Vet Liz Curtis, from Ryedale Vets, talks about how we can help our itchy pets.
Allergy related conditions are one of the most common problems we see in dogs and cats. They can present in all forms from upset tummies, runny eyes, sneezing and itchiness to name a few.
Another problem that is not as obvious but often associated with food allergies in dogs is repeated ear infections. As vets, we often see dogs who have been previously treated for an ear infection coming back with the same problem a few weeks later.
Their ears are often red and sore and full of yeasty wax. Treatment to control the discomfort and infection is always given, but at this point, we also have a chat about diet and see if we can start a ‘novel protein diet’.
A novel protein diet is a diet based on a protein that the dog has not come into contact with before. Often a fish-based diet is a good starting point as it seems to be a less readily available source of protein compared with poultry or beef and therefore in my experience is less likely to cause allergy reactions, but as always every patient is different. We advise owners to be careful when selecting food for a food trial and to make sure they look at the ingredients to see that ‘fish’ or whatever protein source they choose to try is the ONLY source of protein in the food. Often cheaper dog food brands have more than one protein source to make up the protein percentage in the food and so what is on the front of the bag is often not what is actually in the bag! If owners are particularly concerned about what protein to select we can also source a ‘hydrolysed’ diet which means the protein in the diet has been broken down so small it is highly unlikely to be recognised as an allergen by the body at all. A diet trial should last for at least 6 weeks and during this time owners are encouraged to stick as closely as they can to the single protein source they have chosen this includes treats given outside meal times.
It is worth mentioning that ear disease is a multifactorial problem meaning infections are often caused by more than one factor. Characteristics of the ear including pinna formation, ear canal size and amount of hair can all contribute to continued problems as well as the lifestyle of the dog i.e. swimming. Diet is just one factor, but it is an important factor that often gets overlooked and is definitely worth considering if your dog has repeat ear infections.
Liz Curtis BVMS BSc MRCVS
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