Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dogs, again


Quick Fixes Can Lead to Long-Term Problems

Thursday, September 11, 2008; Page PG22

Dear Dr. Fox:

In response to J.S. [Animal Doctor, June 15], who has a dog with severe allergies, I also had two dogs with allergies.

My Australian terrier had severe allergies and skin sores most of her life. While helping a friend take her cat to the vet, I heard the vet say that some animals are allergic to their feeding bowls. He recommended stainless steel or glass, and nothing else. I figured it was worth trying and changed the bowls. Within a month, the sores had disappeared. She lived to be 18.

My poodle also had allergies, scratching and chewing his paws all day. His vet recommended a total change of diet. For six months, I fed him a mix of lentils and sweet potatoes, and he was free of allergies his entire life.


Falls Church

Many thanks for your advice on treating severe and chronic allergies in dogs. Allergies indicate a disrupted immune system, and finding the causes can take a lot of detective work.

Yes, nonplastic food and water bowls, ideally ceramic or stainless steel, should be used for dogs and cats.

The quick fix for allergies is to put the animals on steroids. They alleviate the symptoms and provide short-term relief for animals that are scratching and chewing themselves raw and bloody.

But often, when the medication has tapered off, the symptoms reappear, and the animals are put back on corticosteroids, which can lead to cystitis and diabetes in cats and other health problems in dogs, notably Cushing's disease. This is increasingly common in dogs and occurs when adrenal glands become hyperactive as a result of prolonged use of corticosteroids. Afflicted dogs might look obese, have thinning coats, experience muscular weakness, become potbellied and lethargic and show increased thirst and urination. Secondary bacterial infections and poor wound healing are also common.

My advice to all pet owners is to avoid long-term steroid treatments when allergies are suspected or diagnosed and to try find the root causes.