December 29, 2014

Changing Heidi's Treatment

Before we get into the reasons why Heidi's treatment is changing direction, I thought I'd post a picture of Winston and Sadie outside on Christmas day with very unusual weather ... like high 40's.

Since they know the weather should be colder, all three hounds have done their annual migration to the leather couch. Luckily when I want to sit there to watch a game, a movie, or read a book ... one of them will move to another chair or spot on the floor.

Like I was saying, Christmas Day did not feel like the typical Midwestern winter day. It was just a few years ago we had over 24" of snow and I was clearing driveways a couple of different times due to the non-stop snowing. Not this year.

I think you will agree this next picture looks like a cool November day in the Midwest.

Christmas Day 2014

Sadie doesn't like the iPhone camera but loves posing in front of the Nikon D3200

I made a mistake in my last post when I wrote about Heidi's Atopica dose. I had put 500mg per day but it was 100mg per day, I've corrected the previous post. Huge difference. That comes in a very large capsule. Since it has to be given 1 hour before her meal or 2 hours after her meal, hiding the capsule in cheese or peanut butter was not an option.

I am not even sure if that would have worked, since she is very good at separating what she doesn't like to eat. Luckily she is a very good dog when I open her mouth and I can slide the large capsule down the back of her throat without her trying to bite me or fighting it.

With the daily dose of Atopica I was seeing improvement like I wrote about the last post. Our goal was a gradual decrease in dosage from daily to hopefully 1 per week or 2 per month.

December 12, as per the vet's instructions I decreased the dosage to every other day. Within a few days I started seeing her itch more, and she was back to chewing her feet. Her spots were not nearly as bad as they were October 28 when we took the initial trip to the vet but her rear hocks were still hairless and red as well as her armpits. 

I had mentioned the armpit issue in my last vet visit November 29 but was told due to the excess skin a basset hound has it was having a hard time drying out and healing after the medicated shampoos. That seemed strange to me because her armpits have never been a problem until October. I can't say I was thrilled with that answer at the time but nodded my head and moved on.

When she recently started itching again, chewing herself again after 8 weeks of treatment ... I decided to read more about Atopica. Back in October I had read about any possible side effects Heidi might have taking Atopica plus what the long term effects were. All the information I read in October seemed to show it was the drug to use for allergies without using steroids. It had been used in people for years but not dogs and cats until 2003.

Someway in that initial research I missed the long term effect  that Atopica had.

Last week I did an internet search for "Is Atopica safe for dogs".  A lot of links showed up, some dog forums where dog owners were discussing their results and of course places to buy it online. The majority of people on the forums and customer reviews said Atopica was great, they had used it for years and they had given their dog a better quality of life by controlling their allergies. All said their dogs lived to be 9 years or older.

Like any medication for dogs, unless it's something out of the ordinary, if a dog lives a healthy life while on the medication and dies at the age or 9 or older, who can say the medication had anything to do with failing kidneys, or a bad heart?

These are the two articles that made me ask myself if I was giving her the right medication. They made me reconsider different options for treating her allergies. I decided a different direction in her treatment might be best:

Atopica: A Dangerous Path - click here 

Is Atopica Safe? - click here

Also the websites you find in searches, I'm using DuckDuckGo instead of Google now, how many of those sites discussing the reasons why you should not use that specific drug are really trying to steer you to buy their recommended dog food or products? As an example when I bought Dinovite last summer, a food supplement that did not work ... all of their email replies were telling me to stop all dog food and use their raw food formula along with their other supplements.

It's like a Catch-22. Which should you believe?

I decided the plan I chose at the vet October 28 was not working as well as I expected. Yes, she did give me 3 choices  to TRY to treat the allergies and I chose the Atopica plan. She also wrote in her notes to call her if Heidi's condition worsened or failed to improve.

"failed to improve" ... While on a daily dose, it did improve but not everything I expected. If Atopica was to help stop the itching and chewing, why was I having to continue Benadryl to stop the itching and chewing?  Like I said, her rear hocks were red and hairless and her armpits were hairless and at times red. 

So I decided that after 8 weeks of treatment, $300 worth of Atopica, plus Benadryl every 8-12 hours to prevent itching ... the current plan was not working.

The Benadryl was suppose to be used up until the time there was improvement yet the itching never stopped after 8 weeks.

I told my problem to a friend of mine that rescues dogs and cats. Some of her dogs have had medical problems and with her medical background she is very informed about different medications. She replied later with a long detailed email describing what Heidi was doing or really what her weak immune system was doing ... along with what Atopica was doing.

She agreed with my idea of changing treatment plans. Instead of just putting a "band aid" on the problem, try and strengthen Heidi's immune system through a diet change and possibly adding pro-biotics to her food. As I said in a different blog post, Heidi had these allergies when I bought her from the Basset Rescue. She was under regular medication, which was later changed by my vet to a different pill, then finally steroid shots after the pills were no longer working more than a week or two.

I spent days reading all I could about Atopica, visited forums that were linked in these articles and also looked again at the dog foods I had fed her over the past three years. I found some interesting things on a forum of Scottish Terrier owners where Atopica was discussed. That is where I read where many owners were happy giving their dogs Atopica, with good results.

There were 3 other owners that stood out. 

They stopped Atopica due to the same problems Heidi was still having. They changed their dog food with some great results. None of them worked for the dog food company, nor were affiliates. All three thought it would take months before they might see improvement but they were shocked how fast they saw change. One of the three said she even saw improvement after two weeks of feeding Merrick's Pork and Sweet Potato blend.

Pork is one ingredient I have never considered in a dog food. I've always fed good quality dog food to my hounds, or at least those that are highly rated by Dog Food Adviser. I've gone back and forth between grain free and regular food as long as it did not include wheat, corn or by-products. Most of those dog foods were Chicken and Rice or Lamb and Rice blend. Most had fruits and vegetables added to the ingredients.

After years of researching dog food ingredients, even filling out a spreadsheet of their first 5 ingredients so I could compare foods at a glance ... there was one thing I didn't consider with Heidi ... maybe she has a chicken allergy.

Was she allergic to Chicken or chicken products? Or was the Canola Oil I found in the Taste of the Wild no grain food causing problems. I normally feed the Diamond Naturals Large Breed with Chicken and Rice or Fromm Chicken and Rice. When I decided at different times to go to a grain free food, thinking that might be Heidi's problem I buy Taste of the Wild .. not paying any attention to Canola Oil that was in the Salmon blend.

Last week I didn't like what I read in either of these two articles about Canola Oil now being added to dog food. Taste of the Wild has added Canola Oil to a lot of their different blends of dog food.

Canola article No.1 - click here

Canola article No.2 - click here

So the search for a new dog food was on. I hate the thought on how much dog food costs now, as they raise prices while reducing the size of the bag but I decided I would go with grain free, no chicken an no lamb. Since three of those people had results with a specific kind of dog food I decided to go with Merrick's Grain Free Real Pork and Sweet Potato. This blend also has Salmon Meal and Salmon Oil.

Yes, all of her allergies could be environmental and probably are but the issue is what I am doing now isn't working. When I combine what my friend told me about allergies and immune systems with the three people that got results using this specific food, I have to try it.

So to finally end this longer than planned post, I started the new treatment this past Saturday by giving her the medicated shampoo bath. I am mixing the old and new food 50/50 while gradually changing to 100% new food over 3-4 days. As far as ingredients such as Canola Oil, or Rice, might think those are small amounts and may or may not have an effect. I asked my vet the first visit if the Wheat in the Milk Bone brand bone would have an effect on her, the vet replied that even if the dog licked the bone, it was enough to be absorbed and be a potential problem. So, that is the way I look at individual dog food ingredients.

After 8 weeks and 60 Atopica Capsules, this is what Heidi looked like on Saturday:

Rear Hock


Atopica did improve her paws and neck area. So that improvement that made me consider that still being an option. Yet, treating her without harsh drugs is my first choice. I do not expect instant results and not even the two week results where those forum owners spoke about. All dogs are different as well as treatments. I plan do this food combination for months before I decide if any changes are needed.

I have started the Merrick grain free pork and sweat potato dog food and for relief of any skin rashes I will be using Baby Spa Shea Butter Diaper Cream based on my friends recommendation for dog skin care.

Below are the before and after pictures.

October 28
December 27

October 28

December 27

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