Posts Tagged ‘natural hydrocortisone’

PET PAIN GO AWAY

Just as there are many types of pain there are many ways to treat pain in both pets and people. Pets can become painful for numerous reasons. Dogs and cats experience bone pain, joint pain, ligament pain, tendon pain, skeletal muscle pain, neurologic pain and internal organ pain. Depending on the type of pain your pet is experiencing there specific therapies will help relieve the pain.

Probably the most common type of pain pets experience is musculoskeletal pain. Osteoarthritis is the most well known cause of pain in older animals. Arthritis can be seen in both young and old pets but by far osteoarthritis is the most common type of old age disease that veterinarians treat on a daily basis. Traditional veterinarians treat arthritis with non steroidal anti inflammatories and narcotic pain killers. And although these remedies often work quite well to relieve pain and inflammation when used long term they can not only damage the pet’s joints but also cause liver, kidney and gastro-intestinal damage. That is why holistic veterinarians prefer to use therapies that not only relieve pain but also help repair damage tissue. Acupuncture, chiropractic, micro-current therapy, infra-sonic therapy, pulsed magnetic therapy, cytokine therapy and homotoxicology are all effective pain relievers and help repair damaged tissue. Said another way, these therapies do not just mask the pain; they also help the body repair itself.

A torn cruciate ligament in a dog’s knee is quite painful and probably the most common orthopedic injury a dog incurs. It is almost always an injury of large dogs. A common history veterinarian here is that when the owner let the dog outside he or she was walking perfectly normal but walked back in with a painful hind leg limp. Traditional veterinarians recommend that these dogs -have the leg surgically repaired. However, many holistic veterinarians know about a technique known as prolotherapy which they can use in place of conventional surgery. Prolotherapy involves a series of monthly injections of a special “sclerosing agent in and around the damaged joint. These injections create inflammation which eventually causes scar tissue to form and tighten the hyper-mobile, painful joint. Once the joint is tightened the dog can once again walk without pain. Cold laser therapy, cytokine therapy and adequin therapy can all be used along with prolotherapy in order to repair a damaged painful knee joint.

Injuries that involve a dog’s spine are extremely painful and the pet may litterly scream out in agony. Spinal cord pain may result from inter-vertebral disk degeneration or hyper-mobile vertebrae as are present in Wobblers disease. Ruptured inter-vertebral disks can be present anywhere along the spine and put pressure on the spinal cord. The muscle spasms that results from a ruptured disk putting pressure on the spinal cord are excruciatingly painful. Traditional veterinary medicine recommends the use of prednisone, muscle relaxants, narcotic analgesics and spinal cord decompression surgery. On the other hand holistic veterinarians recommend electro-acupuncture, micro-current therapy, pulsed magnetic therapy, infrasonic therapy, systemic enzymes, and cytokine therapy.

Dr. Jerry Tennant has discovered that where ever there is chronic pain there is almost always an area of low voltage or increased acidity. Consequently, in order for chronic pain to be alleviated and for healing to begin tissue voltage must initially be increased to greater than what is considered normal voltage. Once the tissue has healed the voltage decreases to normal. The additional voltage needed for healing can be obtained by reducing tissue acidity or increasing alkalinity. This can be accomplished thru adding antioxidants to the pet’s body, adding oxygen, or by using electrical magnetic devices which add electrons to the pet’s body. Such devices include the Russian Scenar, the Tennant Biomodulator, and pulsed magnetic therapy units.    To learn more about holistic methods of healing visit  www.Doc4pets.com

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Woodside Animal Clinic is a unique, very personal,  one doctor practice where, for over 35 years, Dr. Simon has been healing dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, rodents, and reptiles with both conventional and alternative medicine.  Dr. Simon is certified in Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Stem cell therapy.  He is the author  of 4 pet care books, a past president of the Oakland County Veterinary Medical Association and a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.   Visit us at Doc4pets.com

Woodside Animal Clinic sees pets from all over Michigan but primarily from the greater Detroit  area  including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, and Livingston counties.   Cities in these counties including Royal Oak, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Detroit, Redford, Livonia, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Warren, Centerline, Clawson,  Troy, Sterling Heights, Southfield, Birmingham, Lathrup Village, Bingham Farms, Franklin, Beverly Hills, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Novi, Wixom, Brighton, Livonia, Plymouth, Commerce, Ann Arbor, Ortonville, Waterford, Clarkston, Union Lake,  Rochester,  Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Utica,  Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe,  Romeo,  Flint, Hartland,  Lansing, Okemos, Flint, Howell,  Brighton, White Lake, Romeo, Saline, South Lyon, Windsor Canada, Toledo Ohio

PET SKIN ALLERGIES MAKE VETS AND PETS SCRATCH THEIR HEADS

 

Of all the different diseases veterinarians treat, “allergic inhalant dermatitis”, also known as “atopic dermatitis” or “atopy”, is no doubt the most frustrating for both owner and veterinarian alike.   Why is this you may ask?  Well in this article I will explain the many difficulties veterinarians run up against when trying to diagnose and treat a dog with “atopy”.   To begin with atopy must  first be diagnosed and distinguish from a number of other skin diseases which have as their main symptom itching and scratching.      These other conditions which must be ruled out before the diagnosis of “atopic dermatitis” can be made include mange, yeast and fungal infections, bacterial infections, food sensitivities, fleas and contact dermatitis.      To further confuse the diagnosis, pets with atopy often develop the secondary problems of yeast and bacterial infections and consequently more than one problem often exists at the same time.

To Further add  to both the veterinarian’s and owner’s frustration is the fact that atopy often causes intense itching and because the pet is so uncomfortable the pet owner is desperate to find some way to provide their pet “immediate” relief.     When these atopic dogs are scratching themselves raw it is initially necessary to break the “itch scratch cycle” with some form of cortico-steroid.    Although steroids are not the long term solution there is little else available that will give the necessary immediate relief.   Anti-histamines, fatty acid supplements,  oatmeal baths  or crème rinses, and herbal anti inflammatories may help some but rarely provide the immediate relief owners are expecting.     In spite of the fact that long term use of steroids has  unwanted side effects,  the short term use may be necessary to prevent self inflicted skin mutilation which leads to secondary bacterial infections .    Once the intense itching and scratching has subsided other supplements and medications may be used to replace steroid therapy.   Most veterinarians realize that steroid therapy is a stop gap measure that is simply treating the symptoms and not the cause of the problem, however, a short term, reducing dose course of steroids is often necessary until the other approaches have a chance to kick in.     As a holistic veterinarian I minimize many of the unwanted side effects of steroid therapy by using “natural hydrocortisone” rather than synthetic steroids like prednisone or prednisolone.

Another frustration veterinarian’s face in dealing with allergic inhalant dermatitis is the fact that many animals with atopy may, at the same time, have food sensitivities.    Allergic inhalant dermatitis usually starts out as a seasonal problem and progresses over several years to become a year round one.    Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are year round.    When animals have year round itching and scratching your veterinarian must try to discover whether the problem is atopy, food sensitivity or a combination of both.    If both airborne and food allergens are causing the dogs itching and scratching then both problems must be dealt with if the pet’s itching and scratching is to be minimized.   Because food allergies may be due to both the food and to chemicals added to the food, such as preservatives, coloring agents, flavor enhancers or texturizers, trying to discover the allergic component in the food is often quite difficult and requires the use of food trials that use limited ingredient diets.   A limited ingredient diet is defined as a diet that is made with only a single carbohydrate and a single protein source, such as duck and potato.    When attempting to reduce itching and scratching through a limited ingredient diet trial there is further frustration because the effects of the new diet can take up to 12 weeks to see if it is going to work.

Adding to the owner’s frustration is the fact that successfully treating atopic dermatitis usually requires that the pet be given several supportive drugs or nutritional supplements in addition to weekly baths that will help treat complicating yeast or bacterial infections.   It is also important to give liver and intestinal support supplements in order to reduce the number of air borne and food allergens entering the pet’s blood.   Veterinarians are well aware that giving a pet all these oral supplements along with weekly medicated bath requires a huge commitment on the part of the pet owner.    Understand that this commitment to daily therapy must go on for months.

If a pet owner makes this commitment and has conscientiously applied the therapeutic strategy for months with poor results then the next step would be to have the pet allergy tested in order to find which airborne allergens are causing the intense itching.    Once the offending airborne allergens have been identified a “hyposensitizing serum” made up of these allergens can be prepared and the owner can be taught how to give simple periodic injection just under the skin.    Unfortunately allergy testing and subsequent desensitization can be expensive and is not guaranteed to work.     To add to the frustration it can take up to 9 months of allergy serum injections to determine if the  hypo- sensitization approach will provide the answer.

By now I think it should be obvious that diagnosing and treating a dog or cat with allergic inhalant dermatitis is huge undertaking for both veterinarian and pet owner alike.   A thorough exam and careful history is just the beginning.   Periodic recheck exams at 3 to 4 week intervals will be necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.    Changes in treatment may be necessary depending on how the pet’s skin is responding and how uncomfortable the pet is.     Following the veterinarian’s instructions to the letter is extremely important in order for him or her to judge whether therapeutic changes must be made.

Besides the above conventional approach to treating pets with skin allergies, holistic veterinarian can add acupuncture, herbal therapy, NAET, bio identical natural hormone therapy, FSM therapy, and monolaurin therapy.

For more on alternative and holistic medicine please visit  us at www.doc4pets.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOLISTIC PAIN MANAGEMENT FOR PETS

There are many types of pain.  Some are very severe and others more tolerable.   Although we think of pain as bad it is actually the body’s way of letting us know that something is wrong.   It tells us to slow down and protect the damaged area.    Without pain we would not be aware that we were damaged in some way and we would continue doing things that would make the pain worse.    Of course, if the pain is severe using pain killers to make life more tolerable is often necessary.   However simply masking the pain without taking additional steps to help the damaged area heal would be a big mistake.

Pets can develop painful conditions for a number of reasons and what relieves their pain depends to a great extent on what causes it.    Common painful conditions that dogs and cats develop include musculo-skeletal diseases which include injured muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone.    Specific problems such as arthritis, a torn cruciate ligament, a torn muscle, a torn menisci, hip dysplasia, a dislocated hip, osteomyelitis  and  osteosarcoma are all diseases causing musculoskeletal pain.   Other painful conditions may originate from the diseases of the nervous system including spinal cord compression from intervertebral disks disease, narrowing of the spinal canal known as vertebral stenosis. and spinal arthritis (vertebral spondylosis) which often compresses spinal nerve roots.    Gastro intestinal pain may result from gas distension, a gastric ulcer, and an intestinal foreign body causing intestinal obstruction.    Urinary tract pain can arise from stones in the kidney or passing down the ureters.   Stones lodged in the pets urethra can cause the bladder to distend and become very painful.    Oral pain can arise from loose teeth, a cavity, a tooth root abscess, or expose dental pulp.   A corneal eye ulcer, a foreign body in the eye or glaucoma can all cause severe eye pain.   To reiterate it is important to keep in mind that pain is a protective mechanism the body uses to tell the pet or person to avoid using the area while healing is occurring.  Consequently masking pain with pain killers although sometimes necessary may encourage the pet to use the limb before proper healing has occurred.

Before pain can be treated it must first be recognized by either the pet’s guardian or the veterinarian.    Because animals can’t tell us where it hurts and when it hurts caretakers and veterinarians must learn to recognize subtle signs of pain.    Sometimes pain is obvious such as when a pet walks stiffly or limps, or screams out when he or she moves in a certain way or is touched at a certain spot.   However, some dogs or cats are more stoic and pain may not be so obvious to the pet’s caretaker.    The less obvious signs of pain include a change in posture,  subtle changes in gait,  a change in ear, tail or head carriage, less activity, a decreased appetite, an increased heart rate, dilated pupils,   excessive panting, a personality change such as a more aggressive or fearful nature.

Once pain has been recognized and hopefully localized, there are many holistic options for reducing pain and making the pet more comfortable.   These options include herbal and nutritional anti-inflammatories like:     Valerian root, Rosemary, Ginger, Celery seed, Phenylalanine, DMSO, MSM, Hops, and Boswellia.  Glucosamine, collagen type 2, Hyaluranic acid, Yucca, and Ultra-InflammX .    Homotoxicology remedies like Trammel, Zeel, Spascupreel and Traumeel are all used to treat painful conditions.   The herbal or homeopathic remedy Arnica has long history of being used for pain management

Other  techniques  which can minimize pain include acupuncture, chiropractic, veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM), pulsed magnetic therapy,  Frequency Specific Micro current (FSM), infrasonic therapy, Class 4 Laser therapy,  massage therapy, trigger point therapy, prolo-therapy,   physical therapy,   Rubeolla viral Immune Modulator injection (RVI),  and finally Adequin and Legend injections.

The above therapies for pain can be used alone or in combination.     Keep in mind that what works well for anyone animal may not work as well for another.    Pets are like people and each individual has a unique physiology which determines which remedies or modalities work the best for them.   Consequently, it may take several trials before the best solution is found.

It is important to point out that holistic solutions are commonly not as fast acting as drugs but are much safer.     For most herbs or nutritional remedies pain relief may take as long as 2-3 weeks and consequently the quicker acting drugs may have to use in the initial stages in combination with the slower natural remedies.

Finally, one thing pet caregivers must realize is that it is very important to keep their dog under control during the healing process.    As we reduce the pets pain they want to run after birds, rabbits or squirrel in spite of their discomfort and in doing so commonly reinjure themselves.    Short easy walks can be beneficial but if the dog is pulling hard on the leash the walk may be contra-productive.

For more information on alternative and holistic medicine please visit us at www.doc4pets.com.

 

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Woodside Animal Clinic is a unique, very personal, one doctor practice where, for over 35 years, Dr. Simon has been healing
dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, rodents, and reptiles with both conventional and alternative medicine.  Dr. Simon is
certified in Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Stem cell therapy.  He is the author  of 4 pet care books, a past president of the Oakland County Veterinary Medical Association and a regular contributor to  Awakenings magazine.

Woodside Animal Clinic sees pets from all over Michigan but primarily from the greater Detroit  area  including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, and Livingston counties.   Cities in these counties including Royal Oak, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Detroit, Redford, Livonia, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Warren, Centerline, Clawson,  Troy, Sterling Heights, Southfield, Birmingham, Lathrup Village, Bingham Farms, Franklin, Farmington, Farmington, Hills, Novi, Wixom, Brighton, Livonia, lymouth, Commerce, Ann Arbor, Ortonville, Waterford, Union Lake, Rochester,  Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Utica,  Grosse Pointe
Farms, Grosse Pointe,  Romeo,  Flint, Hartland,  Lansing, Okemos, Flint , Howell,  Brighton, White Lake, Romeo, Saline, South Lyon, Windsor Canada, Toledo Ohio

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TREATING ITCHING AND SCRATCHING: A ticklish subject

Why is my dog itching, scratching, or chewing at himself? Is one of the most common questions dog and cat owners are asking their  veterinarian.    Just as with humans  there are many reasons why dogs and cats may itch, scratch or chew at themselves.   Keep in mind that itchiness is a symptom and not a disease and that  scratching is almost always the result of itchiness.    The often daunting challenge  the veterinarian is faced with is identifying the cause of the itching and the prevention of the scratching.  There are many causes for itching and scratching.    Included are parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites.   A bacterial dermatitis known as a “pyoderma” produces pimples that are very irritating .   Allergies result in skin rashes which cause severe itching and scratching and can lead to a  secondary  bacterial or yeast infection.   Autoimmune reactions can cause the skin to become red, raw, and itchy especially at the sites on the body where the skin
turns in ward and becomes the mucous membrane.    Nutritional deficiencies of such things as fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins and zinc can cause dry unhealthy skin which results in a dull, lack luster hair coat and itchy skin.

Some of the above causes of rashes,  itching and scratching are easily diagnosed while  others require a good bit of detective work.   Laboratory test used to diagnose itchy  skin problems include impression smears for yeast and bacteria infections, skin scrapings for mange mite infestations, cultures for bacterial or fungal infections, biopsies for helping identify cancer, hormonal diseases, allergies and auto immune processes.   Special ultra violet lights can discover certain types of fungal diseases.   Other laboratory test involve sending blood to an outside laboratory for measuring hormone levels .    Urine tests are available for detecting elevated cortisol levels that could cause a dog to itch and scratch.

Of course many diseases which cause itching, scratching and rashes can be treated symptomatically without actually knowing the cause of the problem .    However masking symptoms without  also treating the cause will  only be a temporary solution and the problem
will return as soon as the medication is stopped.    There are times  when the itching and scratching is so severe that drugs like corticosteroids must be used, short term,  to break the itch scratch cycle and give the pet relief .   In such cases giving the minimal amount of  a steroid  drug on an every other day dosage schedule helps to minimize the possibility of serious side effects.     Combining steroids with  anti inflammatory remedies like antihistamines and fatty acid supplements will allow for using lower doses of steroids.    The use of “natural hydrocortisone” which comes from the Yam  plant is an excellent alternative to synthetic cortisone such as prednisone or rednisolone.   Natural hydrocortisone is  “bio-identical” and thus produces fewer side effect than its synthetic drug counterparts.    If the itching and scratching is not too  severe then cortisone therapy may be avoided by using a number of other less aggressive approaches.    Frequent bathing with  a gentle herbal shampoo can help to calm the skin and wash off offending allergens.   Crème rinses that contain colloidal oatmeal, moisturizures, and a local skin analgesic like “pramoxine” can be used after a shampoo or all by themselves.     Clipping your pet’s coat short will make bathing and medicating much easier.  Sprays containing aloe and calendula can be applied  to localized rashes.    Licorice root is an herb given by mouth that  stimulates the pets  adrenal gland to produce more cortisone and thus reduce itching and scratching.   Doubling the recommended dose of oral omega fatty acids is recommended during seasonal outbreaks  when itching
is most intense.    Using an antihistamine such as benidryl  may be helpful both for its anti allergic effects and its mild sedative properties.

Regardless of the cause of itching and scratching,  the most important first step is to stop self mutilation  In the initial stages of treating severe chewing and scratching  an elizabethan  restraint collar can be placed around  the animals neck to stop licking but does little to prevent scratching unless the pet is scratching at his or her ears.    You may also want to consider clipping you pets nails short and/ortaping  padded socks over  the  dog or cat’s back feet.    You may be reluctant to use an Elizabethan collar or to pad the feet  but if you do not the self trauma becomes  a vicious cycle that even cortisone therapy won’t stop.

In summary ,  the causes of itching and scratching are numerous and  successful treatment of the problems depends on an accurate diagnosis.    Even after the problem is diagnosed successful therapy may be challenging  and frustrating  especially if the  pet’s caretaker does not thoroughly comply with their veterinarians recommendations .

For more information on alternative or holistic medicine please visit us at www.doc4pets.com.

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Woodside Animal Clinic is a unique, very personal,  one doctor practice where, for over 35 years, Dr. Simon has been healing dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, rodents, and reptiles with both conventional and alternative medicine.  Dr. Simon is certified in Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Stem cell therapy.  He is the author  of 4 pet care books, a past president of the Oakland County Veterinary Medical Association and a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.   Visit us at Doc4pets.com

Woodside Animal Clinic sees pets from all over Michigan but primarily from the greater Detroit  area  including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, and Livingston counties.   Cities in these counties including Royal Oak, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Detroit, Redford, Livonia, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Warren, Centerline, Clawson,  Troy, Sterling Heights, Southfield, Birmingham, Lathrup Village, Bingham Farms, Franklin, Beverly Hills, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Novi, Wixom, Brighton, Livonia, Plymouth, Commerce, Ann Arbor, Ortonville, Waterford, Clarkston, Union Lake,  Rochester,  Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Utica,  Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe,  Romeo,  Flint, Hartland,  Lansing, Okemos, Flint, Howell,  Brighton, White Lake, Romeo, Saline, South Lyon, Windsor Canada, Toledo Ohio

 

 

 

 

Treating Spondylosis & Disk Disease With Rubeola Viral Immunomodulator

Rubeola Virus Immunomodulator (RVI) is an extremely dilute injection of Rubeola virus.   It was originally licensed  for veterinary use to treat myositis and fibromyalgia in horses.   It has recently become available to small animal veterinarians but only with specific stipulations.   The use of RVI in small animals has been primarily for the treatment of spondylosis and intervertebral disk disease.  However Iam sure it also helps muscle inflammation as it does in horses.   Back in 1992 Dr. Don Polley wrote an article in a veterinary journal which discusses his experience using RVI on dogs.    In this article he was extremely enthusiastic about his results and it was because of this article that I became interested in the product.   When I first tried to get a bottle of RVI  I was told it was not yet available for use in Michigan but later was approved for veterinary use for dogs but only after the veterinarian got  special written permission  from the  Office of the State Veterinarian.
Spondylosis is an arthritic disease which produces “bone spurs” at the end of each vertebra.   These bone spurs continue to enlarge and will eventually bridge the intervertebral disk space and form a calcified splint across the joint.    It Is believed that the formation of these spurs , bridges and calcified splints is the body’s way of stabilizing a hyper-mobile joint that results from a disk collapse.   If these bone spurs become large enough they will impinge on the spinal nerve root and slow nerve transmission.    Bone spurs and calcified bridges can easily be seen radiographically.   Often multiple vertebral segments are involve.   Giving  a series of  RVI injections can reduce inflammation,  restore the nerve transmission and strengthen the gait.     The injections are given just under the skin and not in the muscle so they are not uncomfortable.     Response to these injection is often  rapid and within 1 week to 10 days we will usually be able to determine if therapy was successful.     Success is based on the disappearance of such symptoms as hind leg weakness,  knuckling over and dragging the toes, and a drunken appearance to the gait.   RVI injections  are quite safe and few to no reactions have been reported.     Electro-acupuncture, natural hydrocortisone therapy, pulsed magnetic therapy, soft laser therapy and infrasonic therapy are other modalities that can be used in place of RVI therapy or sometimes along with it.

At this writing I have only performed this therapy on 5 animals and have had good success on three.    Of course if the above mentioned symptoms are a result of an acutely ruptured disk,  a spinal tumor or a fibro cartilaginous infarct the RVI series will probably not produce a significant change.

RVI therapy usually consists of a series of 6 daily injections.

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Woodside Animal Clinic is a unique, very personal, one doctor practice where, for over 35 years, Dr. Simon has been healing dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, ferrets rodents, and reptiles with both conventional andalternative medicine. Dr. Simon is certified in Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Stem cell therapy. He is the author of 4 pet care books, a past president of the Oakland County Veterinary Medical Association and past board member of the  American Holistic Veterinary Association.   Visit us at  www.doc4pets.com

Woodside Animal Clinic sees pets from all over Michigan but primarily from the greater Detroit area including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Washtenaw counties. Cities in these counties including Royal Oak, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Detroit, Redford, Livonia, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Warren, Centerline, Clawson, Troy, Sterling Heights, Southfield, Birmingham, Lathrup Village, Bingham Farms,  Franklin, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Novi, Northville,Wixom, Brighton, Livonia, Plymouth, Commerce, Ann Arbor, Ortonville, Clarkston, Waterford, Union Lake, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Utica, White Lake, Grosse Pointe, Romeo, Swartz Creek,  Shelby township, Washington,  Flint, Hartland, Lansing, Okemos, Howell, Brighton, White Lake, Romeo, Saline, South Lyon, Battle Creek, Saginaw, Windsor Canada, Toledo Ohio

Itching and Scratching: Holistic Allergy Care for Dogs and Cat Skin Disease

 

Just as with people, dogs and cats itch and scratch for many reason.    Discovering the cause of the itching and scratching can be a difficult and time consuming process.     Careful attention must be paid to history, clinical examination, and laboratory findings.    The most common diseases that can cause itching and scratching include bacterial infections, allergies, food hypersensitivities,  sarcoptic mange mites, demodectic mange mites, fleas, yeast, ringworm infections,   autoimmune diseases, and hormonal and metabolic  disorders. Sometimes it is easy for the veterinarian to diagnose the cause of itching and scratching , for example,  when a pet has fleas crawling all over his or her body    At other times,   as with allergies,  the diagnosis can be much more difficult to arrive at .  Consequently, pet owners should understand that their veterinarian may not always be  able to diagnose and prescribe  the  total treatment for the pet’s itching and scratching on the initial visit.

One of the major reasons the  diagnosis of a pet’s itching and scratching can be difficult is because more than one cause of itching and scratching can be present at the same time.      For example,  a dog or cat may have a primary allergy infection  that  allows a secondary bacterial or yeast infection to develop.    Unless both the primary and secondary causes of itching are diagnosed and treated, the scratching may lessen but it will not stop completely.

To help sort out all the possible causes of a dog or cat’s itchy skin one or more laboratory tests are often needed.   One of the most common tests performed on a pet with itchy skin is a “skin scraping”.   The skin scraping is placed under the microscope and examined for the presence of mites and fungus.    Another test called an “impression smear” is performed by pushing a glass slide firmly against the affected skin, staining it with a dye, and examining it under the microscope for bacteria, white blood cells,  yeast and mites.    A third test called a “trichogram” requires plucking hairs and examining them under the microscope for fungus and mites.    If a fungus is suspected as a cause of the scratching, a ”fungal culture” is performed on hairs harvested from affected areas.   If fungal elements are present they will grow in the culture within 3 weeks. For the very difficult cases, diagnosis may necessitate surgical removal of a small core of skin so that it can be sent to the pathologist for microscopic exam.   This surgical procedure is known as a “key punch biopsy”.     If a food allergy is suspected as cause of a pet’s scratching,  a “limited ingredient diet” should be fed for several weeks to see if it results in relief from the itching.    If airborne allergens are suspected blood or skin testing should be performed in an attempt to discover  the specific offending allergen.  Unfortunately both airborne and food borne allergies are often  present at the same time.

To further complicate diagnostic efforts, understand that yeast and bacterial infections may be either a primary or secondary cause of a pet’s scratching, whereas allergies, mites or fleas are usually the primary cause.     The reader should understand that getting rid of the most primary cause will not always stop the itching if the secondary cause is not addressed and eliminated.    Furthermore,    it is not always possible to find a flea on a dog with fleas or a mite on a dog with mites.   If this is the case then “therapeutic testing “is necessary to make the diagnostic connection.   For example, if giving a mite dip or flea medicine stops the pets itching then a diagnosis of fleas or mites is made by association.  However, if the pet with fleas or mites has a secondary bacterial infection the scratching may only be reduced but  not disappear.

When treating mites or bacterial infections the veterinarian must always consider the possibility of an underlying immune deficiency predisposing the animal to such infections. Consequently, a thyroid test should be run to see if a “hypothyroid” condition could be suppressing immunity.     Also, consider that nutritional deficiencies could be producing an immune deficiency, so evaluating the pet’s diet is very mportant.

Besides the above more common causes of scratching there are a number of less common causes that include hyperadrenalcorticism, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, liver disease, Mast cell tumors, Cutaneous lymphoma,  Inflammatory Mammary Carcinoma,  and maldigestion.

Of course the treatment for pruritis (itching) depends on the diagnosis, however improving nutrition and reducing toxins will be beneficial regardless of the diagnosis.   Along this line, feeding food with a minimal amount of grain will reduce the likelihood of the pet developing a leaky gut syndrome.   A leaky gut will allow intestinal toxins and allergens to enter the liver circulation, overwhelm the livers detoxification capabilities and consequently enter systemic circulation.   This will overstimulate the immune system and make allergic response more likely .

I addition to eliminating dietary grain, food trials that begin by feeding a limited ingredient diet consisting only of a single novel protein and single novel carbohydrate will help greatly in minimizing allergic skin disease.   Feeding a limited ingredient diet will make it  less likely for food allergens to be  present.   Once the allergy symptoms are controlled by this limited diet other food ingredients should be added one by onei n an attempt to identify what foods are allergenic and which are safe.  This approach to treating allergic itching and scratching is know as a “food trial”.  Once the allergenic foods have been identified a healthier diet can be formulated  and  used in place of the limited ingredient diet.   For those not wanting to go through  the above food elimination process  predigested food are commercially available.  By predigesting the food the protein molecules are broken down into much smaller molecules which are then no longer allergenic.

In order to identify airborne and environmental allergens a sample of the pet’s blood can be sent to a laboratory that performs allergy testing.     In about 2 weeks the laboratory will send back a report on what environmental allergens the pet is sensitive too.   This same company can prepare  a hyposensitizing serum containing all of the identified allergens.    This serum will then be used to perform hyposensitizing therapy on the allergic animal.   Such serums are injected according a predesigned  schedule .     The protocol provides continually higher doses  be given.    At first the injections are given every few days but eventually they may only be given monthly.   Unfortunately hypo-sensitizing injections are not always the solution and it may take up to 9 months to see if the the therapy is effective.

Up to this point most of  the recommendations and therapies discussed have been entirely conventional.   I will now discuss more alternative therapies.   To begin with, providing digestive enzymes to a meat based low grain diet will help minimize allergens.  Then providing nutraceuticals to heal any damaged areas of the intestine and  support liver function  will help the pet repair his or he leaky gut.   Systemic enzymes should be given on an empty stomach so that they will be absorbed into the blood stream and circulate in the blood and act as a blood cleanser thereby destroying  circulating immune complexes.  Omega 3 fatty acids are important for overall skin health and to provide anti inflammatory support.  Next anti inflammatory herbs and antioxidants nutrients can be given to further reduce inflammation and minimize itching and scratching.   Natural cleansing shampoos should be given at least weekly to remove airborne allergens on the pet’s skin.   These shampoos should be followed with a cream rinse that contains a local skin anesthetic, colloidal oatmeal, and skin moisturizer.   Skin sprays containing aloe, calendula, tea tree oil, and oil of lavender are very soothing and easy to apply.    Several homotoxicological remedies are helpful with allergic skin problems.   If the pet is terribly itchy and the chewing and scratching is causing self trauma then oral natural hydrocortisone can be given for a limited period of time to reduce inflammation and calm the skin down  until the other approaches kick in.   Natural hydrocortisone is cortisone that has been harvested from the Yam plant and appears to have fewer side effects when compared to laboratory manufactured prednisone or prednisolone.   Furthermore, the herb Yucca has a strong anti inflammatory, anti itch  activity as does the plant sterol betasitosterol.

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Woodside Animal Clinic is a unique, very personal, one doctor practice where, for over 35 years, Dr. Simon has been healing dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, ferrets rodents, and reptiles with both traditional and alternative medicine. Dr. Simon is certified in Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Stem cell therapy. He is the author of 4 pet care books, a past president of the Oakland County Veterinary Medical Association and past board member of the  American Holistic Veterinary Association.   Visit us at  www.doc4pets.com

Woodside Animal Clinic sees pets from all over Michigan but primarily from the greater Detroit area including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Washtenaw counties. Cities in these counties include:  Royal Oak, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Detroit, Redford,  Allen Park, Romulus, Trenton, Livonia, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Warren, Centerline, Clawson, Troy, Sterling Heights, Southfield, Birmingham, Lathrup Village, Bingham Farms,  Franklin, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Novi, Northville,Wixom, Brighton, Livonia, Plymouth, Commerce, Ann Arbor, Ortonville, Clarkston, Waterford, Union Lake, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Utica, White Lake, Grosse Pointe, Romeo, Swartz Creek,  Shelby township, Washington,  Flint, Hartland, Lansing, Okemos, Howell, Brighton, White Lake, Romeo, Saline, South Lyon, Battle Creek, Saginaw, Windsor Canada, Toledo Ohio