Skin Problems - Allergy Case Study

In the last 30yrs Bull Terriers appear to have become very troubled with skin problems and they are getting far more common.

 Last Up-Dated 03/02/2021

It was this issue in particular, that took me into the realm of working with ill Bullies that I do now. For the first 10 years I struggled like hell with inconclusive, expensive tests and trial and error. In fact here is the Bullie who was the last of those that I worked with prior to the new test coming out around the yr 2000.

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We do know there is no official English Bull Terrier dog breed, we also know people do search on the web for English Bull Terriers.
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The fella to the left is Taz. Yes he was completly bald. His story is that he was found by a Met Policeman friend that I played rugby with. He found him floating in a sack in a one of the canals. In he went, fished out this puppy Bullie and took him to Battersea. A week later he was brought back to live with my friend and then for various reasons was handed over to me at around 1yr of age. In this pic he is around 10.

He was suffering with skin issues at 1 and around 2yr's old he went bald and struggled with his skin. We spent yrs with the vets and all other types of "alternative treatment". Nothing worked, all said put him down. Something not in my book unless suffering was the issue. Nothing touched it until we experimented with foods and took into account enviromental conditions. Sticking to the test results supplied by allergy companies failed to give any results and now one can understand why. Back then one just went away quietly and cried tears of helplessness as you put the washing machine on with another load of ones bedding covered in puss, hair and dead skin.

With a strict diet and enviromental control he settled, the skin healed, no longer were there open sores but the fur never regrew. He was just Tazzie, a full on bald Bullie, never stopping, always on the go and a much missed family member. My only regret is that the test came too late for him.

Already scratching your head and thinking this is not much use, so let me fast forward you to the 21st Century and introduce to you to another young man. My partner nicknamed him Gonk, so to us he will always be Gonk. He is a mirror image of Taz, well in condition and age. Taz should have been a tri colour. This lad is definatly a "white un". Gonks story is shown in sets of pictures. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case the pictures could never be fully described in words.

First a little background in that he came to me via a friend asking if there was anything that could be done considering he was only 12mths of age. At that age you have to give them a chance so it was an immediate "yes" and in he came. The age is also a good indicator of what one might be dealing with. Just an indicator no more no less.

So prepare yourself for the pictures of the young man taken the minute he arrived at my premises. For those who are of weak disposition please do not enlarge the pictures. For those with a bent for learning about skin issues click away.

Hard to look at? I know they are. The veterinarians in this case had prescribed drugs, after bottles, after washes. He arrived with 4 bottles of Aludex, antibiotics, steroids, painkillers, shampoos, a bottle of some cream and various other bits and pieces that I now wished I had put together and photographed. The diagnosis quite obviously pointed to a mange problem with attempts to control secondary infections.

What can an owner do but seek the best help, they cannot be blamed if the standard approach is to pop pills and hope to mask the issue. In fact I would say quite the opposite, the owners are to be congratulated for turning over every stone. The turning over of these stones led Gonk into a breed specific rescue and then onto the Bully Boot Camp. Far too many do not get past the veterianrians surgery.

So now what do we do? Well as you can see from the pics dear Gonky was in a pretty rough condition. He had that hung head attitude I hate to see in a Bully. Probably the best and clearest indictation that there is little spark left in there. First on list is wash, clean appropriate bedding, nosh and a rest.

He went under veterinaray care and after a three hr consultation which included full bloods and an MOT, a course of action was decided upon. So all pills and potions were binned. Allergy tests were booked once the steroids he had been given previously were out of his system. Thankfully they were only short term, not the 6 week long term versions.

Yes you are looking at mange but that is in itself a secondary issue and very simple to treat as it was in this case. A skin scrapping revealed an adult Mange mite. No suprise, all dogs have them, they have them from the day they are born and you can see quite plainly he shows all the text book symptoms.

It is whether the immune system can deal with them or in such cases as this the mites get the better. Now add steroids and the bullie has no chance. So stop the attack on the immune system from the various triggers and deal with the mite issue and the immune system recovers, therefore the skin recovers, as long as the problem has not lasted an inordinate time. This is where the blood tests and work up are invaluable as they immediatly rule out organ and glandular issues.

The skin is the bit you see, try looking in the ears of a bullie with this condition, you could grow spuds in them and odds on tons of white dry flaking skin to go along with the tons of wax. Oh and if you are really lucky lots of pin prick sized black dots. Yup mite shit. Stinking breath, greasey slimey skin, fungal smells, sometimes sweet smelling like popcorn, especially between the toes and in between the pads. Maybe nice big oozing cycsts between the toes. Deep seated Pyodermas so lovely to clean out, lack of fur, acne like spots all over or concentrated in areas such as legs, or head and chest. One bully I known comes into contact with oak pollen and he gets a ring of little red blood filled spots on his arse. Kid you not, absolute fact, provable several times a year. Thought I would save you the picture of this!!

From the pictures you can see Gonk had the lot. To include weightloss which goes with the Diarrhea associated with severe cases.

Anyhow Gonks results came back and an appropriate diet was started. Enviromental conditions were altered to cover various triggers and below are some pictures taken 4 weeks after his arrival.

What a change!!!

Look at him, what a cheeky lad.

Now you can really see that there is a Bull Terrier coming back to life.

All this was achieved with no steroids, in fact steroid use makes matters worse. So much so continued use of them would have resulted in his condition becoming fatal.

No use of antibiotics either. This is a luxury I could afford as I have the time to devote to almost hourly care, especially in the first few weeks. This was an option discussed with the vets and agreed to as long as no infection set in. If so antibiotics would have had to have been the order of the day. To answer why take this odd action. Simple he had so many antibiotics over such a long time it was madness to continue. Som eskin conditions fine 6 to 8 weeks maybe. This lad appears to have been on them for many more months.

Please understand that antibiotics are a fantastic discovery and should be used when needed. Conversley they should not be used willy nilly. If you ever get a drug researcher to one side ask how ineffective many antibiotics are. Simply due to their over prescription. One is not talking about old versions but new ones!! We are fast running out of options.

No continious bathing in Aludex nor any injections of powerful, cattle based products to kill mites. The use of which in dogs can be fatal to certain breeds and certainly edgeing on highly toxic when used to combat anything other than heart or lungworm. Especially with the repeat doses required to be effective.

From the pictures you can see how much "calmer" the skin looks. Most of the open wounds and sores have healed over. Pressure areas, those areas subject to pressure when a bullie lies down are still troubled and showing very small signs of fur regrowth. The ears are clearing of their own. Most importantly just look at him and the life bubbling out of those pictures. That is what one is looking for, if you can achieve that, healing goes so much faster. You have to get them happy and wanting to live. If they are just left lying there depressed and long faced you are on a losing wicket. The eyes and bullie cheek comes back long before the body and fur.

So you see these results 4 weeks in and you think hooray. Well hold your horses!!!!!!! look to a minimum of 6 weeks to see if you stay heading in the right direction. This is the right direction not cured!! Put the weight back on slowly. Smaller meals and often, nice good hunks of carcass to chew on and eat in between times. Many of the clinical studies appear to show that if you get past 90 odd days without serious, unexplained, flare ups then you should be ontop of the problem and now it is just a question of time, patience and sticking religiously to the particular requirements of the triggers involved in the condition.

For those with some knowledge of this you may be asking about immuno therapy. For those who have not heard of this it is simply that the testing lab makes up a vaccine that is administered on a regular basis by injection. The vaccine is made specifically for the bullie in question and is required for life. Well firstly, if a rescue bully is placed on such treatment it would mean that those offering a forever home would have to foot the bill, as no insurance company will take on board an existing condition. Also my personal dislike for pills and potions to survive, so avoidance is the preffered route round here. In 10 yrs not one bully passing through has had to have such a vaccine. Now other breeds with bad Immuno systems, like the Westies, do wonderfully well on these vaccines and the owners swear by them. If there was a bully having no alternative but to use the vaccine yes I would use it. Do not confuse this with other vaccines that you would give to a pup or boosting when the Titre test suggests it is relevant.

Ask yourself this? Why is it that receipies for feeding Bull Terriers dated from 1930 up until 1960 consist of meat products that are today probably one of the biggest triggers I come across.

little wander into the dark here as to causes. Several suggestions have been made by those long term breeders who have seen such issues. There maybe a possible genetic link that means it can make certain immune systems more susceptiable. As I said a shot in the dark but one thing you can say is that someday there will be some genetic test that will give you an answer. The advances in science over the coming 20yrs will be incredable. Lets just hope professional breeders make more use of them than currently appears to be the case. To see the amazing moves forward one needs look no further than Noel Fitzpatrick. Better known from the BBC T.V. series called Bionic Vet. It gives a candid and simply fantastic insight into the professional world of animal care.Anyone fancy real stress and pressure?

Time and patience and just over 100 days in and Gonk is off for his next stage in rehab which is to go into a home and learn how to act and what is expected.

Now this bit of his rehab is where the real work starts. Rest assured he is going great guns from all accounts. So below are a few pics of him on his last evening. Also included are pics of him with some of the friends he made over the time he spent at the bully madhouse.

Here are some fun pictures taken of Gonk with friends and having fun.

Now none of this would have been possible if it were not for Bullies In Need and its members who clubbed together and raised the funds required for his veterinary treatment in the first instance. There were donations from others of a nice jacket to keep him going in the colder weather we had this spring as well as bedding essentials and a rather nice parcel of 30lbs of his favoured meat. We feel priveledged in having met another young bully and put him on the right path.

Last but not least thanks to the Veterinarians at Lakeview who treated Gonk and omitted to put any mark up on the various tests conducted, therefore keeping the care to its highest but the fees low.

It is at this point, apart from the bit of legal junk at the bottom, where a perfect end exists. The reward is the satisfaction in knowing that one has done good. Some might say karma, of a good kind, would come from these actions therefore thanks are not needed. In this instance it seems wrong not to say thanks.

From myself and my long suffering partner as well as our friends who knew Gonk we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for allowing us the priveledge of helping out this young Bully. Please keep supporting your breed rescues whomever they may be, without you that donate money, those that do the transport runs, those that answer phones and organise the unrelenting requests and demands, to those that turn their homes upside down to put a roof over the head of the needy ones, keep up the good work. Never, ever forget why we all do this, for our breeds which in these quarters is the Bull Terrier.

Hope you found this interesting.

The legal stuff