Sunday, September 29, 2013

Help for an itching, scratching, dancing, allergic pug dog

Liam the pug in his bed
Poor pug Liam has struggled with allergies for most of his life (and I documented a particularly nasty breakout in a previous post, with a photo that still makes me cringe). Thankfully, I manage to keep his allergies under control with frequent baths, a customized diet and a heavy reliance on the washing machine. By keeping his gut healthy, and the environment clean, I figured I was helping him to avoid all future breakouts.

Recently, however, he's had a terrible case of the nighttime itchies. In the depths of the night, I could hear him licking his feet, scratching his sides or just moaning. A bath didn't do the trick, and when I looked closely at his belly, he had a tiny little rash on his belly button.

This is an important clue, as the articles I've read suggest that food-based allergies manifest with ear and foot symptoms. If his feet were a burgundy color or his ears were gunked up with blackness, I'd likely be out shopping for a new food. However, his ears seemed perfectly normal, and his feet were the proper shade of tan. He only had hives in the one bare spot available on his body, which seems to suggest an environmental allergy.

Reading about these allergies in dogs is a little daunting, as the information seems to suggest that allergies in dogs are a lot different than allergies in humans. For example, I have terrible allergies, and when mine are acting up, I have:
  • Sneezing fits 
  • Hacking coughs
  • Watery eyes 
  • Deep congestion
  • A low voice (this is the only symptom I have that my husband wishes I'd keep)

This article suggests that some 70 percent of dog skin-based symptoms come from allergies. Instead of showing nasal and throat signs, these guys itch and scratch.

My first instinct was to hold off on Liam's daily bath, thinking that I might be stripping away essential oils with his weekly dip in the water. However, experts suggest that allergic dogs need more baths, as they carry their allergens on their fur. A bath helps to wash these away, and it keeps bacterial colonies under control. So the baths stay.

I did add in a fish oil to Liam's diet, as these products tend to keep the skin supple, which might reduce the itchy sensation. I also switched laundry detergents, opting for a product that has no harsh ingredients, fragrances or softening agents, and I'm using no fabric softener in his laundry loads. (This is a step I used to follow religiously, and have abandoned of late. It looks like that was a bad idea.)

I also started reading about the wonders of topical applications of coconut oil. This post contains a significant amount of information about that topic, but in essence, it seems that coconut oil has mildly antiseptic properties, as well as bring a pretty great moisturizer. By applying the product topically, an owner might be fighting the bacteria that causes itching, as well as making the skin just a little healthier. I gave it a whirl, and while Liam did a lot of dancing during the application, as though I was tickling him, he tolerated the treatments with no ill effects.

As a last-ditch effort, I also put him on a dose of Benadryl. (I'm not going to share the dosage here, as I think everyone should talk the use of OTC drugs over with a doctor. In general, the drug is safe, but it's not something that works for all dogs, and the dose can vary pretty dramatically by the weight of the dog.)

It's been about a week, and I'm happy to report that Liam has made a remarkable recovery. He's sleeping through the night, and the little rash is almost gone. Just in case, however, I'm going to stick to my treatment program for the time being.

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