Allergic Reactions To Best Friends

Allergies can be quite challenging. I know, because I’m a veterinarian allergic to cats, dogs and rabbits. In fact, many of my clients also are allergic to animals. Are we gluttons for punishment, or is it all about risks and rewards?

Mr. Domingo brought in his dog because of itching and crusty sores. It was Basie’s third visit in the past two months, and I could see the concern on Mr. Domingo’s face.

“Doc, we’re back …” said Mr. Domingo. “The meds you gave us worked wonders for Basie, but just like the last time, his skin problem returned within a week of finishing the medication.”

I watched as Basie, a cute Lhasa Apso, alternated between scratching his ears and licking his paws.

“I really think Basie’s skin condition is from allergies,” I replied. “Let’s submit a blood sample, and once we know what he is allergic to, we can start him on allergy shots.”

Mr. Domingo agreed. Two weeks later, the duo returned so that I could go over the fine nuances of administering shots. Before starting, I reviewed the list of things that made Basie itch. The list included molds, dust, weeds, fleas, mango pollen and human dander.

After a moment of silence and a crinkling of eyebrows, Mr. Domingo asked, “When you say human dander, do you mean that Basie is allergic to humans? Is he allergic to me?”

I nodded. “I never knew,” muttered Mr. Domingo. “What’s crazy, Doc, is that I’m allergic to dogs. I cope with my allergy for the sake of my little buddy, but can I ask the same of him? Does this mean that I shouldn’t hug him anymore? He really likes my squishy hugs.”

At this point, Mr. Domingo looked worried. I reassured him that there are many other families like his and we should see if the allergy shots work. However, the good thing is that because people are now more aware that dogs can have allergies they are getting more at-home dog allergy testing to ensure their comfort.

Months went by and the allergy shots did not seem to be helping. In fact, after 10 months we had to stop the regimen, as Basie got worse.

“Doc, isn’t there anything else we could do?” inquired Mr. Domingo. “The only time Basie stops scratching is after his bath, but if I shampoo him in the morning, he’s scratching by nightfall.”

Hmm … a 12-hour relief from bathing. “That settles it, then. Would you be willing to bathe Basie twice a day?”

Nodding slowly, Mr. Domingo said, “If it will spare Basie a lifetime of being on medication, the answer is yes. But, Doc, would-n’t that dry out his skin?”

I explained to Mr. Domingo that the notion that “bathing dogs too much dries out their skin” is a myth. With the right shampoo and in certain conditions, bathing your dog often would improve skin and coat quality.

When Mr. Domingo returned two months later, he was beaming with excitement. Bathing Basie twice a day worked. Basie’s skin looked great, and he was no longer plagued by an insufferable itch. When I asked if he still felt guilty about the “squishy” hugs, Mr. Domingo smiled, picked up his little buddy and squished away.

Dr. John Kaya is the director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital. Email