What are Pumpkin Allergies?
Canines who develop allergies to foods such as pumpkin can experience chronic conditions such as ear infections, gas, and wheezing as well as the swollen, itchy skin. An allergy is the body’s immune responding to a perceived threat, in this case, the flesh or seeds of the pumpkin. In order to definitively determine which allergen is causing your pet's allergy, an elimination diet may be recommended. This can be a time-consuming technique, but it is still the most efficient method of deducing which ingredient is causing the reaction.
A pumpkin allergy is an over-reaction of your dog's immune system to an unwelcome protein that is present in pumpkins or their seeds.
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Symptoms of Pumpkin Allergies in Dogs
Although canines can develop food allergies at any age, the majority of dogs do not acquire them until they are three years old or older. Skin reactions are often located around the face, groin, under the front legs, or 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
Pumpkin is an uncommon allergen and is sometimes used as an ingredient for elimination diets if it has not been introduced to the patient previously. That is not the only benefit of pumpkin, however. For the dog not allergic to pumpkin, it can fill a number of healthy roles in your pet’s diet. Unseasoned, pureed pumpkin is a great help with digestive troubles due to a large amount of beneficial fiber, and can also prove to be an excellent weight loss aid when used in conjunction with a weight loss regime as it can help your dog to feel full when dieting.
Causes of Pumpkin Allergies in Dogs
Allergies occur when the body mounts a strong defensive response to a protein that the immune system has marked as an invasive substance. Approximately 60-70% of the cells in our immune system cells are estimated to reside in the gastrointestinal system, and the same applies to our canines. Digestion is designed to process and break down our foods, like pumpkin or pumpkin seeds, into amino acids. These amino acids are small enough to be absorbed and transported into the bloodstream by white blood cells called enterocytes. When pumpkin proteins are not properly broken down during digestion, the enterocytes will recognize them as intruders and attack. The response of the immune cells becomes more aggressive over time, and symptoms intensify.
Diagnosis of Pumpkin Allergies in Dogs
The symptoms that are exhibited by canines due to an allergy to pumpkin will prompt your veterinarian to collect a skin sample of the affected areas for a microscopic evaluation of the skin cells. This diagnostic procedure can help to rule out yeast infections, mites, or signs of disease. This assessment is called cutaneous cytology. When the cutaneous cytology does not reveal any of these problems, then a food allergy may be suspected. Food allergies are often confirmed using an elimination diet, which involves exchanging the dog's current diet to either a reduced ingredient commercial food or a diet of bland human food. Novel ingredients, meaning proteins and carbohydrates that are not common in the dog’s current food, are generally required for an elimination diet. All of the ingredients in the current diet should be avoided when determining the proper replacement food.
Foods like pumpkin are sometimes added as a novel ingredient, provided it was not included in your pet’s previous diet. Symptoms caused by an allergy should cease after a few weeks of a properly implemented elimination diet. Once the symptoms have completely ceased, additional ingredients will be added back into the diet until the allergen is revealed. During the elimination diet, it is essential to ensure that the patient does not consume anything other than the food used for the elimination diet. Even a single treat with the allergen can cause the allergy to resurface.
Treatment of Pumpkin Allergies in Dogs
Once the allergen has been identified, the primary treatment is avoidance of the ingredient, however, it can take several weeks for the inciting ingredient to be revealed by the elimination diet, and during this time your pet may still experience symptoms. Corticosteroids are often recommended to reduce swelling as well, and antihistamines help to calm the itching. Use of these treatments can also make it harder to define which ingredient in your dog’s diet is causing the allergic reaction by masking the associated symptoms. Many veterinarians prefer to complete the elimination diet before applying these types of medications, for this reason.
Food allergies are not curable, but symptoms will quit once the allergen has been removed from the dog’s diet. Any exposure to the ingredient that your dog is allergic to can cause a relapse, therefore care must be taken in the type of treats or flavored toys that you allow your dog to have. If your dog is allergic to pumpkin, then pumpkin flavored treats should be avoided, as well as toys with pumpkin flavor or scent. Canines who develop an allergy to one type of food are more likely to eventually acquire an allergy to the ingredients in the substitute diet as well. Veterinarians differ in their approach to combat 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.
Recovery of Pumpkin Allergies in Dogs
Secondary skin infections are a common side effect of food allergies, and antibiotics may be prescribed to combat this problem. If your dog has been given antibiotics to fight off an infection, it is important to give the entire prescribed amount to your pet, even if symptoms seem to vanish. Quitting antibiotics too early can lead to the infection resurfacing. Other supplements, such as probiotics and Omega-3 oils, may be recommended to support the immune system as well, even after the elimination diet is completed to support the immune system. This will help your dog to handle any accidental exposure to allergens and to prevent the cultivation of new allergies.