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Published 12/14/2013. Last updated 1/10/2014.
Allergies are abnormal reactions of the immune system occurring in response to usually harmless substances. The overly-sensitive immune system of a person allergic to cats reacts to one or more glycoproteins produced in cats’ saliva, sebaceous glands, urine and dander as if they were dangerous invaders requiring the launch of a full-blown histamine defense. Your eyes water and itch, your sinuses clog up, maybe you sneeze – the 10 percent of you with a cat allergy know the symptoms well. You might even have an asthma attack. People with dog allergies are usually reacting to the dander (flakes of dead skin) as well as to the saliva and urine.
But what if the problem lies not just in your own impaired gut biota but also in allergic reactions the cat or dog itself is having and properly balancing the cat or dog’s gut bacteria would help both you and the other animal?
As someone who was highly allergic to cats for years, I managed to boost my gut immunity to the point where I was able to have a series of cats in my home even though I still had a mild allergic reaction to them when especially stressed. I fed them what I thought was high quality food but they all developed serious digestive issues requiring frequent veterinary visits and sometimes GI surgeries. While sitting in vet clinic waiting rooms, I heard person after person being told their dog or cat had similar problems and needed to be put on an elimination diet.
When I got my current girl, rescued off the streets of New York barefoot and pregnant, I decided to look into the diet issue so she wouldn’t suffer like previous cats and learned that cats in the wild don’t eat grains or other carbohydrates. We know that grains cause inflammation in humans. This cat has been getting a mixture of probiotics designed for cats and dogs and eating only grain-free wet and dry foods over the four years she has shared my home. Neither I nor anyone else with a cat allergy or asthma has ever produced so much as a single sneeze in her presence. And she has produced only one hairball on this diet.
Humans are OMNIVORES. Carbohydrate digestion starts in our mouths because we have the enzyme amylase in our saliva. However, dogs are CARNIVORES and do not produce amylase in their saliva so the digestion of carbohydrates only begins much farther along in their digestive tracts, in the pancreas.
Cats are OBLIGATE CARNIVORES – meaning they require a diet that’s almost exclusively meat and don’t have the physiology to digest carbohydrates, including grains. Like dogs, cats do not produce the enzyme amylase in their saliva.
Carbohydrate consumption in cats produces a range of serious problems – including obesity, diabetes and urinary tract disease. And the urine acidifiers added to many dry cat foods in an attempt to prevent the high incidence of urinary tract disease found in cats eating dry food can cause metabolic acidosis, which in turn leads to cal-ox (calcium oxalate) kidney stones, overall impaired kidney function and potassium depletion.
The dietary requirement of carbohydrates, including grains, for both cats and dogs is exactly ZERO. So perhaps feeding my girl a grain free diet is the reason she’s both in good health and not producing allergy symptoms in humans.
Makes me wonder.
FOR FURTHER READING ON CATS AND DOGS TOLERANCE OF GRAINS AND CARBOHYDRATES – AND PET NUTRITION IN GENERAL:
Why Wet Food is Best for Cats (Endurapet) http://www.endurapet.com/pages/why-wet-food-is-best-for-cats-or-the-post-your-cat-will-love-me-for
There’s No Kibble Served at the Big Cat Rescue (Feline Nutrition Education Society) http://feline-nutrition.org/features/theres-no-kibble-served-at-the-big-cat-rescue
Cats and Dogs are Carnivores (The Big Biscuit) http://thebigbiscuit.com/wordpress/2010/05/14/dogs-and-cats-are-carnivores/
Are Dogs Carnivores? (OpEdNews) http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_john_r_m_070505_are_dogs_carnivores_3f.htm
Causes of Dog Allergies (WebMD) http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/dog-allergies
Dogs and Carbohydrates — A Surprising Secret Revealed (Dog Food Advisor – Saving good dogs from bad dog food) http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/canine-nutrition/dog-food-carbohydrates/
What is the difference between digestive enzymes and probiotics (Hungry Hound) http://hungryhound.com/what-is-the-difference-between-digestive-enzymes-and-probiotics/
A version of this page content will appear in my forthcoming 2014 Oriental Medicine Journal article THE MICROBIOTA-GUT-BRAIN AXIS: The constant two-way communication between our guts and our brains.
© Copyright 2013-2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.