Newsletter - August 2014
Tori may be the only dog in this house, but she's not the only barker. A few weeks ago, Morley rushed to the living room with Tori at his heels. I asked him where he was heading, and he said " to bark at the window". Sure enough, the two of them barked, and Tori would turn her head to look at him every now and then with obvious adoration in her eyes. It's been going on every day since then. In the morning, she sits beside him on the sofa, pressing herself against his leg and throwing herself back towards him as if she was on a recliner. Now and then, Morley sings to her and she sings along...something I've wanted to capture on video, but she stops the minute she sees me. He is her pal, her protector, and arguably best of all, her walking snack bar....and if he wasn't all that to every dog we've ever had, I doubt we'd have made it past a second date much less married.
Is it allergy, behavioral, bacterial, or all three?
As if trying to distinguish between food and pollen triggers for allergies isn't tough enough, there are other things to consider, and a client of mine brought this reminder recently. He's a Miniature Poodle who moved from NY (where he was excessively itchy) to Texas (where he became even itchier). You might think that the different climates were at play, but that wasn't the problem. During the past two years, this boy had been seen by two different veterinarians, each with their own opinion as to what the problem might be. Both agreed that the diet needed to be changed, and so it was - four times. The dog's itchiness got worse. One vet thought that the dog had developed a behavioral problem in that he scratched when he was itchy, but also because scratching leads to more scratching due to the irritation being caused, and because the dog received attention when he scratched. The other vet went about things a different way via herbal preparations. When the itching got so bad that the dog's owners were up half the night trying to calm him down, they agreed to try Prednisone for a short while. The dog seemed to feel a bit better, but not as well as expected, and things took a real turn for the worse once the drug was stopped. This is when they came to me for a consultation.
The challenge of trying to decipher reactions isn't lost on me, and especially when it's been going on for such a long time. My first thought was to get the dog to a dermatologist, and here's why:
A cycle of scratching can be caused by any number of things from fleas, contact allergy, food allergy, fungal growth etc. With so many possibilities, ruling something out can be as important as ruling something in. If a dog has a food allergy and scratches for a long enough time that the skin allows for a bacteria or fungus to grow, the itching intensifies. This leads to more intense scratching, further growth of bacteria/fungus, and the cycle becomes unbearable. While it would be very important to know that food allergy was the culprit, and deal with it accordingly, changing the diet won't alleviate the scratching when the skin is crawling with a bacterial, or fungal problem. In the case of this Poodle, Prednisone would have made things worse because it suppresses the immune system, so bacteria would be doing a happy dance. This is pretty much what had happened according to the dermatologist who had performed skin scrapings in order to diagnose accurately. With a routine of appropriate Rx shampoos, the problem was solved, and a novel ingredient home-made diet could be implemented. It worked beautifully. By the way, there can be cross-reactivity between poultry species, so it was not surprising that the previous diets hadn't worked out. They had included chicken, turkey, duck, and pheasant.
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"Before you get a dog, you can't quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you can't imagine living any other way." ~ Caroline Knapp