I haven’t been writing here much recently. We’ve been trying to deal with Emmy’s allergies. [Sigh!] We discovered her food allergies include: Barley, peanuts, soy beans, and sweet potato top the list, with borderline allergies to beets, corn, rice (!) and yeast. Now, just try to find a dog food, moist or dry, that does not have corn, rice or soy in it! She was put on a special – expensive – diet food: Royal Kanin potato and duck (dry food). So, while we eat our chicken, she eats her – duck!
But there was more bad news: She is also allergic to: Alder, Ash, Bayberry, Beech, Box Elder, Maple, Juniper, Elm, Pecan, Hickory, Pine, Walnut, and Willow! Have you ever seen a southern neighborhood that did not have pine trees in it? Or maple trees? We have 18 pine trees on our property alone. Even if we had the $4000 to have them all taken down, all the years of pine needles on the ground – ground into dust – would still cause Emmy problems. There are maple, pecan, walnut and willow trees all over the neighborhood, too.
But wait! There’s more! She’s allergic to grass: blue grass, Bermuda (!), and timothy. What yard in the southeast does not have at least some Bermuda grass in it? She’s allergic to weeds: cocklebur, daisy, dog fennel, English plantain, goldenrod (!), nettle, and pigweed. We can tell the change of seasons by ragweed here in the southeast. Seems goldenrod has the same cycle.
But Wait!! There is still more! She’s allergic to three very common molds (that are in our house despite attempts at mold abatement), mildly allergic to cats (I can’t get rid of the cats!) and dust mites (our house is dusty despite all attempts to keep it vacuumed and dusted), and highly allergic to FLEAS! The flea problem is under control. Emmy is on Advantage Multi, which covers fleas, ticks, and heart-worm. If there are fleas in the backyard, a flea jumping on her will go ERK! and die. But a bite before it dies leaves her itchy for days!
We keep her on the diet. We tried allergy shots (saw no difference after a year), and Atopica (cyclosporin) – a drug that changes the dog’s immune system, reducing it some to curb response to allergens – without success. When she went on diphenhydramine (Benadryl) she would scratch a little less, but would sleep all the time. She would get so groggy that she would be unable to respond to her cues appropriately.
After fighting with it for 3 years, a number of vets that PAALS consulted about it suggested a 2 month “break” in an arid climate. One of the “star” dog foster families recently moved to Colorado Springs (military transfer) and was willing to take Emmy in for a while. So, off to Colorado she went, thanks to US Airways Puppies-in-Flight program! She even flew first class! WOW!
She had a bit of a problem adjusting at first, but seems to be settling in. She has a new friend (6 month old puppy, Hope) to play with, and a cat to annoy. She is in dog heaven!
The only real hitch from our end (aside from her not being here) is that she still needs all the diphenhydramine she was taking (probably because of the cat). We are cautiously optimistic because she isn’t scratching and licking and gnawing herself while on the diphenhydramine [which she does here], but she does if the diphenhydramine dose is reduced. It’s only been 19 days, so I don’t want to get discouraged, yet.
If she is still allergic after 2 months out in Colorado, we may need to put her on prednisone when she gets back. In the past, I have asked the vet to put her on a prednisone taper just before recertification weekend each year – but no more than that. [A prednisone taper involves starting with a large dose one day, and cutting it back slightly each day for about 10 days, then off the medication.]
Prednisone is a wonderful drug – a miracle drug – for people with autoimmune diseases or with allergy problems. It reduces the response of the immune system down to a more “normal” level. Like all drugs, however, it has side effects – in dogs as well as in people [http://www.vetinfo.com/prednisone-side-effects-dogs.html]:
- suppression of the immune system which makes the dog more susceptible to infections; [the immune system cannot protect the dog, so his health must be carefully monitored and secondary diseases must be treated as soon as they occur]
- Increased appetite, that leads to weight gain
- Increased thirst and more frequent urination
- Water retention, caused by the sodium in the salt, in case the dog has a diet rich in salts
- Fluid in the stomach
- Myocardial arrest
- Oily skin, which may be due to hormonal imbalance
- Coarse hair, unhealthy looking coat
- Sudden aggressiveness
- Kidney problems
- Ulcers, stomach problems
- Diabetes mellitus
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Many of those are similar to the side effects of prednisone in humans. Because of the side effects, prednisone on a daily basis is discouraged – especially in a working dog. It will decrease both the dog’s life-span, and working life-span. I’m not happy about that, obviously. But even worse, if the allergies cannot be controlled, Emmy will have to be “re-careered” into a pet. That is very hard on working dog. Working dogs are not pets. They work for a living. Emmy is used to being with me 24-7 – going to the hair-dresser, going to the grocery, going to visit people, going to Red Hat meetings, going out to eat with me, even going to doctors’ offices and to hospitals. She has been left at home, perhaps twice or 3 times since we were partnered, and then only for 1-2 hours at a time, max. On days her allergies were bad, and she had taken full-dose of diphenhydramine, I would change my plans to be home with her. A working dog and her partner are simply inseparable. Working dogs not only want to work, they need to work. Being made into a pet will be very hard for poor little Emmy – not to mention me! So I keep hoping and praying that the visit to Colorado will work.
Please pray with me on this!