Spring is just around the corner - it’s a beautiful time, but it’s also THE time of year for seasonal allergies. As plants release pollen, millions of people with hay fever start to sniffle & sneeze. And it’s the same for so many dogs - seasonal allergies can be just as awful for them as it is for us!
Did you know that treating your dogs Seasonal Itchy Allergies with drugs can actually be counterproductive? And those common drug medications that some Vets reach for so quickly are highly addictive - so much so that most dogs become so dependent on them that when the medication stops the dogs symptoms more often than not come back ten times worse! So, what is the cost to their long term health? And what's the financial cost to you?
It's the beginning of Spring here and August is ALWAYS the windy month. I went to a Farmers Market yesterday in a park that was dry & pretty much just a dustbowl. As I stood there in the gusty dry winds I very quickly realised my neck had become itchy and bumpy, my eyes were swelling up and and were so itchy that no amount of rubbing helped. Yep, here comes a Hay fever attack! These symptoms became worse and worse during they day. I am writing this today feeling exhausted and my eyes are still puffy and the rash on my neck is now sore as I obviously was scratching myself in my sleep last night. Thank goodness for Antihistamines ! I'm just grateful it only happens to me once or twice a year and one Benadryl does the trick
I can't imagine the misery my dog would feel is this happened all over his body with no real understanding of why and when it would stop. Having to suffer it for much longer that a single day would make me unhappy and cranky to say the least. Hence the topic of this Blog - Seasonal Allergies! And trust me they suck!
Before we go into this, let’s look at what actually is an allergen and why Spring can be so problematic for not only us, but our dogs as well.
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What Are Allergens?
An allergy is an abnormal response by your dog’s immune system. It happens when his body reacts to a usually harmless substance in the environment … called an allergen. The immune system identifies certain everyday substances as dangerous. Allergens can be inhaled, eaten or even absorbed through your dog’s skin.
As your dog’s body tries to get rid of the allergen, allergic reactions like skin, digestive, and respiratory issues can surface. Signs of these reactions include paw licking or chewing, ear infections, watery eyes, itchy skin, and a lot of scratching.
One of the best ways to address allergies is to remove the allergen. The less your dog is exposed to something his body doesn’t like, the less he’ll react to it. But more exposure to an allergen means a more intense and long-lasting allergic response.
What Causes these Itchy Allergic Reactions?
Allergies are one of the most common health issues that affect our dogs. Countless dog owners are doing their best to battle this problem and increase their dog’s quality of life. Skin allergies, food allergies, and respiratory allergies are becoming so common that many puppies are already genetically predisposed to them.
Allergies arise as a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The immune system perceives a non-threatening substance in the environment as dangerous and responds to it by releasing an inflammatory chemical called Histamine into the blood, which results in an allergic reaction - most commonly excessive itching. The most noticeable environmental symptoms often include visible changes to the skin: redness, bumps, hair loss, hot spots and so on.
Histamine – the Body’s Self Defense Weapon
How Histamine Causes Allergic Reactions
During an allergy attack, the immune system produces antibodies to a specific allergen. These antibodies then cause certain cells in the body to release chemicals into the bloodstream. One of these chemicals is Histamine. It’s one of the biggest players in the allergic response, causing much of the inflammation, redness and irritation your dog experiences. Then, being exposed to the same allergen again will cause this same antibody response and allergic reaction.
Inflammation is closely tied to free radicals – unstable molecules that cause cell damage, which leads to an inflamed state in the body and (through that) a variety of different health problems, including allergies. Now that we know how allergic reactions happen, it becomes clear that the path to healing lies in finding a way to lower the inflammation in our dog’s bodies.
How do we quieten Histamine Production and reduce Inflammation? ANTI HISTAMINES of Course! It's all in the name!
How do drugs like Cytopoint or Apoquel work?
Cytopoint (Commercial name): the short version is:
Your dog’s immune system normally produces antibodies to target bacteria, viruses, and other causes of disease. The antibodies in Cytopoint are designed to target and neutralize one of the main proteins in your dog’s body that causes itch. Cytopoint works like your dog’s own immune system. It is specifically designed to target and neutralise one of the main proteins that send itch signals to your dog’s brain that triggers scratching, licking, and chewing. Cytopoint is not like traditional pharmaceutical treatments for allergic dog itch. It is a biological medication (a protein, not a chemical) that works like your dog’s own immune system to block the main protein that sends signals that trigger allergic itch.
Simply put it It suppresses your dogs immune system.
Apoquel (Commercial name): the short version is:
Simply put, Apoquel is an allergy medication used in dogs. It is effective toward flea allergies, food allergies, and contact allergies. In fact, it was the first medication to be specifically designed to combat allergic itching and inflammation in dogs.
Apoquel works by inhibiting chemicals in your dog’s body called “cytokines.” Basically, when dogs are allergic to something or are suffering from seasonal allergies, cytokine chemicals in the body create inflammation and itching around the area of concern. Apoquel can help curb your dog’s need to itch, thus allowing the area to heal properly. Without a drug to control itching and scratching, your dog will constantly irritate the area, ultimately worsening their allergies and symptoms.
Again, simply put it It suppresses your dogs immune system.
Sounds good, quick and easy, right? But at what cost?
Dosing/Administration for dogs:
...’ The dose of Apoquel is 0.4-0.6 mg/kg every 12 hours for up to 14 days, then 0.4-0.6 mg/kg once daily thereafter. Apoquel is not FDA approved to use twice daily longer than 14 days. The dose range is very strict, I do not recommend going above the recommended dose due to immune suppression, below the range and it doesn’t seem to work in most cases.
...” Long term studies of giving Apoquel along with other like steroids and cyclosporine have not been done...
Quoted directly from https://www.petdermatologyclinic.com/apoquel-information
I have to point out the (itchy) elephant in the room here... If my dog's IMMUNE SYSTEM IS SUPPRESSED/TURNED OFF - what does this mean when it comes to viral infections, contagious diseases like Parvo - or worse still can Cancer cells take hold while my dogs immune system is switched off?
Immune Compromised (a medical condition) Humans are biological beings just like Immune Suppressed (medicated) Canines - the parallels are clear... The only difference here is we, as humans do not take Pharmaceutical drugs to TURN OFF our Immune Systems, rather those who suffer this medical condition do everything in their power to TURN THEIRS ON.
.." What Does Immunocompromised Mean? (as a Human in this context)
Think of your immune system as a strong army. Its mission? To protect you from enemies both foreign (viruses and bacteria) and domestic (diseases like cancer). But when you’re immunocompromised, your immune system’s defenses are low, affecting its ability to fight off infections and diseases....
This is the biggest Elephant in the room. The Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and sell millions of doses a year of these drugs have never talked about.
How much does it Cost?
At the time of writing the cost is $277 per 100 16mg tablets, and around the same for the lower doses. Cytopoint injections cost around the $200 mark PLUS the cost of the Vet consultation fees. The Apoquel tablets are daily, and the effectiveness of each Cytopoint injection is between 2 to 4 weeks.
But before you reach for Antihistamines or Injections like Cytopoint or Apoquel for your pet, You might consider giving an antihistamine drug like Benadryl. Personally I know these help me during the Spring months. Please do NOT give your dog Human Medications as many of these have dangerous adverse side effects. Only give your dog medications prescribed by your vet!
Wait! Did you know there is a Natural allergy solution that you may not have even heard of and it’s contained in many fruits and vegetables. It’s a powerful flavonoid called Quercetin … and it has antihistamine effects.
Quercetin, a natural Remedy hidden right under our noses (literally!)
Flavonoids are plant-based compounds with strong antioxidant properties. Quercetin is so effective in helping allergies that it’s known as “Nature’s Benadryl.” (But it doesn’t have the risks and side effects that come with that little pink pill that’s the pharmaceutical Benadryl). Let’s take a closer look at Quercetin for dogs, and how it works.
Quercetin for Dog Allergies – WHY IT WORKS
To lower the inflammation in the body and prevent allergic responses, the unstable free radicals have to get neutralised. That’s where antioxidants come in! They bind to the free radicals and rob them of their destructive power. Quercetin is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti allergic effects.
Quercetin has been the focal point of many studies in recent years, so there is a lot of scientific research available to support these claims. A study on rats showed that Quercetin was able to stop peanut-induced anaphylaxis (a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction) by lowering the levels of histamine in their blood. The rats were receiving 50mg of Quercetin per kilogram of body weight over the course of four weeks. The researchers concluded that the longer period of time is crucial to see the results on a cellular level and that Quercetin should seriously be considered as alternative medicine in preventing allergic attacks. They also noted that Quercetin showed no toxicity to internal organs. *2
Another study looked at mice with atopic dermatitis caused by house dust mites. As a potent anti-inflammatory, Quercetin successfully repressed the inflammation and even helped improve the condition of the affected skin. A human study gave the same results – participants with atopic dermatitis received Quercetin orally for 15 days, which was enough for Quercetin to reduce the severity of dermatitis and calm the inflammation. The number of dogs struggling with atopic dermatitis is higher every year, so these results are incredibly significant and offer hope for the thousands of dogs battling allergic inflammation every day. *1
It’s important to note that Quercetin is not a superstar only in the realm of allergies; as an antioxidant, it has a multitude of other health benefits as well! Several studies have proven that Quercetin can stop the growth of cancer cells or eliminate them entirely in various internal organs.
Quercetin is a Natural Antihistamine
So let’s put together what we know.
Quercetin is a flavonoid with antioxidant, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
During an allergic reaction the body releases histamine. Histamine leads to inflammation, redness and irritation. Research has shown that Quercetin can turn off histamine production and control inflammation. So it’s often known as Nature’s Benadryl. Quercetin also helps manage cellular activity associated with inflammation … meaning less itching!
Quercetin also inhibits the production of specific inflammatory molecules.so it’s also helpful in treating asthma and respiratory issues involving inflammation. Bronchial tubes in the lungs become restricted during an asthma attack (bronchoconstriction), and studies show that Quercetin can help dilate the bronchial tubes. *3
Whole foods vs Pharmaceutical Compounds
Quercetin can only be effective as a supplement if it has good bio availability – meaning, it has to actually make it into the circulation rather than being eliminated through metabolism. Quercetin has low bio availability because of weak absorption and fast metabolism, but thankfully there are ways to improve its absorption.
Quercetin supplements come in the form of capsules and pills with multiple ingredients added to assist their bio availability. These are manufactured in a Laboratory. Personally I prefer to eat as nature intended - particularly when it comes to Vitamin and Mineral Supplements. Why would I want to spend a small fortune on these Capsules and Pills when I can simply eat whole real foods containing flavonoids, in this case - Quercetin.
... And what are the ONLY ingredients included in our Supergreens Meal Supplements? (*Denotes Certified Organic Ingredients by the way!)
Cruciferous vegetables (Broccoli, Kale) significantly lower cholesterol levels & are rich in vitamins and minerals such as folate and vitamin K. Dark green cruciferous veggies also are a source of vitamins A & C & contain phytonutrients — plant-based compounds that may help to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer.
Spirulina is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on Earth & it boasts an impressive 60% protein & contains valuable multivitamins, essential amino acids & essential fatty acids & a powerful combination of minerals including iron, calcium & magnesium.
Moringa has been proven to be beneficial for disease prevention & long-term health issues such as cancer, obesity, digestive problems & diabetes. It has 7 times more vitamin C than oranges and 15 times more potassium than bananas & is high in calcium, protein, iron, and amino acids, which help the body heal and build muscle.
Coconut is beneficial for skin health & may help the reduction of problematic skin conditions such as redness, irritation, & inflammation. The coconut is gently toasted so it smells & tastes delicious. A great way to hide the veggies from the kids!
Spinach, Kale, Barley & Wheat Grasses are packed full of Iron, Vitamin C, Insoluble Fibre. One of the reasons why green plants like wheatgrass and barley grass are incredibly nutrient-dense and provide a whole spectrum of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as fibre and chlorophyll. They provide lots of the health-optimising nutrients in a very small package, even more so if consumed in powder or supplement form – which is what makes them superfoods!
So, instead of choosing powerful addictive, expensive (and damaging to long term health) Injections or tablets this Spring - try the all Natural Whole Food alternative found (literally!) in food!
It won't 'cure' the problem, but it will give your dog the natural 'ammunition' that their immune system (the weapon) needs to relieve the symptoms and let everyone sleep easier during these Spring months.
Dedicated to my Mum Marion, & her wee itchy dog Mayah.
Research Papers Cited:
* 1 Karuppagounder, Vengadeshprabhu. Arumugam, Somasundaram. Thandavarayan, A. Rajarajan. Sreedhar, Remya. Giridharan, V. Vijayasree. Watanabe, Kenichi. “Molecular targets of quercetin with anti-inflammatory properties in atopic dermatitis.” Science Direct, 04/2016.
* 2 Shishehbor, Farideh. Behroo, Lotfollah. Broujerdnia, Ghafouriyan Mehri. Namjoyan, Forough. Latifi, Seiyed-Mahmoud. “Quercetin Effectively Quells Peanut-Induced Anaphylactic Reactions in the Peanut Sensitized Rats.” Iranian Journal of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 03/2010.
* 3 Mlcek, Jiri. Jurikova, Tunde. Skrovankova, Sona. Sochor, Jiri. “Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response.” MDPI, 12/05/2016.