In sickness and in health – my Layla’s journey into adulthood

This week’s blog is all about Layla, my furry kid, and her journey back to health after her puppy vaccines.

I first saw Layla’s mum when she was pregnant and regularly saw Layla as a puppy, visiting her every 10 days until I picked her up at 8 weeks old.

6 week old whippet puppy

I did a lot of reading before her vaccinations and spoke to BAHVS (The British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons) about the safest way to vaccinate. Layla’s mum had not been vaccinated and her breeder had relied on homeopathic vaccination with Nosodes.

After reading the recommendation on the vaccine manufacturer’s site saying vaccination should be at 10 and 12 weeks, I chose to follow their recommendations and informed my vet of my decision and they agreed.

She got plenty of socialising before she was vaccinated as I carried her everywhere. She would wriggle like mad if I just held her but if I put her in a bag then she’d just settle and watch the world go by. So in a bag she stayed when we went out and about, and she acclimatised to the world.

whippet puppy being carried in a bag

Layla’s problems started after her first puppy vaccine. Her first vaccine at 10 weeks seemed uneventful, although she developed diarrhoea within 10 days. I took her back to the vet to get it checked and she received her second vaccine, still with an upset tummy.

The bouts of diarrhoea continued and after a stool test, it was found she had Giardia. Giardia is a protozoan parasite that infects the gut of a dog and she was treated with Panacur paste to try and rid her of it.

Even after treatment, she still had problems with intermittent diarrhoea and would get it every 2-3 days and she was going through tubes of Pro-Kolin like no-one’s business. She was put on a bland chicken and rice diet but that didn’t seem to clear it up and neither did chicken and pasta.

She was put on an exclusion diet by the vet and went on Royal Canin Hypoallergenic D2 kibble. She was on that for 6 weeks, no treats, no titbits, nothing but the kibble to allow her guts to calm down and her stools to return to normal. After the exclusion period was over, and with the guidance of the vet, I started reintroducing foods to her diet. The plan was, whilst keeping her on the hypoallergenic kibble, to reintroduce foods one at a time with a 4-day window between new introductions to allow time for any reaction to occur. Chicken was the first introduction and went smoothly, then we tried wheat and that was jet propelled out of her rear end like something out of the exorcist...needless to say we found she had a wheat allergy. After her gut calmed we carried on reintroducing foods and only other major reaction was to egg.

My journey into pet food started. I tried her on Nature’s Diet trays of rice based, or, grain-free wet food, Wainright's grain free trays and many other variations on the theme. Her guts seemed settled most of the time unless she stole something she shouldn’t – which was more often than I was happy with. It’s not that she just has diarrhoea, but she obviously got a stomach ache with it as she would bow a lot trying to relieve the pain.

Everything seemed to be fairly under control until March 2 years ago. I couldn’t find her in the lounge, where she was usually found roaching on the sofa. I found her in my room and couldn’t believe how she looked! She was covered in lumps on her face and had a few on her legs as well. She was cold to the touch and her gums were pale and slightly tacky. I was at a loss as to what to do and called the vet who suggested she was having an allergic reaction. By the time she got there the lumps had all but dissipated leaving the vet with nothing to see. She was given some Piriton and I took some home with me to try out.

Whippet with hives on muzzle
Whippet with hives on muzzle

To cut a long story short, these flare ups continued with varying severity for a good few months, until the middle of the summer when, after trying 3 different types of antihistamine we found one that worked. I thought antihistamines were all the same, but it turns out there are 7 different types available (for dogs at least) and they all act differently within the body. Piriton didn’t provide any relief at all and one other provided unacceptable side effects. Now, when she has a bout of hives I could give her an Atarax and she’d recover fairly quickly with the only side effect being that the Atarax was also an appetite stimulant and would turn the mild mannered Whippet into a greedy Labrador. 😉 Layla also underwent allergy related blood testing which showed no reaction to wheat, although if fed her guts would very obviously react to. It seems a blood reaction to an allergen can be different to that of a gut based reaction. So even though her immune system did not react to the wheat her gut did.

At the same time, while I was looking for answers, I visited the Natural Medicine Centre in Potters Bar and saw Richard Alport, who is an holistic vet. He treated Layla with homeopathy and supplements including Royal Jelly and, together with my conventional vet, managed to stabilise Layla’s reactions. I found that when Layla had a hives reaction I could give her homeopathic Apis and the hives would usually subside but if not I had the Atarax as a backup.

The hives continued on and off, along with the diarrhoea, and my conventional vet and I came to the conclusion that Layla required further investigation and was referred to a specialist dermatologist at the Davies referral centre in Bedfordshire. Layla underwent intradermal (under skin) testing which is considered more accurate than the allergy blood test Layla had undergone the year before. I couldn’t believe the results she’s reacted to:

• Mosquitoes
• Storage Mites
• House Dust Mites
• Pollens and grasses
• Cats
• Spiders
• And of all things a mild reaction to Dogs!!

So it turns out my little furry kid was pretty much allergic to life. The dermatologist vet suggested I try a home cooked chicken and potato diet and to see whether that helped calm her immune system and guts. It sounded like a bit of a faff but I was prepared to do anything to get her well. I started by preparing 2 weeks at a time and soon tired of that as it was so time consuming. I ended up buying a 25 kg bag of potatoes (from my local potato farm), getting the local chippy to tumble them for me and then boiling mashing and portioning them all in one day. Needless to say potato day was a big deal!

potatoes portioned in take away dishes

Two months later and I’d hardly touched the antihistamines or homeopathy. 18 months on and she’s still on home cooked chicken and potato with ground eggshells every other day to keep her calcium levels ok. She’s still on Royal Jelly which helps calm her immune system and also zinc to make sure she doesn’t become deficient. In addition to the chicken and potato she has linseed oil to supplement her omega 3 and 6 so she gets enough fat and I also have her on ‘golden paste’ (a turmeric blend with anti-inflammatory benefits). Last but not least, she also has Yu-Digest by Lintbells that has really helped firm her stools. She is regularly complimented on how good she looks and what a great condition she’s in. No one would know the problems she’s had to go through, but she’s made it out the other side and has not had a bout of hives for a year. She does still suffer from the occasional bout of dodgy guts but it’s usually something she’s eaten and it resolves once it passes through.

After all is said and done, my vet now agrees that Layla’s illness has all stemmed from her initial puppy vaccinations and has agreed that to vaccinate her any further would be a detriment to her health.

I realise this is a longer post than I usually write but I’ve met so many people who have dogs with allergies that I thought it useful for others to hear how we have dealt with the symptoms she’s presented.