Beef: Not For Dinner

Once we ruled out pork, it seemed most likely that beef was Silas’s main food allergen. The food he was eating when we diagnosed the allergies contained a lot of proteins: beef, pork, lamb, herring, salmon, and bison. I’ve had some anecdotal evidence that says beef is the serious allergen out of that list, although he’s also reacted badly to salmon.

Now that his diet is a nearly-sustainable three proteins,* I thought I would do a “quick and easy” allergy trial of “the bad guy.” I figured that one meal of beef would have him throwing up, and we’d be done.

It turned out to take longer, and to be less conclusive, than I’d hoped.

After about two weeks of eating beef off and on for dinner (I kept forgetting), and four days of eating it every night, Silas has still not thrown up. (This is leading me to some interesting new theories about his stomach problems.) He is, however, starting to get some suspicious skin bumps, and he is itching and scratching a good bit. He’s made his neck quite red scratching, and he licked his legs and stomach through the entire snooze cycle of my alarm this morning. His ears are also very red-pink, instead of their usual carnation. My camera mutes a lot of red colors, but you can see the difference from here (look at the back ear, where the lamp isn’t shining through):


to here:


I am declaring the beef trial officially over. It would be more conclusive if I pushed a little further, but I’m 97% sure it’s the culprit. That’s good enough. If I let his skin get too bad in the name of science, it will take three weeks of antibiotics to get him over it. I’m giving him a Benadryl tab this morning to stave off the scratching while his skin settles down, and then we’re going back to his allergy approved diet for a few weeks.

Next up is either lamb, bison, venison, or eggs. (I can get a wide enough variety of raw rabbit, albeit expensively, to feed a complete diet, so I am saving it for my emergency novel protein, along with a few others.) Eggs are cheap and easy and would be a nice addition to his diet. They’re more of a supplement than a whole meal, though. Lamb opens up a vast array of good quality commercial foods and treats. I have an entire pantry stockpile of venison tripe that I got too skittish to feed him after he was throwing up so much in February. On the other hand, both bison and venison are extremely expensive, and lamb isn’t exactly cheap. Feel free to vote in the comments, if you want.

*”Regular” dogs without an allergy history are probably fine on fewer. Once a dog has a history of food allergies, though, they are likely to develop more reactions if you feed too narrow of a diet. My goal for Silas is four or five proteins.


7 thoughts on “Beef: Not For Dinner

  1. It’s also spring. Are you certain every reaction is to his diet and not to things in the grass or air?

    I’ve known a pibble with severe grass allergies that presented with hives and itching.

    What a tough chore to figure these things out.


    1. Believe it or not, we’re on the downward swing from pollen already. I waited until the spring tree pollen is virtually gone before I started the test. We should have been moving on months ago.

      It’s a mess. There is *a lot* of second guessing involved in this process. For instance, you’ll also get dogs who stack allergens. So, they’ll only react to certain foods while the pollen count is really high.

      Even though the allergy trial test is the gold standard, it is very far from perfect. Allergens combine in some weird way, or the dog eats a bite of something else new. (Silas stole the lid off a coffee cup last night, for instance, so I’m sure he got a few licks of milk foam.) That’s why I’ll be watching him really closely for the next few days to see how quickly the symptoms clear up. If it was the beef, it should be quite fast.


  2. Ugh. Diagnosing food allergies is the world’s most complicated process. I’m too chicken sh** to try chicken with Maggie yet – I keep saying this is the month we are going to try it and then I chicken out. I think lamb is always going to be out because it was what she was on for the majority of her life and I’d rather just say no than to do a food trial with lamb. I do want to try chicken & turkey again because I can get them cheap raw and rabbit & duck are EXPENSIVE! So far, we’ve determined pork, beef, rabbit & duck are her safe foods. It’s entirely possible that grains were her only issue but I’m not gonna risk it testing out lamb.


    1. I don’t blame you. I feel the same way about Silas and chicken, which made him very itchy as a puppy. It would be so cheap! So easy! And there’s a real chance that he’d be fine with it as an adult. But, I’m just not willing to face the consequences.

      Turkey is apparently a very rare allergen in dogs, which is why we used it as our initial novel protein. Out of lamb, turkey, and chicken, it’s the one I’d try again. It’s a reasonable price, too. Cheaper than pork around here, although even free range chicken is cheaper.


  3. As I was reading, I was wondering how your notebook/journal is going because I use one for behaviors. It would be helpful with all the different foods.
    Poor Silas, his skin looks very red. His coat appears thin, is it? Breeze’s face has thin fur and she easily scratches herself.
    Could you obtain your protein directly from a farmer? Might be worth investing in a freezer?


    1. Yes, his fur is very thin in places. He’s got a pretty good layer on his neck and torso, but everywhere else he can easily scratch himself raw. I have to especially watch him licking his belly, because it’s completely bare.

      I do keep a “food diary” for him. For months I recorded every meal, but then his stomach settled down and we weren’t adding new foods, so I would just make weekly notes that he was eating pork, turkey, and sardines and doing fine.

      We desperately need to get a chest freezer, because turkey gets very hard to find in the three months or so before American Thanksgiving. Also, there’s an incredibly small window around then to buy organic turkey liver, which I would much prefer to feed him year round. Unfortunately, we’re in such an urban area that fresh meat from the farmer is a luxury product. It’s much more in line with my meat ethics (I’ve 97% given it up for myself.), but free-range pork from the farmers’ market is over $8 a pound. I need to get up the courage to ask the pork guy what he does with the hearts and such. The turkey lady only sells it in the late summer, and in a quite limited supply.


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