Food allergies & insect protein

We get many questions about whether our food is a suitable choice for an allergic dog or a dog with a sensitive stomach. In this article we cover some basics in allergies, and explain why an insect-based food might work for food-allergic dogs. Remember that if you have an allergic dog, a dog with suspected allergy or a dog with a special health condition, you should always consult your veterinarian before making changes to the dog's diet.

In this article we will cover:

  • What are the most common allergies?

  • What symptoms can be caused by allergy?

  • What are the diagnostic methods?

  • How does an elimination diet work?

  • What is the difference between hydrolysed and hypoallergenic protein?

  • Why can petgoods insect-based food help?

What are the most common allergies?

Allergies in dogs can simply put be divided into two categories: food allergy or atopy. Atopy is an allergy to factors in the environment, such as pollen, grass, mites or mold. We will only cover food allergy in this article, but keep in mind that the dog can have both food allergy and atopy at the same time, or just one. When it comes to food allergies, the most common allergen is a protein source. According to a study by Mueller et al (2016), the most common dietary allergens for dogs are beef, dairy, chicken, wheat and lamb.

What symptoms can be caused by allergy?

Allergies can manifest themselves through either dermatological symptoms, such as itching, rashes, skin irritations, red paws and recurrent ear infections. The dog may also have gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.

What are the diagnostic methods? 

If you suspect that your dog is allergic, it is recommended that you start an allergy examination with a veterinarian. The investigation follows several steps according to the exclusion method where you try to find out what causes the allergy, and find a treatment method that works. There are many treatment methods, but it can take some time to find the one that works best for your dog.

How does an elimination diet work?

If it is suspected that your dog has food allergy, an elimination diet is a step in the investigation towards finding out what your dog is allergic to. In these diets, food with hydrolysed protein is often used. The aim is to figure out whether your dog has food allergies, and if yes, which allergens your dog is reacting to. If your dog is undergoing an allergy investigation and specifically is put on an elimination diet, do not change food without first consulting your veterinarian!

What is the difference between hydrolysed and hypoallergenic protein?

A hydrolysed protein is a protein that is broken down into tiny tiny pieces. Thanks to this, the allergic dog's immune system does not overreact to it, because it does not recognize it as a protein. This means that allergic dogs often tolerate different types of hydrolysed food, and they are therefore used in elimination diets.

A hypoallergenic protein is a protein that is from a more unusual source. Because the dog has not been exposed to the protein before, the immune system usually does not react to it with an allergic reaction.

Why can petgood's insect-based food help?

Insect protein falls into the second category above - it is a new, unusual source of protein. Because the dog has not been exposed to the protein source before, the risk of the immune system reacting to the protein is smaller. Insects are also the only animal protein source in the petgood diet. The hypoallergenic insect protein, in combination with the fact that the food is free of wheat and gluten, further reduces the risk of symptoms from the gastrointestinal tract. In other words, the food is free from common allergens such as beef, chicken, dairy, wheat, lamb, egg and soy.

A study by Lee et al evaluated insect protein in clinical trials, where food allergic dogs were divided into groups fed different types of diets for 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, a significant improvement in dermatological symptoms was seen in the group fed the insect-based diet, i.e. the dogs had a lower incidence of rashes, redness and skin irritations compared to the control group. The study can be found here.

There is no food that will 100% work for all allergic dogs, as all dogs are unique and their needs are different. According to current research, there is a risk of cross-reaction between insect species, which means that dogs with known mite allergy can also react to insects. This is an area that is still being researched, but dog owners of mite allergic dogs should be aware that there is a risk that they will also react to an insect-based diet.

Finally, we have now straightened out some basic allergy concepts and explained how our food can be suitable for dogs suffering from food allergies and sensitive stomachs. And last but not least, we always recommend you with an allergic dog to consult your veterinarian before making any changes to the dog's treatment, feeding or routines. 🐶❤

If you'd like to check out some stories from food allergic dogs that have transitioned to our food, you can read more about for example Hank, Stella and Barbie here.
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Pernilla Westergren, Founder & CEO