What are Non-Beef Protein Allergies?
There are many different reasons to choose to avoid beef in your canine’s diet. Many dog owners cite ethical and political reasons for eschewing the cattle industry, and big industry farms in general, while other pet parents are concerned that beef may increase their pet’s chances of developing cancers. The most common cause for removing beef from a dog’s diet, however, is an allergy to beef. Beef allergies are one of the most common food allergies to develop in canines.
There are many alternative proteins for a dog with allergies to the amino acids present in beef. These sources may be animal or vegetable in nature.
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Symptoms of Non-Beef Protein Allergies in Dogs
Allergies to beef in canines, like other food allergies, can develop at any age. The majority of dogs do not develop allergies to food until they are older than three years old. Skin reactions are usually located around the face and groin, as well as under the front legs, and between the toes.
- 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
Food allergy - An actual food allergy is the immune system’s response to an amino acid that it sees as a threat. An allergic reaction doesn’t occur the first time the immune system is exposed to the allergen but rather after repeated exposures. Any food can instigate an allergic reaction, but some foods, such as beef, dairy, chicken, and eggs are more likely to cause allergies in canines.
Food intolerance - Unlike an allergy to food, food intolerance has no direct immune involvement and is more likely to cause a gastrointestinal response than allergies will. Additional symptoms, such as gurgling sounds from the digestive system or a change in the consistency or color of the stools are commonplace with a food intolerance.
Causes of Non-Beef Protein Allergies in Dogs
Allergies of all sorts, including to non-beef proteins, are due to an abnormally robust defensive response to a protein that the immune system has branded as an invasive substance. An estimated 60-70% of immune system cells reside within the digestive system of most mammals. The digestion process breaks food down into the smallest particles possible, also known as amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed by enterocytes, a type of white blood cell tasked with transporting the amino acid into the bloodstream. When proteins are not properly broken down during digestion, these enterocytes see them as intruders instead of nutrients and attack them. The response of these cells becomes more aggressive over time, and symptoms to non-beef proteins usually intensify.
Diagnosis of Non-Beef Protein Allergies in Dogs
An elimination diet is generally implemented in order to reach a definitive diagnosis. An elimination diet requires a change in the dog’s diet to either unseasoned, boiled human grade food, or to a reduced ingredient or hypoallergenic commercial food. Novel ingredients are generally used for an elimination diet, meaning proteins and carbohydrates that are not common in the dog’s current food. All of the elements in the current food should be avoided when determining the proper replacement food. In some cases it is the entire food family that your pet is reacting to, so switching from a beef diet to a different type of meat, like poultry or fish, may have better results than switching to another red meat alternative like bison or lamb.
Symptoms that are caused by an allergic reaction will cease when an elimination diet is properly implemented. Once the symptoms have been eradicated, additional ingredients can be added back into the diet one at a time until the correct allergen is identified. During this period, it is essential to ensure your dog does not ingest anything other than the food used for the elimination diet. A single treat with the allergen can cause the allergy to resurface.
Treatment of Non-Beef Protein Allergies in Dogs
There are many alternative protein sources for your dog if it cannot have beef due to allergies. These could include:
Red meat proteins - This would include meats like elk, buffalo, and lamb. Although you may be able to feed your pet a replacement diet with red meat as a staple, other red meats are the most likely ingredient on this list to become an allergenic source to your dog, as they are closest in composition to beef itself.
Other mammal proteins - In many cases, other mammal proteins such as pork, kangaroo, and rabbit are fine alternatives to beef. The differences in the proteins are significant enough to avoid allergies in most cases, although proteins that are uncommon in your animal’s environment, such as kangaroo and beaver are less likely to induce new allergies.
Avian proteins - Proteins from birds are generally very different from beef proteins, however, chicken, turkey, and eggs are common allergens. To avoid an allergic reaction, you may want to choose an exotic alternative, like emu or pheasant.
Fish proteins - Replacing a beef based diet with fish as the primary protein not only avoids the allergen, but adds additional Omega-3 oils to the diet, which will improve the overall skin health of the patient.
Vegetarian proteins - In rare cases, your dog may be allergic to all types of meat. Fortunately, protein sources such as soybeans, peas, and lentils can be digested by the canine system. It is important to ensure that your dog gets enough of the nutrients taurine, L-Carnitine, and B12, and this is usually achieved by the use of supplements.
Recovery of Non-Beef Protein Allergies in Dogs
Allergies to foods are managed rather than cured, as symptoms usually cease if the allergen is removed from the animal’s diet. Any new exposures to the allergen can cause a return of the symptoms so the type of flavorings and treats you use for your allergic dog should be carefully monitored. Unfortunately, if your canine has had an allergic response to one type of food they are more likely to develop 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 remain on a single source of food, while others maintain that a steady rotation of three of four novel protein foods is optimal. Discussion with your veterinarian, of what is best for your pet, is key to resolving the non-beef protein allergy.