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Does Your Dog Have Allergies? Here Are 4 Natural Remedies

I usually don’t write about pets or pet care, but Grace, my puppy mill rescue dog, has recently developed allergies.  In my search for holistic remedies, I spoke with several vets about possible causes and treatment options. Not fully satisfied with what the recommendations, I kept searching. I found a competent and caring holistic veterinarian- Dr. Dennis Thomas. 
 
After speaking with Dr. Thomas, I’m now confident that he can help Grace heal for good. 
 
Below are Dr. Thomas’ natural allergy recommendations (originally appearing here.)
 
Does Your Dog Have Allergies? Here Are 4 Natural Remedies
by Dr. Dennis Thomas, DVM 
 
As a veterinarian for over 35 years, I have to admit that nothing can be more frustrating, for all involved, than dealing with a dog with persistent allergies. Ultimately, the end result is a miserable dog, annoyed caretaker, and frustrated veterinarian. Why is it that this very common disease in dogs is so difficult to resolve?

The answer is that we are looking in the wrong direction. 

In conventional veterinary education, we are taught that most allergies are not curable, and the most we can hope for is to control the symptoms. In my experience, it appears that the same message is being delivered for human medicine.  

My book, Whole-Pet Healing, offers a holistic approach to the most common pet problems including allergies.

 
Whole Pet HealingDogs that have allergies will often have symptoms that include itchy skin, skin infections, smelly skin, ear infections, and/or anal gland problems. The veterinarian might treat the symptoms in order to break the allergic-cycle, or she might recommend an attempt to find out what the dog may be allergic to. This often involves food trials and allergy testing.
 
If the dog has a bacterial infection, the veterinarian will administer antibiotics until the skin clears. If the dog has intense itching, she will likely administer a drug that will temporarily stop the itching. This might be a steroid or another immune-suppressive drug such as Apoquel or Atopica. Depending on the severity of the allergy, the drugs may resolve the symptoms until the next exposure or at least give the dog a temporary break from the symptoms. However, long-term use of any of these drugs has the potential for serious side-effects.

Allergies in dogs are similar to those in humans. Some dogs will get exposed to something coming into the body and the immune system believes that this invader is not good for the body, so it develops an immune response to the foreign invader. It does this by producing antibodies against the invader, much like giving a vaccine causes the immune system to develop a protective antibody against a virus.

These foreign invaders could quite possibly be improperly digested food particles which may lead to food allergies or airborne allergens such as pollens, dust and molds. Once the body develops antibodies against the foreign material (antigen), then subsequent exposure to the antigen will usually cause symptoms to appear.  

Most environmental allergies affect the dog’s skin. This is referred to as atopy or allergic inhalant dermatitis. There could be scratching, licking or rubbing the face. The dog may also scoot its bottom to relieve anal itching. When the skin reacts to the allergen, it becomes inflamed. The inflammation (dermatitis) is what predisposes the skin to infection as the bacteria that usually causes the infection is a normal inhabitant of the skin.  

If the allergies persist long enough and the client gets frustrated enough, the dog will usually be referred to a veterinary dermatologist. The specialist will typically perform an allergy test on the dog using either blood testing or dermal testing (skin or patch test). The allergy test will hopefully identify the specific allergens that the dog is sensitive to. If possible, the allergen can be removed from the pet’s environment. If not, the dermatologist will recommend de-sensitization by giving the dog injections to combat the allergens. This treatment protocol can take up to one year to see the benefits and research indicates that it is about 85% effective.  

The above protocols for treating allergies in the dog have not changed much in my 35 years of practice.  

As a holistic veterinarian, I make it a point to look at all possibilities that could contribute to why dogs have allergies and why conventional protocol cannot eliminate the problem.

Causes of food allergies

It appears that the root problem starts with the food that we feed the dog. Most of us start feeding our puppy dry puppy food. Nutrition research tells us that heat-processed dry kibble causes the dog’s body to produce inflammatory cytokines that circulate throughout the body. These cytokines cause the puppy’s gut to become inflamed. When the gut is inflamed it does a poor job of absorbing the food. Improperly digested nutrients slip through the damaged bowel. These are called macrolides. The puppy’s immune system detects these macrolides as foreign invaders and develops antibodies against them. This is how food allergies occur.

Causes of environmental allergies

While the immune system is over-reacting to the continual input of improperly digested food, it becomes hyper-sensitive and reacts to most things entering the body. If there is a high level of pollen in the air, the hypersensitive immune system will develop antibody to those pollens. This is how environmental allergies occur.  

Vaccines

Then, about the time that the puppy’s immune system is pretty much out of whack, we start a vaccination protocol that usually includes immunizing the puppy once every three weeks or so until it reaches 15 or 16 weeks of age. These vaccines cause the over-worked immune system to react even more in its attempt to produce protective antibodies for the viral diseases it might contact. This continuum of the inflamed gut causing immune imbalance is referred to as Leaky Gut Syndrome. It has been identified in pets and people as well.  

Symptoms of food allergies can show up as early as 5-6 months of age, whereas environmental allergies usually begin to appear when the dog is 1.5-2 years of age.

As we attempt to resolve the allergies and not just treat the symptoms, we need to start focusing on the two root problems: inflamed gut and imbalanced immune system.  

Recommendations:

1. Get the puppy/dog off the heat-processed kibble that was part of the initial problem.  

2. Replace it with a balanced diet using wholesome, non-processed food. Any holistic veterinarian will be happy to prepare a diet formula that you can use at home. The other option would be to feed a commercial diet that has been prepared with wholesome food and frozen. These diets are available at most pet food stores.

3. Add a digestive enzyme and a combination of prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are micronutrient supplements that help promote healing of the damaged bowel. A good example is Standard Process Canine Enteric Support. I also like Dr. Mercola’s dog digestive enzyme. In time, the gut will heal and the source of the problem will be eliminated.

4. Restore balance to the immune system. In conventional veterinary medicine, we do not have any medication that will do this. I routinely use acupuncture and Chinese herbs in order to restore balance to the immune system. There are acupuncture points and Chinese herbs that act as immune modulators, meaning they balance the immune system whether it is over-active or suppressed. Be careful using western herbs that stimulate the immune system such as Echinacea as it will further aggravate the over-active immune system.  

Some herbs that act as adaptogens often help the immune system as well as relieve inflammation.  

Astragalus

Siberian ginseng

Burdock

Nettle

They help reduce allergy symptoms as they act to cleanse the body from toxins.  

Vaccine Debate

There has been a lot of debate as to whether veterinarians are over-vaccinating pets. I personally believe that we are. Several years ago, the American Veterinary Medical Association, with the support of the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners, published guidelines for veterinarians in regards to immunizations. The guidelines recommended that the core vaccines (DHPP in dogs and FVRCP in cats) not be given more frequently than every three years. In spite of the guidelines, statistics indicate that over 40% of veterinarians in the U.S. still give these vaccines once a year. It is obvious that these pets are being over-vaccinated, and research suggests that it is deleterious to the pet’s health.

Vaccinations have a serious impact on the immune system in the dog and cat and absolutely should not be given more than required. In my opinion, no dog that has allergies should receive further vaccinations until they have a healthy immune system and then only if it is absolutely needed. Giving vaccines to a dog with chronic allergies is like adding fuel to the fire. For these dogs, antibody testing is recommended.  

Emotional component

Most Chinese practitioners say that any persistent scratching or licking falls under the category of self-mutilation, and the emotional component needs to be addressed if we hope for total resolution. Ongoing scratching or licking will often become a compulsive behavior pattern. Emotions, as an energetic component, can come from the pet itself or the energy connection that it has with its caretaker. In about 1/3 of all of the allergy patients that I treat in my alternative practice, I find that the caretaker has allergies as well. This energetic connection cannot be overlooked if one is to eliminate this problem. I recommend energetic medicine to be used in both the pet and the affected caretaker. This might be in the form of acupuncture, homeopathy, or biofeedback.

My book, Whole-Pet Healing, has a whole chapter about people and their pets who have visited my practice with remarkably similar health conditions and illnesses.

 
Allergies in your dog do not have to be a life-long disease. Looking at the problem holistically and with an openness to alternative protocol. If an allergic dog’s caretaker will commit to a long-term program to restore overall health and make the needed changes, this disease can often be healed. I recommend finding a holistic veterinarian to work with your conventional veterinarian in order to provide a more holistic approach to eliminating this frustrating disease and restoring your dog to normal health and well-being.
 
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Thomas you can visit his website here or check out his FREE Whole Pet Healing interview on the Hay House Summit!
 
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