Hi everyone,
I am a first time poster here on CavalierTalk, although I have been reading it for a couple of years. We have a 2 1/2 year old black and tan cavalier, who presented early last year with autoimmune stomatitis. She had patches of inflammation and infection right at the back of her throat. Unlike alot of stomatitis cases, her teeth are completely unaffected. We have always had a teeth cleaning regime since she was a puppy, which although she hates, she lets us do.

We initially noticed the problem when, after eating, drinking and yawning, her jaw began to tremble. She also licked her lips alot, which I knew to be a sign of pain in dogs. We brought to our vet, who gave her some sedation and looked into her throat. She initially thought that she may have had something stuck in her throat, which might have cause the infection. This would have been an easy result, but unfortunately this was not the case. Suspecting stomatitis, our vet began to treat her with prednisone, 5mg twice a day and antibiotics to clear the infection and bring the stomatitis under control. When the stomatitis did not clear easily, our vet did biopsies. She feared possible lymphoma. The results came back with the diagnosis of autoimmune stomatitis. The vet continued to treat her with steroids, gradually reducing the dose and tapering her off them. After the first tapering down, we had to leave her in the kennels for a fortnight, and on our return the stomatitis had flared up again. The vet believed that the stress of being left may have caused our cavalier to worry and sparked the stomatitis again. We finally after much effort managed to get an all clear at Christmas.

We thought this might be the end result, but unfortunately it has now flared up again. Out vet took advice from a specialist in autoimmune disease, who said that the correct course of treatment was indeed the steroids. She said that it was best to treat when the dog was symptomatic, and that she may need to remain on a small dose of prednisone to keep the reaction at bay. This would probably be 2mg every four to five days. The other alternative treatment is cyclosporine, which is a treatment often given to keep immune reactions at bay. We don't really favour this option, as it is a pretty serious drug to be using in a young dog.

With steroid use on and off over a period of eight months, our little cavalier gained weight and had the usual effect of some mood changes. She is the loveliest, friendliest dog, who licks everyone she meets! She is still the same, but rather than following us around all day, she favours to lie in her basket in between walks or laze around the house.

As autoimmune problems can have certain triggers, we are now trying to keep her environment as allergen free as possible. This includes her diet. Since we got her she has been fed on a mixture of Royal Canin (now the light variety) and James Wellbeloved. She loves vegetables, which we use to bulk out her food and give her a midday treat. She is constantly hungry due to the steroids. Our vet has now recommended that we use the allergen free Hill's Prescription Diet Z/D Ultra. We live in Ireland, and this has proven difficult to find, so I have ordered a smallish bag from petmeds. She has always been a fussy eater, so she may not take to it. My question really is does anyone else feed this food, and how do you find it? I have read some posts here that suggest that some of these prescription foods are of a very low quality. I am also interested in knowing more about the raw diet, and if this is available in Ireland? I live in Dublin, and our cavalier is in Donegal, with my Dad. She is his constant companion and goes everywhere with him.

I would appreciate any advice.