My Dog Has Allergies, Now What?
My dog has allergies. If you’re a seasoned reader, this is old news since this has been something Bean has dealt with pretty much her whole life. If you’re new to our site, welcome to our own version of crazy. And also, spoiler alert, my dog has allergies.
I’m going to share the story that led to Bean’s allergy diagnosis so you have some background since I’ve mentioned Bean’s plight, but never shared her allergy tale up to this point. After sharing her history, you’re going to hear about a company that has helped to change her/our lives. A quick and affordable allergy test and its results have impacted our plan from this point forward.
We received an Affordable Pet Test in exchange for an honest assessment of our views & experience. We only share products that we have tried and love and our opinions are our own. This post also contains some Amazon Affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase through the links, we make a small commission. We are also affiliates for Affordable Pet Test. If you purchase a test using our link provided, we will make a small commission.
Bean joined us as a puppy, and for the first year of her life on this planet, there was zero scratching. Nada. Nary a raised hind paw even making its way close to her ear.
After Bean crossed the one-year mark, she started to scratch. A lot. Picture, the back of her ears covered in scabs and you have an idea of what she was doing to herself. She lost much of the fur near her ears, behind her armpits, and the top of her head. This resulted in some panicked trips to the local veterinarian, with the suggestion to give some oatmeal baths and to change her food from what she was on (Diamond) to a grain free, non-poultry option. We were told “many dogs develop an allergy to poultry, especially chicken, so it’s likely that causing the allergy along with environmental factors.”
Doesn't she look great when she isn't a ball of itchy sadness?!
We swapped her food, gave some baths, and she scratched a little less than before, but was still scratching pretty badly. Fast forward to 6:01 pm (our regular veterinarian’s office closes at 6:00) one night soon after. I looked at Bean and saw BIG red, inflamed, blister-like pockets all over her tiny brown and white body. Since our vet’s office was closed, which is a good indicator of our typical luck, we hurriedly brought her to the 24 hour emergency vet that was about 30 minutes from home. Fun fact, that vet’s office is now closed, meaning the closest emergency vet for us is now over an hour away. *Bryn starts to hyperventilate into a brown paper bag as she imagines all potential horrible situations that could happen in the future*
We waited for no less than six hours to be seen. Like with any Emergency Room, there’s a triage system, meaning the most severe cases are seen first. While Bean was uncomfortable, she was breathing fine, and wasn’t as emergent a case as others that came through the door.
She looks super sad in this photo, but she's actually just enjoying some rays of sun coming through the window.
We were finally brought in, where the Veterinarian promptly said “looks like she’s having an allergic reaction.” He injected her with a liquid version of Benadryl, said we could have administered Benadryl at home with a healthy layer of judgy attitude, encouraged us to schedule an appointment with a Veterinary Dermatologist (yep, they exist, who knew) and we were slammed with a sizable bill. For Benadryl. The stuff that costs a couple bucks at CVS. Wamp. Wamp.
We had to wait close to six weeks for our appointment with the Veterinary Dermatologist. When the time came for our appointment, we met with a gentleman who explained, for a significant fee, we could conduct the same type of allergy test humans get (think skin scratch tests, and bubbles of possible allergens). Or, we could take away all her food sources and slowly add food back in to see what was causing the problem. Considering the price quoted for testing would have purchased 10 new dogs, we opted against that option and went with the second option.
The problem with the second option, is we’re not scientists equipped to conduct experiments regarding our dog’s intake of food. We tried to take diligent notes, but she was always scratching, regardless of changes we were making. It was too hard to determine a correlation between food source and behavior outcome, in a way that was concrete enough for us to be able to make definitive conclusions. That, and Bean REFUSED TO EAT for most of her life, so we were thrilled when she ate anything, even if it resulted in itching.
You can see Bean's badass scar from her Mast Cell Tumor surgery!
We were informed by our local Veterinarian of a new drug that was shown to help with allergies shortly after our campaign to employ the scientific method with our dog. Desperate, we jumped on the opportunity. She was given a daily medication which showed to help with her scratching. That said, she developed a cancerous Mast Cell Tumor at just four years old. Since then, I have read a large number of scientific journals that have correlated the medication we were using with the development of cancer as a side effect, including MCT. I can’t conclude that they are correlated with 100% confidence, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. Notice, I didn’t share the name of the medication on purpose. I’m not here to spread conspiracy theories and I’m not really interested in getting in trouble with a multi-million dollar drug manufacturer, so accept my ambiguity. It was intentional.
BEAN’S CURRENT SITUATION
Bean now eats NomNomNow, which means she eats enthusiastically, every time the food is presented to her. I say presented to her, like she’s a magical princess, because, let’s face it, she basically is and reminds anyone who thinks otherwise who’s boss pretty quickly.
Bean also has a daily pre and probiotic which has helped with some food sensitivity (see link below).
Daily doses of CBD oil are a part of Bean’s repertoire to assist with anxiety and pain mitigation. I do share this because, I strongly believe some of Bean’s scratching is connected to anxiety and OCD type behavior and not because of being itchy. Not all, though. She most certainly has allergies, too.
Her daily medication includes a Benadryl and Apoquel that are both lovingly wrapped in pill paste from Tomlyn, or Bean will cheek her meds, like she’s in a prison, and spit them out when we’re not looking. I’m not exaggerating. We once found pills hidden in a crease of her blanket.
She still scratches. A lot.
In a desperate attempt to find a solution for my poor, itchy little buddy, I reached out to a company I had met briefly at Global Pet Expo this year. Affordable Pet Testing offers a pretty quick and painless way to conduct an allergy test at a reasonable price.
Here’s how it works. You send some strands of hair (with some roots, if possible) in a plastic ziplock bag to the company along with a completed test submission form that's emailed to you. They conduct their test and shortly afterwards send an email with the allergy test results.
The results come with a color coding system, and include food allergens and environmental so you can address both categories.
So, we thought Bean was allergic to poultry/chicken and avoided it for her whole life. Here’s what she’s actually allergic to. Notice the color coding? Red means, stop feeding and hold off on reintroducing for at least five weeks. If an item shows up on more than one list (for Bean that means mushrooms) that should take priority for a food that's removed from the lineup. Yellow means take caution, in that it may not result in the same level of discomfort in your dog, but it has the potential to cause some discomfort. Green means, you can feed, but be aware. Testing shows your dogs body doesn't like it, and it could become an issue later on.
I'm sad to share, Bean's current food NomNomNow includes potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and egg yolk in some of its protein source recipes (pork & beef). I'm happy to report, though, that their chicken recipe does not have any of the allergens listed in any of the three categories listed! Wahoo! This means we have swapped out proteins and will be serving her the chicken recipe as soon as we receive this month's shipment, which should be soon.
Now, let's take a look at the environmental allergens that are causing discomfort for Bean.
Like mother, like daughter. I too am allergic to dust mites, trees, and mold. As a result, we keep our house free of dust through regular cleaning, washing fabric, frequently changing air filters, and having air purifiers in our bedroom and living room. Knowing this information makes me more confident in believing her itchy sadness is from dietary allergens and not environmental, as we are already diligent in addressing them to mitigate my own allergies. Although, I will say, my favorite flowers are tulips, so that makes me sad, but they're rarely in the house, and she doesn't make contact with them/their pollen so I doubt that's much of an issue.
Now we have a plan! What a relief it is to have some answers that will help to guide our behaviors in which food & treats we give Bean. I'm hopeful that with dietary changes, Bean will be less itchy! We'll keep you posted on our progress! HUGE THANKS to Affordable Pet Testing for giving us the answers we need. Visit them using the link below for more information!