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Food intolerance in dogs and cats: symptoms and remedies

Dr. Canello, whose mission is to look ahead, to explore new frontiers in Veterinary medicine, can be defined by at least two aspects...

Food intolerance in dogs and cats: symptoms and remedies

Dr. Canello, whose mission is to look ahead, to explore new frontiers in Veterinary medicine, can be defined by at least two aspects: his studies and research concerning food allergies and intolerances and the use of homeopathy in Veterinary medicine. Regarding the former, does it not seem singular, unnatural, to focus on fish as the backbone of dog nutrition, this being a notoriously carnivorous animal?

"Absolutely not! First of all, please note that dogs are in fact now omnivores. In addition, fish substitutes meat perfectly and is the ideal alternative. As proof, just remember that Nordic dogs - such as the Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Samoyed, Terranova, Labrador and others - are usually fed on fish in their countries of origin, enjoying, amongst others, an excellent health. Even from a nutritional point of view, however, it can safely be said that the use of fish as a protein source in dog nutrition is in every respect a winning choice: fish proteins in fact offer a high biological value and high digestibility; fish is moreover naturally rich in those unsaturated fatty acids which so effectively contribute to the well-being of the skin, the fur and the whole organism. Furthermore, it offers a very high degree of palatability and only very rarely – and contrary to what is commonly believed – does it induce hypersensitivity and intolerance in those that consume it. If anything, fish is currently the best alternative protein in food intolerance therapy".

- You mentioned hypersensitivity and intolerance phenomena: do you want to briefly further this topic?

"Just a reminder that food hypersensitivity means all the immune reaction phenomena a subject can develop regarding certain food ingredients. We know that hypersensitivity is an allergic phenomenon which develops in dogs and cats mainly via dermatological diseases (itching, dermatitis, eczema). Food intolerance, on the other hand, relates to all negative reactions to food.

Such non-immunological reactions - such as food and metabolic intolerances, pharmacological reactions and toxic phenomena - can affect the whole organism, including the skin, gastrointestinal organs, visual, auditory and urinary apparatus and the nervous system".

- It is widely believed among researchers that currently a large percentage of skin diseases affecting dogs are due precisely to allergic reactions to certain foods: beef, pork, pasta, cereals and more. Do you share this viewpoint?

"No: although the literature is consistent in identifying hypersensitivity phenomena, especially towards the most common proteins, as a cause of these diseases, my research, which spans more than 30 years and started well before this phenomenon became public, has clearly identified that many of the diseases in question are very frequently due to one or more phenomena concerning intolerance to residues of active pharmacological substances present in the meat deriving from intensive breeding.

This same research demonstrated, with the same clarity, that the diseases caused by these residues are numerous and constitute a real syndrome, which I have denominated F.R.S. (Food Residue Syndrome). It should be noted that this syndrome affects dogs more than cats".

- Can you better describe this syndrome?

"In practice the vast majority of dogs, and a fair number of cats, which eat industrially derived meat and derivatives develop, according to their individual sensitivity, symptoms affecting one or more organs. The skin will show dry and dull fur, bad smell, dermatitis, dandruff, itching, dry and wet eczema and scrotum dermatosis; the eye will suffer constant lachrymation, ocular secretions, redness and chronic conjunctivitis; the ear will be affected by excessive ear wax, redness, auricle eczema and chronic otitis; the gastro-intestinal system can expect spasmodic desires for grass, vomiting on a full or empty stomach, flatulence and diarrhea. Many other disorders, definitively not easily connected to nutrition, include lick granulomas, periodic inflammation of the anal sacs, eczema of the cheek or foot’s sole, many pyoderma and some forms of convulsion. For those interested in examining this subject, please note that I dedicated an original work (published in the AIVPA Bulletin dated January 1995) to F.R.S. and the numerous phenomena connected to it".

- How can you safely state that the disease is due to residues and not other factors, such as atopies or simple sensitizations to protein?

"Hundreds of clinical trials I’ve performed clearly showed that the disease develops only when the dog eats meat derived from intensive breeding: if this same dog is fed with the same meat, but of biological origin, the aforementioned diseases occur only in rare cases of effective atopy or protein intolerance".

- Why are chemicals used in breeding of meat animals?

"Because these substances, especially antibiotics and auxins, favor animal growth and simultaneously prevent the development of various pathological forms".

- Do you therefore believe that all diseases you defined under “Food Residue Syndromes” are induced by the indiscriminate use of chemicals in industrial-scale breeding?

"Probably not. Since many intolerance related phenomena generally develop even in the presence of minimal concentrations, it is likely that diseases related to Food Residue Syndromes can develop even when the concentrations and withdrawal times of those various drugs which are regularly and legally introduced in zootechnical food are respected. However, the seriousness of the diseases which develop constitutes a major warning concerning the use of various substances (antibiotics, auxins, etc.) during the rearing of all meat animals".

- So you suggest to resort to sea fish, which is not bred. However, you cannot deny that the sea is also polluted by varied substances and that fish is often contaminated with mercury or other pollutants ...

"This observation is legitimate. It must however be noted that - starting from the residuals as such – no scenario is fully safe. Residues of various kinds can in fact be traced in any food, from cereals to vegetables, from water to cheese, from fish to meat. It is however indisputable that, clinically, whilst residues present in other foods do not seem to induce easily detectable pathologies, the residues present in meat of industrial origin demonstrate very visible effects easily identifiable by anyone who so wishes. In the vast majority of dogs a few days of sea fish based diet are sufficient - eliminating meat and its derivatives - to see the above mentioned symptoms diminish or disappear; by this we mean itching, dermatitis, dandruff, bad smelling skin, constant lachrymation, conjunctivitis, otitis, flatulence, chronic diarrhea.

As proof of this, it is sufficient to reintroduce the diet based on industrially derived meat to see them rapidly reappear".

- So, to obtain similar results to sea fish it’s sufficient to source "clean" meat?

"Of course. I still have some doubts concerning the practical ability to continually source this type of meat within the traditional channels: I’d say it’s simpler to resort to sea fish or certified organic food, now easily available even for small animals".

- Would you admit that resorting to personally cooking fish for your dog is not exactly particularly convenient ...

"Definitely. It must be said, however, that there are pet foods available based on fish as the only protein source. This will allow Veterinarians to provide a ready and valid solution for anyone who doesn’t want to cook fish every day. One must however pay attention to the labels, as most packaged foods, even if defined as fish-based, are mainly based on meat and derivatives; it would thus be totally useless to try a fish-based diet using this kind of products".

- How do you judge the now widespread use of lamb as a replacement protein regarding food intolerance in dogs?

"The results achieved are excellent. I believe, however, that these results are not due to using a 'different' protein, but rather because the vast majority of sheep are not subjected to intensive farming, as they are mostly reared in the wild. In short, I am convinced lamb’s results are not so much down to it being hypoallergenic or 'new', but because it is a 'clean' protein without residues. On the other hand, if the problem arose from the sensitization to more common proteins, sea fish would undoubtedly be a bad choice. In fact, since at least 25 years the composition of various canned dog and cat foods have included variable percentages of various types of fish, and there is no reason to doubt that many sensitizations would also have developed to that protein. The same applies to sheep: its general use would have seen many sensitive individuals emerge.

- Do you think it would be easy for the general pet owner to adapt to the changing eating habits you suggest?

"Yes, I really think so. On the other hand, beyond the rumors it’s the results that count; and here each owner is able to easily carry out the necessary verifications on their dog or cat. Taking into account that one must eliminate any little side snack outside of the meal itself for the entire period of the test, a 10-30 day diet involving the total elimination of meat and its derivatives (bones and meat broth), replacing this with sea fish, will allow anyone to ascertain if what said is an invention or a fact. Contemporaneously you’ll be able to verify that any slight derivation from the diet will provoke the rapid return of most of the above-mentioned symptoms".

And after this dietary period?

"It’s up to each individual owner: return to the previous diet, with the almost unrelenting reappearance of diseases, or continue with a diet that respects the above-mentioned principles. Whatever, there is no need to maintain a drastic diet: by learning, with experience, the exact price your dog or cat will pay for each dietary deviation (a few days of itching and dandruff, some vomiting, flatulence or diarrhea, a few days of abundant lachrymation and eye gound), the owner can decide whether to occasionally stretch out to those meat-based foods that satisfy the animal’s natural food inclinations."

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