The following have been classified as allergies: Ear yeast infection, scratching, chewing, paw licking, rashes, hot spots, and the list continues. Some vets classify them as bacterial or fungal infections. The reality is they are not directly a bacterial or a viral/fungal infection; rather, those are symptoms. If the symptoms are treated with an antibiotic or fungicide, you will see an improvement while the dog is on the medications; however they will return once the medication cycle is complete. Plus, the bacteria and fungus will now be resistant to the medication.
These symptoms are directly related to the consumption of starches. Some commonly used starches in dog food are corn, wheat, rice, soy, potato, barley, oatmeal, tapioca, millet, quinoa, and their associated by-products and flours.
Dogs lack an enzyme we have in our saliva: amylase. Amylase breaks down starches into simple sugars (glucose). Glucose is then acted on by insulin and absorbed for energy. Because that enzyme is missing, starches get swallowed and proceed to ferment in very acidic stomach acids (think about beer that is fermenting). What you see and smell in your dog's poop (and gas) is mainly fermented starches along with methane gas. Imagine a human that eats raw garlic. They stink of raw garlic, usually into the next day or two. We sweat through our skin and the raw garlic oils come with it.
Dogs, however, don’t sweat through their skin. They perspire through their nose (that’s why it is wet), their mouth (why their breath stinks), through the pads of their feet and their ears. When the fermented starch comes out with their perspiration, a fungus will grow. Their ears will be black with fungus. The growth between the pads of their feet touches the ground, so bacteria start to feed on the fungus, causing the dogs to itch. They lick, it gets wet, more fungus grows and more bacteria start to feast. The dog will uncontrollably itch and start to chew. As soon as there is blood, the bacteria colonize and the battle is never ending.
If you switch dog foods and happen to pick one with a different mix of starches, the original fungus dies along with the bacteria until the new fungus grows and the bacteria return. You will also notice the ears have a different smell. Think beer again. Different starch, different flavor and smell. Make sense?
The starches also come out with oils on the dog’s skin, but oil doesn't dry. Instead, the starch dries. So if you have a dog with dandruff, it isn't actually dandruff. Those are starch flakes and that is why your dog smells like a stinky wet dog fresh out of the bath water.
We don’t use any starches in our foods. A grain is as much of a starch as a potato, but a potato is a tuber, not a grain. Rice is a grass. So Grain Free marketing hype is just that: hype. Remove the starches and you remove the problems.
The real kicker is that if a vet or allergist were honest with you they would tell you that chicken and beef allergy tests are sampling for the presence of corn starch residue from the muscle tissue of the animals rather than the protein itself. When I discovered that, it really bothered me because I'd been fighting the wrong problem with my dog. As soon as I put him on grass fed beef and no corn, no soy organic birds, his allergies vanished in about two weeks.
What I found was that what my dog was actually having a reaction to was corn, not chicken or beef. Let me explain. When chicken are truly free-roaming and consume the diet they evolved to eat it consist of insects, worms, seeds, and some plant matter. I grew up on a chicken farm and we never fed our chickens corn. Our cows were also free grazing. That meant that their entire diet was made up of grass. The chicken tractors were pulled in after they were moved and the chickens feasted on fly larvae from the cow manure, seedlings and maybe a worm or two. Those things were their species-specific diets.
Following World War II the US had a surplus of corn and eventually soy and they both became major components of feed; mainly because they were so cheap. The problem is that because neither species evolved to eat corn cows and chicken were getting sick. To combat that, feed producers started adding antibiotics so the animals wouldn't get sick. And later, they started to add things like bovine growth hormones to get the cows bigger, faster and to produce more milk.