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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pet Alleriges - Before you start treatment

So your pet starts chewing, scratching, scooting and biting him/herself. What do you do?
We love our pets and we can’t stand to see them suffer.  It is so tempting to try to stop their discomfort as soon as possible. But sometimes, if we rush to treatment, although we can get temporary relief, we might be setting up our pet for more problems later on.    

Remind yourself that the medication will always be there for you if you decide to use it. But if the medication is the type that might cause issues, you can’t untake the medication. Take your time.

1. If the pet is scratching or chewing to excess, do something to prevent it while you figure out what to do next. This might mean putting a medical collar on your dog or clothing or socks or booties. Or it might help to give your dog something to chew or lick besides him/herself – like stuffed Kongs.  See more on medical collars and alternatives here:

2. Investigate whether something has changed. If you can figure that out, change back and see if the dog gets better. (changed dog foods? New plants? Changed cleaning supplies? Put down carpet?..)
Be sure to also investigate behavior issues. Is your dog stressed? If so, how can you reduce that stress. Does your dog need a behaviorist rather than a vet?  Eliminate any physical punishments, leash corrections, scoldings, etc..See more in resources below.

3. Next, if you choose to do so, schedule an appointment with your vet.  While you are waiting on the appointment, start reading, then read more, and when you feel you can’t absorb any more information, read some more. Take a lot of notes

4. Vet appointment
A.      Take your notes with you to the vet. Ask a bunch of questions.  If the vet doesn’t have time to sit down and help you investigate or come up with a plan of attack, then ask to schedule a time block where he/she has more time for discussion or find another vet
B.      If the vet comes out with a needle, stop him/her
a.       Ask the vet exactly what the medication is that he/she is about to inject into your dog
      Don't accept a term like "allergy shot" or "anti-itch shot." Ask for the name of the drug
b.      Ask the vet exactly what the medication does and why he/she is using it
                                                               i.      Does it work on the problem? Does it provide a cure? Is the affect temporary?
c.       Ask the vet if there are any side effects.
d.      Ask the vet how long the medication will stay in the pet’s system
e.      Ask the vet what will happen if you don’t use the medication
f.       Ask the vet if there are any safe herbs, foods or food supplements or other more natural therapies that can be used instead of the chemical medication
g.       Then tell the vet that you will think about the medication.  Go home and read as much as you can find on the medication. One you have studied it and you are sure it is what you want for your pet, return for the shot.
C.      If the vet offers pills, the same applies as the shot listed above. But in the case of pills, you can go ahead and purchase, then take them home, do your research, then decide whether or not you want to give the pills.  If money is tight, do your research before purchasing the pills.
5. Pet still itchy? So you used the medication and it only worked temporarily or you didn’t use  the medication and your pet is still itchy, what’s next?  Do more research on common allergy problems and try to eliminate as many possible allergens as you can.  See Puddin’s allergy battle here:

6. Pet still itchy? Consider that there might be other medical issues that need to be researched, such as low thyroid  See Lupe’s experience here:  Note that being hypothyroid doesn’t always mean that your pet needs thyroid hormone replacement.  If your pet is hypo or hyper thyroid, you will need to do a lot of research on this as well.
You might need a full blood panel to test for any other medical issues as well. Be sure to get a copy of the test results and go over each item in detail with your vet.  If any meds are offered, once again, do your research

7. If no other medical issues can be found and standard allergen reducing techniques have not worked, consider allergy testing to help pin down what might affecting your pet. To my knowledge, there are three ways to test - blood test, skin test and saliva testing. The last one is a food sensitivity test, not actually allergy testing.  Once again, read, read, read and read some more to decide which test is best for you, your pet and your pocket book
A.      Before proceeding with the test
a.       Ask your vet for a list of possible allergens that will be included in the test – don’t accept verbal. Ask for a printed list. Also ask if there are different panels and decide if you want to order more than one panel (it will cost more, but you will get more info about what to avoid and/or what might be safe)
b.      Ask for the name of the lab that will be doing the test and do your research on that lab. You might even call or email the lab to ask questions.
B.      When the results come in
a.       This is important – don’t order desensitization serum right away.  The main purpose of the test should be to investigate.
b.      Once the results are in, ask for a copy of the whole thing. ( don't just get a verbal list from the vet, get the entire copy of results) Read it thoroughly.  Ask the vet to go over it with you. You can also contact the lab for more details. If you want to know more info than what the test provides, then ask your vet or the lab if they have any specimen left over and if they can do additional testing with it.
c.       Then take the test results home and study  them for a couple of days.
A.    Let's say your dog is allergic to 23 different things.  If you can eliminate 15 of those things, your dog might be comfortable enough without the serum. I'm NOT saying don't do the desensitization shots or drops. I'm just saying you might not always need it to provide your dog relief. 
B.     The food part of the test should be easy. i.e.  If your dog is allergic to chicken, then you just don't feed chicken
C.     As for environmental - you may or may not be able to reduce the allergens enough. If your dog is allergic to mold - dehumidifiers or colder A/C or  fixing a leaky pipe or other mold reduction methods might take care of that. If your dog is allergic to dust, dusting every day might take care of that.  Now, if your dog is high positive for oak pollen and you live out in the country with 23 oaks on your property, then the serum might just be necessary. Just take your time, discuss with the vet, do your research. Don’t rush into anything

D. One more thing about food. If you are using commercial preparations (raw, kibble, etc..)  and your dog is allergic to certain foods, read the ingredients carefully. The big words and pretty picture on the label might say "rabbit". But the ingredient list might include chicken, beef, pork, etc..

E. If you decide that you want to use the serum. Before starting the program, ask your vet
1. What percentage of pets does this method help?
2. How much relief can I expect for my pet?
3. Once I start the desensitization, how long will we have to do it?
4. If I stop it, what will happen?
5. What are the side effects?
6. Can my dog get itchier on this program?

8. If after eliminating as many allergens as you can doesn’t reduce your pet’s itchies, think about whether or not you want the serum or if you want to use a holistic vet – consider homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, light therapy, etc..

9. Additionally, if you change vets, consider going in without your dog and interviewing the vet first.  You might feel less pressure to act that way.


Stress reduction
- Evaluate your training program.  Could any methods you are using be stress inducing?  See Puddin’s Training Tips for information on positive reinforcement.  Read about problems with corrections and other methods that might be stressful. Some of the blog posts list several great books such as Leslie McDevitt’s “Control Unleashed”, Grisha Stewart’s “Behavior Adjustment Training”, Turid Rugass’s “Calming Signals” and many others.

- Evaluate the household, evaluate how others treat the dog, evaluate how the dog feels when out and about and whether or not the dog wants to be out and about 

Further reading on vets and allergies

Pet Health Resources  - the experts
(click on the links to see electronic highlights)

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide To Natural Health For Dogs and Cats
Richard H. Pitcairn, Susan Hubble Pitcairn

The Allergy Problem
Monica Segal

Not Fit for a Dog!: The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food
Michael W. Fox, Elizabeth Hodgkins, Marion E. Smart

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