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How I cured my dog's allergies

Dr Kevin Foster and his Airedale terrier, Macy.

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By veterinary surgeon Dr Kevin Foster, who cured his beloved dog Macy’s allergies naturally.

Dog's are now more than ever seen as part of the family - they sleep in our homes, we post photos of them on Facebook and even celebrate their birthdays!

As a veterinarian I spend a lot of my time helping pet owners manage their dog’s skin problems. As a pet owner, I have found myself in the same boat. Living with an allergic dog can be frustrating - some dogs can itch all day and night.

Allergic skin disease is the most common condition diagnosed at my practice. Below is the list of what I've found to be the most common household allergens, that cause allergic skin disease in dogs:
- fleas
- dust mites
- food
- airborne pollens
- grasses and;
- plants.

I manage these conditions daily at work but recently I have had to face this situation at home. My Airedale terrier, Macy, was itching, chewing and licking herself all the time. Not only was she doing damage to herself it was really annoying. This is what I did:

1. Monthly flea control
As an active dog, Macy was constantly hanging out with other dogs, but like many dogs Macy’s flea control was not given regularly enough by her busy owner (whoops!). I had never actually seen a flea on her but from experience I knew what that meant – nothing.

All dogs with sensitive skin benefit from a good quality flea control. Dog’s that are allergic to flea saliva only need one flea to bite them once a week to set off an intense allergic reaction. You don’t need to see fleas for them to be the cause of the problem. If your dog is chewing at his or her lower back or base of tail chances are they are actually allergic to fleas.

Flea collars, flea powders and flea shampoos do not always cut it. Ask your trusted vet for advice on what flea control you should use.

2. Fish oil supplementation
Macy is fed a good quality dry food, but I choose to supplement her diet with fish oils. Although, I would not see the benefits for at least four weeks, I knew they would help. Lucky for me she took them straight out of my hand!

Supplementing your pet’s diet with fish oils can be incredibly beneficial. Not only will this natural anti-inflammatory aid in managing your dog’s skin problems it will also provide additional benefits for their joints, cardiovascular system and kidney health. I recommended 1000 mg fish oils per 10 kg body weight daily. My tip though is to beware their fish breath afterwards...

3. Reduce allergen absorption
Despite these efforts, Macy’s itching was still apparent – it had reduced but she still was far too itchy. I did not want to resort to corticosteroids quite yet (a mainstay of treatment but not without significant side effects). I knew Macy was most likely allergic to something in her environment. Dogs’ with Atopic dermatitis are allergic to airborne pollens, dust mites and other allergens that are absorbed directly through their skin.

I couldn’t control everywhere she went, and although I keep a clean house I have been guaranteed by allergen experts that it is probably full of dust mites. So what else could I do?

The single most important advice I can give to owners of allergic dogs is to regularly use an all natural, sulphate-free shampoo to remove allergens from their pets' coat. This can be done as often as weekly, however, not every shampoo is going to be suitable – some may make things worse. I used Ivory Coat Sensitive Shampoo and Conditioner range on Macy, and it worked wonders.

4. Food allergens
After Macy developed allergic skin disease I changed her diet. Although not as common as Atopic dermatitis, food allergies can contribute to a lot of recurrent skin problems, ear infections and gastrointestinal issues in our pets. Dogs can be allergic to chicken, beef, wheat, soy, corn, eggs and milk. My dog Macy, is allergic to wheat – probably the most common food stuff in pet food in Australia! She is now fed a Salmon-based grain free dry food which she loves and I don’t even need to give her the extra fish oils anymore.

My top tip here is that diagnosing food allergies can be difficult, and not as easy as I found with Macy. Some pets can take 12 weeks to stop itching after changing their diet. Speak to your trusted vet for tailored advice for your pet.

Upon managing Macy’s allergies – not only is she itch free (most of the time) she is better behaved as well. Yes, you heard right – treating Macy’s skin allergies even made her a more relaxed dog.

Dr Kevin Foster is an ambassdor for IvoryCoat, www.ivorycoat.com.au