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From Our Holistic Vet: Holistic Approach To Allergies

Now that the allergy month of July is upon us, it’s an excellent time to review how a holistic approach to long-term allergies can result in healthier companion animals with significant symptomatic relief.

Allergy symptoms usually revolve around the skin and ears with many pets scratching, chewing, licking, or biting various areas on their bodies. Often, the itching and licking leads to secondary bacterial and yeast infections in these areas, which only adds to the discomfort.

The three most common categories of allergies in small animal medicine remain flea bite allergies, inhalant/contact allergies (known as atopy), and finally food allergies and hypersensitivities. During the summer months, fleas and atopic skin disease are the main underlying causes seen in veterinary medicine.

While there are excellent quality conventional and natural flea products to address that component of the skin issue, atopic skin disease is a bit more challenging. These allergies include inhalant/contact allergies to molds, dander, grasses, ragweed, trees, pollens, dust mites, etc.

The conventional allopathic approach to allergies often involves blood and/or skin allergy testing, in attempts to get to the underlying causes of allergies. Then, allergy vaccines are developed in an attempt to desensitize the pet’s immune system to offending environmental allergens seen this time of year. However, in my experience, this approach is only about 50 to 60% effective in bringing significant symptomatic relief over many months of trying them.

While waiting for allergy vaccines to work, conventional veterinarians will often prescribe corticosteroids, antihistamines, and/or newer drugs like Apoquel or Cytopoint injections. However, even with the newer drugs, there have been reported occasional significant and severe reactions to these products when used long-term.

Holistically speaking, we always take a whole-body approach, not only in identifying what the potential allergens are, but in treatment as well.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said “Let Food by Thy Medicine, and Medicine be Thy Food.” Holistic health always starts with a species appropriate diet, which for cats is a natural wet-food-based diet, and preferably a homemade or meat-based diet, either cooked or, preferably, raw-meat-based. We also try and move in this direction for our canine patients. Holistic veterinarians have not seen problems with E. coli and Salmonella infection in companion animals fed in this manner.

Very often we see significant relief of skin allergies just by feeding our animals a rotating fresh-meat-based diet over processed commercial kibble or canned foods. As our animals get healthier, they become less attractive to fleas, ticks and other external parasites, which lessens those allergies as well.

Regarding inhalant/contact allergies and food-based allergies, many holistic veterinarians have learned and gone to a form of treatment known as NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique). NAET is a non-invasive, drug-free, holistic treatment based on a combination of knowledge and techniques borrowed from Western medicine and traditional Oriental medicine (e.g. chiropractic, kinesiology and acupuncture). An increasing number of veterinarians are becoming more and more familiar with this technique, which is now more available to animal clients throughout the country.

According to NAET therapists, an allergy is an energy imbalance between the electromagnetic energy of the animal or person and the allergen. By stimulating certain nerve pathways while the animal is in contact with the allergen, the NAET treatment can change the characteristic of the previous stimulus into a new one with a different signal. Eventually, the previously harmful perceived substance or allergen is now recognized as being relatively harmless.

Other holistic veterinarians use constitutional, classical homeopathy in treating patients with chronic skin and ear allergies. In these cases, an individualized homeopathic workup is undertaken, where the patient’s symptom totality of their tendencies (not just the skin or ear issues) is gathered after an extensive interview and exam.

Based on the patient’s individual symptom tendencies from other allergic pets, a sequence of single individually prescribed homeopathic remedies are prescribed over weeks to months to encourage the patient to heal itself of the allergy tendency through the homeopathic concept of “Like Cures Like.”

This way, the patient is eventually no longer reactive to the environmental or food allergens and is overall healthier, less susceptible to not only skin and ear allergies, but also other chronic disease symptom tendencies that are addressed with the homeopathic treatment. Other non-classical homeopaths will also prepare homeopathic dilutions of the various allergens identified through blood or skin testing and attempt to treat the allergies at an energetic level using these dilutions.

Still other homeopaths have made homeopathic remedies out of the chemical mediators of itching, such as histamine, and I have seen many animals and people gain significant symptomatic relief when the homeopathic remedy histaminum has been used instead of the conventional anti-histamine drugs. Natural supplements like Quercitin and grape seed extract may also help in alleviating allergic symptoms in the summer months.

No matter which approach an animal guardian takes for their allergic animals this summer, there are many non-toxic holistic options increasingly available which may be worth trying in the weeks and months ahead. It is important to understand, however, that holistic healing does take time and patience, and often does not offer the quick fix dramatic relief of conventional allopathic drug approaches.

Dr. Michael Dym, VMD