As you may remember a few posts back I talked about Heidi's ongoing problem with allergies that have become worse over the past year. It was noted when I bought her from Basset Rescue (GABR), along with her medical records, that she had an ongoing allergy problem. So it is something we have been dealing with not every month but usually 6- 8 months out of the year. Over the past year the treatment from my vet had changed from a pill to a shot. I was under the assumption it was an allergy shot, like you or I would get if we had allergies. Months ago after I dug a little deeper on the internet about the ingredients of the shot, I found they had changed from a pill for allergies to a steroid shot.
I didn't like that change so I started looking at other alternatives last spring. No one or no test could pinpoint what she was allergic to. Was it a food allergy, grass or walking through the hay field, environmental or seasonal.
I always suspected environmental because it didn't last all 12 months of the year but also occurred at different times through all 4 seasons. I had also tried different types of dry food, grain free, lamb based, duck & chicken based and even salmon based dry kibble. Last summer I tried a food supplement called Dinovite without any change in her skin problem. These past couple of months I have added coconut oil to her food with nothing really working.
No change ... so I didn't think it was food related.
Throughout the past year I had tried different antibiotic sprays, specialized shampoos with oatmeal or aloe vera. As one reader suggested I tried a solution to treat mites. Nothing improved. Last week I found some antibiotics left from Winston's script last spring and gave Heidi the last of those, which amounted to 2-1/2 days of antibiotics .... improvement.
Since her annual check up, annual shots and the steroid shot in late September I had decided for the first time in about 8 years that I was going to look for a different vet. There were other reasons to look somewhere else besides the treatment. Due to my location, plus living in a small town, there are different vets to choose from but 16-25 miles away. I do have a local vet but stopped going to him 8 years ago. I was about to chose a vet that is my neighbor but has his office 18 miles away. He is more into the treatment of farm animals for the local Amish/Mennonite farms 18 miles away but also uses alternative treatments for dogs. For some reason I had not called his office for an appointment yet.
Heidi's skin problems came back very rapidly after the antibiotics were stopped and was in the worse shape I had ever seen. To help relieve the redness, swelling and I'm sure soreness, I gave her a bath where not only did she soak with the shampoo but also a nice soak in warm water after the shampoo rinse. She laid in the water up to her neck almost dozing off.
I had decided to call the next morning for an appointment for the new vet 18 miles away. It was after their office hours so it would have to wait till Tuesday morning before I could call. I guess timing is everything. Late Monday night I received an email from my friend that lives in that town 18 miles away, where my neighbor's vet office is located, asking if I had seen the new vet in my town. I had passed this place twice in the past month on my way out of town but had not noticed the house that had recently sold was turned into a new veterinary clinic. I had missed their sign in the front yard.
I spent a few minutes reading their website about their business, the staff, their services and treatments. They sounded like they had a good business plan along with being a paperless office. I made my appointment online, after midnight. They confirmed my appointment by email and a phone call yesterday morning. I normally wouldn't write about a vet visit in detail but in this case I am. Not a lot of detail but just a few highlights that stood out, changes from my past vet and finally some answers after years of asking if there was anything else we could do for her besides just a shot that was no longer working for a month or so but closer to 2 weeks. Was there a different kind of food I should be feeding her?
This older house had been remodeled into a vet clinic ... very nice design and workmanship. After the receptionist double checked my address, phone number and email address that I had posted online ... Heidi and I proceeded to our treatment room. Soon after the vet tech stepped inside, sat her laptop on the table where you would normally lift your dog or cat for them to inspect. But she sat on the floor to get to Heidi's level ... asking questions as she petted her. At no time was I asked to put Heidi up on the table so she would be at the vet's level. We covered a lot of information with questions and answers. The only time I saw her go to the computer was after she took Heidi's pulse and temperature. That is something I want you to remember for later in this story.
Next the vet came in. She also sat her laptop on the table, where I would normally lift my hound for them to look out. Remember this is a paperless office so they had laptops and no folder with written files. The vet also sat on the floor at Heidi's level and gave her a thorough inspection while asking questions and giving me answers to my questions. A lot of information was covered between us. Not once did the vet go to her computer to type what was being said. She left the room after we were finished our discussion and her inspection of Heidi then came back with 3 options for me to consider based on her analysis.
Steroid shots nor allergy shots were an option.
During our discussion I was really impressed with her answers because not only where they detailed answers but the reasons why things were happening and how to treat it. They were the same questions I had asked my previous vet over the past 3 years of having Heidi treated for allergies ... only this time I had answers and not another steroid shot for the "quick band-aide" fix.
She recommended a medicated shampoo to be used only until the other meds started to work. I found out it was not a food allergy. It was not something that could be cured and gone for good, it will be an ongoing problem just as it has been the past 5+ years for Heidi. I also was relieved to find out it was not a grass or a hay field issue. It is most likely an airborne environmental issue like any person has and can be treated with medication without steroids.
What is going to be different is getting her away from those steroid shots ... which is something I wanted. It is also going to be a program where once under control, it would not be something that would flash back after 3-4 weeks causing her pain, swelling and soreness ... it would be under control. At the same time it would be a treatment only when the allergies are active.
I chose the Atopica "The Comfort Club" program. It's a modified oral capsule (cyclosporine) USP for dogs, the same ingredient you or I would be able to take for skin issues. I also left with the Antiseptic Shampoo along with 50mg capsules of Benedryl for her itching, to be used only until the Atopica took effect.
Since it was a paperless office I only walked out with the medications and a small debit card receipt, knowing my invoice would be emailed to me in a pdf file. That was nice because I am also a paperless person and always took those receipts in the past and scanned them when I got home into pdf files. I had their invoice in my inbox within 10 minutes after leaving the office.
The surprise came around 4:07pm when I received an email from the vet office and an attached pdf file named "Heidi's Health Report Card". All of the discussions with the vet tech and the vet were typed in a detailed summary. (They were paying attention to what was said). They even included what kind of dog food she eats and what the main ingredients were. They included the vital signs with temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, pulse quality, CRT, hydration, and body condition. They listed her condition in a categorized list based on their observation...even noting her ears were clean, something they mentioned at the time that they don't normally see in basset hounds.
They asked me if they could take a couple of pictures of Heidi's skin issues for their files and website, as they wanted to track improvements of her condition.
Heidi was cooperative throughout the visit, even rolling over on her back to show the vet her stomach and legpits issues ... without asking.
I'll update my leaf removal process in my next post.