Monday, January 4, 2010

Merry Christmas and a crappy New Year

How quickly things go from wonderful to terrible ...
I was really looking forward to blogging about our happy, wagging-tailed dog opening his gifts merrily on Christmas morning — which he did. It was really cute and he was really happy and blah blah blah.
But now, there’s just bigger fish to fry.
Brent and I awoke on New Year's Day to find our dog red and swollen. The tell-tale signs that he'd spent all night scratching himself raw were all over his body.
From time to time on this blog, I’ve mentioned that Sensi has food allergies. He was about two years old when we found out, and we found out the hard way. More than $2,000 in vet bills later, we thought we had it all figured out.
My husband and I spent the bulk of one year doing food trials — this means the dog spends one week on a special anti-allergy food formula followed by one week where you mix in other foods, like beef or corn, to see if the dog has a reaction.
One food source after another Sensi reacted to. It’s just easier to say that Sensi is not allergic to a few items, including lamb, chicken, potatoes and green beans, than to list the multitude of things he is allergic to.
For years, Sensi has been on a very strict diet and because of this, we’ve been able to enjoy a very healthy dog. Selecting a dog food brand was a challenge at first.
The key, for us, was to find a food that had no “animal by-products” listed as an ingredient. Generally, this means the “by-products” of any animals could be part of the food. It’s a safe guess that anything that says “animal by-products” contains beef. Beef is Sensi’s biggest allergy.
We settled on Pro Plan Lamb & Rice after the allergy debacle. For years, it’s kept his coat and skin healthy, given him a reason to be excited at feeding time and kept him allergic-reaction free. I’ve recommended this brand of food to countless people over the years.
If any of you who I have recommended this brand to are reading this now, take heed that I am pulling my endorsement of this dog food.
As I was trying to figure out what could possibly be causing Sensi’s allergic reaction, I thought of how careful I am to always check the ingredient list on treats before I purchase them, even if it’s a brand I’ve bought before. Right then, I realized that I hadn’t checked the ingredients on Sensi’s dog food in years. I also remembered that last year, the formula for his food changed — softer, tasty morsels were added and Sensi was just thrilled about it.
Well, perhaps that’s when Pro Plan changed its ingredients too. On Saturday night, my frantic and worried self discovered “Animal Fat Preservatives (mixed with tocopherals)” and something which I think was called simply “Animal Digestive” added to the mix.
I left right away for the pet store to scour the shelves for a Sensi-safe food. Much to my chagrin, I found that Purina, Iams — even the Science Diet formula — and Pro Plan as well as some bags of Natural Choice contain some form of either animal by-products, animal fat preservatives or animal digestive.
I did find a few safe brands and chose Dick Van Patten’s Limited Ingredient Diet, the Duck and Potato kind, to try out.
It’s day two of the new diet and so far, the improvement has been so slight that I’m not favor of calling it an improvement at all. We’ve also taken away all of his toys and are keeping him on Benadryl.
It's definitely too early to tell what was causing the problem for Sensi, but my money's on the dog food.

What do food allergies look like in a dog?
Scratching and licking.
A dog who is allergic to something he eats regularly may react slowly or quickly. In Sensi’s case, I believe it took a lot of time for his symptoms to rear their ugly head.
Dogs will react to their allergies by itching and licking themselves, often profusely. Think this isn’t a big deal? Listen to what Sensi’s done to himself in the space of the last four or five days:
• Possibly broke the cartilage in his ear
• Given himself a fat lip
• Made rim of eye swell and bleed
• Scratched his armpit so profusely he gave himself raw, open and heavily swollen wounds
• Yeast infections in his front paws and most likely on his forearms too

Don’t blow off your dog’s allergies — it’s not at all like a human who sneezes during ragweed season. By the time we could visibly see the affects of allergies on our dog the first time around, he had been suffering for almost two years. His immune system was worn down and his body opened up to a multitude of infections, a couple which were very hard to shake.
Sensi is going to the vet tomorrow. I just hope we’re on the right path with the food.
And so, it was a very Merry Christmas at my house — and then, as we awoke on New Year’s Day to a scratched raw and swollen dog, a rather crappy New Year.


  1. Poor Sensi! So sad to hear he's suffering again, but it looks like now you're on the path to a healthier dog.

    Great post and a good reminder to all of us who have sensitive pooches!

  2. Poor thing! I hope the vet is able to sort him out.