WHY is My Animal Sick? ASK!

Don’t Settle for a “Diagnosis”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been noticing a ton of allergy testing services out there for your pets. In fact, this article is prompted by a “case report” from NutriScan, a service that tests your dog’s or cat’s saliva to learn about what food sensitivities could be causing him to have itchiness or other immune problems.

An email came with the enticing subject line: “NutriScan case study: It was not a cinch.”
What was the tough problem that must have surely been “solved?”

A young Aussie Shepherd named Cinch had been through the vet gamut, trying to fix his “severe diarrhea” which started at 18 months of age. He’s now 2.5 years old.
[My mind is now engaged: WHY does a young dog have severe diarrhea for a year? Isn’t that odd? How many dogs his age do you know who’ve been battling diarrhea for a year?]

Several Misses as to The Reason

The first vet knee jerked into drugs commonly used for diarrhea: Metronidazole and Clavamox thinking he “gotten into something.”
[Hello carpet bombing antibiotics, Bye bye microbiome]

Cinch had a 10 day reprieve, but as soon as the drugs stopped, his diarrhea returned.
[This is classic palliation: while on a drug, the symptom hides. The dog’s not especially better in any large sense and returns to symptom making once the drug stops being given. Keep this P word in mind, as it’s often the best conventional medicine can do.]

Another vet is consulted, who radiographed Cinch and came up with nothing. He put our boy on a canned “prescription diet” known for gut challenges.

The very next day, Cinch is squirting out bloody diarrhea and undigested grass.

Strike two.

Next up, another Rx diet for “food sensitivities and intolerances.” His owner is instructed to continue this “forever or until it doesn’t work.”

But she also notices every time Cinch’s food changes, he’s back to diarrhea.

The Envelope, Please

An endoscope is next up (with our hero Cinch likely under deep sedation or anesthesia, while his owner likely charged her credit card for several hundred dollars) and, at last, a “diagnosis” is arrived at:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease, aka IBD

Well, that’s a relief, right? Now we’ve at least got the real reason poor Cinch has been stuffing grass into his belly like a cow every time his diet changed a bit.
[I know this isn’t the ultimate diagnosis. How about you? I’d be asking “WHY is my animal sick?”]

Enter the Hero: NutriScan to the Rescue!

Cinch’s owner was trying to identify those naughty foods that caused Cinch to get diarrhea. She guessed it was peas.

They’ve been getting a lot of press lately, especially in the “grain-free” pet food brouhaha that’s got vet nutritionists pointing fingers at the trend followers and admonishing them that “corn is actually a valuable ingredient, full of protein,” etc, etc.

But, when his saliva is tested, voilà, we’ve got the real answer:

Cinch has food sensitivities to corn, chicken, duck, cow’s milk, turkey, venison, wheat, white fish, barley, quinoa and rabbit. He does not have a reaction to lentils.1

All he needs to do now is avoid these foods for the rest of his life and he’s gonna be diarrhea free.

HOLD yer horses!

Anything about this strike you as odd?

At least a couple of things hit me immediately.

  1. These are largely normal, healthy foods
    • Okay, maybe not wheat, if you live in No. America. The healthy wheat of old was genetically tweaked to end world hunger back in the 50’s Green Revolution and it’s been an inflammatory nightmare ever since
    • And, well corn, which now is 90% GMO, so it means every mouthful comes with a side of RoundUp, which Monsanto is still trying to convince the world is not causing cancer or killing the microbiome of the consumer eating it…
  2. Avoiding healthy foods for life: Is that any kind of CURE?
    Not by any definition I’m going to buy, no.

The homeopathic doctors of old have provided us a with a working definition of cure: The patient not only no longer makes symptoms but is better overall and stays that way without the continued use of intervention.

Cinch is basically sentenced to a life of careful avoidance of foods that are arguably healthy.

One slip up and he’s back up at night, desperate to fill his belly with grass to relieve his extreme discomfort.

Now, stay with me here for a moment:

How much do you want to bet he’ll have additions to his list of no-no foods as his life goes on?

I’d bet the farm on that.

In fact, odds are his list of things to avoid may well grow to include environmental things like grass or tree pollen or the saliva of the flea.

Do you see where this is going?

Looking Deeper

Questions not being asked that should be:

  • WHY does an 18 mo old get IBD?
  • WHY is he allergic to a shopping list of healthy ingredients?
  • HOW LONG after a vaccination did his diarrhea begin?
  • HOW MANY vaccines had he had in his short life before he broke with an auto-inflammatory disease?

This disease diagnosis means his immune system is wildly overreacting to things that are seen as normal by the healthy.

I’ve long named this condition “immune confusion.”

It’s part of another diagnosis that stems back 150 years to when the first vaccines for smallpox were being jabbed into humans: “vaccinosis.”

The immune system has a lot of jobs, but its main one is to keep us safe from foreign invaders. Viruses, nasty bacteria, that sort of thing.

When it starts turning on foods, or worse, its own organs (like the bowel, the thyroid gland, or worse, the red blood cell), all hell breaks loose.

Chief Cause of Immune Confusion? Vaccination.

We know this both from published research and from careful observation.

Here’s a paper those who joined my recent free training on rabies saw: Vaccine-Associated Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in the Dog. 2

Observation (by those who care to look, including decades of polling clients as to “when did your dog start showing itchiness?”) often sees a strong correlation to vaccination and onset of immune disease about a month later.

Is Dr. WhiteCoat interested in this data?
Not by and large, no.

To live in integrity, should he be (instead of callously recommending vaccines for all and all for vaccines)?

I’ll let you answer that yourself. If vaccine income made up a good 30% of your income stream as a vet, well… you do the math as to why so many vets still push you to get annual vaccines, against all known science.

The Way Out of the Madness

My students are asking hard questions. Not only “Why is my animal sick?” but even better:

What are my best moves to PREVENT her from getting sick?

They are opting out of the over-vaccination madness by gaining knowledge and the empowerment that comes from seeing the emperor’s new clothes for what they really are.

They are raising some wildly healthy, truly vital animals by saying, “No. I’ve studied this at length and will not risk my pet’s health by allowing any more vaccines.”

You can join them. Sign up here to join my free Vital Animal Pack, a great place to start the journey to the oh-so-necessary asking of hard questions.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve seen your own animals start their illnesses after vaccines were given (remember: it’s often not immediate but commonly a month later).

Also, let us know if you’ve ever had an allergy test that came back with a wildly long list of allergens, some of which your pet has never encountered (insert eye roll here).

1NutriScan article

2Duval, D. and Giger,U. (1996). “Vaccine-Associated Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in the Dog”, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 10:290–295

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Leave a Comment


  1. Laundry on October 2, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Hello, sorry to be off topic but any advice for mold exposure in pets?
    Thank you

    • Will Falconer, DVM on October 2, 2019 at 11:53 pm

      Exposure ≠ sickness, so I’d do nothing unless you’re seeing symptoms since the exposure that weren’t there before. We often forget that our animals (and we) are built to withstand most things. Those who aren’t able fall sick. We know that from them showing symptoms.

  2. Heather Martin on September 30, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Hello, everybody. I have two Borzoi. One of them has an overwarm ear which he continually tries to scratch. We have tried many ear cleaners and Apple Cider Vinegar. The problem goes away and then returns again. It is very frustrating. Could anyone suggest a solution for him? Thanks.

  3. Leah on September 29, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    That is without a doubt, the best article I have ever read. As a pet mom, it challenged my thinking. In fact, I am going to read this over every day until my thinking changes. Why is my animal sick. What is the cure. Those are the only two questions that matter and are also the only two questions that are never asked.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on September 29, 2019 at 10:23 pm

      It’s amazing how we handed our power over to Dr. WhiteCoat without ever asking these basic questions, isn’t it Leah?

      My earliest article on vaccines, published on some Austin paper spoke to this on vaccines. No one asked two basic questions:

      1. Does this work?
      2. Is this safe?

      No one would turn their child over to a doctor without asking these questions of any medical procedure (I’d hope… I may be woefully out of step with society enough to believe this is still true.) But we drank the KoolAid and never asked.

      (That one article has turned into several, and they all begin here, if you’re interested. I long have considered vaccination your #1 most important decision to be wise about.)

  4. Laura on September 29, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    Our foster dog is a hot mess of allergens, from cotton to Omega 3, and I have been stressed beyond belief with what to feed her and to keep her environment free of cotton and other things. I call her the bubble girl, because I feel like she needs to live in a bubble, and the laundry list of allergens is ridiculous. I cook a homemade diet of ground turkey, fresh veggies, phytoplankton, apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil. She is also receiving probiotics with digestive enzymes and taking Chiness herbs, but is still very yeasty. I feel all this is vaccine related as she is only about a year to 18 months. Found dumped out in a rural neighborhood outside of town, the regular course of action of rescue dogs is to get them checked out, vaccinated, and have a heartworm test done. If it’s negative, get them going on heartworm prevention since heartworms are endemic in our area. I would surely have done things differently had I known then what I know now.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on September 29, 2019 at 10:15 pm

      Hi Laura,

      Problems this long lasting indicate chronic disease, and as such, I’d only recommend constitutional homeopathic prescribing, i.e. getting the “whole patient” well, and expecting her skin to resolve. This is accomplished by appointments. You’ll need to hire a homeopathic vet.

      I’m not taking new clients, but my Resources page has list of veterinary homeopaths from the AVH site. You won’t need someone local, necessarily. 

      Look for my colleagues who:

      1. Do mostly or only homeopathy, and

      2. Provides telephone consultations. This works fine with homeopathy, as you can describe your animal’s condition in detail and remedies can be mailed to you.

      Thanks for your joining us and all the best with bringing your loved one back to wildly healthy and VITAL.

  5. Sherri on September 29, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    That article could have been my dogs story just change a few names etc. She was a rescue at only 6 weeks of age, already covered in fleas and itching like crazy. Enter first round of puppy shots at 9 weeks of age. Itching increases and continues to worsen as she gets older and gets the next two shots. Breaks out in hot spots, hair loss, yeast infections, you name it and itching horribly the whole time. I found the Nutriscan info and paid the ridiculous price, desperate to help this poor dog. Came back with a laundry list of stuff she was supposedly allergic to, many things she’d never, ever been in contact with before. And of course recommendations to purchase their products to help! And then there was my vet at the time who wanted to do antibiotics and steroids! Fed up I said NO to all of it! I had been researching and I came across Dr. Falconer’s site which set me to researching and learning even more. Fast forward, a lot of trial and error and learning, now my dog is 2-1/2 years old. She has a beautiful, shiny, soft coat, no hot spots, no more yeast flare ups, no itchy ears/feet for well over a year. She eats a fresh, real food diet and eats many of the things she was supposedly allergic to with no problems. She does have some seasonal allergies but we manage those homeopathically and itching is minor and goes away completely in winter. But I think the biggest factor in all of this is that I refused any further vaccinations for her. Period, no further discussion allowed at the vet! In fact she has not been back to a vet since then. She has slowly improved and I hope to continue that path. There is always pushback to get her another rabies shot, she’s had one, but the idea of doing anything to cause her to regress and possibly be even worse then before turns my stomach. So we fly under the radar on that one.

    • Laura on September 29, 2019 at 5:31 pm

      Hi Sherri. I am looking for a 100% homeopathic vet. Would you mind sharing the name of the vet you use, and does he/she do phone consults? Thanks in advance and for sharing your story. I’m glad your furbaby is healthy now. This gives me hope that my foster can get over all her skin issues, so she can get busy finding her forever home.😊🐶

      • Sherri on October 1, 2019 at 2:30 pm

        Hi Laura! I do not have a homeopathic vet that I am working with unfortunately but Dr. Falconer has listings on his resources page. Best of luck to you with your dog!

    • Will Falconer, DVM on September 29, 2019 at 10:13 pm

      Sherri, you made my morning! YES, the next round of shots would send this dog back to where you hope to never go again. I’d bet the farm on that.

      You’ve done an amazing amount of work studying and applying what you’ve gleaned and you can bask in the shiny results now. Carry on, you’ve got this.

      • Sherri on October 1, 2019 at 2:26 pm

        Thanks Dr. Falconer. And yes, lots of research! I don’t watch TV at night, I research and learn! Thanks in no small part to all the info from your own site. A huge thanks to you for helping us on our way!!

    • Agata Pawlowska on November 30, 2022 at 7:31 am

      Hello Sherric, my dogs safer from same things and getting steroids unfortunately otherwise she safer so bad, what I should do? I tried natural things but did not work , I can’t find any homeopathic doctor here, is there any articles to read, please , thank you xxx

  6. Nancy on September 29, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    I belong to a forum where there is a well respected nutritionist. The nutritionist told me I am feeding too many types of proteins and that I need to withhold a few in case my dog becomes allergic. Otherwise, my dog will not be able to eat anything. I thought this was so crazy. I told her I did not believe a dog would become allergic to a food it was meant to eat. In addition to vaccines, feeding a protein along with non species appropriate foods like corn, soy or peas might be a root cause of why the dog develops an allergy to a certain protein.

  7. Barbara Martin on September 29, 2019 at 11:24 am

    My now four year old GSD, Casey, started itching at the age of four months. He had dry skin and scabs all over. I tried topicals, shampoos, had him tested for environmental allergies (negative) and even gave him a trial of Apoquel. Then I decided to do an elimination test for food allergies. Since he wasn’t exposed to rabbit until he was 1 1/2 years old (when I switched from kibble to feeding raw) I decided to start with that. He was on raw whole ground rabbit with a bit of pureed fruits and veg for four months. All the scabs and itching cleared up. Then I gave him one meal of turkey. Oops. His ears flared up like a volcano – hot, red and itchy. I put him back on rabbit for two weeks until his ears cleared up, then gave him small amounts of beef over a couple of days and with no reaction gave him a full meal. Beef is okay. Did the same with fish, goat, and venison all okay. Then tried a bit of pork and the ears flared up again. But I have at least five proteins I can feed him and his skin has stayed clear with NO itching. I feed raw ground home prepared meals – muscle meat with ground bone, a variety of organs, small amounts of pureed fruits and veg (wide variety) and supplement with GLM, sea vegetables, pre- and pro-biotics and/or kefir, eggs, marine phytoplankton, vitamin E, vitamin D. All three of my GSDs are active and healthy with shiny coats.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on September 29, 2019 at 10:09 pm

      Smart work, Barbara. You’re golden for now, but I’d avoid future vaccines like the plague if he’s had some already. Casey likely got this way from his puppy shots and more would be pouring gas on his fire.

  8. Chris Brackston on September 29, 2019 at 11:23 am

    My dog is a poster child for a horribly ‘allergic’ pup. Raw fed now for 7 months and no real improvement. He gets pre/probiotics and I am at a loss as to what to do next. Suggestions please…….

    • Nancy on September 29, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      Are you giving any flea, tick or heartworm medications?

    • Karen on November 25, 2019 at 6:16 am

      Several years ago, I have a foster dog that just scratch up a storm. He was 8 months old and of course, as a foster, I don’t know his history or breeding. It was an abandoned. All we know is, Golden Retriever and German Shepherd mix. He was cute as a pie.

      I used anti-itch herbs and it didn’t work.

      Sulphur 200c did the job for him. I guess he has scabies.

  9. Shirl Cornelius on September 29, 2019 at 9:43 am

    My rescued dog, Fox, also did the Nutri Scan a few years ago when I started searching for what was really wrong with him, since Dr. Whitecoat had no good answers. They tested for 24 proteins and he came back allergic to all 24, which most he had never had. How could that be? The results came back with a “good luck”. Since then, Homeopathy has much improved him. I’ve often wondered, if he retook the test, what the results would be, but I’d rather put my money on remedies and organics.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on September 29, 2019 at 10:24 am

      I’ve wondered that very thing, Shirl. Never ate several of the foods, didn’t live in an area known to have certain plants, but the poor dog is “allergic” to this shopping list of stuff. That you’re now supposed to somehow avoid for life?

      It’s just never made sense to me, either, and like you, I aim to use homeopathy to help cure the allergic state, something conventional medicine will never be able to accomplish.

  10. Terry on September 29, 2019 at 9:28 am

    “Chief Cause of Immune Confusion?”

    The above is a title of a section in your article.
    If vaccination is the “chief” cause of immune confusion, that means it is not the only cause.
    What are the other causes?
    I am curious and would like to know, perhaps you could review them.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on September 29, 2019 at 10:22 am

      The other that I know of is the heartworm “preventatives.” You can read more about them here: http://vitalanimal.com/drugfreeheartworm/

      • Nancy on September 29, 2019 at 2:18 pm

        I know Frontline can cause terrible itching…wonder about the other flea meds too.

      • Terry on September 30, 2019 at 9:46 am

        I’m not trying to diminish what you write or give you a hard time, just offer a different opinion with additional information.

        I am in complete agreement about not vaccinating as frequently as the vets suggest as well as minimizing flea/tick products and such.
        However, I believe the issue is more related to poor breeding, and way too many “backyard breeders” who don’t know what they are doing and don’t care.

        We were breeders of champion show dogs for 20 years and sometimes we had to stop or refuse to breed a certain dog because of health issues or temperment. A good breeder knows you never breed dogs with a health issue, they get removed from the breeding program.

        But poor breeders don’t do that. I believe poor breeding practices are more likely the culprit of all the itchy dogs with health issues because these dogs are being bred with each other and the health issues get transferred along. These puppies are born with a damaged immune system that will not tolerate the vaccinations, flea meds, etc that invade their immune system.
        And then these dogs are bred and pass the problem along to the next generation, some of whom will be bred and the cycle continues..

        Most puppy buyers don’t know enough about breeding to ask the right questions when getting a pup to determine the likelihood of future problems arising.

        Also, many of the rescue dogs so many people like to help are likely to be dogs with health and immune system issues.

        A dog with a healthy immune system should not be experiencing allergic reactions of this nature.

        Millions of dogs who get vaccinated every year of their life, take a heartworm med, use flea and tick control products each month, eat cheap dry kibble food and yet never have a problem with itching or bad skin or other health issues and live to a ripe old age.

        I see these dogs every day.

        I work with dogs, about 100-200 different dogs of every breed every week for the past 15 years. Yes, I do see a fair amount of itchy dogs on Apoquel or with skin issues but they are the minority not the majority and many of them are rescues with an unknown background.

        I just think there is more to the story than just vaccinations being the cause of all these issues. A healthy dog has a robust immune system that should be able to tolerate this.
        It is the dogs that are already unhealthy with a damaged immune system that are harmed most of the time.
        I do agree that too many vaccinations, too many flea products and meds like Apoquel are not good for the immune system.

        • Heather Martin on September 30, 2019 at 3:16 pm


          I was very interested in your reply. There is a lot of truth in what you say about a healthy dog. We have been trifling with our poor dogs for a long time, altering their shape, diet, breeding systems, etc. and I think the outcome is dogs with terrible systems and very little defences. I, too, think the immunisation of dogs, and the long list of chemicals supposed to ‘cure’ their problems, points to a misunderstanding of the real issues surrounding our dog’s bad health. I think we must give them good, wholesome and species adequate diets and try to reverse some of the damage done to them by our shocking negligence.

        • Will Falconer, DVM on October 1, 2019 at 11:38 pm

          Hey Terry,

          So, the test case for your theory of poor breeding would be finding those breeders, “good” or “bad,” who vaccinate from an early age and those animals who get purchased by owners bent on doing everything Dr. WhiteCoat suggests. It may be hard to separate that “everything” into vaccines vs the other poisons and crappy food, but I can tell you the evidence stands:

          1. Those who are looking at when chronic disease strikes (most often “The Itch” and its variations like chronic inflamed ears) will see, more often than not, it started close to a month after a round of vaccinations.

          2. We’ve learned, backhandedly, something that goes back to smallpox-vaccinated humans, that a handful of homeopathic remedies known as “vaccinosis remedies” MUST be part of the course of treatment in order to get an animal “unstuck” and responsive to constitutionally prescribed remedies and moving on towards cure. Dr. Pitcairn saw this after years of trial and error and finally finding “Vaccinosis and its Cure by Thuja,” the seminal work of J. Compton Burnet, he saw the significant impact of vaccination.

          Perhaps breeding plays a role, but I think you’d find plenty of well-bred dogs who are vaccine damaged if you surveyed widely enough.