Posts Tagged ‘allergies’

How Do I Love Thee?

Friday, May 27th, 2011

When we were newly married and I was trying to convince my husband that we NEEDED Max the Cat, my Mom said the words that got Max’s paw in the door. ..

“Russ, Do Not Make Her Choose.”

Russ is allergic to cats.  And guinea pigs.  And their hay.  Oh, and rats.  Mostly rats.  We have had them all.

By the time we had Fuzzy and Wuzzy (our 4th and 5th rats) he honestly could not breathe in their presence.  He just did not go into the living room, and if he did, we ended up in urgent care.  “You NEED to breathe, Finch,” I said, in a rare moment of logic over emotion.  He ended up on pretty strong allergy medications for the remainder of the rats’ lives.  He could not breathe well, and he ALWAYS felt miserable, but he did not die.

Crazy, huh?

You know what would be crazier?  If I insisted on a 6th rat…or a 6th and a 7th.  (You know, so Six wouldn’t get lonely.)

We adopted Fuzzy and Wuzzy (Hairless Dumbo Rex littermates) with the misguided hope that they would be less allergenic than their furry predecessors, ButtercupRita and Cookie.  Cookie actually ended up living with Mom and Dad because…yup, Russ could not breathe in her presence.

Fur does not cause allergic reactions.

Allergic reactions are caused by protein in dander, spit and pee.

HOW MANY years have I been telling friends and clients that very thing when they beg me to approve of their Sphinx Cat/Chinese Crested Dog-adoption-to-be because they are just sure hairless pets (or low-shedding pets, like Poodles) are hypoallergenic?  *sigh*  We were just sure hairless rats were hypoallergenic.

Not that that notion is totally misguided.  Some pets seem to cause less intense allergic reactions in people than others:  those with less hair slough less dander, are easier to keep clean and probably have a genetic predisposition to being less allergenic.


We knew better.  But we sure loved those rats.  I am grateful Russ coexisted with them for almost three years.  I will not ask him to do it again.

Thank you for not making me choose, Russ.

In honor of Russ’ kindness, I have written this poem.  My apologies to  Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  I am quite sure this is not what you meant your poem to be.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

If we live sixty more years more or less

And you stay on your meds and hold your breath,

To the very end of our married days…


I love thee more than all the future pets

We’d get if we filled our house like we do–

Got one of each color or maybe two.

I’d love all these Finches-to-be, and yet…


I love thee more than all of our future pets.

We could have two or four rats at a time!

And rabbits and piggies, kittens and cats,

Just a rough guess, that’s about ninety-nine

Pets we could have were we crazy like that.

But we’re not, and I promise, I’ll be fine.

See full size image


Pugs and Ear Care

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Originally Written for Pug Partners of Nebraska – Please visit their website to find out how you can help Pugs!

Pugs are prone to ear infections at a higher rate than dogs in general. They are also susceptible to allergic otitis, inflammation of the ear canal caused by allergies, that predisposes them to infectious otitis. And their ears are floppy! This allows moisture to be more easily trapped in the ear canal of Pugs than in the ear canals of their pointy-eared friends. Evidence is not conclusive, but this too may predispose poor Pugs to ear problems!

While owners of other dogs will need to occasionally check their pets’ ears, Pug owners will need to be vigilant.  If your veterinarian says your pet’s ears are healthy, immediately lift an ear and look and smell.  That beautiful pink color? That is normal! The lack of debris? Perfect.

If your veterinarian says your pet’s ears are unhealthy, immediately lift an ear and look and smell. Notice the painful, swollen red canal, the black yuck and the wet-dog-gone-bad smell. Work with your veterinary team to bring your Pug back to optimal health, and be on the lookout for these signs in the future!

Regular ear cleanings will help keep your Pug’s ears healthy. Use only ear cleaner labeled for dogs, preferably one that your veterinary team hands to you. Peroxide is not safe. Alcohol stings.  Water just creates a moist environment. You need a pH balanced, non-irritating effective cleaner with a drying agent.

Choose a water-resistant environment in which to clean your Pug’s ears, perhaps in the bathroom or outdoors.  Pour the cleaner into one ear until it reaches the top of the ear canal. The ear canal goes down vertically a bit, and then just behind the hinge of the jaw, goes in towards the center of the head horizontally. So picture that you have just filled an “L” shaped tube with cleaning solution. Gently squish the ear canal so the solution agitates in the canal a bit.

Now stand back.  Close your eyes. Close your mouth. Aren’t you glad you listened to me?  Your face is wet, but your eyes do not sting! And you do not have a mouth full of Pug ear wax! You are welcome.

After your Pug shakes the excess cleaner out, use a cotton ball to gently wipe what is left on the inside of the ear flap and the part of the canal you can see. Continue until you get a clean cotton ball. Repeat the same process on the other ear.

You can use cotton swabs to gently clean the crevices of the ear flap and outer ear canal, but do not use them in the ear. Swabs will not hurt the fragile ear drum, as it is protected by its position at the end of the “L” shape of the canal. However, it is easy to accidently pack wax and debris into the ear canal with a swab. The debris that is out of reach will most likely be removed by the ear cleaner itself.

Clean your Pug’s ears after baths and swimming and otherwise every two to four weeks. This will keep excess wax at a minimum, and if not completely prevent, at least minimize the number and severity of ear infections. Also, if an infection is brewing, you are much more likely to catch it before it becomes chronic.

Stephanie – I think this is my FAVORITE picture of Typhoon!!

Pugs and Anal Glands

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Originally Written for Pug Partners of Nebraska – Please visit their website to find out how you can help Pugs!

All dogs and cats have anal glands. They are small (peanut to grape-sized) sacs near their bottoms, at about 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock, if their butts were clocks.

The purpose of anal glands is probably to mark territory. The anal glands secrete a small amount of thick liquid when an animal defecates.  If the opening of the anal glands always stays patent and the glands empty completely when the animal defecates, and the anal glands never become infected, you may never notice anal glands at all.

Pugs have a conformation that sometimes lends itself to incomplete expression of the anal glands, and thus they are more prone to anal gland problems than some other dogs.

When the anal glands do not empty completely, they can become enlarged.   At this point, manual expression completely treats the problem.  If this is not done, the glands can become uncomfortable. At this stage, you may notice your pet licking or scooting. Manual expression is still completely curative.

If the glands are not expressed, they may become infected. At this point, manual expression is still helpful, but the glands may need to be flushed, and your Pug may need antibiotics. And finally, chronically infected anal glands may rupture. This is a painful condition that needs to be treated right away. In severe or very painful cases, sedation or anesthesia may be needed to treat the gland completely.

In some cases, anal glands may be surgically removed.  It may be necessary to consult a surgical specialist. When the entire gland is removed, obviously, no further trouble will be had with anal glands.  However, possible complications of surgery include pain, infection and temporary or permanent fecal incontinence.

There may be a link between allergies in dogs and anal gland problems. We are not sure if allergic dogs, being itchy, are more bothered by swollen glands, or if the opening of their anal glands becomes inflamed with the rest of their skin and then occluded, or if there is some other link. If your pet has chronic anal gland problems, be sure to note any skin or ear issues also, all of which may be linked to allergies.

Your Pug’s veterinarian will teach you to express anal glands if you would like. It is a technically simple procedure. However, of the many people I have taught the procedure, every single one of them has come back and had me express their pet’s anal glands after one try. The grossness factor just makes it worth the money spent!

Have your Pug’s anal glands checked every three to six months.  After a few check-ups, base the frequency of anal gland expression on your veterinarian’s recommendation.  May you never have to deal with anal glands whatsoever, except for perhaps the occasional anal gland expression.

Stephanie Alford’s Typhoon