Specialty Dog Foods May Curb Adverse Skin Reactions to Foods

Dietary considerations play a vital role in managing a condition that has a big impact on a dog’s well-being.

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The human-animal bond is the precious bond between a pet and its owner. One of the most important aspects of this integral bond is the quality and type of nutrition in the animal’s diet. Dietary nutrition plays a crucial role in the development of young dogs and the maintenance of health throughout life.1 There are several disease processes associated with poor nutrition. For example, specific nutrients, feeding methods, and electrolyte balances have been shown to influence hip dysplasia in dogs.2 Dogs with illnesses may have different nutritional needs and should be fed specific diets.

Pet owners can be overwhelmed by the vast selection of food options available for their pets. There are around 400 recognized dog breeds around the world, with wide variations in size and weight. Dogs can consume and use energy from animal products and plant foods.3 Diet is an important contributor to social interactions and mental well-being in dogs. Studies have shown that diets rich in vitamins and minerals can decrease antisocial behavior. When fed an ill-balanced diet, dogs can develop cognitive deficits and neuropathology similar to those seen in humans with dementia.4 Studies have shown that dog foods fortified with antioxidants decrease the rate of cognitive decline in older beagles.5

Good nutrition also plays a central role in canine hypersensitivity disorders. These conditions, especially atopic dermatitis (AD), can be frustrating to manage for both the pet owner and the veterinary clinician. AD affects approximately 10% of the canine population. AD in the canine patient is often due to environmental allergens, but it can also be a manifestation of an adverse cutaneous food reaction (CAFR). A patient with AD due to food allergy may appear clinically identical to a patient with AD due to aeroallergens.6 It is up to the clinical veterinarian to differentiate them by history and exclusion.

CAFR can manifest at any age. Recently published data indicate that the average age at onset was approximately 3 years.seven Dogs diagnosed with foodborne AD tended to be younger ( 6 years) than those with AD induced by aeroallergens. It should be noted that the age of onset varied from less than 1 to 13 years. About 40% of affected patients present before the age of 1 year. There is no known strong sexual predilection for dogs with CAFR. Although any breed can be affected, the condition seems to be most common in German Shepherds, Labradors and West Highland White Terriers.8

The most common clinical sign seen with canine CAFR is non-seasonal pruritus – over 90% of affected dogs suffer from it. In some severe cases, pruritus may not respond to anti-inflammatory doses of glucocorticoids. The veterinary clinician should keep in mind that pruritus can manifest in many ways, including excessive grooming, licking, rubbing, and shaking of the head. Many patients will experience generalized pruritus, but specific areas, such as the legs, stomach, or ears, can be focal points of discomfort.

In addition to generalized pruritus, 10-20% of canine CAFR patients develop systemic signs, with diarrhea being the most common. Other clinical signs include vomiting, increased flatulence, tenesmus and increased stools. Additionally, secondary bacterial and yeast infections are common in these patients due to self-trauma and overcolonization of these microorganisms.

When CAFR is suspected, a detailed discussion with the pet owner should include information about the diagnoses needed to confirm the condition. The gold standard in the diagnosis of CAFR is a limited ingredient or hydrolyzed diet trial followed by a positive challenge test.9 This can be difficult for some pet owners because these diets can be more expensive than the regular diet. The majority of dogs should be fed this strict diet for up to 8 weeks to assess the full benefits; no unauthorized treats or human food should be given. Although trials of home-cooked diets are possible as long as the owner is advised on nutritional balance, it is strongly recommended that only commercially available veterinary therapeutic diets be used. There is evidence that over-the-counter diets may contain unintentionally added protein that is not on the ingredient list, such as chicken. Some commercially available veterinary therapeutic diet options for dermatological conditions include: BLUE Natural Veterinary Diet HF, BLUE Natural Veterinary Diet NP, Royal Canin Ultamino, Royal Canin Selected Protein PR, Hill’s z/d, Hill’s d/d Potato & Salmon , Purina Pro Plan HA Hydrolyzed (Chicken Flavor) and Rayne Clinical Nutrition Kangaroo-MAINT with Chickpea (Table 1).

There is still much unknown about CAFR, and it remains the focus of considerable research. It is imperative for the veterinary clinician to remember to develop a treatment plan for the patient that focuses on preventing flare-ups. No plan is perfect and CAFR blowouts should be anticipated. The pet owner should be counseled on expected flares and how to control them without panic. The goal of CAFR management is to improve the canine patient’s quality of life and improve the human-animal bond.

The references

  1. Tanprasertsuk J, Tate DE, Shmalberg J. Roles of herbal ingredients and phytonutrients in canine nutrition and health. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). Published online September 8, 2021. doi:10.1111/jpn.13626
  2. Olivry T, DeBoer DJ, Favrot C, et al. Treatment of canine atopic dermatitis: 2010 clinical practice guidelines from the international canine atopic dermatitis task force. Dermatol Veterinarian. 2010;21(3):233-248. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3164.2010.00889.x
  3. Olivry T, DeBoer DJ, Favrot C, et al. Treatment of canine atopic dermatitis: guidelines updated in 2015 by the International Committee on Allergic Diseases of Animals (ICADA). BMC Vet Res. 2015;11:210. doi:10.1186/s12917-015-0514-6
  4. Massey KA, Blakeslee C, Pitkow HS. A review of the physiological and metabolic effects of essential amino acids. Amino acids. 1998;14(4):271-300. doi:10.1007/BF01318848
  5. Miller W, Griffin C, Campbell K. Muller & Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology 7th Edition. Elsevier; 2013.
  6. Studzinski CM, Araujo JA, Milgram NW. The canine model of human cognitive aging and dementia: pharmacological validity of the model for the evaluation of drugs improving human cognition, Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2005;29(3):489-498. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2004.12.014
  7. Olivier T, Mueller RS. Critically Appraised Topic Adverse Food Reactions in Companion Animals (3): Prevalence of Adverse Skin Food Reactions in Dogs and Cats. BMC Veterinary Res. 2017;13(1):51. doi:10.1186/s12917-017-0973-z
  8. Olivier T, Mueller RS. Critically Appraised Topic of Adverse Food Reactions in Pets (7): Signaling and Skin Manifestations of Dogs and Cats with Adverse Food Reactions. BMC Veterinary Res. 2019;15(1):140. doi:10.1186/s12917-019-1880-2
  9. Richardson DC. The role of nutrition in canine hip dysplasia. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim. 1992;22(3):529-540. doi:10.1016/s0195-5616(92)50053-5

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