Little Toto Came With Allergies, Arthritis & Neurosis–Oh My!

Apr 8, 2017 | Contributors, Pets

by Amber Kingsley

One of my most cherished childhood memories growing up was watching The Wizard of Oz and waiting to see it again every spring. Many decades later, I rescued an eight-year-old, little, black dog, a purebred Cairn Terrier (aka Toto from the Wizard of Oz). Before I even met the little mutt, albeit this is a purebred dog, I was already smitten with the concept of this precious pooch.

The history behind this adorable canine was long and weird, just like some of those fairy tales we were told as youngsters. This particular little dog came from a long line of owners beginning at birth associated with her purebred status with a not-so-pleasant breeder. This puny pup was too little, according to breed standards, to be exalted into the “show” category and was quickly cast aside by her uncaring owner. Then the little dog was bounced around from home-to-home until she finally landed with a caring older couple.

Sadly, one half of this duo began to have serious health problems so the other knew he had to give up his little dog to care for his spouse. I happily took in the canine even though she came with a pretty nasty yeast infection, some problems with her eyes; she was overweight and very itchy…but she was SO CUTE that I simply couldn’t resist.


When I first got LBD (the Little Black Dog) home, she was so portly, she wasn’t even able to jump on the couch even though she tried repeatedly. After lessening her diet, taking her out for a handful of daily walks, the pounds dropped very quickly. But her eyes were still full of gunk and puss, but I was told some drops would take care of this issue after seeing the vet.

LBD attached to me like glue, stuck by my side like velcro before I even started getting to know her very well. She would just look up at me with those blurry little brown eyes of hers, smiling, leaning against me, and I was hopelessly in love.

Without getting into her personality too much, although she is a very happy-go-lucky dog, instead her health was my biggest concern. The issue with her eyes remains somewhat of a mystery to this very day. I can tell you unequivocally that it is most definitely seasonally related, despite what I’ve heard from many different veterinarians who haven’t been able to exactly diagnose this issue.


In the springtime, her eyes are almost always full of goop and gunk, which I treat with drops, mostly saline or liquid tears, gently clean and wipe them out regularly. But once autumn arrives, these symptoms almost completely disappear. Since we live near Sacramento, known as “The City of Trees,” this made me wonder about these springtime related reactions. I finally concluded that they must be allergy related for the obvious aforementioned reasons.

It’s been quite a few years now since I adopted this furry, little bundle of joy, but now that she’s getting even older, itching, scratching, licking, and chewing on herself has become her new favorite pastime. Again, a trip to the vet didn’t offer a really precise, definite diagnosis, but was offered some theories about possible allergic reactions and the onset of arthritis.

I tried adding yogurt to her food, acidophilus was attempted, trying grain-free alternatives, switching from canned to kibble, nothing seemed to help all that much, yet I was still determined. A weekly bath (which isn’t recommended for most breeds since it depletes their skin of natural moisturizers) with an anti-fungal solution seems to be doing the trick.

Still, sometimes she likes to “get going” with her itching, chewing, and scratching, which I’m starting to believe is just neurotic behavior and not symptomatic of any particular condition, especially considering her age. A gentle reminder, a loud clap, or a command of “no” followed by some affection generally stops this behavior.

She’s even older now and I believe she’s getting arthritic as I began noticing she often chews on a specific spot, especially the joints in her back legs. When she sees her favorite friends and family, often she will stand up on her back legs to greet them and then limps on her rear legs later. Some Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate have brought this issue down to a dull roar along with reminders to stop this kind of behavior, and ask humans that they don’t encourage her.


I guess the moral of this story is multi-leveled, but most of all, don’t be afraid to adopt an older dog, even if they have some medical issues. When you think about it, whether you’re getting a puppy or adopting an older dog, know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you commit. Sometimes an older dog needs discipline just as much as a younger canine. If it seems that I’ve painted a picture that LBD needs extra care and attention, perhaps that is true, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If hindsight is twenty-twenty, although LBD’s eyesight is failing and her hearing isn’t all that sharp, she’s just the sweetest little pup ever, despite her advancing age. When she wakes up for breakfast, or it’s time for a walk, when dinner is delivered, or we’re just laying around watching TV, she still looks up at me and gives me that same, big, happy smile and my heart just swells. Other times, she’ll be wagging her tail, dancing around when we’re going on a road trip, or is just happy to be alive…it’s absolutely priceless!

For humans in your life who have arthritis you might check into trying tumeric supplements.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Just because a few veterinarians couldn’t exactly diagnose some weird conditions with this VERY unusual dog, please seek immediate medical attention if your dog or cat or any other type of animal is displaying any allergic symptoms or other medical events as they could be life-threatening. This is ONE story about ONE dog I’ve had in my lifetime, and I could tell you many tales about vets that have saved my animal’s life through their heroic deeds. Just know that you should trust your instincts, and do what’s best for you and your loved one!

Check out more pet articles in our Pet Perspective. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to a local animal rescue.


  1. I loved this story. My mom has the sweetest little Cairn Terrier and since she’s moved away I miss them both terribly. So wonderful how you’ve cared for this adorable adult dog.

    • Thank you for sharing your Cairn story. I am the proud mom of an almost 16 year old Cairn terrier. We have been through the licking/chewing/itching, etc., stages for over 12 years until we were able to try a new drug which keeps his allergies at bay. Now we are dealing with the arthritic issues but Adequan injections will hopefully help with his mobility issues. In the meantime, we treasure his good days and get through the bad ones as best as we can. When, during his good days, I see the look in Mac’s eyes, so full of excitement and joy for life, it’s all worth it to me. Old dogs rule!

  2. wiping them down when they come in from outside… also ‘dry’ baths with 50% yellow Listerine and 50% water in a spray bottle and towel them dry. Try Zertec, 1/2 tablet… Benedryl works but it can make them drowsy or groggy. Make sure you feed a good quality grain-free kibble or start cooking for your dog and freezing servings… there are all kinds of websites for that regimen as well as the BARF diet…(Bones And Raw Food) diet. And keep them in a ‘onesie’ to protect their skin as often their nails collect pollen and bring it indoors but also scratch it INTO the skin. If it breaks the skin, you have another whole mess to deal with.

    My heart boy, Barney, was adopted by me 1 week before his 10th birthday. He was a horrid mess with black crusty skin, some oozing spots. We got him on a grain free kibble AND put TRAUMEEL cream on his skin 6 times a day. Although you need to apply frequently, it’s worth the time investment with a serverely itching dog. Within 10 days he was regrowing hair and not itching at all. TRAUMEEL is a homeopathic cream that is so healthy that if they lick it, it only helps to heal from the inside. In fact, you can also add TRAUMEEL Tablets to help heal from the inside out. Europeans use TRAUMEEL tablets like asprin to heal sprains and bruises.


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