What are Natural Balance Allergies?
Natural Balance is a popular brand of dog food established by actor Dick Van Patten in 1989 and purchased by the J.M. Smucker Company in early 2015. It is intended to be a diet without fillers such as wheat, corn, soy, or by-products. Allergies to a specific dog food emerge when the canine’s immune system responds violently to one or more of the ingredients that make up the food. Canines who develop food allergies usually experience itchy and inflamed skin as well as chronic disorders like ear infections, gas, and breathing disorders. Although rare, anaphylactic shock may also occur with food allergies. Natural Balance foods carry a variety of different categories of dog food, some designed with allergy prone dogs in mind.
There are several specialized varieties of food manufactured by Natural Balance dog food. Some varieties of Natural Balance are more likely to trigger an allergic response in a sensitized animal than others.
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Symptoms of Natural Balance Allergies in Dogs
Skin reactions from food allergies are often clustered around the face and groin, or located under the front legs, or between the toes. Food allergies in canines can develop at any age, but the majority of dogs do not acquire food allergies until they are older than three years old.
- Bald patches
- Chronic ear infections
- Chronic gas
- Chronically inflamed feet
- Face rubbing
- Head shaking
- Obsessive licking
- Paw biting
- Poor puppy or adolescent growth
- Skin infections
- Skin rashes
Anaphylactic shock, a severe allergic reaction, can occasionally occur with food allergies, and should be treated as an emergency. If your pet develops the following symptoms, they should be taken to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic immediately.
- Cold limbs
- Difficulty breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Excessive drooling
- Low blood pressure
- Pale gums
- Sudden diarrhea
- Sudden vomiting
Natural Balance brand dog food has several specialty formulations available for dogs with different dietary needs.
Grain-free - A line of foods made with no grains. Legumes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes provide the carbohydrate sources in this formula.
Healthy digestion - These foods are formulated with optimum levels of fiber to provide easy digestion.
Healthy weight - This is Natural Balance’s lower calorie formula for overweight dogs.
Limited Ingredient Diet - Designed to minimize exposure to multiple ingredients to reduce the risk of allergic reactions.
Vegetarian - A meatless alternative designed for canines, with no animal products or dairy.
Wild Pursuit - This line is grain-free and combines two distinct sources of animal protein.
Causes of Natural Balance Allergies in Dogs
Food allergies are triggered by an unusually strong defensive response on the part of the immune system to a protein found in your pet’s food. Around 60-70% of the cells that make up your dog’s immune system are estimated to reside within the digestive system, which is designed to break down the foods your pet eats into their smallest parts. These particles, known as amino acids, are then absorbed by a particular type of white blood cell known as an enterocyte. When proteins are not properly broken down during digestion, they are identified as intruders instead of nutrients and the enterocytes attack them. The immune system then interprets that particular protein as an invader each time it is reintroduced. The foods most likely to cause a canine allergy include beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, eggs, and fish. Repeated exposure to an allergen creates a faster and more intense response by the white blood cells, causing symptoms to intensify.
Diagnosis of Natural Balance Allergies in Dogs
Your veterinarian will ask you for information regarding your pet’s health history as well as the timeline of the symptoms. This information in combination with the signs that your veterinarian uncovers during the physical examination will most likely prompt your veterinarian to collect samples from any of the areas with the swelling and rashes in the form of skin scrapings. The skin scrapings will be used to perform a microscopic examination of the skin cells in question. This analysis is called a cutaneous cytology and is done in order to uncover any potential problems. The type of complications that can be unveiled during cutaneous cytology could include yeast infections, mites, or signs of more serious diseases.
The exclusion of other conditions will generally lead to a suspicion of a food-related allergy, which means that an elimination diet will be implemented in order to get a definitive diagnosis. An elimination diet is a time-consuming process which involves switching the dog's diet entirely to a hypoallergenic or reduced ingredient commercial food, or to a diet of bland human food. Novel ingredients are generally preferred for an elimination diet and can include any proteins or carbohydrates that are not common in the dog’s current food. If the symptoms are truly caused by an allergy, a properly implemented elimination diet will cause them to fade over time. Once the symptoms of the allergy have been eliminated, additional ingredients are added back into the diet one at a time until the precise allergen can be identified.
Treatment of Natural Balance Allergies in Dogs
Several weeks may be required before the elimination diet reveals the culpable allergen or family of allergens, and during this time your pet may experience lingering symptoms. Corticosteroids may be effective in reducing swelling, and antihistamines may calm the itching, but these treatments also tend to make it a challenge to determine which ingredient or ingredients in your dog’s food is causing the reactions by masking allergic symptoms that would normally be apparent. For that reason, many veterinarians prefer to complete the elimination diet before recommending medications to combat the symptoms.
Rashes that are caused by food allergies often develop secondary skin infections, and antibiotics may be prescribed to combat these as well. Food allergies are not curable, but they are manageable. Once the allergen is clearly identified, avoidance of the ingredient is required. Symptoms cease when the allergen is removed from the animal’s diet, although they can reoccur if a new allergy develops. Any exposure to the allergen can cause a relapse, so care must be taken in the type of treats and flavorings you use for your dog. A single treat with the allergen can cause the allergy to resurface. Sources to avoid can include:
- Cow hooves
- Flavored medications (including heartworm preventives) or supplements
- Flavored plastic toys
- Flavored toothpastes
- Pigs Ears
Omega-3 oils and probiotics may also be recommended on a continual basis. These supplements provide immune support to manage any accidental exposures to known allergens and to prevent the cultivation of new allergies.
Recovery of Natural Balance Allergies in Dogs
Once a canine has developed an allergic response to one type of food they are more likely to develop an allergy or sensitivity to the ingredients in the replacement diet over time as well. Veterinarians differ in their approach to this situation, with some doctors advocating that your pet remain on a single source of food, while others maintain that a steady rotation of three of four novel protein foods is optimal. If your pet has experienced an episode of anaphylactic shock, an EpiPen will generally be prescribed to your pet, and you will be instructed in its use. It should be kept with your pet at all times in case the disorder is triggered again.