It turns out that our Doodlebug is an allergy dog. They surface from time to time — the allergy dogs. Not the ones that are allergic to a few things — maybe Oak pollen and chicken and wheat and cashews. The ones that are allergic to everything on God’s green earth. There is some kind of mysterious misalignment in their bodies that creates allergic reactions to everything around them, and they go through life itchy, irritable, unsettled, and often in pain.
Doodlebug is one of these dogs. We brought him home as a foster in early January, and he was (almost) dying of heartworm. He wasn’t showing any allergy symptoms — but then again, he was so sick that he was just in survival mode. A few weeks later — a few weeks into his heartworm treatment — the itchies hit. That they corresponded with the start of Cedar season in Austin made us assume they were just your average seasonal allergies, and we managed as well as we could with t-shirts and over-the-counter antihistamines. When these didn’t seem to be doing the trick, we went in to the vet’s office for a steroid injection. It helped. For three weeks. And then the itchies came back, worse than ever before. Dude was listless, pouty, and distractable. We dressed him in his Poison t-shirt to keep him from ripping his chest to shreds from all the scratching, and bowed our heads, feeling guilty for not being able to help him find relief.
We have always gone to traditional vets for Chick, with great success. But lately we’ve been meeting more and more people who use a combination of Western medicine and alternative / holistic treatments for their animals – including chiropracty, healing massage, and acupuncture. When we started talking to our dog-people friends about the Dude’s allergies, we got a couple of references to a progressive, holistic treatment called Advanced Allergy Therapeutics (AAT), and we thought: why not give it a go?
We took the Doodlebug for a consult — which was lovely — and ended up with an alarmingly long list of his allergies — most of the seasonal irritants, lots of environmental things like dust and feathers, and nearly all foods. Yikes!
So we did what we had to do, and moved quickly — we switched his food, started a regimen of wiping down his fur and paws after going outside, and made a treatment plan. AAT allows the treatment of up to two allergens per day, and the treatments are permanent — the substances treated never have to be treated again. But, the treatments are not cheap. We resolved to work through the major seasonal ones first, and then see where we stood. Working through two per week, we’ve made it through eight of the seasonals (trees, grass, weeds, flowers, and various types of pollens) so far. Our goal is to get through the major environmental and seasonal allergens and enough foods to get him onto a balanced and sustainable diet — and the road ahead is long.
After the first few treatments, we weren’t seeing any changes. After each treatment, we’d have the same itchy, miserable Bug that we had started out with. But we stuck with it. And just over the past week, we’ve seen some relief — the itching is still happening, but more rarely and more gently than before. The purple Poison t-shirt has come off, and we don’t have to put an e-collar on him anymore to keep him from scratching his ears until they bleed. He seems to sleep less fitfully, and pays attention better when we’re training. He’s more engaged and happier.
And what a relief.