Canine Allergies from a Functional Perspective
Few people would question that both the human and canine populations are experiencing an epidemic of allergies. Unfortunately, that is also where the consensus ends. We cannot even agree as to the definition of allergy. Conventional medicine defines allergies as being either to pollen or to food. Functionally, the body does not make any such distinction. Allergic dogs have both pollen and food allergies at the same time. Allergies are an immunologic reaction which results in the production of above normal levels of antibodies.
The immune system does not distinguish between pollen and food.
It is programmed to react to any protein it deems to be foreign. A complex process goes on during the first few days of life which programs the immune system to be able to distinguish friend (food) from foe (virus, bacteria, parasite, etc.). The ground work for future allergies is laid when this interaction between the immune system, intestinal micro flora, and proteins which enter the GI tract goes awry. 75% of the mammalian immune system in the gut. From a functional perspective, when a dog is allergic, it is likely that 75% of the problem is in the gut. Correcting food allergies often results in pollen allergies becoming non-symptomatic. Treating allergies is like juggling 3 bottles of nitroglycerine (the immune system, the GI micro flora, and foreign proteins).
At the present time, it does not appear to be possible to “cure” allergies- although there are some novel approaches that appear promising. Conventional treatment usually involves various drugs such as steroids and antihistamine, which provide temporary relief at best and have significant side effects. In addition, testing for pollen sensitivity is done in order to institute a program of desensitization. Injections of “immune serum” are given every 7-21 days for the rest of the dog’s life. These injections stimulate production of antibodies which block the antibodies causing the allergy. In addition to not working well, desensitization injections result in the creation of immune complexes which cause disease in other parts of the body- such as the hips and kidneys.
The functional medicine approach to treating allergies is to develop a hypoallergenic diet, which reduces the allergy load by 75%. This is done by measuring serum antibodies to various foods. Once a hypoallergenic diet is instituted, dramatic improvement is expected within 1 week. If that does not occur, the problem is often an imbalance of intestinal micro flora. Test can reveal the nature of the imbalance.
Correcting the imbalance will help many patients. There are some patients whose immune systems are so dysfunctional that only immune suppressive drugs will provide relief. Thankfully, these are the exceptions.
It appears that a cure for allergies will involve changing the immune system- probably through some sort of recombinant DNA process. Unfortunately, that is some time in the future. At present, the best treatment is avoidance of those foods one is allergic to and taking high doses of probiotics to maintain balance in the gut micro flora.