I was blessed (I am being sarcastic) to have my very first puppy teach me all about allergies in dogs.
Thanks to Kazzie, I can prep an elimination diet in my sleep.
Despite doing "everything right" by making sure her parents had hip and elbow scores done! But hips and elbows turned out to be the least of my issues: Kaz, my German Shepherd puppy had every allergy under the sun. She was even allergic to grass. So despite all the elimination diets we did, Kaz was still suffering from allergies.
But thanks to Kaz, I have researched nutrition extensively!
She was so sick she tried to starve herself.
I remember being in tears every day because Kaz wouldn't eat. Kaz would go for three days without eating food, then she'd eat Zakkie's poo.
It was gross.
It was stressful.
I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy (and trust me... I have a few).
Why wouldn't my puppy eat? I was beyond stressed. I tried every trick I could think of to try and get her to eat.
Some of it worked, some of the time. Most of it didn't.
I felt like she wanted to starve herself.
And elimination diet is so that you can see what foods your dog is allergic to. Or even if it's food. It's important to rule out food.
It's an opportunity to see what the problem really is.
To do this correctly, you need to take away all food except for one type of meat.
Ideally you'll remove all the meat varieties your dog has been exposed to and feed a species your dog has never eaten, like Duck or Possum or Rabbit.
A whole rabbit including organs, will give your dog all the nutrition they need. Just feed through the whole rabbit.
You will need to do this for at least 2 weeks or even up to a month. You must add in one protein source at a time and give it at least a couple of weeks before adding in the next one to give enough time to find where the problem is.
I was desperate to help Kaz.
I didn't want her to go on steroids, so I turned to diet instead.
I was one of the founding admins on the New Zealand Raw Feeding Group, helping other dog owners solve their dog's diet issues.
Thanks to Kaz for the motivation and the education.
I did find that pork made Kazzie's allergies worse, but other than that I couldn't find a diet that made Kazzie's allergies better. It was genetic.
By the time she was 12 months old I gave up on not having her on steroids. These were the days before Appoquil, but I'm not sure that would have worked on her. Finally I gave up, because Kazzie's ears were so gunked up that she needed to be sedated to get them cleaned out.
I don't know if anyone can quite understand the stress and complete overwhealm you feel when your dog who is totally dependent on you is this sick.
Most people think dogs are fussy when they won't eat the food we offer, but from my experience, most "fussy" dogs aren't actually fussy... But I'll dissect this in a future blog post!
I did reduce Kaz's dosage down as low as I could. She made 9. Those first 12 months was a baptism by fire as far as learning all about diet was concerned. To be fair I probably would have preferred hip or elbow problems. Dealing with allergies sucks.
Short answer? Yes.
This is the first step to try with every dog suffering from allergies.
You want to eliminate diet first. The important things to note are that you should choose a protein source that your dog hasn't eaten before.
Because you will know that they're not allergic to that protein source (think a animal type like chicken, sheep, beef, rabbit, duck, pork, wallaby or possum - these are the protein types freely available in New Zealand).
Then only feed that meat until your dog's allergies clear up. If they don't clear up after a month, consider that your dog might be allergic to something else.
Don't add more than 1 food item at a time and be sure to give it at least 2 weeks to see if your dog reacts to the new protein. If it doesn't work, check your dog for other allergies, either grass or seasonal.