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Fowl play: Chicken allergy in dogs
2097

Fowl play: Chicken allergy in dogs

While this condition could be distressing for your canine companion, it can be managed by providing alternate protein sources, including fish and mutton, say experts
Some studies say up to 15% of dogs are allergic to chicken
In cases where a chicken allergy is suspected, dogs are usually put on an elimination diet for several weeks.

While dogs normally love all things containing chicken, did you know that many of them can be allergic to this tasty treat? Fifteen per cent of dogs are allergic to chicken, according to a study published in 2016.

Pallav Gupta, canine and feline nutritionist and founder of Pet Care Solutions, Bangalore, recalls how a normally cheerful two-year-old labrador retriever, Bruno, was brought to him after occasional bouts of post-meal vomiting.

Following a physical examination and scrutiny of the dog’s medical history, Gupta suspected a food allergy and suggested an elimination diet. Upon reintroducing chicken to the diet, the symptoms reappeared, confirming that the labrador had a chicken allergy.

Chicken allergy symptoms in dogs

Dogs may not necessarily be born with a chicken allergy, but could develop one over time. “Some dogs may develop food allergies early in life, whereas others may develop them later,” says Gupta. “The same goes with chicken [allergy].”

He elaborates on the different symptoms of chicken allergy in dogs:

  • Itching and skin irritation: Persistent itching, scratching and skin redness are common allergy symptoms. Further, dogs with chicken allergy may develop hives, rashes and hot spots (wound caused by a dog repeatedly chewing or licking the skin).
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Allergic reactions can affect the digestive system, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, an upset stomach, etc.
  • Ear infections: Some dogs may develop recurring ear infections.
  • Swelling: In severe cases, there may be swelling on the face or around the eyes, muzzle or other parts of the body.
  • Respiratory issues: Although less common, some dogs may experience respiratory symptoms such as coughing or sneezing in response to allergens.
  • Behavioral changes: Allergies can cause discomfort and change in behavior. A dog with allergies may become irritable or show signs of discomfort.

How is chicken allergy diagnosed?

Upon noticing any unusual symptoms in your dog, it is advisable to reach out to a veterinarian or canine nutritionist with your concerns. The experts will then follow a step-by-step procedure to identify the issue. The process begins with clinical observation, where they seek a detailed history of your dog’s symptoms: onset, duration and any observed patterns.

With the details in hand, the experts will suggest an elimination diet. “An elimination diet involves removing the suspected allergen — in this case, chicken — from your dog’s diet,” says Gupta. “Instead, your dog’s meal comprises a new protein and carbohydrate source that they have never tried before. Novel proteins such as duck, venison and rabbit, as well as carbohydrates like sweet potatoes or peas are popular options. During this time, the veterinarian will carefully monitor your dog’s reaction to the new diet.”

Gupta adds that while Bruno was on an elimination diet, consisting of venison and sweet potatoes, the previously seen symptoms subsided significantly.

After the dog has been on an elimination diet for a while, chicken is reintroduced into their diet. If the dog exhibits the same symptoms after this, they are likely to be allergic to chicken. “Bruno’s symptoms reappeared once we fed him chicken after several weeks, which confirmed the suspicion of allergy,” Gupta says.

Apart from this protocol, veterinarians may prescribe specific allergy tests in some cases.

“These are of two main types: skin tests and blood tests,” he adds. “While the former involves injecting small amounts of allergens beneath the skin and observing the dog’s reaction, the latter works by measuring the amount of specific antibodies (IgE) produced in response to allergens. However, these tests may have limitations and produce false positives or negatives.”

How to manage the condition

Managing a dog’s diet when they have a chicken allergy can be difficult, especially in India, where chicken is a popular protein source in commercial dog foods. “Pet parents of dogs with a chicken allergy need to be more mindful of their pet’s diet,” emphasizes Gupta. “I advise them to scrutinize the listed ingredients in commercial pet food and avoid those mentioning chicken or chicken eggs. They should opt for a meal without the allergen, or talk to a nutritionist and prepare a homemade meal for their canine companion.”

However, having a chicken allergy does not mean that your dog has to skip meat altogether. Instead, pet parents can look at other types of meat. Gupta recommends quail, mutton, turkey, duck, rabbit, fish and pork as healthy alternatives.

Are these dogs prone to other allergies?

Dogs with a chicken allergy could be more susceptible to other allergies. However, vets and nutritionists stress that allergies in dogs are complex, and individual reactions vary. “A dog’s allergy to chicken does not necessarily imply that they will develop allergies to other foods or substances,” says Gupta. “However, dogs with one type of allergy may be more prone to developing other types of allergies.”

Takeaways

  • Dogs with a chicken allergy are likely to exhibit symptoms like skin irritation that show up as persistent itching, scratching and skin redness, and gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting. Ear infections and respiratory issues may also be seen.
  • Upon suspecting a chicken allergy, vets recommend an elimination diet for several weeks. If the symptoms subside and only show up when chicken is reintroduced, the dog is likely to be allergic to chicken.
  • Pet parents of such dogs should pay attention to ingredients in commercial dog food to avoid the allergen. They can also opt for home-cooked meals.

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