In 2017, Paisley and I moved from Denver, CO to Minneapolis, MN. She was 7, and was born and raised on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. During our first spring here, Paisley developed horrific skin allergies. She itched/scratched constantly and had huge blisters all over, along with red patches and she lost a lot of her hair. It was apparent that she was allergic to Minnesota, because she never had issues in Colorado.
My vet prescribed Apoquel, and I gave it to her right away. She had immediate relief. Like freakishly quick. I thought it was a miracle drug. She took it all summer/fall and only had some mild allergic flare-ups. In November, I took her in for her yearly wellness check and because she was 8 by that time, I had them do a senior blood panel. My vet called and said that her neutrophil count was low, and to recheck in 2 months. On January 11th, 2019 I had another blood panel done, and my vet called with devastating news: Paisley’s neutrophil count was under 100. So, it was time to see a specialist.
After consulting with the internal medicine vet, Paisley had a bone marrow biopsy. The biopsy is typically done in one shoulder and is done under general anesthesia. The surgeon drilled in to her left shoulder, but couldn’t get a good enough sample, so had to drill in to her right shoulder. It was AWFUL. It was really difficult for her to walk and she was in constant pain for at least a week afterwards. Long story short- There was no sign of cancer but she was diagnosed with something called ‘Immune-Mediated Neutropenia’, which is a side effect of immune-suppressing drugs like Apoquel. Her body was attacking her white blood cells like they were invaders. She began taking medications to rev her immune system back up. My vet said that if she got an infection, her body wouldn’t be able to fight it. Paisley became very sick and lethargic, and I was told she could live another week, or another couple years.
In the meantime, I had to figure out a way to treat Paisley’s allergies without any immune-suppressing drugs. I am a firm believer in using a natural, or at least a functional medicine approach for my own autoimmune diseases, and wanted to to try the same approach for Paisley. Last summer, her allergies were terrible, and I am anticipating another rough season this year. I am beginning her allergy regimen now, and thought I would share what I am doing. Note: I am not a veterinarian, and I recommend checking with yours before you treat your dog’s allergies. I am a huge follower of Dr. Karen Becker, so you can always point your veterinarian in her direction if s/he isn’t familiar with functional/integrative veterinary medicine.
- I joined the fabulous group Canine Allergies: The Natural Approach on Facebook.
- I researched ways to boost her immune system.
- I started her on Chaga mushrooms to boost her immune system.
- I switched Paisley to a 100% raw diet. Dry kibble can feed allergies, as it increases yeast in the body.
- I started her on a Leaky Gut Protocol to heal her digestive tract. She was already taking a probiotic, but I added in the Adored Beast products. I also did one round of the Yeasty Beast protocol, and am going to start another round of it next week to prepare for allergy season.
- I give her weekly paw soaks with povidone iodine from April-October. She hops in the baby pool and I have her stand-stay for about 3-4 minutes.
- I started her on Bromelain and Quercitin, an all-natural antihistamine. The dosage is body weight Xs 8 = total mgs per day. Research has shown that quercetin acts as a mast-cell stabilizer, and it decreases the amount of cells that react to an allergen. Mast cells are responsible for releasing histamine during inflammatory and allergic reactions.
- I also started her on Turmeric and Bovine Colustrum.
- I use NuStock, colloidal silver spray, and Jake’s Canine Remedy for itchy spots (not all at once, but I have all three on hand).
- Once a month, she goes to our fabulous groomer for a medicated oatmeal bath and coat blowout to reduce dander.
- Every time she comes in from outside, I wipe her paws with Earthbath foot wipes.
- I purchased an Air Purifier to use in our main family room.
- Last year and again this year, I use Wondercide for tick/flea control.
- Stinging Nettles (in compounded form) are also a great anti-histamine and can be used instead of Bromelain and Quercitin if that combo doesn’t work. I have this product in my pantry for really bad days.
An all-natural approach means a lot of trial and error, but you also must give things time to work. My biggest take away from this journey is this: Think about shifting your paradigm to treating your dog’s allergies from the inside out, instead of treating the symptoms. A leaky gut, yeast overgrowth, feeding kibble/starches, and a weakened immune system can be the biggest culprits for allergies.
Here is a great article on the dangers of Apoquel.
Here is more information on allergy medications.
Paisley died on January 23rd, 2021, just days after her 11th birthday. And 2 years to the day after her initial neutropenia diagnosis. She started limping on Friday night, and I took her to the vet first thing Saturday morning. She had tumors in her leg, and by 12Noon that day, I said goodbye to my beautiful cancer-filled dog. It was the worst day of my life. And in my mind, it was 100% preventable.
She likely developed osteosarcoma in her leg because of her suppressed immune system. Another side effect of Apoquel is cancer, so in addition to immune-mediated neutropenia, she never had a chance when I started giving it to her. Before she developed allergies she was an active, healthy, happy, vibrant, and perfect 8-year old dog. I will never forgive myself for not knowing better, and learning more about Apoquel before giving it to her. It is my goal to help educate other dog parents who are in the same situation, and teach others how to treat allergies more naturally without immune-suppressing and cancer-causing drugs.