*I am not a veterinarian and this post is only explaining Pickle’s story.
Always consult your veterinarian before you try any treatment for your pet.
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This is Pickle Lynn.
Isn’t she cute?
She’s my very first baby.
I was 25 when I decided it would be a good idea to get a dog.
She was adorable, and how hard could it be to have a dog, right?
My apartment allowed dogs and I thought she would make a good companion for me.
I found her online from a couple in Iowa who decided to breed their English Bulldog.
She came on a flight, VIP, right to me at the terminal in her little carrier.
I was instantly in love.
Pickle was a spunky, stubborn, little bulldog girl right from the start.
She potty trained quickly and easily and slept as much as she played.
This dog thing was a breeze!
And it was fun!
Until she started itching.
Pickle was about six months old when she got her first skin infection.
I always made sure she her folds and wrinkles were clean, but she still managed to get skin infections.
I took her to the vet, and they told me that dog allergies are basically an overactive immune system, and she was put on an antibiotic to clear up her skin.
After that visit I was almost an expert on dog allergy symptoms!
The antibiotic worked wonderfully, and she was soon back to herself, but not for long.
The constant licking, runny nose, itchy skin, red skin, watery eyes, hair loss, atopic dermatitis, skin irritation, and hot spots all over my dog’s body set in.
When she wasn’t sleeping, she was itching her chin and ears or licking her paws.
She would scratch behind her ears until there wasn’t much hair left, and sometimes it would bleed.
I took her back to the vet where they told me that she has all the common symptoms of allergies.
Allergies? Dogs have allergies? There’s a thing such as pet allergies? Do other pet parents know about this?
It’s winter in Wisconsin.
What in the heck could she be allergic to?
I have allergies of all kinds, including cat allergies (why I don’t have a cat) and I know how miserable I am when I get itchy eyes, skin issues, nasal symptoms, and hay fever.
Most of the summer I’m usually stuck inside with the Hepa filter and air conditioning.
Though our symptoms aren’t identical, they are similar symptoms, and I felt her pain (and discomfort).
I had heard of certain dog breeds having food allergies before, but I thought that was probably rare.
I didn’t know that there are a million different pet allergens, and dog allergens, out there too!
My vet educated me and told me it could be anything, and to be calm about it because it wasn’t a severe allergic reaction (it’s not like she was having an anaphylactic reaction with difficulty breathing) and we could work to come up with a treatment.
He did say that in most allergic dogs, the skin infections and she was getting were secondary infections due to allergies, so if we could get her allergies under control then that more than likely would stop the dog’s skin infections.
We started with the first step of changing her food to a hypoallergenic diet and giving her Benadryl.
The Benadryl helped a bit but there was still a residual itch which always turned into a skin infection.
It was then that I decided to agree to the allergy testing to find out exactly what she is allergic to.
The vet tech discussed it with me and explained they take a blood sample from her at the clinic and send it off to a lab to be evaluated.
I was hoping it was a food allergy because that sounded like something I could fix without having to give her medication for the rest of her life.
It was not a cheap blood test.
The test itself was about $400.
But she was miserable, and it is my responsibility to care for her.
Her test results came back positive for just about everything, including specific allergens like multiple types of grass, dust mites, seasonal allergies, environmental allergens, and airborne allergens.
Even the grass in our yard.
Can you imagine being allergic to your toilet?
I felt so bad for my furry friend.
She was allergic to multiple types of meat, trees, molds, and many grains.
I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know what to do or where to start.
I did know that she likely would have to be on medication for the rest of her life.
I worked with our vet to determine the best way to get her relief.
I started an elimination diet right away, eliminating the foods she was allergic to as much as I could.
I was stressed out trying to figure out this puzzle.
I was not expecting to have to deal with a pet allergy when I picked her up from the airport that first day I saw her, but here we were, and it was my responsibility to try and help my sweet girl.
Our vet was wonderful, but he was not a veterinary dermatologist.
Never be afraid to consult one if you have one near your home.
The Benadryl was not cutting it, so we tried another antihistamine…but that didn’t help her either.
One day she was covered in hives, so I took her into the vet who then recommended a steroid shot.
The shot worked wonders!
For about two weeks.
My vet told me allergy shots are not something dogs should get that often, so we were back to square one.
We then tried cyclosporine, which, as you guessed it…didn’t work.
So, it was a vicious cycle of bathing her in medicated shampoos and antibiotics and Benedryl and steroid shots for when she got REALLY bad.
This went on for years, and I was basically funding my veterinarian’s salary with all the money I was paying to relieve the skin allergies and infections.
I didn’t want to put her on any prescription medications, but allergic dermatitis and the bacterial infections, along with the look of my poor dog’s skin meant I had to be a good pet owner and do what I could to help. My vet, which I really admired, did say that this was her best option right now.
This medication really helped settle down her immune response and allergic response.
Since she has been taking her daily dose of Apoquel prescribed by her veterinarian, our dog’s allergies have been almost pretty much nonexistent.
I really wish we would have had this when she was younger.
Apoquel is pricey; probably because it works so well.
Dosing is easy; we just put it in a small meatball of wet dog food.
She finally has some relief!
I have to make sure that we have a constant supply of Apoquel, as it has to be taken on a regular basis.
If she is off of the medication for one day, her allergies come back, and they are angry.
When her allergies return, it is a sure bet that she will get either a skin infection or an ear infection.
So, we have this drug that works wonders with minimal side effects and I’m so happy we finally have relief for my sweet girl.
However, there are plenty of people out there who may not be able to afford Apoquel.
I thought it would be good to post about what we did to relieve her allergies before Apoquel for those who may not be able to afford it.
Of course it’s the best thing for your pet and you to ALWAYS check with the veterinarian FIRST before ever giving your dog a medication or a treatment.
They are the professionals and I am not.
They will give your pet a proper diagnosis, discuss treatment options with you and come up with a treatment plan.
I’m only sharing what semi-worked for us and made life manageable before Apoquel entered our lives.
Always consult your veterinarian for your pet’s health needs.
One thing that helped us combat the skin infections was medicated shampoo.
There are many out there, and all you have to do is ask someone in the pet store to help you pick out the best one for your dog.
Shampooing her about three times a week really helped her.
She loves her baths! Click here to view/purchase the shampoo that really helped us.
Another thing that helped us was feeding her high-quality food.
I had the list of things she was allergic to, and I took the list to the pet store and the associates helped me pick out a food that had the least aggravating ingredients for her.
I really believed this help cut back on the ear infections.
As I stated above, Benadryl seemed to take the edge off her miserable allergy days.
My vet gave me the dosage and I bought it at the store.
It’s definitely an inexpensive way to try and help your itchy pet.
There were a few things we didn’t try, and it’s because it wasn’t recommended to me by the vet, meaning he didn’t mention them at all and I had no clue they were options.
Things like skin testing, other counter medications, anti-itch medication and creams, a skin prick test, and an intradermal skin test we didn’t do.
I know they offer those tests in humans, but not sure about animals. I’ve also heard that fatty acids can help allergies in pets, but we didn’t try that either. We just tried the medical treatments that were offered by our team at the vet clinic.
Because we had the list of things she was allergic to, I tried to keep her away from those things.
This may seem obvious, but do you know how hard it is to keep dust away from your dog?
I did my best to always wash my bedding (yes, she sleeps with me) and her dog bed as much as I could.
I noticed a big difference in her itchiness if I didn’t keep up with the clean bedding.
Finally, I did all I could to keep her skin clean and DRY between baths. Bacteria LOVES wet stuff.
By keeping her skin dry, it helped keep the skin infections away.
Bulldogs have many different nooks and crannies on their bodies (especially females) and it really helps to keep them clean and dry.
So, if you’re in the dog allergy boat, I salute you.
I feel your pain and know your heartbreak and frustration that comes with seeing your pet uncomfortable.
Just know that allergies in dogs are very common and your veterinarian will be able to come up with a plan for your pet that should fit any budget you have.
It’s not a battle you can’t win, it just takes hard work and dedication.
Wishing you many itch-free puppy pats and kisses!
(Update: We lost Pickle in July of 2020. She was almost 14 years old, which is GREAT for a bulldog. We will never forget our sweet, spunky girl.)