Food Allergy or Intolerance?

Food allergies are the result of the over-response of the immune system to a food protein. Nearly all food your dog eats contains protein and these proteins all have the ability to trigger food allergies.

The most common proteins that cause allergy symptoms in dogs are beef, dairy and chicken, although some plant based proteins including corn, wheat and soy, can also be triggers.

While food allergies are an increasingly large problem in dogs, most vets and pet owners are most concerned with treating existing allergies with food elimination diets or immune suppressing drugs. Anybody who has a dog with allergies knows they are notoriously difficult to treat, so focusing on prevention is important for any pet owner.

And the first step toward prevention of allergies is of course being able to identify their cause.....

When food proteins are injected directly into the blood stream, a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction against this new allergen causes a response in a type of immune cell called a TH2 lymphocyte, which belongs to a subset of T cells that produce a cytokine called interleukin-4 (IL-4). These TH2 cells interact with other lymphocytes called B cells, whose role is the production of antibodies. Coupled with signals provided by IL-4, this interaction stimulates the B cell to begin production of a large amount of a type of antibody specific to food proteins, known as IgE.

Secreted IgE circulates in the blood and binds to an IgE-specific receptor on the surface of other kinds of immune cells called mast cells and basophils, which are both involved in the acute inflammatory response. The IgE-coated cells are then sensitized to the allergen (food proteins).

If the vaccinated dog now eats these foods, the food proteins bind to the IgE held on the surface of the mast cells or basophils. Cross-linking of the IgE and Fc receptors occurs when more than one IgE- receptor complex interacts with the same food allergenic molecule, and activates the sensitized cell. Activated mast cells and basophils undergo a process called degranulation, during which they release histamine and other inflammatory chemi- cal mediators (cytokines, interleukins, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins) from their granules into the surrounding tissue, causing several systemic responses, such as vasodilation, mucus secretion, nerve stimulation and smooth muscle contrac- tion. This is what causes food allergy symptoms like itchiness and inflamed ears.

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