This vision contrasts sharply with my introduction to Monroe,
a senior golden, in December 1999. His skin was some of the
worst we've seen in rescue. He was full of scabs and warts
all over his body. He had sore, bloody elbows, and bloody scabs
all over his tail. His belly was black from skin infections,
and his skin was moist and hot to the touch. The worst thing
was his smell. The odor was pervasive - in my car, in my house,
on my hands after petting him. It was everywhere.
Monroe was turned in by a man who became ill and could no
longer care for him. After adopting him from Orange City Animal
Control in January 1999, the owner spent a considerable sum
trying to help Monroe, but nothing seemed to work. Who knows
what kind of prior life this poor dog had - probably an outside
dog with chronic allergies, his condition allowed to degrade
with no veterinary care.
I did the intake interview, and I remember thinking what
a challenge Monroe would be with our limited resources and
volunteers. But I knew one thing for sure: We had to help him.
He won me over with his soft, pleading eyes. I took him home
and decided to oversee his care.
And So It Begins
From his records, we learned that Monroe had been on steroids and a special
veterinary diet for the past year. It was obvious the traditional approach
wasn't working. I had heard about a holistic veterinarian who had opened
a practice in Winter Park. I've been into holistic care for a while with
my own dogs, so this was a natural path for me. Ultimately, the GRRMF Board
decided to explore this option. We were hoping that through Monroe's experience,
we'd learn something to help the increasing amount of dogs we're seeing in
the program with allergies.
Dr. Constance DiNatale agreed to take a look at Monroe and,
as many of our veterinarians do, she gave us a generous discount
to boot. She is a regular veterinarian who has received additional
training in Chinese medicine, acupuncture and chiropractic
care for animals.
Dr. DiNatale performed a detailed examination on Monroe,
including checking his pulse points on all the meridians of
the body. In Chinese medicine, the meridians are long lines
of energy that flow through the body. By examining the meridians,
the doctor obtains an indication of how the organs of the body
are functioning and what might need strengthening. She also
checked the patterns on his tongue, ears, eyes, skin, nails
and the pads on his feet. Dr. DiNatale performed acupuncture
on Monroe. He looked like a pincushion! We also discovered
that he had a bad leg, probably from being kicked or some other
kind of injury. He was very weak in his hind end and had a
hard time getting up off the floor.
She then conducted an in-depth interview with me. Did Monroe
like hot or cold places? What was his emotional state as well
as physical state? What types of foods seem to cause his skin
to break out? And so on. I told her everything I knew - that
he smelled terrible, even though I was bathing him every two
days. That his constant scratching kept us up all night (can
you imagine how miserable he was?). That he would take forever
to urinate. He often would walk for 15 minutes in the morning
before going to the bathroom.
Monroe's diagnosis was a difficult one. We did blood work
and a more sophisticated thyroid test. His thyroid was normal.
Dr. DiNatale felt his immune system was a wreck, making him
very prone to allergies. The steroids were only making it worse.
He needed supplements to boost his immune system and skin.
Allergy testing had shown he wasn't allergic to anything in
his environment. I refused to believe that - it just didn't
feel right, because when I took him outside in the fenced yard,
all he would do is sit down and scratch. I had to leash-walk
him, otherwise he wouldn't get any exercise (and still have
The first path of treatment was vitamins, Chinese herbs and
an elimination diet to see if we could determine what foods
he was allergic to. Dr. DiNatale is a big believer in fatty
acids for golden retrievers as well as the basic antioxidant
vitamins. Monroe was put on a routine of supplements that included
vitamin C, vitamin E, cod liver oil and fish oil caps. He was
put on herbs to help his "damp heat" skin problem,
kidneys and hips. He was also put on glucosomine chondroitin
for arthritis and MSM for pain.
Now, about his diet. For a period of time, he ate mostly
sweet potatoes while I stabilized him to get a good baseline
to work from. Sweet potatoes are very nutritious, much more
so than white potatoes. Then, I added foods to see if any allergic
reactions resulted. When he was allergic, he would break out
in hives. I finally determined he was allergic to rice, along
with some other grains and proteins. I was determined to find
a food regimen with high-quality, human-grade ingredients and
no chemicals. I wanted to use dog food and supplement with
veggies, yogurt and other healthy toppers. Most dog foods contain
rice, which was a major obstacle.
As luck would have it, I attended a Pet Industry Trade Show
and found a food that ultimately worked for Monroe - it's called
Wellness Fish and Sweet Potato. It is a specialty food and
not cheap, but it features high-quality ingredients and no
chemicals, byproducts or animal digest.
The other therapeutic recommendation was to bathe him often
with a special shampoo to eliminate infections in his skin.
Since he didn't have dry skin, this wasn't a problem. You couldn't
wash him enough to make his skin dry out! Even after a month,
the water that came off his body was brown. I used antiseptic
shampoo on his trouble areas, and then oatmeal everywhere else.
A friend also recommended a cream rinse that was a lifesaver
in helping his odor - Fresh 'n Clean Scented Crème Rinse
by Lambert Kay. After a while, I could wait four days between
baths instead of two!
On the Road to Improvement
Gradually the scratching in the middle of the night stopped. Monroe still had
trouble spots on his skin, but I treated them topically with diluted hydrogen
peroxide and a little Panalog cream.
As the months went by, the improvements became more dramatic.
Monroe's tail grew long feathers, his skin on his belly was
gray instead of black, the hair above his eyes filled in because
he stopped scratching his face. His elbows healed and grew
fur. He was gradually taking on the appearance of a true golden
retriever - especially after I was able to stop shaving around
his trouble spots so he no longer resembled a block of Swiss
cheese! I recently realized he has no more warts. They are
a virus, and I guess his immune system has recovered enough
to make them go away.
One of the best outcomes is his demeanor. He holds his head
up, and his eyes are bright and clear, He readily makes eye
contact with me. His face is smooth and pretty, where it once
was awash with wrinkles. Now that he is finally out of his
allergy miseries, he can be a happy dog - another sign of his
true "golden" heritage! His mobility has improved
with the supplements for arthritis and pain. He also urinates
more frequently, due to supplements along with some behavioral
Monroe was evaluated periodically over the year he was treated,
and his herbs changed as the doctor felt necessary. I think
Monroe's success came by boosting his own immune system to
at least have a fighting chance against the allergies.
When I take Monroe places today, no one can believe his story.
He no longer "looks the part," so to speak. And he
has a new career: as a spokesdog for GRRMF. Monroe appears
at Borders Bookstore and other locations to meet the public
and get the message of rescue out. It is so rewarding to have
people run their hands through his fur and coo over him about
how pretty he looks.
So, was it all worth it? I think you know the answer to that
one. This brave golden boy served as our guinea pig and now
is helping other goldens. We've started using the regimen on
other dogs with great success. We see terrible coats and allergies,
especially in yard dogs, and have totally turned them around
with these therapies.
Through all this, Dr. DiNatale graciously makes herself available
to answer any questions we have. Her role has been critical
in "Monroe's journey," and we appreciate her support
What You Can Do
Does your dog have allergies? We encourage you to discuss these options with
your veterinarian, and if he or she isn't versed in holistic methods, consider
consulting a holistic vet for help. Typically, they don't replace your regular
vet, but provide complementary therapy to regular vet care. I'm fortunate
that my regular vet,
Dr. Ehlers (434 Animal Hospital in Longwood Florida) is open to holistic therapies.
Overall, this is the routine we are using
in allergy laden dogs:
1. Quality food - If you buy dog food at a grocery or discount
store, it's probably junk. I recently looked through all the
foods available at my local Target and Albertsons, and there
wasn't one I would feed my dog. Even foods found in veterinarian
offices or pet stores aren't guaranteed to be good quality.
Read the ingredients. Do they sound like something you would
eat? Do you even understand what they are? Do they have byproducts,
animal digest, ethoxiquin, BHA or BHT in them? Useless fillers
like peanut hulls? There are foods available that are much
better for your dog. I should know - I've researched most of
them. At a minimum, you should feed a food like Nutro Natural
Choice available at PetsMart. There are premium holistic brands
of dog food available that use human-grade ingredients, such
as Solid Gold, Innova, Wysong and Wellness among
others that are great options for your dog. All can sometimes be
found in small local pet shops - contact the companies to find
out retailers near you. Don't listen to advertising - what
does "breeder recommended" really mean, anyway? Read
those labels, and if you have questions, please ask us! Please
beware of brands commonly sold in veterinary offices. They
are not necessarily good foods, and in fact, one "light" dog
food from a national company that is typically sold in vet's
offices is by their own admission on the indgredient listing
28.6% peanut hulls, which they list as a source of fiber. Honestly,
you are paying top dollar for a food that is 28.6% garbage
- would you eat peanut hulls? The lesson here is to read the
bag, this is clearly listed on the bag ingredients on this "prescription" quality
2. Vitamin C - This is calcium ascorbate powder, and the recommended
dosage is 22 mg per pound of body weight twice daily. Start
slowly to reduce chances of diarrhea or stomach upset. Vitamin
C boosts the immune system and acts as a natural antihistamine.
Dog's weight Dosage (twice daily)
60 lbs. 1320 mg
65 lbs. 1430 mg
70 lbs. 1540 mg
75 lbs. 1650 mg
80 lbs. 1760 mg
A handy tool for dispensing small quantities of vitamin powders is available
from Restoration Hardware on Park Avenue in Winter Park, or see their website
at www.restorationhardware. com. They sell measuring spoons called "Pinch,
Dash, Smidgen" in tiny sizes - 1/8, 1/16 and 1/32 of a teaspoon - for
only $6. They are perfect for measuring out the vitamin C powder and other
3. Vitamin E (preferably with selenium) - one 400 IU capsule
4. Cod liver oil (unflavored) - if skin/immune system is really
bad, 1 teaspoon twice daily. For a maintenance dose - 1 teaspoon
daily. Cod liver oil contains vitamin A. You can also give
vitamin A capsules instead, but do not overdose since it is
not a water soluble vitamin.
5. Fish oil - 200mg of Omega 3's per 10 lbs. of body weight
Dog's weight Dosage (twice daily) 60 lbs. 1200 mg
65 lbs. 1300 mg
70 lbs. 1400 mg
75 lbs. 1500 mg
80 lbs. 1600 mg
Fish caps vary widely in the amount of Omega 3's they contain, so you have
to check the back of each bottle. Missing Link supplement products and other
flax seed oil-based supplements can also be used for Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation.
Some dogs respond better to fish oils, some to flax oils. Primrose oil caps
are a duplicate of the fish oil caps and may benefit dogs that don't respond
to fish oil caps.
6. B-50 Complex - 1 capsule twice daily. B-50 complex is also
very good for stressed animals. Stress can damage the immune
system and cause allergies to flare up.
7. Garlic - one capsule a day, unless the dog is "hot" -
has warm skin.
8. Digestive enzymes - We have had a lot of luck in using
digestive enzymes in goldens, specifically Prozyme, available
from KV Vet Supply (Item # 40036). This enzyme aids digestion
and the absorption of nutrients. It is a powder you add to
the food. We highly recommend the use of these enzymes, particularly
for dogs with allergies.
9. Supplements for orthopedic problems - We suggest trying
Glucosamine Chondroitin. You can purchase it at a local health
food store or possibly from your vet. Another cheaper alternative
is Glycoflex, which is usually carried by veterinarians and
is also available from KV Vet (Item # 40956). Also, MSM powder
(KV Vet # 41570) is very effective and inexpensive. Another
herb that can relieve pain and help mobility is White Willow
Bark, which is what aspirin is derived from.
Mixing Supplements With Food
A great way to get your dog to take supplements is to put about a 1/8 - 1/4
cup of "toppers" in with their food - plain low-fat yogurt, low-fat
cottage cheese, ground up carrots or green beans. Sweet potatoes or squash
cooked and mashed also have a lot of nutrition. Dogs benefit from a variety
of vegetables (don't feed onions or lots of spinach). Just make sure they
are ground up or mashed. Raw is fine, or lightly cooked. If you used canned,
use the low-salt variety. Please ask us if you have questions.
1. Baths - We are having good luck with DermaPet shampoos sold
by KV Vet Supply. For infected skin, use Benzoyl Peroxide
shampoo (Item # 79207). Also, Malacetic Shampoo (Item # 72394)
and Conditioner (Item # 70208) are effective for yeast conditions.
For dry coat and skin, try Dermapet Allay Oatmeal Shampoo
(Item # 79220) and Spray on Oatmeal conditioner (Item # 79201).
Use the conditioner as a topical treatment: mix 1 tablespoon
in a cup of water, and after shampooing and rinsing, pour
over your dog and work into coat and skin. Do not rinse.
Your vet may recommend other specialty shampoos for infected
skin such as Chlorhexiderm or oatmeal shampoos.
2. Topical treatments - Keep sores clean to guard against
infection. If the dog scratches, give topical relief with a
little bit of steroid cream such as Panalog or an anti-itch
spray to break the cycle.
3. Behavioral - Combat habitual scratching with new activities
and more exercise. Some of Monroe's scratching was purely habit
from a life of allergies, and simply telling him to "stop" was
Final Words of Wisdom
Remember, these treatments do not work overnight. If you want a magic pill,
it doesn't exist. You will need to build up your dog's immune system over
a period of months. Be patient, and be persistent! The rewards are great
- no allergy drugs or steroids, just a dog with a healthy immune system.
And, if you do decide to consult a holistic vet, remember, you will play
an important role. They will rely on you to tell them everything about your
dog's health and personality.
KV Vet Catalog 1-800-423-8211
Wysong Dog Foods 1-800-748-0188
Natura Pet Products, Inc. 1-800-532-7261
Solid Gold Dog Food 1800 364 4863
www.oldmotherhubbard.com for Wellness Foods
Copyright 2001- 2008, Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida,