Updated: Apr 10
Have you had the misfortune of witnessing your senior German Shepherd suffer from allergies? If you answered yes, then you're probably all too familiar with the ramifications that the allergies cast on both you and your stricken fur friend as you desperately try to solve the mystery of the, oftentimes, insidious affliction at work, sooner rather than later. Allergies in your senior German Shepherd are no fun for anyone. Not for him. Not for you, and not for anyone else in constant company with your itchy, gray muzzled fur friend, including any other fur friends in the home. Trust me when I say that it's hard to watch your senior German Shepherd perpetually do any of the following: * Itch like crazy and scratch patches of fur out in the process * Sneezing and reverse sneezing * Stinky ears with or without yucky discharge * Yeasty, smelly, oftentimes greasy coat * Blackened flaky and greasy skin* Crusty and or runny eyes * Chewing or licking certain spots on his body * Red, irritated hot spots anywhere on their body * Unexplained GI upset that seems to come and go for no apparent reason turns out to be allergies These are just a few of the unwanted effects that allergies produce in your fur friend, which are surely causing a great deal of discomfort and misery within the boundaries of their old, furry bodies with no real relief in sight. What's more, as they are suffering, you feel helpless and maybe even confused as to what's causing your senior German Shepherd's body to declare war on itself and what you can do to stop the vicious assault so that your fur friend can live in peace throughout his golden years. We here at Woody's Place know all too well what it's like to deal with allergies in our senior German Shepherd residents and have even taken in senior German Shepherds JUST BECAUSE of allergies. That's right, just because of allergies. Our Mr. Atticus was surrendered to us because his allergies were so out of control that his owner could no longer afford to treat him for his allergies. Just look at the picture below of him before arriving at the sanctuary and after about a year of being in our care.
Atticus was flat-out miserable when he came to us in December of 2018 at the ripe age of nine years old. I mean just look at his before picture. Does it say it all or what? Immediately after taking possession of him on that cold winter's day, we drove Atticus right to Carbondale Veterinary Hospital, where they kept him overnight because he was in such bad shape. In fact, his right eye was so messy due to discharge, infection, and pressure that we thought he would lose it. Fortunately, that did not happen. As you can see from the "before" photo, not only were his eyes a mess, particularly the right eye, but so were his ears, especially the right ear, his skin, and his nose. Yes. Even his nose was crusted over with open sores on it. Poor boy. :( It took us over a year to finally get his diet right and get his body to stop attacking itself, so Atticus could feel comfortable and live a happy life, which I'm happy to report, he is doing just that. That's not to say we don't have bouts with allergies in Atticus from time to time because we do. But when we do, they are short-lived and never as bad as what he once experienced.
So what did we do to make sure Atticus was no longer suffering from allergies. It was lots of trial and error until we got it right, but the main thing we did was change his diet drastically. We here at Woody's Place are huge proponents of natural, human-grade, whole foods as opposed to ultra-processed dog kibble, treats, and such. The reason being is because we have seen with our own eyes, senior German Shepherds in our care come in looking like Atticus, who was fed an ultra-processed (kibble) diet his whole life, and well...frankly, look like crap, to changing his diet to a whole food, minimally processed diet and look great! That being said, we still can not afford to do ALL home-cooked, nutritionally balanced meals for every dog in our care at every meal, so we do a 70/30 split, where 70% of the time they get home-cooked and 30% of the time they get kibble and canned. We also do lots of protein treats, like buffalo lung filet, instead of ultra-processed treats like milk bones that have lots of fillers and absolutely no nutritional value. For those who want to know, 30% of the time, Atticus gets Canine Caviar Duck kibble and canned the rest of the time, it's home-cooked. Nonetheless, changing his diet was our golden ticket. Eventually, his eyes, face, ears, nose, skin, and coat cleared up as best they could. Sadly, he still has bald spots and black skin on both his rear outer thigh area, which were so badly damaged that they will never get 100% better in what's left of his lifetime. I should add that we also use supplements regularly to keep allergies at bay. When your fur friend has allergies, it's important to boost his gut health since most of his immune system is in his gut, so we are certain to incorporate probiotics with every meal. We also use coconut oil regularly, which can improve skin and coat, improve digestion, and reduce allergic reactions, as well as turmeric, which has naturally occurring antihistamine properties as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Lastly, we include an omega 3 fatty acid into their diets as well. You can check out our blog post on supplements we use here => https://www.wpsgss.org/post/five-supplements-that-benefit-our-senior-german-shepherds Food is just one of the areas we dive deep into when it comes to figuring out what is causing a persistent allergic reaction in any of our senior German Shepherd residents, but sometimes it doesn't end there. Other causes for allergies in our fur friends can be environmental. Did you know that your dog could be allergic to dust mites, grasses, trees, pollen, and even mold and mildew, just like you and I? Well, he can....even to fleas. Can you imagine not being able to speak or effectively communicate that you're itchy and your skin is on fire because of something that touches your skin 24/7? I can't either, and I feel awful for dogs that I see who are clearly suffering from allergies, yet their owner fails to notice their dog's cry for help.
Atopic dermatitis or environmental allergies is one of the biggest causes of itchiness in your dog, but sometimes you can't control his environment the way you would like to in order to rid him of allergies, so what can you do? Aside from the obvious, Allergy tests, over the counter or prescription antihistamines like Benadryl or Apoquel, you can do any or a combination of the following: * Bath your fur friend regularly with a hypoallergenic shampoo to calm his inflamed skin and wash off the allergens. * Raw Apple Cider vinegar rinse (after bath before drying rinse dog with ½ cup apple cider vinegar & 1 cup filtered water, then pat dry)/..;''''' * Let your dog soak in an oatmeal bath to calm skin * Use an antiviral and antibacterial topical spray * Reduce your fur friend's exposure to environmental allergens * Get a Pet Wellness scan to check for food and environment sensitivities. You can purchase a scan at: https://glacierpeakholistics.com/collections/allergies-in-dogs/products/pet-wellness-life-stress-scan-1 Like with any dog, as you can see, allergies in senior German Shepherds can be quite complex. Allergies can be brought on by diet, environment, genetics, or a combination of the three, so figuring out the cause is no easy undertaking, but there is hope.....just look at the picture above again of our Atticus. We like to treat our senior German Shepherds as holistically as possible with the tips we mentioned in this blog post, but if we need to, we don't hesitate to seek medical help from our veterinarian team at Carbondale. Sometimes, we start out treating allergies medically until we get them under control, and then incorporate a diet change and or address environmental factors, and take it from there. Basically, whatever it takes to keep our seniors comfortable, happy, and allergy-free is what we do. :) To listen to our podcast on this topic click on the link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1771634/9415291-allergies-in-your-senior-german-shepherd.mp3?download=true
***** Disclaimer: Throughout the "20 Most Common Health Issues in Senior German Shepherds" series, each blog post is expressed explicitly from our point of view and is not to be substituted for the professional medical expertise of your trusted veterinarian.