A Natural Approach to Seasonal Issues

Anyone who has “rip your eye balls out” kind of seasonal allergies can attest to how uncomfortable it can be! The symptoms are not different for our canine buddies. Pollen, grasses, trees,  insects, household chemicals and even dust and mold. When dogs and cats start to show symptoms of allergies they can manifest in many ways and the reactions are varying from dog to dog. When the body overreacts to the “allergens” or “antigens” its result may appear in the form of; rashes (from mild-severe), sneezing, wheezing, itchy skin, coughing, itchy eyes, yeasty discharge, red eyes or discharge from the eye. It may also be associated with runny noses, digestive upset and respiratory issues. The allergen or antigen enters the pet’s body in one of several ways, these include: inhaled, direct contact, food, or is transmitted by bacteria or insects.

Swollen, Red & Itchy Eyes. Moose has a seasonal allergy that appears in the first of spring. He gets some excess discharge in one eye (sometimes both) but it generally subsides in about June. Polysporin Antibacterial Eye Ointment is our absolute go to for weepy eyes. If the discharge seems greenish yellow we will use the ointment to keep bacteria at bay. Colloidal Silver can be used to wipe the eye and keep the eye clean, I recommend doing this once in the morning to clear the eyes and once in the evening to remove the days debris. When the eyes are really swollen, blood shot and itchy we compress warm tea bags directly over the dog’s eyes. Tea is great for the eye because it contains polyphenols one of those being tannin. Tannin acts as a natural astringent which will help reduce inflammation and help alleviate itching. Press steeped and warm tea bags (one for each eye to avoid contamination) directly over the eye and hold there for at least 2-3 minutes. (should be cool enough to touch to your cheek). Since your dog can’t actually tell you that their eyes are bothering them some things to watch for are: pawing at eyes, keeping eyes closed, rubbing eyes into carpet, excessive blinking and discharge from the eye. I get a lot of clients messaging me about their dogs allergies, I usually recommend they open the Weather Network app on their phones and check to see what allergens are high for that day and keep a log. Although there isn’t much you can do about those Elder Trees in the park across the street- but at least you have an idea of what is causing it. Dogs and humans often share the same allergies, so if you have watery eyes and sneezing your pet may also be affected.

Suspected Food Allergies. Food allergies are becoming more and more common with the use of inappropriate ingredients that come from questionable sources. Chicken is often the first to be blamed for food allergies because of its popularity in commercial dog food. There are many inappropriate ingredients in commercial dog food these days so it is often difficult to eliminate the offending ingredient. Dogs’ bodies can react to a certain protein source (i.e. chicken or beef) or can react to a grain (i.e. rice, corn or wheat) they can also be allergic to certain veggies or could even be a reaction to the additives and preservatives used to extend shelf life. Trying to pinpoint the source of the allergy can be quite difficult. If you suspect a food allergy the best thing you can do for your pet is to start feeding a species appropriate raw diet.  This can immediately eliminate any allergies to grains, vegetables and preservatives. Although dogs can indeed be allergic to a certain protein source it less common for a dog that is allergic to a chicken based kibble also be allergic to the raw form. Once on a raw diet if you are still experiencing what you think is a food allergy, it would be a good idea to create an elimination diet. Start with a protein you know your dog does well on with no reactions and continue to feed that exclusively for at least 6 weeks until your dog is symptom free. Introduce 1 new protein very slowly and monitor reactions closely. During this time I would also stop giving any supplements, as they too can sometimes be the culprit. Since a good raw diet is never based on one single protein it is important to add back some variety; however do this slowly. That way you can monitor the reactions and control them accordingly.

Itchy Skin. Itching and constant scratching can be very uncomfortable and even painful for your pet. When scratching becomes so intense it can create open sores and may even lead to a secondary infection if the direct cause is not treated. A great natural approach to treating redness, dry & itchy skin is a high quality fish oil (for the Omega 3s & Omega Fatty Acids). We use the brand Sh-Emp Oil which also has coconut oil which is great for skin. Be mindful not to get the “cheap” brand as they are often heavily preserved and may not come from the best sources. If the fish oil does not allieviate your pups’ symptoms our next go to is Quercetin. Quercetin (a flavonoid) is a plant based product that has anti-inflammatory & anti-histamine properties. They call it Nature’s Benedryl.

Quercetin Dosage
Take the weight of your pet and multiply it by 1000mg, then divide it by 125 to get the milligram dosage your pet needs.

Benadryl can also be used in times of needs. Dogs weighing 30 pounds and below – 10-30mg Between 30 and 50 pounds – 25-50mg 50 pounds and above – 50mg. You can repeat your dose up to THREE times in a day.

Bathing can also help keep an itchy dog comfortable. Using a good quality neem based shampoo has been known to help control the itchies. Of course never use human grade shampoo and try to get a fragrance free less harsh shampoo meant for use on pets. Ensure after bathing your pet to get all the shampoo out and give a good brushing to help distribute the natural oils. Be mindful that you don’t over bathe your dog which could dry the skin out further.

Harsh chemicals and other household cleaners can be a major irritant to dogs that spend almost their lives on our floors. They inhale and come into direct contact with air fresheners, floor cleaners, carpet cleaners and detergents. Think about switching these products to a safer option. We have also switched Moose’s drinking water from tap water to purified water. Chlorine and other additives in the water can cause issues with the skin.

Veterinarians are quick to prescribe steroids, anti-inflammatory and other medications to help deal with the symptoms of allergies. Although in certain cases medication can certainly be called upon, the dog’s immune system is currently not functioning properly so we want to support it rather than hinder it with drugs. These drugs do a good job of dealing with symptoms in the now however, do not treat the root cause.

Fleas & Ticks and Other Insects

In the spring time we are bombarded with vet calls and post cards reminding us to hurry up and get back in the vet’s office to get our flea, tick and heartworm medications. I have been quite adamant with my veterinary office NOT to send me these reminders as I refuse to apply poison in the form of a collar, dips, sprays, or washes to any of my animals.

Yes fleas, ticks and other insects can and do carry infectious disease, but is it as condemning as we are lead to believe? Certainly not in Ontario. When medication warns you not to get in contact with your skin and to keep out of reach of children – I tend to take that as a clear sign NOT to apply on my dog’s skin. The Environmental Protection Agency stated in Washington- March 24, 2010 : “Products intended to treat cats and dogs for fleas and ticks kill hundreds of pets each year and injure tens of  thousands.” This is when we are left to ask, do the benefits outweigh the risks.

FleasFleas can be a real nuisance for you and your dog. If you think your pet has fleas then back comb them often and with a flea comb. Since new fleas can hatch 2-3 weeks at a time it is important to be diligent. Although all fleas can cause some scratching a dog who is truly allergic to a flea’s saliva will have an intense need to scratch, even if only bit once.

Another form of treating fleas is with the use of food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). DE is the fossilization of shells from water dwelling organisms. It works by dehydrating the insect and killing them with microscopic sharp edges; it can be used topically for insects or internally for internal parasites. It can also be used on the dog’s bedding and in carpets; however it should be applied with a dust mask and vacuumed after to avoid inhaling any dust or irritating the eyes.

Please consider using natural methods before opting to place flea & tick treatments on your pet. Many of these products have warning labels stating that it is not safe for contact with human skin, yet we are applying these “treatments” to our pet’s skin! Consider making your own natural bug spray it will help protect your pet when out on hikes and walks when they could be exposed to fleas, ticks, mosquitos and other insects. This will not stop insects but will help make your dog smell like a less appealing snack.

Bug Spray– 1 cup water, 1 cup raw ACV, 10 drops of essential oil of tea tree, 10 drops of essential oil of neem, 10 drops of essential oil of peppermint. Lavander and citronella can also be used. Shake before spraying directly to your dogs fur. As time passes add a few drops of each essential oil as they loose their potency over time.

Ticks. Ticks can be yucky horrible things that just make your skin crawl! I know this because I have pulled countless between the Pack and Moose and Kessie. This is my method.

 I used some peroxide to clean the area, use clean and sterile tweezers and grab close to the head and pulled out cleanly. Another good tool is the “Tick Key” which looks like a little crow bar and works fantastically. Try not to explode the tick as bacteria can be transmitted to the wound, I was shocked at the wound left from the tick who I know was there less than 12 hours. I treated the wound with some peroxide and a dab of raw organic honey. Do head to tail exams often on your pet to check for any new bumps especially if you walk at trails and parks often.

Lyme disease is on the rise here in Ontario so be very diligent in checking your dogs for ticks. Infected ticks that have been engorged for 24 hours or more are capable of spreading the disease. If you find a tick that you suspect as been attached for more than 24 hours you can keep the tick and have it sent away to test for Lyme Disease.

Heartworm. Heartworm medications have had a hand in our pockets for a very, very long time. Now, with more and more people questioning the legitimacy and necessity of using this drug we are starting to really see the negative effects caused by using these drugs. With all these commercials, pictures and warnings and reminder postcards from the Vet how could we not use them? When the members of my pack parents’ ask me if I use any Heartworm preventative on Moose or Kessie I tell them No, and I never will on any pet I ever own. I have a few reasons for refusing the monthly poison dosages for my pets.

Ingredients

I will tell you right now that one of the reoccuring ingredients found in conventional heartworm medications is ivermectin. A quick google search will help you have a better understanding of the use of ivermectin is to kill everything. And it’s great at what it does. That’s the problem. I had a friend tell me once that their dog didn’t require the heartworm medication this year as he was currently being treated for demodectic mange with the use of ivermectin. This is not something I would feel comfortable about giving my dog long term as a preventative!  A few other common ingredients are Pyrantel pamoate, Milbemycin Oxime and Praziquantel.

How does a dog Develop Heartworm

In order for heartworm to be transmitted from a mosquito the stars must align perfectly starting with temperature and a female mosquito, the dog must be already infected with male and female heartworm, heartworms must be in the L1 stage at this point, the female mosquito (IF the temperature is right) develops the microfilariae (baby heartworms) for about 2 weeks to the L3 stage, the female mosquito then transmits the baby heartworms via her mouth to the dog to develop into L5. At this point a healthy dog’s immune system should be able to rid the worms naturally, but if not it will take the surviving heartworms 6 months to mature at this point they may reproduce but the heartworm babies will not survive unless the dog is again bit by a female mosquito carrying L3s- otherwise adults will live a few years then die.

Going Forward

You really only have a few options when it comes to Heartworm; use the drugs, don’t use the drugs, attempt to prevent naturally or take blood yearly to check for development of heartworm. Geographical location plays a big part in whether or not to give preventative heartworm medications, many of the warmer and tropical climate areas have much higher incidents of heartworm and may have to use preventative methods. For us Ontario folk I believe keeping your dog in good health by feeding a raw diet, minimally vaccinating and healthy exercise is your best preventative. If you do insist on using conventional preventative medications please be aware of any sudden symptoms including: vomiting, lethargy, and lack of coordination. If you suspect you have overdosed your pet bring the medication with you so the Vet knows what ingredients have been used. Also before starting any heartworm preventative insist on blood work first to ensure your pet isn’t already infected.

Check out this link of the white blood cells attacking a parasitic worm…the power of a healthy immune system

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