Atopy and food related allergic skin disease are caused by reactions to inhaled, ingested, or absorbed “allergens” (pollen, mold spores, dust, dust mites, food, etc.). This is similar to “hay fever” in humans. However, instead of the sinus and nasal signs in humans, pets may manifest the disease as skin irritation that can include the entire skin surface and ear canals.
Sulfite allergies are very common and sulfites are common food additives used as sanitary agents and preservatives to prevent discolouration of foods. They are usually used in restaurant salad bars and are also present in many supermarket foods, including frozen foods, dried fruits, and certain fresh fruits and vegetables.
Many animals and people are allergic to sulfites. And the types and severity of reactions to sulfites in sensitive individuals vary, and may include breathing difficulties, anaphylactic shock, severe headaches, abdominal pain, stuffy and/or runny nose, diarrhoea, and/or irritability.
These symptoms tend to occur quickly, usually within twenty to thirty minutes after consuming sulfites. And they pose a greater danger to some individuals than to others. Animals with a history of allergies, or a deficiency of the liver enzyme sulfite oxidase can suffer great harm. It is not always easy to determine if a food product contains sulfites. Sulfiting agents appear in food ingredient lists in a variety of ways, including sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sulfur dioxide. Any ingredient ending in -sulfite should be assumed to be a sulfiting agent.
Treatment may include numerous medications, special diets, and topical skin treatments are available to reduce symptoms and discomfort. I will cover some treatment options next month.
Allergic skin disease can be difficult and frustrating to treat. For some pets, it becomes a recurrent problem that requires careful home care and compliance with all veterinary instructions for relief of symptoms.
For more information and to book an appointment with Dr Elaine and her team please visit: www.animalwellness.com.au