Dealing with Sami’s Westie allergies

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When we got a Westie pup, everyone kept saying Westies are prone to allergies. That this is the no. 1 health issue they have and that it’s a continuous struggle dealing with. We kept thinking that maybe our pup will be among those allergy free. After all, we did get him from a responsible breeder and no one in his family showed signs of allergies, we were told.

How we first noticed the allergies

A year and almost a half in, the first signs of allergies started. At first, we didn’t even realize that’s what it was. He was licking his paws a lot and we thought he was just cleaning himself. We posted a story on instagram of Sami licking diligently and we joked that he’s a very clean pupper and people mentioned it might be allergies. Then, he started chewing his paws too. Then, he would wake us up at night with the licking and chewing as he was clearly uncomfortable and couldn’t sleep. At some point he even started scratching his lower jaw until the skin there became red and raw.

Sami has “dalmatian paws”, pink with black spots, which could mean his paws are more sensitive

About atopic dermatitis

So we went to the vet and turns out it’s most probably atopic dermatitis, which is a common condition Westies develop in early adulthood, meaning somewhere between 1 and 3 years old. It’s basically a hypersensitivity to various allergens that can be from food, or environmental (like pollen, mold, insects, even dust mites which are everywhere). It’s a chronic skin disease which can be contained, but never goes away completely and can always cause flare ups. It’s also genetic, so there is no way to know if your puppy will develop it or not.

Dealing with atopic dermatitis

We’ve been trying to deal with this for the past few months, with weekly checkups at the vet and trying out various things that didn’t really work. We tried raw food (against our vets’ advice; two months in and it didn’t help but instead created other problems so we stopped). We applied local creams, sprays or mousses which slightly helped but not by much. Our vet had Sami on cortisone pills for two weeks which did help a lot, but since cortisone is a steroid it’s not meant to be used long term, so as soon as we cut the dose to half, the symptoms reappeared, so now he is cortisone free. We tried giving him baths more often, using a dermatologic shampoo that helps with allergies. We washed his paws after every walk. We even had him using socks on our walks, to see if this helps, with no luck.

Recently, after taking him to the groomer for a summer haircut, we noticed he has some red spots on his back as well as his belly. Our vet says these are allergy flares and it’s normal for an atopic dog. We noticed him scratching a little, but nothing major yet. However, from what I read, this can get worse with time.

Possible treatment options

At the moment we have a few options to deal with these allergies. We can do an allergy test, which we already scheduled, in order to find out what allergens he is most sensitive to. Despite our vet mentioning it might be a waste of money (because what if he is allergic to dust mites? How do you avoid that?), I want to have a certain answer as to what is causing this. Maybe the cause is not just environmental allergies, but certain ingredients in food. In this case, I can avoid those and maybe it will help his flare ups.

Another solution is anti-allergy medicine. There are a few options that I know of, but they all could have side effects, which is why I want to keep this as a last resort. If at some point the allergies become so bad that they affect his well being, then I will consider it, because after all what is most important to me is that he feels well and has a quality life. But at the moment, this can wait while we keep trying to contain these allergies in other ways.

Another possible solution I just learned of is immunotherapy, where the doctors administer tiny doses of the allergens that the dog is sensitive to, over a period of months, even a year, slowly increasing the dose until the dog allegedly becomes desensitized. I have yet to find out more about this and ask my vet, so take this with a grain of salt and do your own research 🙂

What to do if your Westie puppy shows these signs

What’s important is if you have a Westie dog and at some point notice any of the signs above, know that you might be dealing with atopy. Please go see your vet and ask what your options are.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a right answer to this, so the best we can do is just experiment with different options and see what works best for our dogs. Each dog is different and what might work for you might not work for me and vice versa, which is why I refrain from giving people advice in situations like this. And which is why I would also like to ask that you don’t try to convince me that your way is the way. By all means, I appreciate you sharing your experience with me and please do, but just don’t tell me that it’s the right way. I’m glad to hear what worked for you and you can be sure that I will look into it, but maybe it’s not what will work for my dog and I want you to keep this in mind 🙂