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Strangest Adverse Reaction I've read in Pet Medication: Anorexia

How do you know when to take your dog to a specialist? Is it normal to actually sit and thoroughly read the enclosed scientific documentation enclosed with the pills that a vet prescribes?

IMG_5309 These questions weigh on my mind. Call me crazy dog lady but for me, replace the word "dog" with child, and wouldn't I be like every other concerned parent you know? With spring weather and increased pollen count, our dog continues to suffer from her allergies. Last July after modifying her diet for her now known food allergies, Cleo seemed to get better. She had tested positive for inhalant allergies to dust, mites, grasses, weeds and a few tree pollens but we thought they were minor in comparison to her food allergies.

With the burst of spring blossoms last month, we saw a sharp increase in her licking, itching and chewing again. Being the type of person who prefers natural, or more truthfully, practical solutions to most things, I like to try a lot of different tactics before going to a vet or any doctor. Hey I went to college, I should be able to figure a lot of stuff out on my own, right? Well, yes this is true but not always. And after lots of tricks and tips found on many pet websites, and little real relief for Cleo, besides A+ poop, we went the specialist route.

I confess the final push to make the appointment, and admit we couldn't "fix" her ourselves, came when our dog walker told us how Cleo spent more time scratching herself raw than playing with her dog friends at the park. Cleo not want to play at the park with her buddies? This must be what it is like getting a call or note from your child's teacher. I was embarrassed and now felt the gaze of judgement from others who knew our secret. Did she think I was cheap or worse, too poor to go to a specialist?  This is San Francisco where many people spend oodles on their pets without thought.  Guilt is a terrible weapon and I applied it thickly so that I felt like the worst parent in the universe - to the best dog in the world.

Our appointment resulted in Cleo getting two daily medicines for a month trial. Taken together once a day, the specialist allowed for a lower dose of Atopica when followed by Ketoconazole. Cleo is responding well so far, and I'm sure we will know more after our follow up appointment in two weeks. However once I committed to going the medication route for my cherished dog, reading the documentation on Atopica was the first thing I did with my coffee.

I'm not a scientist but does it seem reasonable to use 265 dogs in the field study safety analysis? 111 dogs were treated with a placebo for first 30 days. 192 dogs were included in the statistical analysis of effectiveness. Is that too many or not enough? Administering these two drugs together may lead to increased plasma levels of cyclosporine. Atopica may increase the development of neoplasia. These were two of the scarier points made in the documentation, especially after I looked up neoplasia in the dictionary!  

The strangest thing I read was that after vomiting and diarrhea, the most common adverse reaction during the study was anorexia. Yes, anorexia. How is that even possible?  Cleo, starve herself? Now that would scare the bejeezus out of me!!

My Cleo

At the end, this drug to treat atopic dermatitis in dogs costs about $5 per pill.  Is this the best solution for Cleo? I don't know. It is for the moment. She still gets a scoop of ground flax-seed meal, rich in Omega 3 in each meal. She eats a grain free kibble that also has antioxidants and Omega 3 added. Her treats include sardine oil leftover from the can we used at lunch and a little olive oil at dinner sometimes.  

Her poop is amazing and even after two weeks of these two medications remains pretty healthy. The natural supplements and dietary changes weren't enough on their own but maybe their role is to balance out possible adverse effects from the drugs?

Whatever happens, I made a promise to myself to work on not feeling bad about any how I am caring for Cleo. I will always read all the documentation on her medication even if I need to use a dictionary to understand it. I will pepper the vet with a hundred questions during any vet or phone call, because there is only one Cleo.

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