Thursday, January 28, 2016

Heidi's Basset Hound Skin Issues Stabilize

About this time last year I was taking Heidi to her 2nd new vet in 4 months. The vet changes were an attempt to find the cause and solution to Heidi’s Basset Hound skin issues that exploded at the end of the summer in 2014.

When I adopted her in July 2011, vet records showed she did come with skin allergies that would require treatment. In certain parts of the year, those treatments might be a monthly shot. At the time she was prescribed Ketoconazole but had a steroid shot of Depo Medrol the day before I picked her up.

Over the next 20 months Ketoconazole lost it’s effectiveness, meaning the treatment was not working longer than 2 weeks compared to months in prior years. Her treatment changed to Vetalog steroid injections.

Like the medication before, it eventually became less effective. Her last steroid shot did not last 17 days before her skin was back to where it was before the Vetalog injection. I decided I needed a 2nd opinion.

In October 2014 after an examination I was given a choice between two treatments for her skin condition. I chose Atopica, along with a shampoo prescribed 3x per week. The prescribed plan was daily capsules for 1 month and then decrease the dosage. Her skin never looked better after 30 tablets. I was happy with the skin improvement but she was very lethargic and that concerned me. Due to the severity of long-term use, plus side effects (Heidi was showing), I was reconsidering the choice of having her on a daily dose.

Before Atopica Treatment
After 6 Weeks of Atopic Use

After 6 Weeks of Atopica Use

The goal was 1 tablet per month. We would start cutting back dosage to every other day, then twice per week. Within days of changing the dose to twice per week, her skin condition flared up worse than what it was months before. The vet wanted to move her back to a daily dosage.

With Heidi showing signs of some of the listed side effects, namely very lethargic. She barely made the walk to her food/water bowl, along with zero activity. I decided to discontinue Atopica. Her tail was always lowered and she never did her routine of daily morning sprints around the living room. What I was reading about long-term use was turning me off on the medication.

My decision was not to continue giving her Atopica.

A neighbor is a vet but his office was 16 miles away, a direction I rarely traveled. I decided in January 2015 I’d have John look at her. Basically Heidi’s 3rd vet in a 6 month period. ALL of this is discussed in detail on my blog hosted by Blogger — the older version of this blog.

At that time Heidi’s skin was so bad he did not think she would ever grow hair back on her paws and rear shoulders. Even though he found in his studies that only 3% of canine skin allergies were food related, he suggested a ‘grain free’ dog food, one that I had been feeding her for the past year. I changed brands of ‘grain free food’, with very little improvement.

February 2015

He thought her allergies were more environmental allergies instead of dog food allergies (only 3%). From February until May 2015 I gave her a daily shot of RESPIT. Yet, I was told I may not see any signs of improvement for 6-12 months.

With little to no visible improvement from February – May, I stopped the RESPIT injections. With more research, more emails to friends … I decided to change her food to minimal ingredients and only one protein source. I also decided to take her off all medications.

May 2015
May 2015

May 2015
We traveled west for a week in June 2015. There were no signs that her skin was getting worse in a different environment and a change of dog food to Fromm’s very basic blend with chicken, chicken meal and grains.

With a change back to basic food, with rice and barley, chicken, chicken meal and no medications of any kind … her basset hound skin condition did not get worse. Looking through her file of photos in date sequence I could see slight improvement with hair starting to grow back on her paws, rear shoulder plus her stomach started to clear up.

August 2015
Upon a recommendation from someone who had positive results on their basset hound’s skin condition, I changed to Earthborn Holistic Dog Food, grain free. Multiple sites ranked their food 5-stars. All ingredients are USA based. It is manufactured 70 miles from me, so the cost is below the standard price for dog food of that quality.

I liked the changes of Heidi’s coat and skin at first. After a couple of months she started itching more, almost obsessively, along with a ‘greasy’ feeling to her coat, I could smell yeast from her ears (first time) and skin. I decided it didn’t matter if it was rated 5-stars, I was going to change food brands.

I tried their different protein sources … with the same results.

It was also in June 2015 that she became “skin and bones”. Was it the stress of the camping trip out west? Was it the RESPIT shots I gave her for 90 days? Was there not enough carbs in the ‘no grain’ food to help her maintain her weight? All blood work showed normal readings. The vet could not come up with a reason for her 13 pounds of weight loss in 10 months. In the 2 months prior she had lost 7 of those 13 pounds.

In the past couple of months I have mentioned without going into detail, that I had changed her dog food back to ‘grain’ dog food with only one protein source. I started a probiotic supplement with her food for her immune system in October 2015. Her skin has shown improvement with that supplement and has stabilized. My spreadsheet log for Heidi’s skin condition that I update daily, shows there is not a difference in improvement between ‘grain free’ and dog food with brown rice and barley included.

In fact I find that her skin looks better — longer — feeding her Diamond Naturals with Chicken and Chicken meal as the only protein source. I tried their Lamb blend but within a week her skin flared up enough that I stopped feeding her lamb and lamb meal immediately.

The times I tried Fromm for Large Breed, with duck, chicken and chicken meal being the protein sources, her skin would become red and inflamed within a 7-10 day period. Changing her back to Diamond Naturals, her skin improved.

It is interesting that as the day progresses, not every day, her rear hocks will become red and inflamed. I have changed blankets from wool to cotton — no difference. I have periodically have soaked her with Epsom Salts with mixed results. Sometimes it looks like it makes a difference, other time it looks like the skin is irritated by the Epsom Salts soak.

Bottom line … feeding her Diamond Naturals, with chicken and chicken meal along with the probiotic supplement, there is NO yeast smell coming from her ears or body. Her coat is shiny and soft but not oily and does not smell. Hair has grown back on her paws but not with the normal thickness. Her belly is clear and normal skin color. Her rear shoulders have improved with skin texture that is now the normal softness even though parts of it are bare.

January 2016
Remember the vet in February 2015 didn’t think hair would ever grow back on her paws and rear shoulders based on the severe damage she showed. In that January 2016 photo you can see the white hair on her rear shoulder has tried to fill back in, where in the February 2015 photos above, you can see the hard crusty elephant type skin.

I forgot to add, currently her energy level has never been better … like a puppy. She IS gaining her weight back slowly but surely, 2 pounds at a time it seems. Her tail is wagging and she does her morning sprints around the living room until Stella decides that she wants to play … then Heidi stops.

So, we will stay with the same dog food currently fed. She will still be supplemented with Probiotic Miracle. I have noticed she doesn’t really like having her picture taken with the Nikon D3200 but with an iPhone I no longer have, I am not able to get a picture of her before she moves. Consequently, less really good photos of Heidi are available.

I will continue to post photos and updates on Heidi’s skin condition.


  1. Glad to see her doing better. I know how much you've tried to do the very best for her.

    1. I hope to find some positive results this week after they check out her thyroid.