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Canine Allergies, an holistic case review

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

Canine Allergies, Holistic case study

Getting to know Rosie

Rosie is a gorgeous pet pug residing with her family in the southern region of New Zealand. At 10 years of age she is considered a ‘senior’ by modern conventions and naturally has developed a few health challenges along the way. A holistic case review aims to identify and improve on not only those common canine allergies, but to improve Rosie’s overall health, fitness and longevity.

Canine Allergies & health concerns

The main issue which prompted the present case review was Rosie’s pruritis, or incessant itching, which has been managed to date with the twice daily administration of the immune suppressing medication Apoquel™ (oclacitinib) prescribed by her veterinarian. Rosie also has a history of ‘gunky ears’, an over production of waxy discharge which, much like Pruritis, is usually associated with canine allergies. Gentian violet, an antiseptic dye, has been the product of choice to address the gunky ears when required.

In addition to the pruritis and gunky ears, Rosie has a history of Anal gland issues. Unfortunately, this is a very painful and debilitating condition as these delicate glands become blocked and must be manually expressed by the veterinarian every three months.

With all these physical symptoms suffered over a significant length of time it’s understandable that Rosie also suffers a little anxiety. This shows as ‘stressy barking’, where she chooses to suddenly start barking, often for no apparent reason and can’t seam to stop herself. The current method of management is one of distraction, although not an ideal solution for the family it does stop her barking for a time.

Health concerns and allopathic treatments

Health concerns

Treating Canine Allergies with a holistic case review

Just three days prior to our first consultation Rosie’s mum, following the advice of friends, took the bold step and transitioned Rosie to a Raw diet. Using a pre-prepared mix of meat, bone and organs, Rosie was already on her way to improved health with just a few additions needed to ensure all of her nutritional needs were met.

Bone broth, the action packed supplement

The first recommendation was for the provision of a homemade bone broth to help restore form and function of the digestive tract. All allergies begin in the gut, addressing gut health is primary in our healing journey.

Plant matter provides many valuable nutrients missing from animal matter and is a key ingredient in the canine diet. Although there are many options to choose from, for Rosie we selected a simple mix of Spinach, Carrot and blueberries. We wanted to keep things simple while providing maximum benefit, over time we can build in additional variety to suit.

Preparing vegetables

To prepare our raw mix it is simply crushed or blitzed in a blender, this breaks open the plant cells releasing the nutrients ready for maximum absorption. For convenience we can prepare a batch suitable for a week or two, freezing in meal size blocks ready to defrost each day as needed.

The bone portion of the diet is currently provided in the prepared meat patty and is a little light at just 10%. Bone is essential not only for nutrients but for healthy stool formation and will help support Rosie’s anal glands.

Bones, Size matters in your selection

We need to take care to provide appropriate bones for the dog, this is especially important for brachycephalic breeds like Rosie, bones should be non-weight bearing, from one of the smaller prey animals such as lamb or poultry, and too big to fit in the mouth completely or swallow whole. Initially chicken wings were suggested, the joints should always be snapped prior to feeding, this not only makes the meaty bone long and floppy thus difficult to ‘inhale’ but also prevents the joints acting like a scissor in the gut if swallowed without chewing.

To complete our diet, we add some bone-in cold water fish, for a small dog like Rosie sardines, mackerel or salmon frames are a great option and can easily be cut into portions before freezing making defrosting a piece when needed nice and convenient.

Herbal support:

Herbs provide a concentrated form of nutrients with many varied medicinal actions. For Rosie we chose Rosa canina (Rose hips) and Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) to strengthen her systems and body.

Rosa canina (Rose hips) are a general nutritive tonic supporting the whole body, packed with vitamin C it supports and strengthens the immune system, gently aids detoxification with gentle laxative and diuretic actions, as well as supporting the kidney and bladder, resolving any mild issues which may be present.

Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) is a wonderful nervine tonic which supports the nervous system, indicated for all forms of anxiety related cognitive disfunction, it calms and strengthens without sedation. It is an ideal herb to assist with Rosies’ current ‘stressy’ nature, in particular her stress barking that can go on for some time if no one intervenes to distract her.

To provide a little extra bulk to Rosie’s stool a whole raw carrot or half a raw, cored apple could be given as a daily chew. Dogs are unable to break down the cellulose wall of plant cells meaning if we don’t prepare it in some way by either blitzing in a blender, cooking or fermenting, it simply moves through the digestive tract to be expelled as feaces. It’s not surprising to see little carrot chunks in the feaces, this is nature at its best.


Whilst our seniors may be happy to forgo their daily walks and simply relax on the couch, it’s important that they maintain an active lifestyle. For Rosie we decided on regular sniffy walks, this avoids requiring a significant distance to be walked which she’s not comfortable with at the moment. Instead it challenges her body in an engaging task with lots of safe, small movements of the various muscle groups, with the mind fully engaged it doesn’t feel like exercise at all, just fun for the whole family.

Holistic treatment plan

14-day review

Rosie is loving her new diet and her mum did a tremendous job implementing all but one of the recommendations from our first session. The raw carrot chew option was a big hit, inspiring Rosie’s mum to look for other options, selecting dehydrated beef tendons, a great nutritious option to further increase variety. The only issue Rosie’s mum encountered was sourcing appropriate raw meaty bones. If you’ve never seen a dog tackle a raw meaty bone before it can be daunting the first time as there are a lot of horror stories circulating about the dangers, we do need to take care with our selections, but the canine digestive system is built to handle raw meaty bones. With that in mind and a little google searching we found a couple of potential local suppliers to try.

The stress barking for which we prescribed Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm), has greatly reduced. Rosie still goes outside for a little bark occasionally but happily brings herself back inside again, a great improvement in just two weeks. Maintaining Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) as part of the diet will continue to strengthen her central nervous system and reduce her anxiety enabling her to handle any new stresses with much more resilience in the future.

Rosie’s health is steadily improving with her nutrition packed diet, but she is still on Apoquel™ (oclacitinib) twice daily for her itching which still needs to be addressed. Now that Rosie is a little stronger we can further support her detoxification as removing these toxins will be essential in resolving her pruritis. The detoxification protocol we decided on utilised herbs which not only detoxify but are tonics particularly indicated for skin conditions.


Calendula officinalis (Calendula) is a valuable lymphatic, or blood purifier, increasing lymphatic flow to draw toxins away from the area of inflammation replacing it with cleaner fresher, oxygen rich lymphatic fluid. Additionally, it supports the flow of bile from the liver and gall bladder to aid in the elimination of toxins.

Curcuma longa (Turmeric) is used widely by many although the reasons may not be so commonly known. Curcuma longa is hepatoprotective, it protects the liver cells from damage, increases bile flow from both liver and gall bladder as well as improving both digestive and liver functions. All valuable actions in our aim to detoxify and heal the body. To improve the absorption of the medicinal compound it’s best prepared as a paste, combined with water, coconut oil and black pepper.

Turmer paste recipe - Rodney Habib

Our final herb to complete our detoxification trio was Arctium lappa (Burdock root), is a valuable alterative herb, useful in restoring function to organs and systems within the body. Selected for its affinity with the urinary system, toning the kidney and bladder to aid with elimination.

Holistic treatment plan, detoxification

28 day review

With four weeks on her new diet and two weeks into her detoxification protocol Rosie is doing great. Not only is her health continuing to improve but her pruritis in now completely gone with just the odd regular scratch you would expect from any dog. Rosie’s mum now faces the difficult decision of when to stop her daily apoquel medication she’s been so reliant on for so long. No one can tell you when to make a significant change to your dogs’ lifestyle such as removing medication, it is up to each individual to make that decision for themselves. Removing immune suppressing medication is likely to initially trigger a response from the immune system, however, with the body and its systems all strengthened, a diet free of many potential allergens, and the body already cleansed of many toxins, we have laid the foundation to make that change and allow her immune system to successfully find its new balance.

Dinner time for Rosie & co sure looks super tasty now.

Dinner time for Rosie & co

Interestingly Rosie’s stress barking has increased again with additional distractions from the neighbour’s construction work, this is understandable, although not ideal. Currently Rosie is having the minimum therapeutic dosage of Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) divided morning and night, with her noisy time developing after lunch. This suggests a cyclical nature with a beneficial effect which has too shorter duration. Increasing her dosage to mid therapeutic range provides additional support with our overall formula continuing her strengthening and detoxification.

So where to now?

Detoxification is a gentle process which takes up to three months to complete. We begin with our initial dosage maintained for 4-6 weeks at which point we begin reducing until detoxification is complete at 3-months. I look forward to checking in with Rosie’s mum in a few weeks to see how she’s progressing with eliminating her reliance on Apoquel™ (oclacitinib), any updates will be included below.


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