Thursday, October 7, 2010

Food trials: will it ever end?

Since the beginning of this year, Brent and I have been trying to get Sensi’s allergies under control. Since he is allergic to many types of foods, we are doing food trials to figure just what he can have and what he can’t.

A food trial is basically a process of elimination way to figure out what your dog is allergic to.

To start, you get your dog on a diet that doesn’t bother him. For us, it’s a prescription kibble we get from our veterinarian. Once the dog has been looking healthy with no signs of allergies for a while, you start a food trial by adding a specific protein — like beef, chicken, pork, etc. — and other types of foods, like grains, for one week.

The second week, you remove the additive and get the dog back to his strict prescription diet.

You watch for signs of allergies — rashes, eye discharge, increased itchiness or licking, etc.

If the dog reacts, you can safely assume that the additive caused the reaction.

Some veterinarians would prefer you pay for expensive allergy tests, which from my understanding, aren’t entirely reliable. When the skin specialists at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services recommended food trials to us years ago, I trusted them. And if I’d done a better job going through it the first time, I probably wouldn’t be doing it all over again.

But I am.

Veterinarians who prefer allergy testing will point out that it can take many, many weeks for a food product to leave your dog’s system. This is true. And because of it, if your dog does react to an additive, it can be a month or more until you can start another trial. Basically, you wait until the dog has no symptoms of allergies before starting back up.

We’re currently in waiting mode. In fact, I feel like we’ve spent so much time this year in waiting mode.

Sensi reacted to beef back in August. He cleared up by September, but around the end of September, broke out again — swollen, scratched up armpits, rash on his belly, leaky eyes and itchy to the touch.

I could not reason why he broke out. There were no adds to his diet.

For the past couple of weeks, he’s been back on antibiotics and Benadryl — antibiotics to clear up any secondary infections that moved in when the allergies brought down his immune system and Benadryl to try and stop him from scratching himself into misery.

We saw our veterinarian for Sensi’s annual visit on Friday. I finally gave in and realized Sensi would have to be permanently medicated.

“It’s been a really bad allergy season,” our veterinarian told me. “More than likely, Sensi has environmental allergies in addition to food allergies.”

I’ve tried to avoid recognizing this for a long time. I’ve tried to tell myself that the environmental stuff we can deal with through medicated shampoos and keeping him clean.

It’s not that I’m anti-medication. Medications are good to take when you need them. I just don’t love the idea of needing a medication every day.

But that’s what we’ll be doing from here on out.

It’ll be over-the-counter Loratadine, which is the main ingredient in Claritin. For my dog’s body weight, he gets two daily.

He’s doing better and our veterinarian even complimented us on how healthy he looks given the circumstances. But it’ll be a while before we can get back to food trials.

I’m really hoping the first frost dampens those outdoor allergies so we can start moving forward again. I have ground lamb in the freezer just waiting for the dog to clear up.

At the rate we’re going right now, food trials seem like a never-ending task!

Talking to a coworker the other day, I reminisced about researching pit bulls before we brought Sensi home and how I was happy to discover that pit bulls didn’t have many health problems.

“Just some potential skin issues and allergies — I thought it’d be no big deal,” I said. “Boy was I wrong.”

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