Canine or swine?

“Is your dog pink?”

This is a question I get on a regular basis and no wonder: Henry often looks pink (thus the occasional nickname of piglet). When his skin is irritated he turns a beautiful shade of pink all over his little body – and his skin is always irritated.

He was on antibiotics for a skin condition when we adopted him and he has been on and off of antibiotics and steroids ever since. And the scratching! Oh man, the scratching is enough to drive us all insane. I think that scratching might be higher on the “things that annoy me and prevent me from sleeping list” than snoring!

His most frequent itchy spot is his left armpit. This provides a lot of amusement as he sticks his tongue out with each forward sweep of his back foot but also gives him bright red armpits. 

He also scratches his forehead until it bleeds and chews and bites and licks his paws until they are bright red. 

Oh, and when he is tired he gets bright red around his lips and nose. Which means I have a pink dog with red spots.

I don't think this picture does it justice but to give you an idea:

For a long time there was this never-ending cycle of taking Henry to the vet, getting meds & sometimes a steroid shot, and having a less itchy dog for a couple of weeks and then returning to the vet in a month (at the most). Not only was this a drain on the pocketbook but I was worried about exposing H to so many meds so much. And we just felt bad for Henry and his quality of life or lack thereof.

One vet recommended that we draw blood and get it tested for allergies, leading to regular allergy shots for our little man. Surprisingly, he doesn’t mind getting the shots…or maybe not surprisingly as he gets treats after each shot. The blood test was positive for several food allergies as well and so Henry went on a hypoallergenic diet. He wasn’t much better with the shots but better enough that we were able to visit the vet a little less frequently.

We changed vets and were instructed to give Henry more frequent baths and were given the name of a specialist to take him too. Baths are surprisingly easy and leave us with the softest Henry of a dog.

The specialist? That would be a veterinary dermatologist. Right. I’ve been struggling with adult acne for years and it’s my dog that gets a dermatologist. The doctor told us that blood tests aren’t very reliable and so that the only way to determine food allergies was through an elimination diet. My favorite thing about the doctor was that he kept my pocketbook in mind and recommended we wait to do the gold standard skin test until we see the results of the current allergy serum we had with a modified shot schedule. The dermatologist also prescribed an antihistamine to be given twice daily (a steal at more than 50$ a month).

This gave us a little more time in between vet visits…until both Jensen & I thought the other had given H his shots. A mere two weeks without allergy shots and Henry’s skin was out of control. Back to the vet for more antibiotics. The vet also told us we could give Henry up to three Benadryl per dose when he was having such a bad reaction.

The dermatologist couldn’t see Henry for over a month (apparently there are lots of allergic pets in the greater Seattle area) and in the meantime I bought enough Benadryl to put an entire city to sleep. You would think that a diet augmented with six Benadryl would chill Henry out right? That six Benadryl would calm our hyperactive, crazy little canine right? Wrong. The pills may as well have been made of sugar, very expensive sugar.

Finally, the day of Henry’s skin test arrived. Even Henry was reluctant to go to the vet when we had to leave at the crack of dawn to make the 45-minute drive (without traffic) to get to our 7 a.m. appointment. The dermatologist and his assistant take Henry away for his test as I go off in search of coffee. I enter the office less then fifteen minutes later to the sound of laughter. The doctor emerges from the back still giggling: “I just reversed the sedative and Henry still has his sea legs!”

Surprise of surprises Henry is allergic to almost everything except saline: Human dander, cat dander, dust mites, storage mites, wool, a mix of insect venom (is that what you call it?), weeds, if it is/was alive, grows, blooms, etc., he is allergic to it. Oh, and the storage mites? Storage mites are in dried food when you buy it, which means that we now have to freeze Henry’s dried food before we give it to him…oh joy.

The new shots have to be given to Henry every other day. He has been on them for a couple of months. He is still itchy but he isn’t eating a horses share of Benadryl on a daily basis. But time will tell….

Oh, Henry.

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