Monday, March 10, 2014

Allergy in Pets – what you need to know

by Dr. Gerald Buchoff

Allergy is one of the most common yet misunderstood diseases in pets. I consider it one of the most basic autoimmune diseases. Signs of allergies typically manifest at 2 years of age. The classic sign in dogs is itchiness of the ears, axillae (armpits), flanks and ears. Cats typically present with respiratory distress such as labored breathing or coughing.

A little background. Probably all autoimmune diseases involve and begin in the intestines. That is where there are large collections of immune cells (Peyer’s patches). Starting with puppyhood or kittenhood, if we can keep the intestines healthy, we are likely to fend off autoimmune diseases. [Autoimmune diseases can range to systemic lupus erythematosus, pemphigus, autoimmune hemolytic anemia or thrombocytopenia, and even cancer.]

However, if things – such as antibiotics, steroids, vaccines, chlorinated water, and environmental toxins – unbalance the intestines and kill off the beneficial (or “friendly”) bacterial population, it allows overgrowth of harmful yeast, especially Candida, resulting in dysbiosis. This yeast can make chemicals that literally bore holes (ultramicroscopic holes) in the intestinal walls that allow larger than normal molecules to enter the bloodstream. Normally, food has to be broken down into extremely tiny fundamental units. If larger molecules get into the blood, the body does not recognize them and treats them as foreign invaders or germs, and produces antibodies against them. These molecules somehow associate and link to normal tissues in the body. Then the body may attack those tissues (skin, blood cells, gums, thyroid gland, etc.) thinking that they are foreign invaders. Now you have autoimmunity – the immune system attacking its own body.

The dysbiosis in the intestines also leads to the liver suffering from the onslaught of large molecules and toxins that should not be getting into the system.

So, when I treat allergy, I want to (1) treat the dysbiosis (sometimes using supplements that will reduce the yeast and supplements that will increase the bacteria), (2) improve the health of the intestinal lining, (3) support the liver health and function, (4) support the immunity (“immune system”), (5) decrease the allergens and toxins in the body, and (6) deal with the symptoms of itchiness or respiratory problems.

Supporting the immunity can mean “thumping the thymus gland;” using your fingertips or fist to tap the sternum between your pet’s axillae (underarms) or giving nutritional supplements such as medicinal mushrooms and colostrum. Decreasing and avoiding environmental toxins can include giving supplements to clear toxins and wiping paws when coming in from walks. We can decrease allergens by adding digestive enzymes and/or giving a far more digestible (raw) diet to decrease allergens in the diet. We can help the skin and respiratory comfort through many holistic modalities. Aloe Vera added to the diet may help support the skin, the intestines, and the immune system all at the same time.

But, remember that allergies are very complex and treatment has to be tailored to the needs of the individual patient, based on physical examination and blood tests.