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The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

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Canine Allergies: A Bird Dog that’s Allergic to Birds (Part 2)

Posted November 05, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta
Pathfinder Tags: allergies blood serum dogs VARL

My bird dog is allergic to birds - this was the verdict of the allergy test conducted to see what is causing my dog to lick off her hair. The test didn't include allergens for pheasant and quail, the birds she's trained to point, but it did cover common birds like chicken that are used in dog food. Click to read Part 1 of this series about options for canine allergy testing.

Allergy Test Results

VARL tests for 40 allergens based on geographic region. Freckles was tested for eastern regional allergens. Our vet also opted for an extended foods allergen test that checked for a response to 20 food allergens. Each allergen is assigned a class score based on the blood serum analysis. A score of 0 indicates no response while a score of 6 is an ultra-high response.

We received the results of the blood serum analysis about 10 days after the sample was sent to VARL. Freckles isn't allergic to everything or to people, but her sensitivity list is quite long.

Environmental Allergens

  • Weeds - short ragweed, mugwort, sorrel, giant ragweed, dandelion, lamb's quarter, yellow dock
  • Trees - maple, walnut, pine, elm, sycamore
  • Grasses - timothy
  • House Dust Mites - D. farina
  • Insects - cockroach, flea

Food Allergens

  • Extended Foods - chicken, duck, rabbit, corn, peas, barley, yeast

Freckles' allergen class score was a 1 or 2 in each of the categories in the list. This does not indicate a strong response in the lab; however, she has a severe response in real life so treatment is necessary.


The first priority was to switch her from a chicken-based food to one comprised largely of beef. The food needs to be grain-free to avoid corn and barley. For now Freckles is eating an Honest Kitchen dehydrated food product. I'm researching other food options, including meat from the grocery store, and that will probably be another blog topic down the line!

Suitable treats were tough to find; many contain peas as a thickening ingredient or yeast to make biscuits rise. The sweet potato, salmon, and apple biscuits from Natural Balance fit her needs.

It can take several months for a diet change to help decrease an allergic response. During my research I discovered that a food allergy response is itchiness that leads to a rash. Freckles will remain on medication to keep this symptom under control until the response begins to weaken.

Also, changing the diet doesn't help with the response to environmental allergies. A lingering summer and mild fall didn't produce much frost to kill weeds. The next step for Freckles is customized allergy shots.

Allergy shots take about six months to be effective. Learning about allergy shots for dogs will be Part 3 of this blog series.




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Re: Canine Allergies: A Bird Dog that’s Allergic to Birds (Part 2)

11/06/2012 7:42 AM

Try to make sure your animal is not eating any food with grains especially corn or soy as 98% of this crop is GMO and has a history of allergies and other insidious health issues. I would suggest a raw diet for a start and try for an organic fed source of raw food. Just in case the canine has parasites I suggest diatomaceous Earth as it is safe and effective. My cats appear to get 5 years younger in activity and appearance after I put them on this for parasites.

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Re: Canine Allergies: A Bird Dog that’s Allergic to Birds (Part 2)

11/06/2012 7:55 AM

Some random thoughts here.

I would guess that you've thought about the shampoo you use when you bathe your dog, but you haven't mentioned it. So I'll ask - Are you using a product like Johnson's Baby Shampoo or some type of hypo-allergenic shampoo made for dogs?

You did mention an allergy to fleas, but you did not mention using a product like Frontline to control fleas. So I'll ask that also - What do you use to control fleas?

You briefly mentioned the outdoor environment. Does your dog have a well-controlled area of lawn to run in? Is it an area that is free of the allergens you mentioned, as well as being free of lawn-care products? Does she get plenty of exercise to burn off energy and to avoid stress and anxiety?

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Re: Canine Allergies: A Bird Dog that’s Allergic to Birds (Part 2)

11/06/2012 8:10 AM

These are all great questions.

Shampoo: She's bathed about once a month with a shampoo like Zymox. We use Zymox lotion on her itchy areas, too.

Fleas: I use a flea-control product in the summer but she's never had any fleas that I noticed. Our cat is occasionally a carrier but he didn't have any this year, either; just ticks. The vet said that most dogs are allergic to fleas.

Outdoors: We have a small fenced yard that is half grass - untreated by chemicals. Next door are walnut trees that we cannot remove but we do regularly clear the leaves from our property. She's allowed to run in a field a couple of days a week and goes on several-mile walks other days but is always exposed to grass and leaves.

Stress: She is not kept in a crate so she can roam the house while we're out, has another dog as a companion, lots of toys and real bones, lots of attention when we're home, etc. She's a real watchdog and the only thing I can think of that may be stressing her out are all of the joggers and bicyclers that go by! Her attention to this has decreased as we keep the blinds and curtains closed.


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Re: Canine Allergies: A Bird Dog that’s Allergic to Birds (Part 2)

11/06/2012 12:36 PM

I think some allergy cases (both in humans and animals) may be due to nutritional issues -- non-"norm" requirements, genetically expressed. A good starting point for analyzing possibilities is an article, also on WebMD. (Yes, it is for humans, but the mechanisms of many bodily functions are similar in humans and other mammals.)

My own experience with (Stinging) Nettle is that it works for some, me for sure. I developed allergic reactions to different pollens in the air within a year of moving to a new city because of work. I asked an associate who was also sneezing, coughing, and teary-eyed about it. She said it was multiple agents, as far as she could tell. I had known about Nettle and had used it before, but was not using it at the time. I started it and within a week or so the symptoms began to go away. I have continued to use it ever since then (2004) and do not have allergy problems here anymore. (In my experience, once allergies manifest, they recur every season.)

Disease can be a very stubborn nut to crack as far as linking it to nutrition. Just because certain "natural" remedies, or supplements, don't work, doesn't mean there isn't a "natural" (meaning nutritional, etc.) treatment that is effective. Finding or discovering it can outstrip one's patience. Looking at books about Toxicology, and how it can be difficult to set limits on exposure, etc., it dawned on me that the same perspective can be applied to the idea of nutrition. Or, I would say, it is equally logical thinking that individual responses to nutrients can be just as individual as response to toxins.

I'm sure you are aware that herbal extracts are sometimes "standardized" such that what has been determined as the "active" chemical in the plant is present in a certain concentration in the supplement. That may be or not. I prefer using the whole herb form and just take more, if needed. For my allergy symptoms, noted above, I take 2 capsules a day total -- typically, one from the leaf and one from the root, morning and evening. I do note that the WebMD article says the root affects prostrate issues and not allergies. At my age, that can be a plus.

There are articles about treating pet allergies naturally, just, usually, not nutritionally. I just came across a book listed at this site called "Dr. Kidd's Guide to Herbal Dog Care." Since he is a practicing vet. one would hope he has cases to back up any recommended treatments. This seems to be an informative page about dog food.

If you have no desire to investigate and try such things, you could always consult with your vet. about using fractions of prescription meds. for symptomatic relief until you think the allergy shots will begin to take effect.

I hope your pet gets some relief from your efforts.

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