Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Journey to a Holistic Mindset, Part 1

I used to be one of those people who trusted every word that came out of their vet’s mouth.  Iams is the best food I can be feeding?  Great!  I need this pill for my 1 year old incontinent puppy?  Where’s the prescription!   I trusted that the advice I was given was coming from the mouth of experts and who was I to question an expert?

Our Maggie started developing chronic UTI’s at the young age of 8 months.  After months of antibiotics, tests and finally surgery, we solved the chronic infection problem but were left with a 1 ½ year old puppy with incontinence.  Our vet prescribed Proin and for the past 3 years, Maggie has received a pill a day.

Proin worked great for solving the incontinence problem.  

The next fall, we started noticing that Maggie was itching a lot.  Luckily her annual appointment her is each fall so at her check-up, I asked our vet about the itchiness.  Sounds like seasonal allergies is what she told us and advised us to give her a half-Benadryl when it was bad as well as give her regular baths.
The baths have helped but didn’t solve the problem.  I was hesitant about adding yet another pill to her daily intake so I just didn’t give her Benadryl unless it was particularly bad.  Her “allergies” slowly and slowly progressed to the point where she was itchy all the time.  You touched Maggie, she scratched herself.  It seemed the only time she wasn’t scratching was when she was asleep.  
In this same time period, we started having issues with Maggie’s behavior.  She attacked one small dog one summer; the next it was two.  Leash aggression started to become a real problem – so much so that we stopped walking Sadie and Maggie at the same time so that we could both manage Maggie’s reactiveness effectively and also so that Sadie wouldn’t learn this new behavior.  At the time, I blamed myself for the behavior issues.  You see, when Maggie started having the UTI’s I kept her away from the dog park and socialization with other dogs as I didn’t want her to be exposed to other illnesses while she was fighting an infection that just wouldn’t go away.  I thought her subsequent bad behavior was my fault because I had ceased making sure she was well-socialized during those critical adolescent months even though I had thought it best health-wise.

Meanwhile, at each vet visit, I received praise for feeding them well (Iams) and was reassured that the increasing itchiness was definitely seasonal, not related to food, and that it was common to get worse as dogs aged.  Someday we may have to look into prescriptions or steroid shots, if it got to that point.  Behavior-wise, we were doing the right things.  And I never thought to ask if any of this may be related to the medication she was taking.

At around year three, I started connecting the dots.  Incontinence, allergies, behavior.  Didn’t it make sense that these issues were inter-related?  As Maggie’s itchiness and discomfort increased, so did my uneasiness with our vet’s diagnosis.  The issue transcended seasons; it just didn’t make sense.  And so began my journey into finding a solution, with or without the help of my vet.  I was not going to accept additional medications to ease symptoms without examining what might be the root cause.


  1. As a vet nurse, I agree wholeheartedly with you questioning the vet's diagnoses and prescriptions as fact. There are good and bad vets and there are those vets with a set regiment of treatments for each set of symptoms. however, every dog is different and the more you learn, the better. Against my vets' advice, I feed raw and I don't vaccinate with the usual recommended frequency. I think as caretakers, we have a great deal more power in knowing our own pets and we shouldn't discount this.
    Again, even at my own practice, there are 2 very different vets. One I trust and the other is a dangerous idiot. You should always be able to have an open dialogue with your vet about your kiddo's care and needs. Good luck and I can't wait to hear more...
    Glad to have found you through Pets Blogroll! Check us out if you get a chance:

  2. Hi Y'all,

    Sounds somewhat, minus the behavior problem, what my Human went through with me.

    I was allergy tested and do still take and need allergy shots. However, I also have food allergies.

    We did a week long post on our experience and how changing vets led to an end to my nightmare with infections.

    My Human didn't realize how common food allergies and other allergies were in dogs until I started my blog.

    ForPetsSake is right. You must find a vet that isn't afraid for you to do your own research. The vet should discuss it with you and then you can both, assuming you keep an open mind, come to a course of action you both can agree on.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  3. It's so great to hear that others have had this experience! I'm still with the same vet - but will be seeking second opinions for future issues. She's great with my dogs and is willing to spend the time with me to answer my laundry list of questions and discuss things with me. On a personal level, I really like her. But I have to acknowledge we have differences of opinions when it comes to my dog's well-being. I will likely be trying out a holistic vet near us next time we have an issue!