Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Captain Planet vs. Allergies

by User Not Found | Sep 14, 2012

It’s that time of year again.  Just when you think the hot, pollen filled air of the summer is finally behind you, yet somehow your dogs are still itching like crazy.  Believe it or not, this is actually just about the worst time for skin problems in dogs.  Lucky for us, Golden Retrievers could easily be one of the worst…although we still can’t compete with the Westies.

Gus has a staph infection.  Nothing to get excited about, it happens every year at this time, no matter what I do.  It’s a vicious circle, but the good news is, I can get thru it without making a hundred trips to the vet for round after round of antibiotics and steroids.  It’s taken me close to 10 years and I’ve finally got a pretty good handle on it.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have to peel myself off the couch to make sure I’m staying on top of it and let’s face it, that’s hard sometimes.

Allergy-a damaging immune response by the body to a substance, can increase in severity with repeated exposure.

This condition is known as Atopic Dermatitis and is an allergic condition usually caused by inhaling allergens, like dust, pollens, molds and danders.  That annoying licking and biting you hear, that’s the dog making it worse.  Dog skin, just like ours has a delicate balance of bacteria and fungus that just hang out there naturally.  With an allergic response to these little flying irritants, you get licking, scratching and often secondary bacterial or yeast infection.  Fleas are an excellent help as well to making skin much worse.  Hair loss, dark skin color, ear infections, and itching and more itching.  Sound familiar?  The bad news is, there is no cure so no matter how many specialists you see or drugs you try, it’s always going to come back.  Whomp whomp.  The good news is, now you know and I just saved you a lot of money!  So what the heck do we do about it? 

For a lucky few, this is only seasonal, so you just have to deal with it in the summer.  For some, it can be year-round.  In some cases it can be related to a medical condition, but in most cases, it’s just good old fashioned allergies.  Do not fear my friends, there is a solution.  It won’t include a bunch of silly allergy testing that will cost you a lot of money and tell you nothing.  We must harness the powers of several super heroes and not just one.  Sorry Spiderman, you’re on your own, we’re going with Captain Planet and the Planeteers.  Remember him?  The early 90s animated hippie whose message was that the combined efforts of his Planeteers and their powers (earth, air, water and fire) are stronger than the individual parts.  Allergies can be managed, but only by attacking at all angles. 

EARTH-Try to avoid the allergens, ha!  During peak seasons, use “waterless” grooming wipes to wipe down your dog,s feet and coat.  This will minimize the amount brought into the house and left on carpeting and doggie beds.  In addition, be especially mindful if they have been outside for an extended period of time and doing things like laying in the grass.  Never can too much be said about the goodness of Fish Oil.  It’s an excellent source of Omega 3s (and Omega 6s).  These essential fatty acids (EFAs) keeps things that get your immune system all geared up during an allergic response from getting, well, too geared up.  EFAs also work with antihistamines to help reduce itching more than just giving antihistamines alone.  I throw the whole pill in their bowls and they eat them right up.

WATER- Launder bedding more frequently in peak season and launder your dog too.  There are many shampoos on the market (not just from your vet) that can help keep the bacteria and fungus down.  Look for something with Chlorahexadine (anti-bacterial) or ketoconazole (anti-fungal).  I’m currently trying a new shampoo that contains active enzymes said to be useful against bacteria, fungus and viruses.  It seems to be doing the trick, but after a summer or two, I’m sure I’ll switch it up again.  I stick to something as long as it works, when it seems to start losing its effectiveness, I switch to something else.  Many people think that bathing your dog too much will dry out their skin but this isn’t necessarily true.  There are also conditioners like those that contain oatmeal that can help soothe irritated skin.  Go have a look at the shampoo section for dogs, there are more choices than you will know what to do with.  As much work as it is, bathing your dog once a week removes accumulated allergens from the skin and coat.  Trust me, it really works and the dogs love it when it’s hot outside.

AIR-Blow dry your dog.  No seriously, do it.  If you give your dog a bath, it’s essential to blow dry afterwards.  Warm wet skin is just like a formal invitation to bacteria and yeast to throw a party and invite their friends.  Ever seen a hot spot?  They are wet and warm and that’s no coincidence.  Dry really thoroughly any areas especially that have skin folds, but also arm pits, necks and on the belly as these are the most common areas for outbreaks.  In the hot of the summer, I use Gold Bond medicated powder on Gus’s belly to help keep it dry and relieve itching.

FIRE-Ok I don’t really have a good one for this.  Let’s make fire equal to other defenses.  If you see your dog starting to scratch and bite, the best thing you can do is keep him/her away from it…again, they are making it worse.  Keep toenails trimmed to avoid further injury.  Old t-shirts, socks and even the dreaded E-collar can also help you with this effort.   Antihistamines are helpful sometimes, just make sure you talk to a vet about what to give and how much.  They are always a mystery to me, I’m not sure if they are sedating my dogs enough so they don’t itch, or actually helping relieve it.  Nobody wants a zombie dog so don’t be afraid to work with your vet on trying different things.  There are a lot of options and you can always try something else.  Keeping everything in balance is important on the outside as well as the inside.  Probiotics can help keep digestive and immune systems happy and healthy.  A spoonful of plain, non-fat yogurt with dinner on a regular basis is great and the dogs love it. 

HEART-Don’t fret, allergies can be managed and you can do it! It doesn’t happen overnight, but stick with it.  I am happy to report that Gus is not on any medications for the last two years!  Woo hoo!  To be noted, I have neglected to mention food allergies, which are an entirely overwhelming subject in themselves...and so I say we’ll save that for another day.  Perhaps Part II.  Remember, there isn’t just one way to treat and solve the problems of allergies.

Good luck and remember “The Power is Yours”

Cheers!

Katie 

Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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