Monday, 30 June 2008

Todays topic... Atopic.

More specifically Atopic Dermatitis which, it’s now been confirmed, is the condition affecting Bingley.

Bing hasn’t been having a great time recently. For the past couple of months we’ve been regularly giving him prescribed steroids in an attempt keep his allergy under control. Neither of us felt happy about having to use steroids but they seemed to be the only thing which would stop Bing from licking the fur off of his paws or constantly rubbing his head along the carpet. However, three weeks ago we had to withdraw all his medication in order to prepare him for his visit to his dermatologist, Julie Henfrey

That visit took place last Wednesday and what a marvellous person Julie turned out to be! Enthusiastic, energetic, and determined to get results. She also owns a Labrador herself and was very taken with Bingley. I've already noticed a definite camaraderie between Labrador owners (it seems to be based on an 'I know what you're going through' attitude!) but it was nice to have that experience added to Wednesday’s visit. She was clearly going to do everything she could in order to get Bingley’s condition sorted out

After asking us a slew of questions in order to help her build up a detailed picture of Bingley’s background and lifestyle, she went on to give Bing a thorough physical examination. The condition wasn’t difficult to identify but trying to discover the cause of his allergy would take a bit more effort. After discussing the options available to us, we left him with her for a couple of hours whilst she sedated him before going on to inject 50 common allergies into the patch she’d shaved on his side. How he reacted would determine what happened next.

Two hours later we were back in the consulting room with a very stoned looking dog: he really did look like he’d overdone it with the Guinness! In fact his eyes didn't start to focus until late evening and for much of the time he just stood there gazing at nothing - goodness knows what he was seeing. But we had to laugh when she told us that his wagging tail had woken up from the anaesthetic before the rest of him.

The result: 50 injections with 6 positives. Frustratingly the positives were in two different columns: outside he's allergic to a variety of grass pollens, inside the house he's allergic to dust mites. A lose, lose situation: in the summer the pollens will get him, in the winter (with the windows closed and the house nice and warm) there'll be lots more house mites to contend with.

Next: Julie has ordered a years supply of vaccine which will be specially prepared to target Bingley's allergies. This will be ready in two weeks when we'll return to see her and she'll administer his first inoculation. She'll then send the vaccine to our normal vet who we'll visit once a week and where Bing will get gradually increasing amounts of the medication until he reaches the optimum dosage. Our vet will also coach me on how to do this myself because after a month it'll be up to me to inject him.

But before the first inoculation he's on a course of steroids produced especially for dogs: after a few days these should alleviate his problems with none of the side effects usually associated with steroids. The downside is that they're ferociously expensive and Bingley doesn't like them - for the first time I've had to make him eat something.

Nevertheless the medication should (though it's not guaranteed) make a difference, and there's a remote chance that we might be able to wean him off of the vaccine at some point.

It’s been a difficult few weeks and we’re going to have to rethink some of our routines; but there’s no reason why Bingley’s lifestyle should be adversely affected. In fact we’ve continued to have fun in spite of the trauma of allergies. During the hot spell Bing has enjoyed playing in his new backyard paddling pool which we bought in order to help keep his paws cool. He was a little apprehensive at first, but then took to the water like any true Labrador and somehow instinctively knew that he had to breathe out when he was retrieving his ball!

I’m sure that once we have these allergies under control Bingley will feel fit enough to take on the world. No doubt we’ll then have a whole new set of adventures to distract us!


Sue said...

Rob, I must admit I had'nt noticed this the first time around but your designer awareness is spot on! What on earth is she talking about I can hear you say?!! Well your photo opportunity at Bing's new pool, his collar matched!! Glad that Bing has been diagnosed. Hopefully his own immune system will kick in at some point. Keep up the excellent writing.

Rob said...

Well spotted, Sue! But I have to admit that the photo is Jane's work and, as you know, she always makes sure that the colours match!

It's good to have made a start at sorting out Bingley's allergies though. The next appointment with the vet will be in a couple of weeks and we're both hoping that this course of immunology does the trick. None of this seems to have toned down Bing's mischievous spirit though – I still spend most days chasing him and trying to retrieve slippers, sandals, dish cloths, dusters…