What are Jalapeno Allergies?
A canine allergy occurs when the canine immune system responds aggressively to a perceived threat, in this case, jalapeno. Although jalapenos are rarely a canine allergen as they are not a common ingredient in dog food or dog treats, allergies can develop to any substance the dog is exposed to. Individuals who develop food allergies, such as allergies to jalapeno, will experience inflamed and itchy skin as well as chronic conditions such as gas, ear infections, and wheezing. The capsaicin in the pepper is also an irritant to the skin and is prone to causing contact dermatitis as a result. Anaphylactic shock may also occur, although it is rare with canine food allergies. Dogs who have established allergies to other types of foods are more likely to develop allergies to new food sources, such as jalapeno.
An allergy to jalapenos is an over-reaction of your dog's immune system to an unwelcome protein that is present in jalapeno peppers.
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Symptoms of Jalapeno Allergies in Dogs
The symptoms of an allergy to jalapeno peppers could include:
- Bald patches
- Chronic ear infections
- Chronic gas
- Chronically inflamed feet
- Face rubbing
- Obsessive licking
- Paw biting
- Poor growth
- Skin infections
- Skin rashes
Anaphylactic shock due to food allergy is an uncommon occurrence in canines, but it does happen on occasion. Your pet should be rushed to the nearest veterinary hospital if signs of anaphylactic shock are seen. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock should be treated as an emergency, and your pet should be rushed for treatment to the nearest veterinary hospital. These symptoms could include:
- Cold limbs
- Difficulty breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Excessive drooling
- Low blood pressure
- Pale gums
- Sudden diarrhea
- Sudden vomiting
The allergic reaction to Jalapeno peppers is usually a concentrated response by the immune system to the capsaicin in the plant, which means that the allergy may be activated by other peppers containing this substance, such as Habanero and Tabasco. The juice from the jalapeno pepper is known to instigate a contact allergy as well. Contact with the skin can cause a condition known as contact dermatitis, which causes redness and swelling, often accompanied by bumps or lesions. If you suspect your dog has a skin sensitivity to jalapeno, a patch test can be done to determine if this is the case.
Causes of Jalapeno Allergies in Dogs
Allergies to jalapenos are caused by an unwarranted defensive response to a protein in the jalapeno that your dog’s immune system considers an invasive substance. Most often the substance in jalapenos that irritates your pet’s digestive system is capsaicin. Around 60-70% of the immune system cells of the mammalian body are estimated to reside within the digestive system. The purpose of the digestive system is to break down the food we eat into their smallest parts, which are known as amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed by white blood cells named enterocytes. When the proteins of the Jalapeno pepper are not properly broken down during digestion, the enterocytes view them as intruders rather than nutrients and attack. The response of the white blood cells to the proteins in the jalapeno will, over time, become more aggressive causing the symptoms to intensify.
Diagnosis of Jalapeno Allergies in Dogs
An allergic reaction produces symptoms that will prompt your veterinarian to collect skin scrapings from affected areas for a process called cutaneous cytology. Cutaneous cytology is the microscopic evaluation of the affected skin cells to search for signs of mites, yeast infections, or disease. If no underlying cause is brought to light, then a food allergy may be suspected. An elimination diet is usually implemented to confirm the diagnosis of allergy. An elimination diet is completed by replacing the diet your dog is currently eating with either a diet of bland human food or hypoallergenic commercial food or for several weeks. During the elimination trial, ensuring that your dog does not ingest anything other than the replacement food is paramount. A single treat with an allergen can derail the process by causing the allergy to resurface.
All of the ingredients in the dog’s current diet should be avoided when choosing a replacement food as the symptoms may be caused by multiple allergens. It may be the entire food family that your pet is reacting to, so switching from a chicken diet to a mammalian source such as rabbit is more valuable than turning to another avian species like duck. If your pet has a predisposition for food allergies multiple allergens may be involved. A properly implemented elimination trial will cause the signs of allergy to cease an allergen is reintroduced. In the event that the allergic reaction is a case of contact dermatitis a patch test may be able to identify the allergen.
Treatment of Jalapeno Allergies in Dogs
Elimination diets may take several weeks to confirm an allergy exists, and longer to reveal that the allergy is to jalapeno peppers. During this time your pet may experience lingering symptoms until the problematic food antigens have been expelled. Although the use of corticosteroids is frequently successful in easing the dermal symptoms, they can also obscure the source of the allergic reaction by masking its signs and symptoms. Many veterinarians prefer to complete the elimination diet before applying any medications for this reason. Antibiotics may be prescribed to extinguish any secondary skin infections that have developed due to the damage to the epidermis. Once the allergen has been identified as jalapeno, you will need to avoid feeding that ingredient to your dog. As jalapeno is not common in most dog foods avoidance should be relatively straightforward.
If anaphylactic shock symptoms emerge, your pet will most likely be admitted to the veterinary hospital on arrival. An injection of epinephrine will generally be given, as well as supportive treatments, such as IV fluids and oxygen therapy.
Recovery of Jalapeno Allergies in Dogs
Food allergies are typically not curable, but the allergy related symptoms will be dispelled if the allergen is cut from your dog’s diet. Any exposure to the allergen can incite a relapse, so care must be taken with which treats or leftovers that are offered to the canine as well as flavorings agents that may include any form of spicy pepper. Jalapeno is not a common ingredient in commercial dog treats, but occasionally chili powder is used, which may also trigger a reaction. If your canine has had an allergic response to one type of food, they are more likely to acquire an allergy to the ingredients in the replacement diet over time as well. The approach to combat this situation varies within the veterinary profession, with some doctors advocating that your pet remains on a single source of food, while others maintain that a steady rotation of three of four novel protein foods is optimal.