As mentioned last week, Robbin and Joseph Everett, hosts of the live radio show “Pets Teach Us So Much,” have allowed us to publish part of their interview with Michel Selmer, DVM, who specializes in holistic and integrative care and pet nutrition.
Today Dr. Selmer discusses allergies in pets and a simple new blood test.
We would like to give another big thanks to Robbin and Joe. Please visit their blog, like their Facebook page and especially tune in to their radio show — the number-one rated web-based radio show for animal lovers!
Dr. Selmer on Allergies in Pets
Robbin: Can you share with us a dramatic transformation you’ve seen from a client who has come in? Maybe somebody whose pet has had pet allergies? Because that is something we hear all the time now is pet allergies.
Dr. Selmer: Pets suffer from allergies just as badly as we do. Through the nutritional therapy and through getting that body to perform better, I believe that the body has a self-healing process. And I really believe the job of a doctor is to help that process be sped along.
I have found that once we correct nutrition and find out what the dogs are allergic to food-wise, the immune system tends to function better and then they don’t have the allergy response they used to. And I’ve seen tremendous transformations in animals that we have gotten off all medications — whether they’re Chinese, herbal or traditional Western meds — and just on nutritional change, over time their bodies start to self-heal and get healthier.
Robbin: What is one of the common ingredients in a processed food that you find that dogs are allergic to?
Dr. Selmer: We see so many things because it’s such an independent item per each dog. But if you want to look at the big picture, you should stay away from grain. Dogs are not designed to eat grain.
If you think back to when dogs were wolves and they would hunt for their meals, they would kill a prey animal and eat that animal. And that would be mostly skeletal muscle, which is protein. And then they would get their carbohydrates and fats from the body fat of the animal and the stomach contents. They weren’t eating corn, and they weren’t eating wheat and barley — and all these things are added to commercial foods to keep them less expensive.
Your dog should have about 75% protein a day in its diet. If you look on the average dog food bag, it’s between 28 and 32%.
Dr. Selmer: And that’s really because of cost. Because if they put too much protein, it costs too much and then people won’t buy the food.
So we are having the same problem of obesity in dogs as we are in people, because we’re actually starving the self. You go get a happy meal and all of a sudden you’ve eaten all these calories — but your body wants nutrition, so it’s going to be hungry again.
We recommend a 75% protein ratio to 25% combined fat and carbohydrates — and the carbohydrates would be fruits and vegetables.
Robbin: What would you call this? A natural diet? A raw diet, I guess, is the proper term?
Dr. Selmer: You can cook that meat; it doesn’t have to be given raw. Every time a hand touches a food, it’s another level of process. I love sushi, and sushi is obviously very good for you; it’s raw fish. But there’s a risk because it’s raw. And you run those same risks in giving your dog meat. They are not exempt from those risks.
And people who are afraid of raw because of those risks can always cook the meat. So I would call it more of a natural diet. Because that’s really what it is. It brings it back to what the dog should be eating in nature.
Robbin: The thing that confuses me as a pet owner of two little dogs is that they don’t appear to have a tolerance for some of the fruits and vegetables.
In everything that we’ve read, carrots, for example, are supposed to be a good, healthy treat for a dog. And even a teeny-tiny piece is all they need. But sometimes they will vomit that up or get diarrhea. So what do we do with that?
Dr. Selmer: Doctors on television will say, you know what, Goji berries are great for everyone — and everyone goes and runs and gets Goji berries. And everyone says, you know, carrots are a great snack for dogs — and everyone goes and runs and gets carrots for their dogs. But your dog could be allergic to carrots.
Robbin: Oh, I didn’t think of that.
Dr. Selmer: And now the first time that you see that, the body is telling you that it doesn’t like the carrot; it’s making the dog throw it back up.
Now, every food item and every prescription can have a different effect on every person or dog. It depends on how their specific biology reacts with that ingredient. You can’t cookie-cut and say carrots are a great snack for all dogs. It may be a good snack for most dogs, but yours is a perfect example of one that might have a carrot allergy or a hypersensitivity to carrots.
Joe: Is there a test for your furry one like for humans by putting, I guess, things that they possibly might be allergic to under the skin to see if they react?
Dr. Selmer: Actually it’s even easier than that. We actually will do blood testing, and what we can detect is antibodies to food items that the body doesn’t like. Antibodies are something your immune system produces to things it doesn’t like. If you get a virus, your body will produce antibodies to fight that virus. If you eat a food item that your body is sensitive to or allergic to, it produces an antibody for that food item. And we can do a blood test to pick up those antibodies.
You don’t have to inject all these chemicals or ingredients under the skin anymore.
Robbin: It’s still being done in humans, and I hate to say probably money is some of the driving factor for doing the subcutaneous test as opposed to the blood test now, for humans too. But I was just thinking about that because Joe and I have both undergone different allergy tests, and I still have scars from that.
Dr. Selmer: Yeah, they’re horrible; they’re horrible. But I have to tell you, most testing that’s done on medications and on actual diagnostics is done on animals first. So the information is released to veterinarians 10 to 15 years before it’s released to humans. The FDA has to do further clinical trials for the people test.
Dr. Selmer: So you’ll see these blood tests — and I don’t know if it’s financial; I think it’s more about bureaucracy and making sure that it’s safer for the people and they can prove it further. But there are drugs that we were using in veterinary college 16, 17 years ago that we’re just using now in people.
Robbin: Wow. That is interesting.
Dr. Selmer: But they are available for people — I’ve had it done for myself through the same lab that does the animal testing. And it will soon be mainstream and you won’t have to endure all those pricks.
Joe: We’re going back a few years, Doctor, since we’ve done that — and we said we’ll never go through that again. We’re dating ourselves, Honey. That’s about 10 years ago.
Dr. Selmer: It was horrific. You’d get 10, 15, 25 shots and then wait for a reaction. Our furry friends have a much easier time. It’s a simple blood test. Most people don’t even know.
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An Important Note
The benefits of raw diets versus cooked diets remain unproven; research is ongoing. One thing is certain: There are definitely health risks (for animal and human alike) associated with feeding your pet raw food. For more on these risks, see Don’t Give That Dog a Bone, by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. Consult your veterinarian.
Dr. Michel Selmer, DVM, is the founder of Advanced Animal Care Center in Huntington Station, N.Y. He focuses on holistic or integrative veterinary medicine, considering all aspects of the animal’s life as well as the combination of conventional and alternative treatments. Dr. Selmer is an accredited member of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society as well as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and was the vice president of the Long Island Veterinary Medical Society.