What are Meat Protein Allergies?
The most commonly reported symptom of allergies in dogs is dermatitis, which is a skin disorder that varies from dog to dog, but almost always includes itching and redness of the skin. Just like humans, the skin of dogs is the largest organ in their body and is 15% to 25% of the body weight. There are seven layers of skin, which are called the subcutaneous muscles and fat, appendageal system, dermis, basement membrane zone, and epidermis. The skin protects your dog’s body from outside contaminants and allergens, which is why it is usually the first sign of any kind of allergy in your dog. In the case of meat protein allergies in dogs, the first sign may be vomiting rather than itching, and it is best to observe your dog the first few times you feed them a new food. Even if your dog really seems to like the food, the body may not agree, and can quickly lead to anaphylactic shock, which is a life-threatening emergency. If your dog seems to be having trouble breathing (coughing, gagging, vomiting), you need to get your dog to an animal hospital immediately.
Meat proteins are exactly like their name implies, proteins derived from meat, such as beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and duck. The novel pet foods include bison, venison, buffalo, rabbit, alligator, and kangaroo. These are proteins that are not commonly used in foods so there is less chance of an allergic reaction. Meat proteins allergies in dogs may occur from feeding your dog a new food, treats, chews, or table scraps. In some cases, you may not even realize what the allergen was. This can be a serious condition in some dogs, with inflammation that can lead to anaphylactic shock, which triggers contraction of the smooth muscles of the throat, leading to asphyxiation and death. However, in the majority of cases, the reaction is not as serious and includes itching, redness of skin, hives, and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.
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Symptoms of Meat Protein Allergies in Dogs
Symptoms of meat protein allergy may vary, but the most common are:
- Abdominal pain
- Bald spots (alopecia)
- Breathing trouble
- Excessive licking
- Facial swelling
- Itching (anus, ears, eyes, groin, muzzle, paws, underarms)
- Lesions on the skin (usually the face, feet, and groin area)
- Paw biting
- Runny nose
- Skin rash
- Watery eyes
Almost all dog foods include meat protein in their ingredients. It is best to look at the ingredients list carefully to see if any of these are listed:
- Animal fats and oils
- Animal proteins
- Bone meal
- Fresh meat
- Meat and animal derivatives
- Meat meal
- Poultry fats
Causes of Meat Protein Allergies in Dogs
There are two ways to describe a dog’s abnormal reaction to food. One is allergy, which affects the immune system, and the other is intolerance, which affects the digestive system. Meat protein allergy is usually triggered after your dog has eaten food with meat protein in the ingredients before, because it is the previous exposure that produces the allergic reaction. Meat protein intolerance happens the first time (and every time) your dog eats the food with meat protein ingredients because the body cannot tolerate any product including meat protein.
Diagnosis of Meat Protein Allergies in Dogs
Allergies in dogs are even harder to diagnose than allergies in people because dogs cannot tell you what they ate when you were not looking. The best way for the veterinarian to determine the diagnosis is to eliminate other illnesses or injuries that are being overlooked.
A physical examination will be done right away, checking your dog’s overall condition and demeanor. The veterinarian will check body weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration rate, breath sounds, reflexes, skin condition, and will include a thorough examination of the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Laboratory tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry profile, electrolyte panel, glucose levels, urinalysis, and fecal examination will be done to rule out any underlying disease or illness. The veterinarian may also take a skin scraping to sample in order to rule out bacterial or fungal infection.
Treatment of Meat Protein Allergies in Dogs
In order to determine the protocol for solving your dog’s skin or ear infections, and to give advice on conditions like alopecia or extreme itching, determining the allergen is required. To test for allergies, the most effective way is to use the elimination diet. The veterinarian will instruct you on what to do in detail, but it is usually done by taking away all foods and then starting over again with one food at a time to determine the culprit. The suspected meat protein will be removed from the diet and reintroduced when the veterinarian feels the time is right. Each food, when added back in, should be tried for several weeks to see if any of the symptoms return. Your veterinarian will be able to instruct you on which foods to try and may have a hypoallergenic food on hand in the clinic that you can start with.
Treatment will depend on your dog’s symptoms and the results of the food trial. A goal of the veterinary team will be to alleviate the itching and inflammation in your dog’s skin for his comfort, and because the skin mirrors what is going on inside the body. In order to do a food trial or elimination diet, your dog’s skin has to be treated first.
Treating the Skin
Your dog’s skin is the best way to determine allergies, so it is important to get the skin back to normal as soon as possible. A hypoallergenic shampoo and cortizone cream for the rash and inflammation will help relieve the itching within a few days.
Food Trial/Elimination Diet
It may take several months to find the right food. Most dog food brands now have limited ingredient food for sensitive dogs. These have just a few ingredients, thereby minimizing the chance of allergic reaction. There are also dog foods with novel meats, meaning the protein in the food is uncommon so your dog will not have had any exposure to that protein. It is the previous exposure that causes the allergic reaction. Some of the novel protein foods on the market have venison, bison, rabbit, and even kangaroo meat. They are usually paired with a novel carbohydrate as well, such as peas, carrots, or potatoes.
Recovery of Meat Protein Allergies in Dogs
After you determine the allergen and eliminate it from your dog’s diet, the prognosis for recovery is excellent. However, you will need to be vigilant in sticking to the diet all the time and make sure your family and any other caretakers know about your dog’s allergy. You will have to start reading the ingredients on food and treats to make sure there is no meat protein added to the mix. As a matter of fact, you should do this every time you buy dog food or treats because some manufacturers have a tendency to change ingredients without advertising it
It is important to maintain this diet for a lifetime because if you feed your dog an allergen just once, it can be fatal if anaphylaxis occurs. Be sure to follow-up with your veterinarian if there is a problem and take your dog for a checkup at least once per year.
Meat Protein Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog is allergic to any meat, my Vet prescribed hydrolized protein, however they are usually soy protein, or corn starch which are horrendous, so unhealthy! I’m very holistic so I would love to give him holistic, hydrolized real good food options! So please don’t say Royal Canin or etc companies, they use ton of unheard of materials in dog food, and so many chemicals, preservatives to keep food fresh, and carcasas. What can you suggest?
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My dog doesn't have any itching or any other symptoms of meat protein allergies except he just has little pencil eraser size bald spots on his back. We put him on grain free food thinking maybe that was the issue but he is still loosing hair. Could this be due to a protein allergy?
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My 12 years old shih tzu is allergy to pork and chicken. For years I have been adding cooked pork to her daily diet / dog food resulting she refuse to eat any if I don't add pork. What should I do?
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If the dog is intolerant, does this mean they cannot eat ANY form of meat protein at all, or just the sources they've been exposed to.
And if it's intolerance versus allergy would it happen over time?
She was put on hydrolyzed food and the vomiting stopped, although she's starting to balk at her food again. I'm trying to prove to my Mom that she needs to try a novel source. That hydrolyzed may not be necessary.
Allergies are usually sudden and severe whereas intolerance can vary and may allow for some consumption before symptoms appear. Normally read meat is an offender and white meat is usually safe (in general); you can try the good old tested boiled chicken and rice to see if you notice any improvements. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
The doctor did not answer your question: "does this mean they cannot eat ANY form of meat protein at all, or just the sources they've been exposed to". I have the same question.
Read more at: https://www.vetary.com/dog/condition/meat-protein-allergies
Even time my dog eats anything she sneezes and then rubs her head on her blankets. What do i do? I have tried gluten free, grain free. Also boiled her meat which she hates meat. What do i feed her, even tried fish.
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