Dr. Adam Ferguson“Who on earth told you that lamb and rice is a hypoallergenic diet?!!” screamed the irate veterinarian.“The kid at the pet store,” replied the sheepish client.“I see,” replied the veterinarian, calming down just a notch or two. “Well, I apologize. I am certain that he mentioned how important it is to make sure nothing else goes in Chloe’s mouth while feeding her new diet. Such as no treats or table scraps. No pills or vitamins hidden in cheese or peanut butter. Her monthly heartworm pill should be a topical drop rather than a flavored pill. I am certain he mentioned these tidbits, right?”“Um, no ... he didn’t mention those things. But he did send us home with some mite medicine for her ears. She’s been digging at those ears something terrible, Doc. So that bright young man, he told us she likely had a bout of ear mites. We’ve been treating her twice a day for the last week. We haven’t seen any improvement yet. Other than the fact that she stands for us a little better when we put the mite medicine in than she did last week. But that might be because we hold that strip of jerky in her mouth while we do it now.”The color rose in the veterinarian’s neck and began to flood his head. The vessels near his temple were throbbing. “Count backwards from ten,” he thought. “In Spanish.”As the near-boiling point was brought back to a simmer, he cautiously asked if the young man full of wisdom beyond his years had suggested a timeline within which the Scratchenlick’s should notice some improvement in Chloe. “Oh, yes,” began Mr. Scratchenlick. “He said she would be scratching less by the end of the first bag of food. We’re not seeing that yet, but we’re only halfway through. You won’t believe how much her stool has improved in just the first week, Doc!”Knowing that in many cases dogs on a hypoallergenic diet will see improvements in their stool, the veterinarian took the bait and asked: “Was Chloe’s stool abnormal to begin with?”“Oh heaven’s no. Not until we started that there bag of lamb and rice. Then she got as loose as chocolate pudding. But she’s really firmed back up in the last few days, so that’s a positive, right?”That’s right. They had not fixed the dog’s scratching or digging at her ears. They did, however, get her stool back to where it had began, which was normal. With a small detour through loosy-goosiness on the way. “That’s a positive,” he again thought to himself. “Mr. Scratchenlick: do you remember when I first mentioned the possibility of Chloe having a food allergy?” asked the veterinarian. “Well, sure I do,” began the re-energized client. “You said that dogs that bother their ears or scoot on their rears likely have a food allergy.”“That’s right!” shouted the veterinarian, seeing a glimmer of hope. “Ears and rears are very often symptoms of food allergy. But I mentioned other allergies, such as atopy, which could cause similar signs.”“I also mentioned the terms ‘novel protein’ and ‘hydrolyzed diet.’ And I discussed the importance of eliminating all other food-type items from Chloe’s daily routine prior to introducing one of these very expensive prescription diets. Does any of this ring a bell?”“Absolutely, Doc!” bolted Mr. Scratchenlick. “I shared what you said with Jack down at the pet store. He knew exactly what you were talking about. He sure is a bright kid. Said he’s been working at the pet store since he got his driver’s license two years ago. I think he knows darn near everything there is to know about dogs.”Patiently waiting for it, the veterinarian let Mr. Scratchenlick proceed.“He knew right away that ‘hydrolyzed diet’ meant a canned food. He saw right through that medical jargon you spent so many years learning. Clearly ‘hydro’ meant ‘water’. Honestly Doc ... why can’t you just say what you mean?”Now enjoying the humor of the situation, the veterinarian mustered up the courage to ask: “Then what, pray tell, did Jack come up with for ‘novel protein,’ Mr. Scratchenlick?”“Now that was a little more difficult, Doc. But Jack used all of the clues; kind of like those detectives you see on TV. He knew that ‘novel’ meant ‘new’ and not ‘book.’ We thought you were trying to throw us off the trail with that one. And ‘protein’ simply meant one of them high-performance diets.”“Since she had already been on two different really-high-performance diets with Alpo and Dad’s, we moved her right on up to Ol’ Roy. You should see her run around on that stuff. Like somebody lit a fire under her rear.”Thinking about the diarrhea that had begun with the feeding of the new food, the veterinarian chuckled to himself about how Chloe probably was running around like there was a fire under her rear. “That sure is some pretty potent protein, Doc. I don’t know why you had to speak in code like that, but I sure am glad that Jack could decipher your secret language. That old Chloe is going to be good as new once we get her over the scooting and scratching and digging at those ears! Now why didn’t you see those mites that Jack just knows are in those ears when you looked in her ears, Doc?” Clearly he should have spent more time at the pet store when he was wasting all those years learning that medical jargon.Dr. Adam Ferguson is co-owner of Baker Animal Hospital in Cridersville. Please visit your veterinarian for a thorough explanation of allergies in your pet.