Labradoodle & Goldendoodle Forum
There have been several discussions recently on more than one site I belong to regarding skin problems and food and allergies. This has prompted me to put together some information from some very credible sources, which some of you may find interesting.
According to most of the literature I've read, the top three reasons for itchy skin in dogs, manifesting itself as itchy, red, irritated skin, are 1) fleas 2) Atopic either contact or inhalant and 3) food allergy. What the majority of vets don't look at is the connection between number three and numbers one and two. So food allergies are looked at as the least cause of an allergic skin reaction, and therefore, the least likely to cause an allergic skin reaction. However, feeding the wrong food in the first place affects the ENTIRE body system. So feeding the wrong food affects the overall immune system such that it is not working at its peak and thus predisposing a dog to suffer from fleas and other allergens. Dr. Tom Lonsdale has frequently stated in his books that feeding unnatural foods leads to unnatural outcomes. So food IS the number one reason for skin allergies.
There is also some confusion amongst dog owners regarding the difference between food intolerance and food allergy. Intolerance to certain foods/one food doesn’t normally cause what could be considered a typical skin allergic reaction. Instead it usually manifests itself in bouts of diarrhoea or vomiting. Changing the food to anything else normally stops the problem for a while; I noticed this with my now long gone heart dog Buster, the black Lab. But because the intolerance is produced by the animal having a poorly functioning immune system in the first place, caused by processed food for the most part and perhaps contributed to by over vaccination (but let’s not go there right now) eventually the intolerance will present itself again. That is unless the animal is switched to a “proper” raw diet.
Now many people who have ended up on the RawMeatyBones yahoo group did switch to raw, but they were previously convinced that raw means veggies, fruits, yoghurts, and perhaps even some grains. And of course those items will also cause reactions, might be intolerances or the itches because they are all foreign to a carnivore. So, the intolerance or allergy surfaces again; the vet says, “I told you so”, and then the poor dog and the financially poor owner (by this time) is convinced that prescribing antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and a special hypo allergenic diet (costing several arms and legs) is the only way to cure the problem!!! So many have ended up on our list at their wits end. We help them restart the process and get rid of what they don’t need, and lo and behold, their beloved dog does improve and, for the most part, doesn’t need the meds any longer. Our testimonial files are chock full of these stories.
However, why take my word for it? I have some interesting writings from two of our yahoo list vets who are raw convinced and have done substantial research within their own practices and with other like-minded vets. Their writings are related to the issue of a proper diet in that the conclusions they draw is that the healthier the dog (i.e. raw means healthier dog) the less they appear to suffer from either allergies or intolerances!
The first excerpt is from Dr. Roger Meacock, a British vet who specializes in holistic medicine for all animals, but he specializes in horses. He was corresponding on our list with another vet talking about horses and dogs so I’ve only shared the points he made about dogs (you can read the whole post on the list at http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/RawMeatyBones/messages/8349.
With regard to the "heating" being a factor in skin allergies etc. I'm sure you're right to some degree. Certainly most dogs are better for a cooler environment with itching and eating carbs is likely to give a higher heat increment of feed compared to a high protein diet for the reasons we've already discussed. However the main reason carbs cause allergies I believe is due to gluten damaging intestinal villi and allowing unnatural proteins etc. across the gut/blood barrier that sets up the allergies. The skin, being the largest interface with the environment, is the most likely area to manifest these allergies.
I also think that allergies are additive in that there is a threshold of allergens of all types. If the allergen threshold (let's give it a nominal value of 100) is largely taken up by underlying food allergies that might
not necessarily clinically manifest as dietary upset or anything then it's not surprising if it only takes one flea to break the immune systems back in manifesting symptoms. The over sensitised immune system reacts readily to the flea that gets the blame for the allergic reaction but in truth it might be that the flea might only account for 2/100 of the threshold but if the underlying food allergy is 99/100 then that 2/100 is all that's needed to go over the threshold and give full blown flea allergy symptoms in an all or nothing reaction. Again I think there have been a number of posts where raw-fed carnivores seem to be much more tolerant of fleas. I think it is also true that flea-susceptible dogs (ie those with other underlying food allergies) have skin environments that are conducive to fleas so they attract them and get clinical problems. It is ironic that if the diet was right, the skin wouldn't attract the flea anyway!
So the long and the short of it is (you've had the long bit!) - the short answer is yes I think carb diets do contribute to skin problems both in causing them initially but also as you say by creating more heat and
exacerbating them too. I think we forget some old wives tales and old practices at our peril!
These quotes are from the seminal work by Dr. Tom Lonsdale in his book Raw Meaty Bones
Chapter 3.....Ugly Facts
Hypersensitivity or hyperimmunity
Some people are allergic to peanuts and others thrive on them. Asthma, mostly associated with allergy, is a fatal condition for some people but the same allergens (an extract of any substance known to cause allergy) have nil effect on others. By these examples we can tell that immune responses are not necessarily dose dependent. Sometimes a small dose of an allergen triggers a cascade effect with dramatic outcomes. However it is also true to say that major stimulation over an extended period, for instance by bacterial plaque, is more likely to produce hypersensitivity reactions. Since the immune system operates throughout the body, hypersensitivity reactions can occur anywhere, giving rise to different signs according to the organ affected.
Skin allergy or hypersensitivity disease affects millions of pets. The irritating itch can drive the patient to extremes of self-mutilation and the owner then drives the patient to the veterinarian. Some patients are diagnosed as suffering from allergy to fleas, or environmental allergens such as house dust or pollens. These diagnoses may well be right but are probably only part of the story. The reason being that skin allergies are subject to a ‘threshold’ effect. This means that while one allergen alone may be enough, often the combined and cumulative effects of several provoke the allergic response. No veterinary textbooks make mention of allergy to overgrowth of oral bacteria as a source of skin allergy. Circumstantially it would appear that oral bacteria are a significant factor. In my clinical experience animals with clean teeth do not suffer from the range or severity of skin ailments as do the processed food fed, periodontal disease affected majority.
Chapter 6 .....Unpleasant diseases; painful death
Most pet diseases are suffered in silence. Skin disease is different. Millions of pets are troubled by persistent irritation to the point of self-mutilation. Pet owners are troubled by the fusty smell, the sight of excoriated skin and the sound of incessant scratching. Due to the constant reminders owners actively seek out treatment. In the first instance this may be in the form of remedies from the pet store or supermarket, or employing the services of a pet groomer. Ultimately owners end up at the veterinary clinic where perhaps one-third of patients have similar skin problems.
Veterinarians depend on thick dermatology textbooks, lectures and the Internet for information on skin diseases. Anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial and anti-allergy preparations are recommended as the self-evident treatments of choice. With the ready demonstration of fleas, mange mites, bacteria and allergy profiles this approach appears to be justified. And of course the pharmaceutical industry is there to lend a hand — promoting the notion that all will be well once better products are made available. But is this search and destroy strategy appropriate for organisms that have always been part of the web of life? Does this siege mentality suit our situation?
While there can be no denying that fleas, mange mites, bacteria and allergies can be problematic, the evidence is now accumulating to suggest that they are not the main cause for concern. As with so many other diseases the evidence is that unnatural diets predispose animals to unnatural outcomes. In some instances the disease signs are directly resulting from the diet. In other cases the diet renders the animal more sensitive to the fleas, bacteria and allergens that share this world. Although one aspect may be of prime significance, the other factors usually combine to make matters worse.
Where is the evidence, you may ask, for suggesting that diet is the main issue? The accumulated experience of countless animal owners and a solid circle of vets can testify. Healthy puppies and kittens raised on natural food do not exhibit the range and severity of skin diseases of their artificially fed cousins. Frequently owners, who have grown resigned to the skin complaints of their pets, are delighted to find that a change of diet seems to work miracles. In seeking an explanation we do not need to look far. The skin provides a manifestation of the general health of the animal. Since the skin and hair coat are constantly being renewed, any imbalance due to poor organ function can show as unhealthy skin and a dull sparse coat.
The skin accounts for 12 percent of body weight and is the barrier with the outside world. Skin contains large amounts of collagen which impart strength and elasticity and immune cells guard against invaders. If collagen health and the immune system are impaired by diet and periodontal disease, then skin health will also be impaired. A cascade effect can then get under way. Bacteria can colonise unhealthy skin more readily. Bacterial toxins damage the skin further and set up local allergic responses. Even fleas seem to prefer unhealthy animals. Dr. Tom Hungerford, the grandfather of the Australian veterinary profession, reported that his dogs fed on raw meaty bones did not harbour fleas. In households with several animals, I have seen the pets with the worst teeth harbour the most fleas, but when their oral hygiene was improved their flea burden decreased.
Sarcoptic mange is another condition of dogs, foxes and wombats which seems to have a link to general and immune system health. When the animal is in good condition the mange mites inhabiting the skin are kept under control. When the animal is stressed or inappropriately fed, the mites can multiply and create a severe and ultimately fatal disease. Immune-related skin disease is common in cats too. The textbooks and veterinary Internet discussions adopt a pessimistic outlook for diagnosis and treatment. In treating a couple of skin conditions known as ‘scabby cat disease’ and ‘rodent ulcer’ I hit on lasting success based on dental treatment and a change to more natural feeding.
Of course the italicised parts are not my words LOL. I have only been through Dr. Lonsdale’s book once. I think it takes a few more careful readings.
I guess what I really believe was summarized by Dr. Tom in a few words, “unnatural diets predispose animals to unnatural outcomes”.