“ALLERGIES DON’T BOTHER ME AT ALL” said no one, ever, ever in their life that has lived in Austin, Texas.
Well, it is some sort of weird right of passage I guess. You get the beautiful downtown greenbelt for a small admission ; a snotty nose, mild lethargy, possible congestion and headache and a bit of an itch in a place where it might never be appropriate to scratch. Ahhhh the glory. Well don’t get all melodramatic on me, we can address these issues if we know the keys to allergies and how to put them in check.
Guess how many dogs have food allergies? Well I can tell you the number is low, real low. Like 5% low. Thanks to the assistance of the internet, you would think that number is closer to 95% and that all dogs have a grain intolerance. Although this is somewhat true, its not quite as accurate as one might think. I will just say this as this could exist as an entirely stand-alone blog that would take a couple of pages- dogs are omnivores and cats are carnivores. Chew on that for now and realize evolutions have occurred since the day’s wolves were found eating the insides (by-products) of their prey. A lot has changed since those days- wolves have gotten smaller, larger, wrinkly, fuzzy, no fuzz, poodle fuzz, small ears, floppy ears, tail, no tail, smushed nose, pink nose, black nose and the list goes on. Food is important but there is so much more
When dogs present for ATOPY or undefined itchiness, it could be frustrating and literally take months to diagnose properly, so know going in that it’s a lot more difficult than one might think. There are multiple reasons your pet can itch and they are usually all interrelated. It’s a combination of offending antigens (proteins that cause reactions), the immune system, and overall well-being and how that effects the immune system’s reactivity.
Pathogens- most pets present with pathogens first, they could be primary pathogens or they could be secondary opportunistic pathogens that cause a problem because your pet is itchy due to allergies or other cause. Pathogens are yeast and bacteria which lead to itchy pyoderma or skin infection. Pathogens are mites like demodex and sarcoptic mange. Pathogens are also other critters like fleas, ticks and even the saliva in a flea bite. All of these can cause further itching or be the primary problem so the eradication of these offending pathogens is step one!
Step two! After eliminating critters that can overwhelm your immune system, we turn to the reason your immune system is distraught in the first place. This is a careful balance of discovering why your dog might be reactive in the first place. Were they born with a highly reactive immune system, does anxiety play a role, does normal pet stimulation play a role, is nutrition being considered? The doctor works with you to identify any of these triggers first and foremost. Whatever it takes to quiet the immune system- a change in diet, acupuncture, more walks and more dedicated one on one time, reducing the triggers of anxiety in your household.
Step 3… You have boosted the immune system, you have removed pathogens and now you are fulfilling your pet’s potential, but man, your dog is still itchy. Well it turns out, a small amount of dogs just have over active immune systems- just like humans that suffer from psoriasis, eczema, arthritis, lupus or any other immune mediated disease. So how can we offer relief? Typically when we get to this stage, its 6-9 months after treatment and we know we have a true ATOPIC pet so the best course of action is to keep the pet controlled and under their itch threshold and this can be accomplished with immune modulating medications- they are all effective but have trade offs in side effects and they are listed from oldest to newest technology- acupuncture, corticosteroid therapy, Serum allergy injections, cyclosporine and a new but controversial treatment the biologic class of drugs.
When you get to step 3 it can be a challenge because there is a lot to balance but the goal is to keep your pet underneath the threshold of prutitic trigger and the more you know about those triggers the best you can prevent. I can tell you from personal experience and suffering from psoriasis, it’s a tough journey but once you set your intention, you can keep it under control. I was treated with so many therapies for over 25 years of my life. Until I understood that I could control what enters my body and how my body responds to stress I was a prisoner to the disease. Through a lot of trial and error, I discovered the best treatment for me was less dairy, careful diet, reduce drinking, practice yoga and breathe fresh air and get moderate sunlight. Believe it or not, when I stuck to this regimen and identified my triggers, I liberated my mind and learned so much more about disease progress.
Stay strong, stay aware and remember: Life is a journey to be experienced and not observed on the sideline.