Relapse…and recovery

Yikes! I’ve been gone for a while. It’s well intentioned though. Reggie has been very sick, and of course I have been taking good care of him.

Last summer he had an awful bout with a new development, irritable bowel disease. He stopped eating (literally, zero food) for several days and took little food for about three weeks. He developed a skin infection then had a terrible reaction to the antibiotics. It took about two months to fully recover but he did, and I thought we were past it.

Um, no.

Irritable bowel disease is akin to an autoimmune disease that has periods of flare-up, and periods of remission. Reggie went into remission. Also, it is very common for dogs with food allergies to develop IBD later in life.

Right at the new year, Reggie developed a skin infection again. He gets itchy, then he scratches and licks, and it develops into a lesion. More and more frequently these scratchy spots are becoming infected more easily. This time, one of the lesions became infected with staph, a staph infection. He stopped eating again, he had to get a monster shot of antibiotics, and recovery was slow. But, recover he did.

Then it happened again! Reggie is fond of hunger strikes and a month ago he decided he was over this whole eating thing. He got another staph infection- this one was worse, even the staff at the vet’s office noted that he was not his usual bubbly self- and another monster shot of antibiotics. He lost six pounds in a month (that’s 10% of his weight- that’s a big deal), he was dehydrated, his proteins were extremely high (due to malabsorption in his inflamed intestines), and he had a seizure due to the lowered threshold. Yikes.

He was started on a common G.I. anti-inflammatory medication to “calm down” his intestines. He also started eating prescription hypoallergenic dry food in addition to the hydrolyzed protein wet food he was already eating. Problem was, it wasn’t working, and he didn’t like the food.

So now we have a different medication that seems to be slowly working, and a new hypoallergenic food that he likes. He has gained four pounds, and his immune system is stable enough that he was able to get his vaccines. But what is our goal? We need to be striving for some sort of normalcy.

There is a plan. Reggie needs stability on this medication and food for 3-4 weeks. No G.I. distress, no infections, and continued weight gain. Then we have to do G.I. challenges with different foods to establish any reactions. Reggie will never eat his duck food again. We had a good run with it, but your G.I. system changes over time and his is saying “no” right now. The thinking is that duck is too close to other poultry that we know he is allergic to (chicken, turkey). The difference here is that we are not doing a true allergy challenge, but a G.I. challenge which requires less time and is looking for different reactions. He will also have all dairy eliminated from his diet because he is allergic to beef- milk and cheese still come from a cow.

So you might be wondering what he will be eating. Well his protein choices are limited. In discussions with the vet, we are going to try…rabbit. There are actually two sources that I can get quality, commercial dog food in both wet and dry form in rabbit that doesn’t have any of his allergens in it. We’ll see. I’m not sure he’ll eat it but we will try. Way back in the beginning we tried bison and he just sniffed it and walked away! Our other option is lamb. I’m partial to the lamb because I know he likes it and there are many more sources I can get good food from.
So in another month Reggie should be all healed up and eating new food. I’ll be able to report if we are buying rabbit or lamb and how it’s working!

Sleeping it off

Sleeping it off

Diet and epilepsy

So far 2015 has been a rough start for Reggie. He had been on a hunger strike for about two weeks, which culminated in a seizure on New Year’s Day. Off to the vet we go where I learned that Reggie actually had a staph infection!

Before everyone thinks I’m a bad pet parent, Reggie’s IBD will cause him gastric distress and diarrhea. Couple that with food and environmental allergies, and he frequently suffers from a lack of appetite and can easily get secondary infections.

This time around his skin was off the charts. I had noticed that he was shedding like it was summer- I mean he should be bald- despite the frigid temps. Then the hunger strike. Then the seizure. Then the vet.

We were at the vet the day after the seizure, and he another (small) seizure at the vet’s office. Bottom line? It was good that I brought him in when I did. He had a staph infection and had to get an antibiotic shot that stays in his system for 2 weeks. He also had to go on a hypoallergenic prescription diet, with no treats, to eliminate inflammation and heal his stomach.

This brings me to healing diets and epilepsy. Allergies and IBD are linked to epilepsy in the sense that chronic inflammation and infection can lower the seizure threshold. Does a diet that reduces inflammation and has anti-convulsant benefits really exist? Turns out, it can.

Vitamins, Minerals, and Amino Acids
Vitamins help release nutrients in food into the body. When food is cooked, vitamins are destroyed by heat. Commercial dog food is generally vitamin deficient because of this- just like human food. It’s a fact of the manufacturing process. Vitamins B, C, and E have been implicated in seizure activity. Vitamin E protects cell membranes from damage. In humans it has been shown that anti-convulsant drugs can reduce Vitamin E levels, and adding Vitamin E to the diet of epileptics can reduce seizure frequency.

Minerals are not made in the body, but only obtained through food. Again, the manufacturing process results in a loss of minerals. There are several mineral deficiencies that can be problematic for seizures, number one being magnesium. Magnesium is critical for nerve function and works with other vitamins.

Amino acids also can only be obtained through food. High quality animal protein in the least processed form will give the best amino acid profile. Taurine is an amino acid that is critical to the nervous system and deficiencies have been shown to be a cause of seizures. It is possible to have a diet deficient in amino acids due to the manufacturing process which is why it is critical (if you buy commercial dog food) to read labels and choose a high quality food.

Protein and Grains
A dog needs protein to survive. Proteins are then broken down into the amino acids mentioned above. The source and quality of the protein is important. Most dog foods provide their protein from meat, by-products, fish, and dairy. By now, we know that by-products are a low quality source. Choose whole food (human grade) meat sources for the best profile. Something I just learned: if your dog has a beef allergy, they likely have a mild allergy to dairy as well (still a cow). We never never did a food trial for dairy products but now have to remove all cheese and milk products from Reggie’s diet.

The grains are corn, wheat, soy, and rice. While dogs are dogs and not wolves, dogs do not have the ability to digest a high-grain diet. Wolves in the wild did not eat grain. Grains have a high phytate content which impairs mineral absorption which is important for magnesium. Dogs that have corn, wheat, or soy allergies can have lower seizure thresholds. When the formula of Reggie’s food changed from duck and rice to duck and oatmeal he had a hard time. I knew he would have a hard time anyway because of his issues, but through this learning process I now know that oats are much harder for his stomach to digest than rice is.

Reggie is still on his hypoallergenic diet, but it has been two weeks now and he is infection free. He loves the prescription food that costs about the same as my mortgage. I don’t know if he will go back to the duck and oatmeal- it is a delicate balance for his stomach, allergies, and seizure control. For detailed and GREAT information, check out this article about diet. It also addresses the benefits of a raw diet for dogs with epilepsy. Until next time!

Confessions of a clean-aholic

My favorite TV show is Hoarders. Why? Because I am a clean freak. Not an obsessive-compulsive disorder (I get the irony) kind of clean freak, but a minimalist, organized, clean, zero knick-knacks kind of clean freak. It’s probably karma that a dog like Reggie came into my life with allergies that require a diligently clean environment to keep him healthy.

So what’s my point? True to my nature, over the years I have researched- for Reggie of course- numerous things relative to cleaning to find things that are pet friendly and actually clean surfaces, not just give the appearance of clean (or smell like clean).

As we approach the new year we clean and purge, and start afresh. I bought a new vacuum, and I’m revisiting my cleaning products to keep my house safe and dust mite free for Reggie.

Ingredients To Avoid
Look at labels and avoid products with ingredients of phenol, isopropyl alcohol, formaldehyde, phthalates, and perchloroethylene.
Phenol is more harmful to cats than dogs, but in either case is harmful to the respiratory system and caustic to mucous membranes.
Isopropyl alcohol poisoning occurs most often from inhaled vapors, and is very common in cleaning solvents. Some dogs like the toilet bowl, what do you clean it with?
Formaldehyde is used in products such as carpet, furniture, building materials, and insulation. If you have extreme sensitivity, and new carpet for instance, the off-gassing of this material could be a problem. Formaldehyde is still used in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia as a food preservative so check where your pet food and treats come from!                                                                  Phthalates are that vinyl smell in plastic items. This isn’t a cleaning item necessarily, but phthalates keep the vinyl soft and pliable. As it leaches into the environment it becomes dry and brittle over time. It can be absorbed into the skin, or inhaled. The damage is to kidney and liver, and the reproductive system. No more vinyl dog toys for Reggie!                                                                The last one is less common for most probably, perchloroethylene, and is found mostly in dry cleaning, rug and carpet shampoos. If you do this yourself be aware that your pets are lower to the floor and breathe at a faster rate than we do.

What To Use Instead
Look for cleaners that utilize essential oils as cleaning agents. However, pine and citrus are toxic to pets so avoid these as main ingredients. Eco-Care has a great stain and odor remover that’s ok if your pets lick the surface. Method, Target’s brand of eco-friendly cleaning products, has many items in it’s line that I use and LOVE.

A Word About Floors
I just bought a new vacuum. One of Reggie’s allergies is dust mites and he had a hard time this past year with reactions. My house is majority hardwood floors, but I do have a couple of area rugs. Bagless vacuums are where it’s at right now, but after researching, I found that HEPA filter bag vacuums really trap and seal the dust and debris the best, and remove (depending on what you buy) 99.9% of allergens. I also looked at steam mops, because I have majority hardwood. It makes sense, right? Hot water, no chemicals, clean surface, perfect for kids and pets. Not so fast. The majority of steam mops run continuous steam at about 160-170 degrees, with steam bursts at higher temperatures which vary by manufacturer- most at around 200 degrees. Most steam mops also claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria…kind of true. At 160-170 degrees you can kill dust mites and you can clean spills or a soiled floor. To clean bacteria (like a spill in your kitchen, or a pet accident) such as listeria, salmonella, e.coli, influenza, etc., the steam has to be 212 degrees for at least 90 seconds.
Bottom line? Steam mops can be great depending on manufacturer and if used properly. I will stick with my new German engineered vacuum and wood floor cleaner.

Here’s to a happy, healthy new year!