstructions_K9AdvantixII._V1491572214_.pdf 

Advantage II Label - https://bayer.cvpservice.com/product/basic/view/1040066 -Frontline Plus -https://img.chewy.com/is/content/catalog/45399_UseAndCareInstructions_FrontLinePlusDogs._V1487627345_.pdf 

Revolution Label - https://www.revolution4dogs.com/images/revo-pi.pdf

3) Food considerations. You are what you eat!... What is your dog eating?

 Omnivores, but far closer to being carnivores than humans, it is no wonder that most dogs do not tolerate starches in the same quantity that we do. Starch (corn, grains, potato, etc) only serve to nourish inflammation in the dog’s body. It stresses the organs (including the skin), as the body attempts to reap any nutrition from what we feed them. In our opinion, the best prevention you could offer your dog is feeding a biologically appropriate raw food diet, and regularly switching up the ingredients so your dog is less likely to develop intolerances - especially the sources of protein. A healthy dog is also the best defence against flea/ticks, who prefer dry-skinned and unhealthy hosts.

While people are becoming more and more aware of how food will impact our own health, many of us have forgotten about the animals we care for. The concept of dogs being given only a fixed diet for months/years at a time can be damaging. When humans eat the same thing over and over, we get tired of it (even intolerant or allergic) and begin eating other things, even refusing to eat the food that we ate too frequently. 

What are the long-term effects on some animals of not having that option?

-BONUS TIP- 

(that saved my dog from eating Apoquel like skittles for the rest of her life!)

Just like people, when dogs are exposed to environmental irritants, they get itchy. The key difference here, is that humans respond to itches (say, after gardening in the yard) by having a bath/shower and washing our clothes. If you were to roll around a haystack without your clothes on (or without taking them off and washing up afterward), you would be itchy too. Dogs need to be rinsed (even just with the garden hose), and dogs need their paws washed (paw dip by the door) in the Summer time to wash off grass/hay/juniper and lawn chemicals. In the Winter, dogs pick up salt from sidewalks and roads. As dogs only sweat from the bottom of their feet, between the pads, which is a perfect breeding ground for many sinister and itchy things. They deserve clean feet too! Cleaning your pet’s feet with a paw dip can help to prevent a whole host of irritation and secondary infection … and best of all, it is Free! 

Veterinarians are heroes (just think of all the different species they can treat) but are limited to what they can see, and what they can test for. 


What to Expect at the Vet Clinic

Firstly, when you take your pet to the clinic with symptoms (ears, paws, rashes, etc) the only thing a vet can do is to treat what they see - and it looks like allergies. They often do not have enough time and resources to consider your pet’s full medical history. Sometimes they only have 15-20 minutes between appointments, in which time they will often suggest a medication (quick fix to stop the itch) and a food change.

Secondly, there’s an unfortunate conflict of interest here between “Big Kibble” and most of the veterinary profession. These industries have been working together for decades, but the ties are only getting closer and not farther apart. 

(Your favourite candy bar company) Mars Inc’s subsidiary Mars Petcare owns all the VCA-branded animal hospitals in Canada and the United States. Mars Petcare also owns Royal Canin, whose kibble products you are very likely to see in your veterinarian’s office. 

“These [nutritional] guidelines were sponsored by a generous educational grant from Hillʼs Pet Nutrition” -American Animal Hospital Association 

https://www.aaha.org/globalassets/02-guidelines/nutritional-assessment/nutritionalassessmentguidelines.pdf   

Industry conflicts aside, your vet is almost certainly a good and well-intentioned person. They only see your pet briefly, and they usually don’t have the chance to look holistically into your pet’s condition. If it isn’t managed after the first few visits or with medication, then you may be referred to a specialist, who can offer allergy testing.

Unfortunately, allergy testing doesn’t include accurate food intolerances, components of vaccines or flea/tick/heartworm preventatives, and can show false positive and false negative results. Undoubtedly, it will confirm that your pet is indeed allergic to juniper, dust, flea bites, or grass…. hopefully you may think back to this article… “How did that wacky breeder know this was going to happen?”

Then go back to the top, and re-read what may be helpful for your situation. Consider the impact of unnecessary vaccines and harsh chemicals on your dog’s immune system. Consider feeding a balanced and biologically correct diet of real fresh food. Practice good hygiene with your dog, just like teaching your kids to wash their hands… And then, like we’ve seen with our healthy but sensitive senior mutt, watch the magic happen :)

We stay committed to learning more and more as research comes to light on this very important topic. 


Did you find a typo, or have a question, comment, or suggestion that can help us learn too?

Or maybe, you just want to brag that you actually read all the way through this enormous page (most people won't)!


 We would love your feedback! SEND US AN EMAIL :) 

OH BOY! ...More References and Notes!


We highly recommend getting Dr Jones’ FREE E-book, for this and many other tips relating to a happy and healthy pet! https://www.theonlinevet.com


Watch his video pertaining to Allergies, and alternative therapies here - https://youtu.be/jBI5x5rBAjc 


Dr. Christina Chambreau, DVM: "Routine vaccinations are probably the worst thing that we do for our animals. They cause all types of illnesses but not directly to where we would relate them definitely to be caused by the vaccine. Repeating vaccinations on a yearly basis undermines the whole energetic well- being of our animals. Animals do not seem to be decimated by one or two vaccines when they are young and veterinary immunologists tell us that viral vaccines need only be given once or twice in an animal's life. First, there is no need for annual vaccinations and, second, they definitely cause chronic disease. As a homoeopath, it is almost impossible to cure an animal without first addressing the problems that vaccines have caused to the animal, no matter what the species.”


Dr. Ronald D. Schultz, PhD: "Annual revaccination provides no benefit and may increase the risk for adverse reactions. The percentage of vaccinated animals (those vaccinated only as puppies) protected from clinical disease after challenge with canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus in the study was greater than 95%." (From “Current and Future Canine and Feline Vaccination Programs”, by Dr. R.D. Schultz, PhD). Dr. Ronald Schultz is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine, UW-Madison.

Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM  The negative effect of vaccines can be a host of immune related diseases. These can include immune mediated hemolytic anemia, immune mediated skin disease,  vaccine induced skin cancer in cats, skin allergies, arthritis, leukemia, inflammatory bowel disease and neurological conditions, to name a few…The immune system becomes ‘over-taxed’ and responds inappropriately, resulting in diseases such as atopy (environmental allergy),…( From “Veterinary Secrets Revealed”,  Four Paws Online Ltd. 2012. )


Michael Dym D.V.M. - "Over the past 40 years and 17 generations of dogs and cats we are seeing tremendous increases in chronic ill health in our pets that was rare back in the early 1960's. Most of these illnesses revolve around breakdown in our pets' immune systems, and include chronic skin/ear allergies, digestive upset, thyroid/adrenal/pancreatic disorders, seizures, gum/ teeth problems, degenerative arthritis, kidney/liver failure, and cancer across all ages and breeds. We are also seeing a record number of behavioral and emotional disorders including alarming and unexplained fears/aggression, as well as difficulty focusing/training and paying attention. The analogy of these compared with escalating immune/behavioral diseases in children is quite disturbing. The two biggest factors in our pets' population health decline over these generations has been the severe overuse of multiple vaccines and nutrient poor and toxin filled commercial pet foods. We have also failed to address the underlying cause of disease by only suppressing symptoms with antibiotics, cortisone and related drugs, so the disease progresses and goes deeper. Homeopathy offers a viable alternative in truly curing pets and making their bodies healthier.”