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The Bichon Frise Club of America, Inc.
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Allergies can occur in any breed but most often seem to trouble white breeds. The Bichon is no exception. Allergies in dogs can be food related but are more likely to be associated with inhalants. Dogs can be tested for specific allergies; however it can be difficult to avoid the trees, grasses and molds that are a part of the environment. Therefore it becomes logical to try to treat the allergy in the most effective way.
We would make it very clear that dealing with allergies has to be done in cooperation with your veterinarian. He must prescribe any medications used and you may need to purchase some products from him, such as special shampoos and food additives. You need to work with your groomer as well.
It is probably more important that the dog be well rinsed than to use a medicated shampoo with mild allergies. You may have to experiment with different brands of shampoos and conditioners to find the best for your dog. Do not let the dog get matted because that extra brushing and pulling of hair to get out the mats only further irritates the skin. Avoid excessive heat when blow-drying for the same reason (there are forced air dryers that make it unnecessary to use any heat).
Allergies tend to be seasonal (pollens occur primarily in spring and fall). Your main focus on medications will be during the worse times. You should try to control the "itches" without a lot of medication whenever possible. A voice command with a strong "no!" when the dog begins to scratch can help. Scratching can become a habit, as can licking the feet. Boredom can add to these behaviors so avoid leaving the dog alone for hours at a time. (Bichons do not make good "home alone" dogs! They like their people around.) Keep the dog inside with air conditioning as much as possible.
Now let's get to the medications. Pet owners want an instant fix and are not tolerant of vets who require return visits. Therefore vets will give that quick fix by prescribing steroids for allergies. You probably have had at least one prescription for prednisone to be given over about 10 days, with the last doses being given on alternate days - or some similar schedule. This is the quick fix that pet owners demand. However you are setting up your Bichon to have serious problems later in life if you do this repeatedly. A steroid given over and over tells the body to shut down the production of the natural cortisol, resulting in a condition called Cushings Syndrome.
Remember there are certain times when steroids are necessary and have to be given. Treating simple allergies can be done without overmedicating. You administer a single dose of prednisone, followed by antihistamines. The single dose breaks the itch habit by soothing the skin, allowing the antihistamines to be effective. Together with your veterinarian, you can determine which antihistamine works best for your Bichon. If you have to give the pred once a month during allergy season, this will not be enough to stop the natural production of cortisol. Fatty acid supplements may be useful, too. Ask your vet to prescribe one. Together you CAN control the problem. Good luck!
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