Allergies - from a dog's point of view! Orbit has lived with Atopic Dermatitis from when he was a puppy, so we thought we'd let him tell the story of the processes involved in diagnosing his condition and what treatments have worked for him.

I started my life in the desert where I didn't seem to have allergies at all. But then I found my new home in Sydney and within days of arriving in my new home, I started to get itchy. We hoped that maybe I was just a bit dirty and needed a good bath, but unfortunately, that didn't help and I just got itchier and itchier!

The very first stage was to make sure I didn't have any sort of creepy crawlies. Fleas and scabies mites can make dogs really itchy so it was very important to make sure I didn't have any of those! Dr Ian scraped my skin a few times and looked at it under a microscope but never found anything. Scabies can be very sneaky though and its possible they were hiding very well so we still had to treat just in case! We used Revolution for a few months as this treats both those things. Unfortunately this didn't help and I was still itchy! Advocate is another one you can try which has a claim for scabies mites, or there's just straight Ivermectin injections (I didn't like these very much and had a lump after my first shot).

Next we had to make sure I didn't have any bad bacterial or fungal infections! We tried a tablet for fungus but it made me feel sick, so we stopped that and had to have very regular baths in something called Malaseb instead. I had to do this a couple of times a week for a few weeks and keep it on for 10mins before it could be washed off! Unfortunately this didn't work either.

We then took some small punches of my skin to send off to the laboratory. This wasn't really necessary, but mum always worries about me and so we wanted to make sure it was nothing really bad, or to be sure there were definitely no hiding mites. My results came back saying I had inflammation, most likely due to allergies.

So I didn't have fleas, scabies, bacteria or fungus. So now we had to make sure it wasn't anything I was eating! Sometimes when we eat things, our body acts differently and thinks the little food particles are bad! So it makes little antibodies to fight them! This means that if I was allergic to food, it could only have been foods that I'd previously eaten before. Whilst I was growing up, mum fed me on a food that had lots of different types of meat in it, like chicken, duck, beef  lamb, and fish! So now she had to find me a food which didn't have any of those things in them at all!

At first we tried Eukanuba Fish and Potato, which is designed for dogs like me with itchy skin. We hoped that the fish used in this food would be different to the fish I had previously eaten. The reason we chose this food was because it had all the right levels for a growing big dog like me!
We tried this food for about 3 months, until I was about 10months old but it didn't help me much. But now that I was older, it was safer to try me on only raw food, where we could just feed me one thing and one thing only!

Lots of people get sad by this and mum did too, but she chose horse meat for me. It was something we knew I had never ever eaten before so it was the best thing to try. I did improve a little bit on this and when mum gave me things like chicken again, I got a bit itchier! It was hard though, because I was always very itchy so the changes were subtle.

So now we had gone through all the steps to make sure I wasn't reacting to other things and it was becoming clear I probably had a disease called Atopy, which is allergies to the environment.
We had a couple of options from here. I could go and see the Dermatologist for some intradermal skin testing, or we could do some blood tests. Unfortunately I was just so itchy that I needed my medication all the time, which means I couldn't really do the skin testing. Mum says you have to be off all medication for about a month and there was no way I could do that!!  So we did a blood test which showed all the things I'm allergic to. It also showed some foods but we were told not to pay attention to those as they're really true. But funnily, lots of things that I get itchy from eating, did have positives on my test!
So now that we had my results, the laboratory mixed up all the positives into injections for me! I had to have injections so often! When the dose got bigger, I had a bit of a reaction and started having bad hives, so we had to alter my injections by diluting them a bit. That stopped the hives. But after months of injections, unfortunately they didn't really help. Nothing seemed to help and believe me, mum had tried soooooo many miracle cures! She tried all sorts of lotions and potions on me, tablets, powders in my food, but nothing  really helped.

These days, my treatment has just been about management. I have antihistamines occasionally, but unfortunately these don't work as well as they do for mum! It was important we try lots of different types though, in case we got lucky and found one which worked. I have regular baths too. Sometimes it's normal shampoo but other times its medicated ones. When I itch my skin, I make it inflamed which damages the natural barriers. When this happens, the bad bacteria can take over and cause infections which also make me itchy!! So it's important to keep bacterial infections under control.

Other things we do involve making a good barrier for my skin. Did you know that as well as inhaling the allergens, we can absorb them through our skin?? So mum sometimes puts Alpha Kerri Oil on me to help make a barrier to stop pollens going in. It its not too hot, she also makes me wear coats so help protect me too!

Because I am very allergic, I am allergic in many ways. I'm allergic to food, I'm allergic to things floating in the air and I'm also allergic to grass! When I roll on the grass, I get really really itchy a few hours later. There's nothing we can do about that other than try and stop me rolling in the grass!

With regards to medications, there's only two things that make a big difference for me. Cortisone and Cyclosporine. Lots of people don't like cortisone and think its over prescribed, but the only reason its over prescribed is because it's really the only thing that we know will work that most people can afford.
Cortisone has many uses. It's an anti inflammatory as well as an immune suppressant. The difference is in how much you take! I'm 60kg and if I was taking 60mg, that would suppress my immune system. But most days I only take 10-20mg which just works as an anti inflammatory! It still has side effects but at a lower dose, is much safer than taking a lot.
I also have to have my Cyclosporine liquid which I don't really like, but it does work very well without the side effects. This drug does suppress my immune system, but only a part of it, so I am still very healthy. Unfortunately this drug is very expensive and we only get it because Dr Ian is so good to us.

I've been on cortisone for over 4 years now and my Cyclosporine for over a year and you wouldn't know if you looked at me! I am very healthy. It is possibly that I may not live as long as I would without these drugs, but if I think if I still had my allergies and wasn't getting these pills I'd be very unhappy indeed.

So this is my story about my allergies. If you would like to ask me or mum any questions, we would be happy to help you!!

© 2017 Shannon Murphy


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