I've been going to acupuncturists and naturopaths for years, in conjunction with going to my regular doctor. But for some reason, up until recently, I had only taken Baxter to a conventional veterinarian. I suppose some of this was cost -- it has been expensive enough just to take him in for his shots and heartworm tests and the recurring ear infection that seems to happen a couple of times a year. Also there just aren't very many holistic veterinarians around, at least not where we live.
Since he was a puppy, Baxter has had occasional bouts of little red sores on his tummy, which his vets have attributed to allergies. We changed to a premium dog food without preservatives and they got a bit better. We moved to a drier climate and that seemed to help as well. But after four years of eating the good food and living in the dry climate, Bax suddenly started getting his little red welts in record numbers, and this time they were getting infected and growing to the size of a quarter in diameter. Of course we took him to the vet as soon as we saw this wasn't going to go away by itself. The vet put him on antibiotics for the infection. They cleared up. Two weeks after the antibiotics they were back. He went on antibiotics again, and the vet put him on an "allergy free" prescription diet. Again, about two weeks after the antibiotics they were back and Baxter did not look well. His eyes weren't bright, his energy level was low and his skin had a waxy dandruff.
This time we were visiting in Arizona and I decided it was time for a second opinion, so I went to see Dr. Pema Mallu, DVM, a holistic veterinarian and veterinary acupuncturist in Sedona. (Interestingly enough, she is also a Buddhist nun, which I'll mention in another post...) Dr. Pema looked at Baxter and immediately diagnosed an underlying condition (I believe "too much dampness" was the Chinese medicine way of describing it) and she said this condition related to his skin and his digestion and his whole system. She said it was caused and/or exacerbated by a couple of things: 1) not spending enough time working (not as in sitting at the window, but as in running around loose outside, hunting, etc.) and 2) too much grain in his diet.
Dr. Pema pulled out her needles and gently inserted them in a number of places around Baxter's back. He didn't seem to mind at all. She also prescribed us some herbs and digestive enzymes to help get rid of the infection and balance his system, and she explained how his diet was not working for him. Dogs wouldn't normally eat very many grains like wheat and that some grains can actually irritate the lining of a dog's intestine as they pass through. This creates inflammation, which can exacerbate infections, lead to allergies, etc. Most dog foods, including the premium ones, have a lot of grain in them. She recommended we switch Bax to an all meat and vegetable diet.
I bought some Innova EVO for his dry food and picked up some Merrick's "Grammy's Pot Pie" and "Thanksgiving Day Dinner" in which to mix Baxter's herbs. We went back for one more round of acupuncture before we left town.
The change in Baxter's skin has been amazing. First the welts cleared up -- not quite as quickly as with the antibiotics, but almost, and they have not come back after a couple of months. He no longer has dandruff and that waxy feeling to his coat. His eyes are bright, he's energetic and he LOVES his food. Also I've noticed that products of his digestion are a lot healthier. During his treatment, a couple of latent ear infections came to the fore, which Dr. Pema did treat with antibiotic ointment (apparently this is normal as the animal's body rids itself of inflammation). His ears are now pink and clean and healthy and the ear infections have not come back either.
I think we have finally broken the cycle of allergies and infections and I have Dr. Pema to thank for that. We haven't substantially changed the amount of "running around" time he's had...it's still the daily walk. But we're going to make a concerted effort to take him up to the mountains more, where he can run free and so can we. I think this will be good for all of us.