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What is an Allergy?

When the T-cells of our immune system act to safeguard our bodies against foreign invaders. When a foreign substance enters our cellular systems, these T-cells spring into action and attempt to eradicate the invader through a series of physiological responses. Technically, an allergy is a disorder, which occurs when our defense system overreacts to the presence of benign substances perceived as potentially harmful.  It is technically a malfunction of our immune system, which attacks substances such as dust or pollen with sticky proteins called antibodies that produce histamine and serotonin, which causes inflammation resulting in itching, sneezing, runny nose etc. These intolerance’s can trigger severe reactions and symptoms that manifest themselves in a variety of ways.


The thyroid gland is a small gland located on the underside (ventral side) of your dog’s neck.  Through the production of thyroid hormone it is a master controller of metabolism and has direct or indirect effects on many parts of your dog’s system.  Hypothyroidism, or not enough thyroid hormone, may be the most common hormonal problem in dogs today.  It is much more common than hyperthyroidism, or too much thyroid hormone.

There are a variety of signs and symptoms that you may notice in your pet.  Skin problems are the most prevalent.  Fido may have symmetrical alopecia or hair loss on both sides of his body, extending into a rat tail.  Usually the leg and head hair remains at normal length. Your pet’s hair may be very slow to re-grow after clipping.  A dry coat with seborrhea and darkening of the skin, called hyper-pigmentation, may be noted.  Despite your dog’s ragged appearance there is very little itching, unless he develops secondary skin infections.

Many hypothyroid dogs are lethargic and may even seem to become somewhat mentally dull.  They may gain some weight due to their decreased activity and lower metabolic rate. Astute owners may pick up signs of muscle weakness or nerve problems causing their pet to drag their feet or even stumble.


Puppies are not born with completely developed immune systems.  For larger breeds the immune system does not develope until 12 months of age while the smaller breeds develope at about 6 months.  This is why the risk of infection is greater for young puppies.  Taking your puppy to places where all sorts of diseases are likely to be congregated is something to consider carefully.  You should slowly introduce your puppy in your neighborhood, play with friends’ dogs, and let him get his immunities gradually.  Taking him to the “Off Leash Area” too soon is like dipping him into all the things he could be exposed to at once.


The trimethoprim-sulfa combination (e.g. Bactrim, Septra, DiTrim, Tribrissen) are widely used, broad-spectrum antibiotics.  They are commonly administered for respiratory tract, skin, and urinary tract infections.  This list of reported adverse effects and/or reactions is long and frightening!

These reactions are primarily due to the sulfonamide component, additional potency is caused by the trimethoprim.  Most common reactions are:

1)                  Gastrointestinal (Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite)

2)                  Allergic skin reactions (rash, hives, itching)

3)                  Other things such as headache, muscle pain and fever

Potentially fatal reactions are less frequent.  They include fulminant hepatic (liver) necrosis, kidney damage, and bone marrow effects leading to the inability to produce one or several types of red or white blood cells.  Meningitis and convulsions have also been reported.

Breeds of dogs reported to be susceptible (including IWS) should not be given these antibiotics unless culture results indicate that no other antibiotic is suitable.  This is especially true for individuals who are known to be hypothyroid or who come from lines known to have thyroid problems. 

Your veterinarian must be advised of the above information and reminded of it with each visit. These drugs will and have caused severe reaction already taking the life of other IWS’s.


Angel’s Trumpet (Datura), Autumn Crocus (Colchicum) Azalea, Brugmansia, Cyclamen, Daffodil (Narcissus), Daphne, Foxglove (Digitalis), Gloriosa Lily, Lily of the Valley (Convolaria, Monkshood (Aconitum), Rhododendron, Trumpet Vine (Campsis Radicans).


Eating these can give your dog mild to bad tummy ache and/or diarrhea.

Amaryllis, Clematis, Crocus (Spring-flowering), Glasiolus, Grape Hyacinth (Muscari Armeniacum), Hellebore (Christmas/Lenten Rose, Hyacinth, Mydrangea, Iris, Morning Glory (Ipomea) – seeds considered potentially deadly by some, Scilla Siberica, Snowdrop (Galanthus Nivalis) Tulip.


Generally, what is safe for us in the kitchen garden is safe for our dogs.  There are some cautions though:-

Comfrey (Leaves), fruit pits, - apples, peach, plum, cherry, almond, garlic (causes anemia if eaten in quantity), grapes (may cause severe kidney damage), mushrooms (unidentified wild species) onions, chives, etc. (cause anemia if eaten in quantity) potato plant (leaves, vines and green tubers), Rhubard leaves, rue (herb), tomato plants (leaves and stems).











The severe, life-threatening NBD is rare.  More commonly, we see dogs in which the nails grow out and the edges curl around underneath, trapping dirt and allowing it to work up to separate the horny layer of the quick. These are typically claws which are not as strong, and hard as we would like, coupled with Irish Water Spaniel’s acting as weenies over toenail trims.  Soon the claws are mushy and break or shatter easily.  Regular (every 1 – 2 weeks) trimming down to the tip of the quick and keeping rotted edges trimmed off seems to alleviate problems for the most part.  Using a human nail hardener helps very brittle nails, or those that have shattered.



Bigger boned puppies should not be over fed and their weight should be kept on the slight side rather than being overweight. This reduces the chance of laxity in the hips (there is more cartilage than bone which cannot support excess weight). Naturally reared puppies mature much slower than kibble fed puppies. At Finnibone Kennels we have experienced that the health and longevity of this breed is largely due to feeding a holistic diet.


The topic of spaying and neutering has been questioned with age. We at Finnibone Kennels ask that you do not spay or neuter until the age of 1year minimum. We do this for various reasons. It has been our experience, particularly with this breed, that because they are one of the slowest breeds to mature (age 4 – 6 years) and taking into account each specific lines mature rate and health related circumstances. Differing conditions can and do occur. For example, thyroid functioning levels can be altered. The metabolism is working excessively hard until two years of age. It is not a good idea to encourage cascading problems during this time when the system is working so hard in order to moderate functions. Your vets may argue this point, however until they have bred and had experience with our breed we at Finnibone Kennels prefer that our opinion stand. Prior to either spaying or neutering we ask that we see the puppy in order to properly and more accurately assess the situation if at all possible.

Waiting until growth plates have closed is a crucial part of the equation as neutering before that "can" cause atypical growth patterns. This would vary from breed to breed as the growth phase of large dogs is much longer than that of smaller dogs.

The big difficulty in early hysterectomies has been the sudden withdrawal of essential hormones. The sex hormones are needed for proper growth, development of bones, as well as digestion and other organ development. Hypothyroidism is directly related to hormones. As well, torn cruciates are directly related to hypothyroidism. The immune system is directly affected after hysterectomies. Thus we feel this surgery is better handled by a more mature IWS.


Dental problems can be stopped before they even get started by putting a simple prevention program into practice at home. A daily diet including carcass with the occassional brushing of your dog’s teeth every week is vital to maintain ongoing dental and periodontal health. Brushing may be daunting but plaque can accumulate quickly on some teeth that are not in direct contact with the chewing of some bones.



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