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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 rare but life-threatening emergency. If your dog seems to be having trouble breathing (coughing, gagging, facial swelling), 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 diets marketed as 'novel' pet foods include bison, venison, buffalo, rabbit, alligator, and kangaroo i.e. a protein your dog is unlikely to have been exposed to before. 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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Meat Protein Allergies Average Cost

From 463 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

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
  • Chronic infections of the skin, ears and anal glands
  • Collapse
  • Convulsions
  • Cyanosis
  • Death
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive licking
  • Excitement
  • Facial swelling
  • Hives
  • Incoordination
  • Itching (anus, ears, eyes, groin, muzzle, paws, underarms)
  • Lesions on the skin (usually the face, feet, and groin area)
  • Nausea
  • Paw biting
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Salivation
  • Shock
  • Skin rash
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes

 Types

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
  • Meat and animal derivatives
  • Meat meal
  • Poultry
  • Poultry fats
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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 primes 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.

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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.

Intradermal skin tests and allergy blood tests are available but can produce false positives and negatives and are costly.

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Treatment of Meat Protein Allergies in Dogs

In order to determine the best 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 food 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 hydrolysed 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

It is important to get the skin back to normal as soon as possible. A hypoallergenic shampoo and anti-itch medicine 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, lentils or sweet potato.

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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.

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Meat Protein Allergies Average Cost

From 463 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

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Meat Protein Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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West Highland Terrier cross shitzu

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Vomiting

hi, my dog is drinking a lot of water then bringing up back up rather soon after drinking it she is also not eating. This has only come on today also the only new thing she has had is venison meat sticks as treats. She is fine in her self. Could you please offer some advice

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that she is feeling better, and got over that stomach upset. If she is still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 15, 2020

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Bernedoodle

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Six Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Recurrent Mucous Diarrhea

Since we got our puppy he has had bouts of mucousy diarrhea - vet said it was reaction to food and put him on ID. He still got sick. He has gotten into goose poop a couple of times - I asked about giardia and she said No it is the food. And offered no other help. I have treated him with safeguard for suspected giardia and have him on chicken and rice and pumpkin - he is doing better but now what - do I try his old food (nature’s logic rabbit) or switch and try a new food? And if so what?

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, This could be from him eating goose poop or could be due to the food. If his stool is back to normal, I would try to switch back to his normal food very slowly. I would recommend that the switching of food take 2 weeks

July 9, 2020

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Meat Protein Allergies Average Cost

From 463 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

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