Our life with Billy really has been quite an adventure this past 3 years. It began the moment I met him up after his long journey up to Portland from the Mojave Dessert. He was on a transport van with lots of other dogs, pulled from over-crowded shelters at the last moment as their numbers were up. Thankfully amazing rescues (like One Tail At A Time PDX) take whatever dogs they can, and Billy was one of the lucky ones that day.
It was truly love at first sight, and although he was supposed to only be my temporary foster pup, I just couldn’t let him go. He quickly attached himself to us, no doubt realizing that he had hit the jackpot with a built in chef (literally). With homemade food, lots and lots of love and cuddles, and a warm spot to sleep at night, he instantly became a member of our family.
As we got to know Billy, we discovered how food obsessed he is. No doubt it goes back to his life on the streets fending for himself. So there was literally nothing that Billy wouldn’t eat. Fruit, veggies, tofu, dog food, peanut butter, spinach, lettuce, bananas, berries… He loved (and still loves) it all! Like all the dogs I’ve ever had, it was pretty easy to feed him.
Well, fast forward to last November, which is when everything changed. Billy suddenly started becoming allergic to everything. His body was covered in these terrible big scabs, and he was itching like crazy. The vet instantly recognized that he was allergic to his current diet, and we started trying an elimination diet (along with a hypo-allergenic prescription kibble). Unfortunately with a food obsessed dog, an elimination diet is easier said than done. It took months to get the scabs to clear, so we could observe any possible reactions to new foods we tried. But just as soon as we’d try a new food, he’d eat something off the sidewalk or kitchen floor while I was cooking, and we’d be back to square one.
I was able to get a nice list of foods he reacted to, but very few foods he could actually tolerate. I was at a loss and feeling a bit desperate, wondering how I would ever get him off his current prescription food. In desperation one day, I decided to Google affordable allergy testing for dogs. And you know what? I found a company called 5 Strands Affordable Testing! They test for 200+ pet food ingredients and 100+ environmental items. I figured that it was worth a try, and gave them a call. I was so excited to see if this might help me with my search for foods that he could eat. I also wondered if maybe there were other allergies, like his fuzzy blankets, or laundry soap, that could be contributing to his reactions as well.
I was given an opportunity to try it out for Billy. I sent in a sample of his fur, and waited patiently for about a week. I was emailed the test results, which were quite detailed, and many pages long. Besides being sensitive to tons of food (and trees and other allergens), I began to see that this test would help me remove a lot of the guesswork of where to start. I could simply begin with foods not on the current list. This has been HUGE for me! The part that has been most incredible though, is how spot on the results are for Billy. The foods that I knew he was definitely reacting to were on the list of his sensitivities. Also, no needles, blood test, or expensive visits to an allergist. I have been so grateful to have another option.
Of course this is going to be a long work in progress, especially since he still manages to eat whatever he can get his paws on, like the peanut he ate the other day (which gave him 2 new scabs). But I feel like I know where to navigate from here forward.
The generous folks at 5Strands (besides giving me the opportunity to try their test out on Billy), are giving me a discount code for all of my readers! To use it, go to their website here, and use the code “julie10” at checkout for a 10% discount. I highly recommend you check out their site. And if you’ve been on the fence waiting to do a test for your pet, definitely be sure to use this discount.
My husband jokes that we must have a sign over our front door that reads “food allergies welcome here,” and apparently Billy saw the sign. Between myself, my kids, my brother and my mom, I am constantly navigating a pretty big list. As frustrating and sad as it is to see Billy sick, he couldn’t be in a more supportive place for his needs.
I will continue to post about Billy’s progress, which judging from the journey so far, will probably take a while. If you follow me on Instagram (@julieskitchenette), Billy’s allergies are something I talk about from time to time. I figured that I can’t be the only person experiencing this with their dog. It’s so sad to see our pets suffer, and not know what we can do to help them. Do you have a pet that suffers from severe allergies? Please share. We can start a sort of allergic pet support group: )