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Allergies in Pets Part Two: Treatment

Jul 01, 2020 10:18AM ● By David MacDonald

Last month, in part one of a two-part series about allergies in pets, Dr. Laura Weis presented an overview of the nature of allergic reactions and the common causes of allergies in pets. This article will discuss treatment.

Treating allergies requires critical thinking about the underlying causes, treatment options and prevention. Treatment over a period of time requires patience and collaboration in efforts. 

The reality of the allergic condition is that it represents a disturbance of the immune system. The symptoms of allergies are by nature inflammatory, and represent a hyper-sensitized immune system. How might a holistic veterinarian influence the immune system? How might it be possible to turn down the dial of inflammation? 

The first step, and possibly the most important, is to feed an appropriate diet. That is to say, the most appropriate diet for dogs and cats is high in meat protein and low in carbohydrates. The processing of foods is also significant—the less processed the better. The reason for this is that carbohydrates are pro-inflammatory and the processing of the food alters the nutritional value of the food. In striving for this ideal, many dogs do best with a homemade, cooked diet or a raw food diet. The best means of choosing the best diet for pets is to discuss the full spectrum of options with a veterinarian. 

An important component of a healthy diet is to ensure that omega-3 fatty acids are included with the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids come in many different varieties, but fish oil or salmon oil, which are enriched sources of DHA and EPA, are the best recommendations for pets. Fish oil formulated specifically for pets is recommended over the human product, since the optimal ratio of components for dogs and cats differs from human formulations. 

A further influence on the immune system may be surprising to some, but has become increasingly clear to practitioners of holistic medicine: The function of the immune system has a lot to do with gut health. The digestive tract of all mammals requires a healthy population of gastrointestinal microorganisms to function normally. This living community of bacteria inside our digestive tract is better defined as the gastrointestinal microbiome. The germ theory of infectious disease must be redefined when one considers that these bacteria are critical to our health. 

The immune system has direct connections to the digestive tract, and a healthy population of gut bacteria is reflected in a healthy immune system. This relationship between the immune system and gut health reinforces the need to have a healthy diet to influence this gut bacteria, but a second factor is critical to understand. The use of some medications (especially antibiotics) changes the gut bacteria and, in doing so, deranges the function of the immune system. The end result is often a disrupted or dysfunction immune response, which we see manifest as allergies. 

It is possible to rectify imbalances in the gastrointestinal microbiome by using a supplement that is derived from a donor animal that has a healthy population of these gut bacteria. This goes far beyond the potential of a probiotic, which offers some support for gut bacteria but not enough of the full spectrum and diversity of bacteria that is requires for a healthy microbiome. 

A lot of improvements in modulating the inflammatory state are made in diet and the microbiome, but some patients do require additional support for allergy symptoms. In many cases, the use of Chinese herbs offers potent anti-inflammatory effects in a manner that is more natural and easily tolerated without some of the detrimental side effects of some conventional medications. These herbs are chosen based on the unique individual characteristics of the patient. Treatment may be safely continued as long as necessary, but typically herbs are no longer necessary once the bigger imbalances are corrected. 

While many patients with allergies will display the same symptoms of itchy, inflamed skin, they will not have the same underlying imbalances that result in these symptoms. For that reason, holistic veterinary medicine is well suited to understand the underlying causes and correct the problem at the source, rather than simply treat the symptoms. 

Dr. David MacDonald is a veterinarian with Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care, located at 380 N. Shady Retreat Rd. He is a certified veterinary acupuncturist (CVA) and a certified veterinary spinal manipulative therapist (CVSMT). To request an appointment, call 215-345-6000. For more information, visit

Doylestown Veterinary Hospital  Holistic Pet Care - Doylestown PA

Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care - Doylestown, PA

Exceptional veterinary services in an atmosphere of comfort and care Welcome to Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care, dedicated to the health of your pet since 1972. ... Read More »