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Itchy skin and how to protect your dog from dangerous anti-itch drugs

Itchy skin and how to protect your dog from dangerous anti-itch drugs

How to address your dog’s skin condition naturally

My home country visit is now over, and my heart is filled with memories of spending time with my family and friends. The connection to my roots is undeniably etched in my heart. I gather most of you also have the experience when getting together with long lost friends and classmates of starting exactly where you left off.

My intention of this first newsletter of the year is to write about a few things, my new found love, planned dog adoption and the secret drama of steroids: a little bit of life and a little bit of medicine. If you prefer to skip the stories and jump right to the medical part of things where I discuss how to address your dog's itchy skin you can do so by scrolling down.

1. My new found love

When someone says the word “public transit”, most North Americans would think of lengthy waits at bus stations and overcrowded subway trains. When I was growing up, my ultimate dream was to have enough money to buy a car and to drive anywhere I wanted to go.

I am truly blessed that my dream has become a reality now for many years, but ironically enough, I came to recognize that using the Prague public transit system is much more relaxing and efficient than driving in North American cities. The streetcar system has not been “dismantled” by the petroleum industrial complex as it has in the US and Canada, and trams go by every few minutes in any direction. Also, the subway in Prague is clean, safe and efficient.

Thanks to clever parking restrictions in Prague, there are only about 10% of cars on the street compared to Vancouver, which allows people to stroll casually through the city, enjoy the sights, sip mulled wine and eat street food offered in the Christmas Markets around the city. I am not a big drinker but having the freedom feels good. I have no idea why Canada has become such a police state. It sounds weird but true. History happens in circles...

The picture below is with my old time friend, a real animal lover, and my sister.

Since we arrived in Prague, it has not been unusual to walk 10 miles a day without even noticing because there is so much to see including many dogs! I love the unusual sightings like dogs on public transit because I am so used to dogs being restricted in the US and Canada. To me, taking dogs on public transit makes sense for dogs and also the environment. No one worries about dogs being around and they can be with their people without polluting the air in cars.

Here is a picture from the metro in Prague. 

2. Dogs of Prague 
As I said, dogs are everywhere in Prague! In cafes and on streetcars, many of them dressed to be comfortable in the winter cold. They even ride escalators! Yes, we did get a few comments on that one but honestly, I have ridden escalators with Skai many times in the past and I think it's as safe as it is for people. Of course, this is subject to how adjusted a dog is to them. My sense is that many dogs from countries with too many restrictions are ultimately less adjusted and get stressed more easily.

If you have seen my New Year's video you already know that 2019 will be the year of a new dog for us. Perhaps finding a sweet ceramic statue of a dog in a shop in the backstreets of Prague was a sign! 

The reason why we plan to adopt a dog in Europe is that I need to spend more time here to organize direct European shipping for dog lovers in the EU. If you are on the old continent, free worldwide shipping* will continue to be available and once we are all set-up with our European distribution center there will no longer be any customs procedures. Hurray! 

Don't get me wrong, from what I know about you and other dog lovers in our community, you do not "cheap out" when it comes to the health of your dogs but still, every dollar counts and why pay for customs fees.

* Free worldwide shipping is available for purchases over a minimum value of $129.
3. More on our new dog
But back to our planned adoption 🐕🐩🦴🐶😍! We hope to welcome the new puppy into our home this spring and plan to start service dog training as soon as possible. Perhaps you may not know, but the reason why I need a service dog is that I sleep-walked through a glass door in my 20’s and almost died because I lost about 3 litres of blood.

Having a well-trained service dog decreases the chances of walking through a glass door again and border collies are perfect because they are motion sensitive even at night. ;-)

4. Messy medicine and more on steroids and prednisone
Besides too much good food and fun times with friends and family, my Czech visit brought one more challenge, and that is my mother’s health and her prescription drug collection!  My mother, now in her 80’s, comes from the generation that thinks doctors are Gods and prescription drugs are magic candies that replace exercise and healthy food.

I confess, I hesitated to write about my mother’s situation at first, but then I thought it was an excellent opportunity to talk to you about prescription drugs.

Upon our arrival from Canada, my mother looked quite different; she had a very puffy face and was quite disoriented. The first thing I did was a review of her prescription drug “collection.” I found several doctors prescribed painkillers, heart drugs, eye drugs, anti-Alzheimer's drugs, senior dementia drugs and to top it all off,  one doctor also gave her what she called “the itchy pills.”

The “itchy pills” were prednisone, my least favourite drug of all because I have seen it cause so much damage. I decided to have a conversation with her GP, who while well intended, prescribed prednisone because mom was itchy and had episodes of urticaria (red skin swelling).

It was hard to be mad because I could see that the doctor intended to stop her itching. The conventional medical schooling sees symptoms as markers to establish the diagnosis with the somewhat naive idea that when the symptoms
are suppressed, the disease is gone.

This approach is similar to a small child covering his eyes thinking that others can’t see him when he does that!

Unfortunately, my mother had been taking the medication for months and clearly showed signs of iatrogenic (prescription drug-induced) Cushing’s disease which is many times more serious than itchy skin.  My mother had a “moon face” (facial puffiness so typical for this condition), distended belly and most of all, lack of vital energy.

Dogs often suffer from similar problems when a practitioner prescribes prednisone, usually by default, when they do not know how else to help. The itching usually stops for a few hours or days, but then it comes back with a vengeance alongside with some of the following steroid side-effects:

Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, heartburn, trouble sleeping, increased sweating, muscle pain/cramps, irregular heartbeat, weakness, foot swelling, weight gain, infections, vision problems, stomach ulceration, black/bloody stools, severe stomach/abdominal pain, mental/mood changes, slow wound healing, thinning skin, bone pain, menstrual period changes, puffy face, seizures, easy bruising/bleeding, elevated blood sugar, and diabetes.

Reading the list of side-effects, one must naturally ask which is better, itching or the medicine-induced problems?

The key point is making the best decision for your dog.

My experience is that many people react to itch much more emotionally than to more serious internal organ diseases and their anxiety often leads doctors to recommend a quick fix which is usually the start of a vicious cycle.
What is the solution to your dog's itchy skin?
If your dog has a skin condition or an itch and has been put on prednisone and other steroids, there will be a period of aggravation if you decide to take your dog off the medication.

My most common approach to itchy skin is outlined in the steps below:
  1. Keep your dog on meds for 1-2 weeks without any changes in dosing.
  2. Start with a cleanse program outlined here.
  3. Start a raw or cooked diet program. Kibble is often the root cause of skin disease.
  4. Learn about why back and muscle injuries may be another lesser known cause of skin problems. Learning this part will make you an overnight healer without the need to go to vet school for years!
  5. Add essential supplements to balance your dog's metabolism. Try our free Healthy Dog Tool to create a custom supplement plan for your dog.
There are many things that you can do when it comes to your dog's health and the hardest part is often sorting out the information available out there. This is why I have offered a simple plan above that has made a big difference in the lives of many dogs.

© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM


About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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