9/13/2014 Blog Post #1
I decided to start this blog in the hopes of helping other dogs suffering from allergies or at least provide some comfort to pet parents going through the same struggles. Let me first make clear that I am not a writer so please do not be too judgmental with the construction of my posts. My goal is to share Levi’s individual story, not to win a Pulitzer Prize for eloquent writing. Please take note of this my dear friends who are a part of the “Grammar Police.”
I have been fostering boxers and boxer mixes for almost 13 years. I had on occasion fostered the occasional English Bulldog or Old English Bulldog for the two boxer rescues I volunteer with since at the time there was not an EBD rescue in NC. Each one though, after evaluation, preferred to be an only dog so I never “foster failed” (the term lovingly assigned when a foster home adopts their foster dog) despite the fact I had dreamed of having an EBD of my own for years. Finally in November of 2009 I decided it was time to take the plunge and seek out an EBD of my own to add to my boxer pack. Again there were no EBD rescues here in NC at the time. Yes, I wish to highlight this, because at heart I am a rescue lady, so contacting breeders is just not what we do. It is amazing how many pure-breed dogs- of any breed- end up in shelters across the county every day. I looked online and reached out to my vet to find bullie breeders. I was not satisfied when I learned that all the breeders I contacted locally kept their breeder dogs in kennels out back. I thought “wow, these dogs are earning you some big bucks the least you could do is bring them inside and treat them like family.” After some time though, I found a breeder in Oklahoma who did do that. If someone was going to perform that ugly/dirty task of breeding at least they did it in a way I could feel good about. I checked references both of their veterinarian and of others who had purchased puppies from them in the past. And before I knew it Levi was hopping a plane to NC. Levi was born August 16, 2009 and became my forever child on a snowy Friday in December shortly after. The first time I held him in my arms was pure bliss. I made a promise to him that night that no matter what I was his mom forever. I just never imagined what a struggle that commitment would be.
I just want to make clear that now we have an amazing English Bulldog rescue in NC called Bullies 2 the Rescue. I will never again go to a breeder for an EBD companion. You can visit their website at www.bullies2therescue.com
As a puppy we experienced the normal medical things like cherry eyes in both eyes and had surgery to remove the third eyelid in both eyes. At age 1 he had a tumor to present itself on his left ear. My vet did an amazing job removing it and to my surprise he has no scar to show for it which to me was nothing short of miraculous considering its size and location. After that things were pretty easy until age two when the tail pocket infections started which later led to a tail amputation after we discovered it had inverted and was growing back inside him. A surgery like this is no joke and it was a rough few weeks of recovery but after he healed he was like a new dog, at least for a time.
Around age two and a half my life was changed forever because Levi started experiencing symptoms of allergies. Up to this point, I had just been the kind of person to shoot out to Pet Smart, Tractor Supply or Costco and grab a bag of food to feed. My boxers had never been allergy sufferers and while I had dealt with many health issues fostering boxers they never were allergies of any serious consequence. It was always medical issues that a surgery, procedure or a pill could correct. People who knew me then would have never predicted I would turn into this “dog food nut” that I am today. In life, sometimes situations become so severe you are forced to try and do things you would have never done in the past.
In the beginning, giving Levi daily Zyrtec was enough to calm his itchiness. At this point, he and my boxers were on the grain-free kibble from Costco. Dog Food Advisor had rated it a 4 star food and you could not beat the price. All my dogs had been doing fine on it and I just never had any reason to feed anything different. As the saying goes ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.” After a few months, the Zyrtec was not doing the trick and Levi began to get staph infections on his skin where he was constantly scratching. It is a miserable feeling to see this little fat furry thing you adore so much suffering. I do not have human children so my dogs are my world. It seemed like we were at my vet’s office every one or two weeks for antibiotics and prednisone. I kept telling myself “if only we can make it through the summer things will get better in the winter.” After almost 6 months of constant antibiotics and steroids things were not getting better. I became increasingly concerned about the long term side effects of prednisone on his system. If you spend some time researching this it sounds pretty scary. I knew there had to be another option. My vet suggested another product called Atopica and that day I came home with two boxes of that very expensive product. And again, after reading about the scary side effects this medicine can also have I thought “well this is not my answer either.”
During one of my internet searches I found some videos on You Tube by a holistic veterinarian Dr Karen Becker discussing the benefits of a raw food diet. These videos were quite compelling and for the first time I realized that the diet I fed impacted Levi’s health and ability to deal with allergies. Looking back I feel silly I had never considered that before. I mean if we go to the doctor and have high cholesterol the first thing suggested will be diet changes. Why is the same line of thought not also used with our canine companions? If diet has such a huge impact on our human health why would it not also have the same impact on our canine companion’s health? It was a light bulb moment to say the least.
So I spent more time researching online and found Darwin’s Pet Food. Darwin’s is a family owned company based out of Seattle Washington that ships frozen raw pet food to your door in Styrofoam coolers on dry ice. Let me tell you that stuff is so cold when you open it up I have to put gloves on to store it in my freezer. I did see Levi’s allergy symptoms subside some with a raw diet but it did not completely solve his problems. My vet and I started to have conversations about allergy testing. He was quick to point out that only 60% to 70% of dogs respond to immunotherapy. I was already feeding raw and Atopica and steroids were not the solution so I said “ok it is time to try this.” My vet recommended a specialist from Washington state that travels to NC once a month for a few days to see patients. She is supposed to be one of the top veterinarians in her field for allergy treatment. An appointment was made for both Levi and my other English Bulldog Esther. Yes, somewhere in the timeline above I rescued a female EBD with severe allergy symptoms and a whole host of other medical issues. I may discuss Esther more in the future. If this process is successful with Levi you can expect that my Esther will be my next furry child to go through this fast.
Allergy testing done right is not an inexpensive option. I spent $1500 each for my two bulldogs to have inter-dermal skin testing and blood allergy testing done along with a very thorough consult. It was comforting to know that the specialist who performed this testing also had a dog with allergies that was on a raw food diet. After the testing I discovered that Levi was allergic to 47 of the 67 environmental allergens tested in my local geographic area. And 38 of those he showed a significant/severe allergy to. She said she had only seen a few other dogs in her many years of practice with results this severe. She said that what they know about dogs like my Levi is that they actually have skin that is thinner than that of a normal dog and believe they have a defect in their DNA. One of their goals in research now is isolating that defect so that 10 to 15 years from now breeder dogs can be tested to see if they carry this defect in their DNA before they are bred. I thought that is all well and fine but Levi is born, he is here now and something has to be done now. Allergy serum was ordered and a strict schedule of allergy shots began.
Levi had to remain on the prednisone when he started the shots. He was also getting daily medicated baths in a prescription shampoo. His shedding was frightful and when he would shake you could see a million hairs blowing off. In addition, he had yet another staph infection that he was given another 45 days of antibiotics to kill. His allergies were turning into a literal nightmare for both he and I. Not too long after this someone with Georgia English Bulldog rescue told me about Bullies 2 the Rescue. I reached out and offered to volunteer. I came to know the Courtney the President of the rescue who also owns Carolina Pet Panty. After following her Facebook posts I began to introduce some other items into Levi’s diet and stopped the prednisone against the advice of his specialists. He started probiotics and digestive enzymes. Some more time after he started getting daily coconut oil. And months later thanks to Courtney’s posts we added in Ultra Oil. After a year on the shots and all these supplements Levi started to turn around. He no longer had recurring staph infections and his shedding had decreased but always remained at a higher than normal rate. I started to feel like I was making progress. I thought to myself “finally, I do not know how many more supplements I can give him.”
About two months ago Levi started to lick his paws more. He does have what is called a general anxiety disorder or GAD. Honestly, I could write a whole separate blog about my adventures with this. So I was not sure if this was the cause of this sudden onset of paw licking after months of doing so well. He takes Clomipramine daily to help curb his very negative reactions to such sounds as the doorbell, the can opener, the vacuum cleaner, dogs barking on the TV, the squeaking sounds when you clean your windows and trust me list goes on. Let me pause here and say isn’t he just the poster child to encourage you to buy from a breeder? As my mother often comments “Levi is a child that only his mother could love.” After a few more weeks his paws became brown and his face started getting brown and I knew this was his allergies rearing their ugly head again. I tried giving him Hydroxyzine which is a prescription antihistamine but it had no affect. So after all we had been through we seemed to be circling back to where we started. I asked myself “when is this nightmare going to end?” I was throwing every dime I had and many more I did not have at supplements and a raw diet. I honestly was beginning to think my only option left was Atopica. Yes, the dreaded drug I wanted to avoid in the first place.
Soon after, I saw Courtney post on her page about Answers Fermented Fish and how it was helping some of the bullies in her rescue. This product comes frozen so living in Winston Salem, NC I could not call her store and have her to ship it to me. I checked the Answers website and saw that a store here locally, Prohund Pet Supply, sold it. I called but they did not carry it in stock and had to order it for me which Michelle was happy to do. I cannot explain fully what a hit that stinky smelly stuff was with my pack. I started pouring some over everyone’s food daily and I did start to see a slight improvement in Levi’s paw licking but they remained a dingy brown.
Last week Courtney hosted the VP of Answers Pet food in her store. She had such a big interest that they also had the presentation available via a webinar for those who were not local. Jacqueline Hill is a microbiologist and gave a very insightful presentation. She discussed another product, Fermented Goat’s milk that comes from grass fed goats. Not only was this a great supplement but if given to your pet on a 30 fast it could also help to re-set or re-start their immune system. Now in no way am I qualified to detail here for you all the information she imparted during this hour and a half presentation but I was sold 45 minutes in. The rules for this fast are your pet only eats the fermented goat’s milk for 30 days. No treats at all.
Tomorrow Levi starts his 30 fast of only Answers Raw Fermented Goat’s milk. Dogs are supposed to still feel full with this fast provided you still offer the same calories per day they are accustomed to eating normally. Each 16oz carton contains approximately 336 calories. If you try this you will have to do the math to determine the appropriate amount for you to feed your dog each day. I am looking forward to this adventure and have high hopes because if this does not work I do not have anything left in my “tool kit” other than prescription medication.
When you put this much personal information out for others to read you run the risk of receiving negative feedback. If you feel the urge to make a negative comment about this blog please do me a favor and do as we used to say in middle school: “save the drama for your mamma!” My goal with this is not to preach or make myself sound like anything other than a crazy bullie mamma desperate to find a solution for my baby’s allergies. I took the time to you give Levi’s background because I wanted you to know ahead of time that Levi is an abnormal case. I can tell you countless dogs who have suffered allergies whose symptoms were completely resolved by simply changing from a cheap food to a higher quality food; simple as that, but with Levi, nothing has been simple. So if this produces some real results in a dog like him, think of what if could do for a dog whose issues are not so severe. I am not sure how many people will read this but I wanted to put Levi’s story out there. Somewhere there is another puppy mom who has been going through the same struggles and if this even helps one person then putting my personal business out there was worth it.
Links you may find worthwhile:
**A special thank you to Courtney of Carolina Pet Pantry for introducing me to this product.
I am the proud mom of:
- Moses a 9 yo brindle boxer I foster failed with through Carolina Boxer Rescue 7 years ago
- Eden a 6yo brindle boxer I adopted at 8 weeks of age from Blue Ridge Boxer Rescue
- Levi my 5yo brindle English Bulldog who is the subject of this blog
- And, Esther an 8yo brindle English Bulldog who I fostered failed with two and half years ago after less than 24 hours of bringing her home.
I am the foster mom to the following with Blue Ridge Boxer Rescue:
- Bosworth a 2yo American Bulldog with lumbosacral disease
- Harvey Henderson a 2yo Valley Bulldog (boxer/ebd) cross
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