Of all the things I’ve ever written about in this space, Cooper’s head tremors are the topic that gets the most questions by far. Every single week I hear from someone whose dog started tremoring, they googled the condition, and found our story. While it makes me feel good that I can provide a resource to folks facing the same thing with their dog, it also makes me sad that so many dogs are experiencing this.
The second-most-repeated question is, and I’m paraphrasing here: What is Cooper eating these days? I think the other way people find this space is by googling something like: HALP OMG my dog has allergies! Or: why is my dog so itchy? Or: seriously, wtf is wrong with my dog’s skin?
So, I’m hoping this post can be a bit of a resource. If your dog doesn’t tremor and your dog doesn’t have allergies, feel free to skim (you never know what might spark a great idea for your pup!) or come back another day. If your dog does tremor or your dog does have allergies, I’d LOVE for you to weigh in on your diet and routine in the comments. This community grows so strong by sharing our experiences on how best to care for our beloved family members.
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PLEASE NOTE: I’m not a vet. I’m not a vet tech. I’m not involved in any useful medical field in any way. I’m not a dietitian, nor am I anything skilled in any way other than being a writer who obsessively researches ways to take better care of my dog. So, please read this post from that place, knowing I’m sharing my experience. My first recommendation in all things health, diet, routine, and behavior is to see your vet.
How we manage Cooper’s health with diet and routine:
Here’s why I’m lumping together a conversation around allergies and head tremors: I theorize that, in Cooper at least, the two are related. I believe that his weak immune system contributes to both, and that when his allergies flare up, his tremors flare up, as well. This is simply a correlation, of course, but an example of this is right now. His eyes are pouring goop, and I can see his ears starting to get itchy… and he’s had two tremors in the last week after being tremor-free for all of 2018.
This post isn’t specifically about his head shaking, but if you want to learn more about head tremors, check out these two resources:
What this post is specifically about is how we manage Cooper’s health through his diet and routine. It relates to the tremors and it relates to his allergies because, for full transparency, if he didn’t have those conditions, we’d probably have a much simpler, much cheaper routine. So, here we go:
We are generally strong proponents of healthy eating around here, and that includes the animals. For a long time, we cooked for Cooper. IF you find your dog is experiencing food sensitivities or allergies, I strongly recommend talking to your vet about an elimination diet. It’s a massive pain in the ass. Truly, a nearly-impossible feat to accomplish (WHY are there half-finished sandwiches on sidewalks?), but it was so, so worth it for us. We figured out many of the things that were causing him big problems and were able to cut them out completely. No more bloody stools! Yay! 🙂 If you’re interested in home cooking, here are a couple resources:
That said, we’re not home cooking for him currently. At some point during our home-cooking adventures, The Honest Kitchen launched a line of limited-ingredient foods. One of the formulas was nearly identical to what we were home cooking, and we gave it a whirl. Thankfully, it worked out, and he’s been happily eating The Honest Kitchen Brave ever since. It saved us a TON of time, though it’s more expensive than cooking, but the time, oh lordy, the time it took to cook… That said, IF he ever needs to switch for any reason, I’m grateful we now know what to do!
We’ve tried a zillion supplements, and the key is finding ones that don’t have flavoring from his allergens (like, so many come with beef liver flavoring, which he simply can’t have). So, here’s what he’s on now, how often, and my favorite resource for each:
- Every morning at breakfast:
- One big scoop of Udo’s Choice, which is basically a vegetarian (no allergens!) multi-vitamin
- Two tiny scoops of Super Snouts Joint Powder, which is joint support from 100% green-lipped mussels
- One scoop of Only Natural Pet Complete Gut Health Digestive Complex
- Occasionally we’ll add Shroom Immune or Let’s Be Friends (back ordered on ONP and I can’t find on Amazon…)
- Every night at dinner:
- A heap of coconut oil (I like this one from Target but any is fine… try to buy in glass jars instead of plastic, though!)
- One more scoop of Only Natural Pet Complete Gut Health Digestive Complex
It looks like a lot, but it goes pretty fast, and we actually share the probiotic and the coconut oil with the kitties, too. (Maybe a post on their routine? Let me know if that’s of interest…)
Exercise and Training
Cooper gets a ton of exercise. He runs with John. He “runs” with me on occasion in nice weather if it’s not too hot but it’s slightly cloudy so as not to be too sunny and I don’t have anything better to do. We hike weekly. I want him lean and strong, so we make sure he gets a ton of physical exercise.
Since this is Cooper we’re talking about, training is important, too, since he flips out when we’re out and about if he sees a scary person (in other words… a person…) or dog. So we do tons and tons and tons of training with him, which sort of is counter to the healthy diet and exercise because it takes a lot of treats. If it’s stuff around the house or yard, or when we’re out and know we won’t see anyone (like, if it’s raining), we use a dehydrated fish treat. If it’s any other scenario–like, there might be people or dogs around–we use squeeze cheese.
It’s easy to carry, easy to dispense, and extremely high-value for him. It’s also disgusting, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Vaccines and Meds
Recently, someone commented that I’d turned my dog into a druggie who was going to die of cancer. Why? Because I give him Apoquel AND I vaccinate him. I want to be super-duper-crystal-clear here: YOU have to decide what’s right for YOUR dog. You should make those decisions in consultation with an expert and by conducting your own thorough research (i.e. not relying only on the first result in a Google query).
That said, yes, Cooper takes Apoquel daily. His skin used to crack and bleed, now it doesn’t. I get that there are side effects, but as with any medication in the world for pets or people, it comes down to weighing potential side effects against potential benefits. In the case of Cooper and Apoquel, the benefits tipped the scale.
He’s also on a flea and tick medication about 10 months out of the year. We hike a lot. We live in a tick-dense area with high incidences of tick-borne illnesses. I’m not willing to let his compromised immune system try to do battle with something as serious as say, lyme disease, so we prevent the risk.
Same with vaccines: I vaccinate Cooper. I believe strongly in vaccines for people and pets. I think that fear and opinion have clouded the science-based discussion around vaccines (another post for another day perhaps???), but it’s the best choice for our family. Plus, Cooper goes to doggy daycare and we do occasionally board him at the same daycare. It’s for his protection, and for the other dogs at daycare.
I’ve heard amazing things about veterinary chiropractic care recently, and I’ve also been interested in integrative medicine–combining traditional with western medicine, including food and supplements, etc.–and found a practice nearby that we’re going to try very soon. If you guys are interested, I can share our experiences with that.
I hope this sparked some ideas for you and your pet. If your dog suffers from allergies or tremors, know that I’m here for you to bounce ideas! It’s taken literally FIVE YEARS of trial-and-error to nail down this routine, so I sure hope this helps someone with similar struggles.
If I didn’t cover it all, or if you’re left with questions, please do leave them in the comments below! We’re also going to be on Facebook Live tonight and can answer questions live, so join us there, as well!
Thank you so much for spending your time with me reading all this!! I appreciate you so much!