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Pet Allergies
Not Suffered by You, But by Them!
Do you have allergies? Do your eyes itch? Is your nose runny? How many times do you sneeze in a row - 5 times? 10 times? More? Or do you have other symptoms, like chronic stomach pain, headaches, or a skin rash?

If you suffer from any of these things, I'm sure they bother you. No doubt, you would do almost anything to make these problems go away. Fortunately, you have the power and control needed to take action.

But what about your pets? They, too, may have allergies. Does your dog keep scractching his or her body constantly? Does your cat suffer from occasional nausea that doesn't seem to involve hairballs? While there could be a variety of explanations for these conditions (if your pet does have these problems, please consult your vet!), one thing to consider is the possibility of food and environmental allergies. Just like your own symptoms, your pets may be very frustrated by their condition. Unlike you, they lack the power to do anything about it without help.

According to Dr. Pitcairn, D.V.M., an allergy is "An abnormally intense reaction to something that is usually harmless to the body - wheat, house dust, or plant pollen, for example." (Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, by Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M./Ph.D. & Susan Hubble Pitcairn.) Dogs and cats appear to suffer different symptoms. In his book, Dr. Pitcairn continues:

"Dogs typically have itchy skin and eruptions, especially on the lower back near the base of the tail. However, these eruptions can occur anywhere and everywhere on the body. Other commonly associated symptoms are inflamed ears, excessive licking of the front feet, digestive upsets (gurgling gas and a tendency toward diarrhea), inflammation of the toes and an irritated rear end (anus, genitals) with licking and dragging of the rear on the floor.... Cats are more prone to cystitis (bladder inflammation) and digestive problems. Oftentimes, there is no visible eruption on the skin, but cats will be greatly annoyed by stinging or biting sensations of the skin so that they are always jumping around, frantically licking themselves and pulling out hair in clumps. They act as though fleas were causing it."

What could cause allergies in cats and dogs?

Many allergies are caused by pollen (tree, grass, weed) and dust, flea saliva, mold spores, and chemicals (in other words, "allergens"). However, you should not overlook substances in foods that can also trigger allergies. In fact, food allergies in domesticated cats and dogs have increased dramatically over the past few decades.

Allergic reactions in dogs and cats due to hypersensitivity to certain foods, medications (like antibiotics), or other drugs (such as heartworm or flea medication) is estimated to be between 10-15 percent of all pet allergies. The best way to solve allergy problems is, naturally, to remove the allergens. That's easier said than done, especially when the suspect allergens are in the food your pets eat! How do you identify what might be producing allergic reactions in your pet? And beyond food itself, what about the other things your pet may eat, like treats and chew toys...?

According to many different sources, the most common foods dogs are allergic to are beef, milk, wheat, soy, and artificial food additives. However, note that any food can become an allergen, depending on your specific pet. If, after ruling out other possibilities, your veterinarian suspects food allergies in your cat or dog, he or she might recommend an "elimination and provocation diet." This diet works by first eliminating suspect ingredients for a set period of time and then reintroducing them one by one. If an allergic reaction occurs after a specific food is eaten that was being avoided before, there's a good chance that food is an "offending" ingredient. While this approach requires time, patience, and discipline (slipping your pets a treat off the "no-no list" out of sympathy during the elimination phase can effectively undo your progress), it is also a very effective approach - one that is often used for humans, in fact.

It's true that science doesn't entirely understand why food allergies occur in pets or humans. However, Alfred J. Plechner, D.V.M. has found in his clinical experience that "The majority of the sensitive animals, when tested, have an imbalance in the antibody responsible for law and order in the intenstinal tract." Pet Allergies, Very Healthy Enterprises; June 1985) This antibody is called IgA (immunoglobulin A). IgA is produced by armies of white blood cells fighting "invaders" in the body such as viruses and bacteria. The antibodies created by these white blood cells work to block contaminants from passing through the intestinal walls and into the bloodstream. Under normal circumstances, this is a necessary and appropriate system. However, according to Dr. Plechner, "A genetic biochemical defect common to many, many pets may be undermining the function of the [white blood cells]. As a result, these soldier cells may react wildly, producing either too few, too many, or totally impotent IgA antibodies. This erratic action can interfere with digestive processing and also irritate the intenstinal lining." In addition, many impure or toxic substances (or poorly digested foods) enter the bloodstream through weakened intestinal tracts and start to wreak havoc throughout the body. This can cause all sorts of allergic symptoms, including skin problems, and leave the body more vulnerable to other illnesses.

The idea that otherwise harmless substances - whether inhaled, eaten, or touched - can produce clearly harmful side effects may seem strange. Have you ever wondered why we and our animals should be allergic to innocent substances like pollens and foods? Aren't these substances "natural", after all? It seems unfair that we have to suffer in response to them. In Pet Allergies, Dr. Plechner quotes Dr. Marchall Mandell:

"When organic chemistry began in the nineteenth century, a whole series of combinations of chemicals were created that were never found naturally in the environment. Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, waxes, preservatives, colorings, and additives, although they did their jobs they were designed for, (they) contaminated the environment and filled man's body with residues that were totally alien to the human system... In short, everything man eats, drinks or inhales is now polluted with chemical agents that are foreign to his chemistry, and he is suffering the consequences of possessing a body that is incapable of handling the byproducts of his amazing chemical technology."

Being surrounded by contaminants may be inevitable in this modern world - short of isolating ourselves from all society, it's difficult to avoid every pollutant. What we can do is carefully observe our body functions - and the body functions of our pets - on a daily basis, identify those things that cause irritations and other symptoms, and either eliminate them from our lives or at least find safer alternatives. By doing this, we can find solace and live more comfortably, free from the constant frustration of allergens and their many frustrating symptoms.

Special Note: Although every effort has been made to present healthy products and useful information to support your pets' health, the products and information contained within this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The contents of this site are not meant as a substitute for consultation with a trained veterinarian. If you are concerned about the health of your pets, you should ask your veterinarian for proper guidance suited to the specific condition of your pets. The owners of this website accept no liability for any consequences resulting from the use of products and/or information provided through this site. Please use your discretion when attending to your pets' health.
Special thanks to Fintan Darragh, Rich Bensen, Maggie, Jiji, and Mary Crissman for providing our pet pictures!
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