A couple of months ago I received follow on Instagram from a dog called Mimi! I know! A dog using social media! I clicked onto the profile to discover Mimi is a dog with Ichthyosis! (FIRST has a page about dogs and Ichthyosis here.)
And so I got in contact with Mimi via her owner, Shweta. Shewta translated Mimi’s story for the Ichthyosis Awareness Month Blog Project and has also added a few words of her own.
I can definitely relate to Mimi’s experience with Ichthyosis – especially the redness, flakiness and allergies. I also know how important it is to maintain a good diet for humans with Ichthyosis (you can read some human diet tips from last year’s Ichthyosis Awareness Month blog project here), so like Mimi, I do my best to make sure I eat more good food and less treats. I have been prescribed steroid creams and tablets in the past but I do not like taking them because the creams thin my already fragile skin and the tablets cause weight gain, hyper-alertness and hunger combined with nausea. (Steroid treatments might have different outcomes for you or your child, see your dermatologist for advice.) I also use antibacterial soaps when I’m particularly sore at home and in hospital (I use trichlosan in the shower and dettol or bleach in the bath).
I imagine it is hard for a dog to live with Ichthyosis because unlike a human, they can’t tell their owners what’s wrong or where it hurts or itches. They also can’t treat themselves, because, well, they’re a dog! It would also hinder a dog’s love of playing outdoors because of increased allergies.
You might be wondering why I’ve chosen to include a dog’s story in the Ichthyosis Awareness Month Blog Project. Does it trivialise human experience of living with Ichthyosis? Does it mean that a dog’s condition is less serious than a human ‘s experience? I don’t think so, but maybe your personal values say otherwise. That’s ok. I chose to include Mimi’s story here because of diversity. Ichthyosis is a diverse condition as you’ve seen through the stories I’ve shared. It’s a new perspective. Dog owners love their pets so much, and they don’t want to see them hurting. Her story shows that diagnosis and lifestyle adjustments to accommodate Ichthyosis can be difficult, similar to new parents of children with the condition. That Shweta is willing to learn about humans’ experiences of life with Ichthyosis is wonderful too. And Mimi’s pretty damn cute.
“Woof woof! Translation: Hi, I’m Mimi! I am an adopted 4-year-old Pit Bull living in Philadelphia with my owner, Shweta. My hobbies include destroying tennis balls, swimming, and cuddling with my human. My favorite food in the whole wide world is hot dogs!
In November of 2013, I started showing signs of scaling skin and rashes. My skin gets very red and flakes off. This started off around my belly area, and then spread to my legs, my arms, and even my face. The doctors thought it was just allergies. After going to 2 different veterinarians and a pet dermatologist, it was determined that I have Ichthyosis. I am not really sure what that means, but it makes living life comfortably very difficult. My diet is limited – I can only eat prescribed food. That means no more treats. I also have to take steroids and antibacterial medicines because my allergies are heightened due to my disease. The medicines make me less itchy, but my skin still stays scaly.
Ichthyosis is not curable. The symptoms can only be mitigated; my human is doing everything she can to make sure that I am living life comfortably. I have to watch where I go for walks, because allergies may trigger harsher rashes. But other than that, I am loving life!
“I’m not sure how Ichthyosis is similar in dogs and humans. I only know of Ichthyosis through Mimi’s condition. However, I think both human and dog can relate in that there are compromises in life that need to be made. Mimi for example, cannot interact with nature the way she normally would. We have to be wary of plants and other things that can cause an allergic reaction.
Because the Ichthyosis causes her top layer of skin to peel, she is more susceptible to allergies that cause severe itching and rashes. We also have to watch what she eats. She’s on a strict diet. No treats. No little slips of food from under the table. She has to be monitored pretty much 24/7 so she doesn’t get in contact with anything she doesn’t need to. In addition to that, she’s on 2 different oral medications, 2 different topical treatments, and an omega oil supplement to keep the flaking to a minimum. She’s also really sensitive around the areas that are flaking. She’s sensitive to the touch. We can’t touch her paws or her stomach without her whining or getting uncomfortable. I have never met a human that has Ichthyosis.
May is Ichthyosis Awareness Month – I am sharing stories of people who have experienced Ichthyosis. Read all stories in the Ichthyosis Awareness Month Blog Project here.