Thursday, May 13, 2010
Why do my dogs have autoimmune?
Champ is a very smart dog, and sometimes smart means more problems. He's very intuitive and picks up the feelings of the people around him and they seem to get amplified. If Mom gets mad at Bogey, Champ acts as though you've been yelling at Champ himself. My family has been through some stress lately, and Champ stays with them during the week because of horrible separation anxiety. Champ screams until his voice is hoarse if I leave him. Someone is always home at my family's house, so I think this means less stress for him and he stays with us on weekends. If we lived closer together, I'd pick him up before and after work, but it's not possible.
Champ has been getting more sluggish and his joints have been bugging him. It's like he's been displaying lupus symptoms. He's had some patchy hair loss on his legs, joint stiffness, dry eyes, scaly skin, and a few other symptoms. One of the stranger ones is a pungent smell. A few weeks ago, he developed ulcerations on both of his eyes. They are mirrored - same area on both eyes - and are not due to injury. His eye is also sloughing off the new cells created to heal the cornea. The eye specialist didn't see how this could be related to his immune system. I wonder how it couldn't be! He's stressed, he is displaying other symptoms, and you don't develop spontaneous ulcers without there being an underlying driver.
The Lancet published a study in 1992 (1). The researchers took blood from dogs that had autoimmune, dogs that lived with people with lupus, and dogs that lived with a control group without autoimmune. "Abnormal serum protein electrophoresis patterns were found in samples from the autoimmune and SLE patients' dogs but not the normal dogs." In the Lupus journal, a study in 2004 (2) concluded that pets owned by people with lupus had a far higher chance of developing the disease themselves. Out of 59 dogs owned by SLE patients, 19% were ANA positive and 5% were diagnosed with SLE. Out of 187 dogs owned by healthy people, 5% were ANA positive and 0% had SLE. Among 650 outpatient dogs registered in a veterinary hospital, 5% were ANA positive and 0.9% had SLE.
I have a penchant for choosing dog breeds that are prone to autoimmune issues, but even dogs from my childhood developed strange issues. Mikey, a Cairn Terrier, developed Cushing's Disease. A mixed breed we had was on Prednisone before we knew any better because of all of his allergies. Our Bernese Mountain Dog, Bob, had IBS, medication reactions (especially to vaccines), and cancer. My family's Bernese Mountain Dog, Bogey, has numerous food allergies and ulcerative colitis. His allergies are even to the same foods and environmental factors! All of these dogs spent a significant amount of time with me, and the Bernese Mountain Dogs mirrored some of my health issues.
Looking at Champ's health problems as they develop, I can't agree with his vet and assume his problems are each independent of one another and have nothing to do with his immune system. They must be related to stress and possibly other environmental factors. I've started him on a raw food diet, and after 3 days he no longer smells! Mom called me last night excited because he tried to play with Bogey for the first time in a few months, even with a cone on his head (he has to wear a plastic e-collar to keep him from rubbing his eyes - unfortunately the soft collars won't work for his specific problem).
Instead of having a vet put him under and scrape his cornea, I've called a wonderful homeopathic vet I've worked with before. I've got the remedy, which I'm giving him tomorrow, and the camera ready. I'm hopeful that between diet and remedies, he's already on the road to recovery. If this doesn't work soon, I'll reconsider the "traditional" treatment, but he actually seems pretty comfortable with the e-collar, and happier than he was prior to going on the raw food diet. I may also consider LDN. What works for my health problems may also work for my dog. We seem similar in other areas...
What kind of raw food diet do I have my dog on? Well, this may not be popular, but I believe that animals should be fed a species appropriate diet, and my ethics should not be forced on an animal that would choose flesh (and boy would he!). He is on a variety of small animal ground meat (organs, bones, and all), and will graduate to include chicken frames as he loses his cone collar. He was on this diet before, but it was difficult for my family to maintain during the week. I'm purchasing the food pre-ground and will try to supply them with an assortment of sprouts and vegetables when my energy goes up a little. He's on ground veggies now. Champ thrived on this diet in the past. Dogs' digestive tracts are about 1/3 the length of a human's and they have at least 3 times our acidity. This makes them better equipped to deal with bacteria and parasites. The food travels through their g.i. system very quickly, which is why raw and enzyme packed makes the most sense. Their teeth are made for tearing, not grinding, and their natural preferences are not vegan.
Does this mean I eat meat? Absolutely not. I also look for sustainable options that are as humane as possible. Organic only, and cage free (if possible). It's not ideal, but biologically it makes the most sense.
1. D.R.E Jones PhD, N.D Hopkinson MRCP, R.J Powell MRCP. "Autoantibodies in pets owned by patients with systemic lupus erythematosus." The Lancet 399.8806 (1992) 1378-1380.
2. Chiou SH, Lan JL, Lin SL, Chen DY, Tsai NY, Kuan CY, Lin TY, Lin FJ, Lee WM, Chang TJ. "Pet dogs owned by lupus patients at a higher risk of developing lupus." Lupus 13.6 (2004) 442-449.