Q. I have a 13-14 year old Lhasa Apso. This summer..[s]he had sores under where her harness went on her back so I took her to the vet who gave her a shot for the itching. She was good for about a month after that, then the sores came back and all over her chest and back. The vet put her on cephalexin and told me to keep her on it for about a week after she clears up. She had a staph infection from some other infection, he said. It's about a month and a half later, and now it's back. I have her back on the cephalexin and have taken out her bed and given her a new white blanket that I can bleach once she clears up. I bought a special shampoo for itchy skin, but when she's done being bathed, she tries scratching by rolling on the floor and just looks so uncomfortable! She's on Beneful and has been for close to 5 years. Could it be a food allergy or I didn't keep her on the antibiotics long enough? Please help! –lulusmom [Read full dog question & situation]
It could be both or neither! Helpful, right?
Skin conditions can be tricky because a lot of things look very similar. Even if we confirm there’s an infection it could be either the cause of the problem or the result of some other problem (like allergies). It could be that your dog has developed some kind of allergy, be it to food or environmental allergens. Even things your dog has been exposed to her entire life she can become allergic to. If we think it’s allergies, food ingredients are certainly the easiest things we can avoid. As I wrote to Itchy Elbows in Alabama (July 2011 below), there are basically “non-allergenic” prescription foods available but they can get pricey pretty quick although it may be less of an issue for a smaller breed of dog like your Lhasa. A less expensive first-try option that I like is ProPlan Sensitive Skin and Stomach. It’s all about avoiding specific ingredients: chicken and beef are the two most allergenic. So even switching to a different brand of food, even a high quality food, may not help if it still contains those ingredients that your dog is allergic to. I think it’s helpful that you changed her bed but go easy on the bleach; it could actually be more irritating. A simple washing in a hypoallergenic laundry detergent would be better.
Certainly, there are other reasons than allergies that we can see skin disease. It very well could be an infection that the cephalexin isn’t 100% clearing. Cephalexin is a good first-line antibiotic for skin infections but it isn’t always successful. It may take a different antibiotic and perhaps for a longer period of time. It’s very common for me to put a pet on a month of antibiotics especially if we’re dealing with a nasty skin infection.
It’s also very important to address the itching. If your Lhasa continues to scratch at herself, it will just worsen the infection as she breaks open new areas or old areas that are trying to heal! Steroids are certainly very effective but they aren’t the only option and there are other forms of steroids that I like a little better than steroid shots. For steroids, I don’t tend to use the injection unless a pet absolutely won’t take pills. The shots are metabolized at variable rates meaning that they have unreliable results over the course of time. We know how much we injected on Day 1 but beyond that, no one knows how much is left in the system at any given time. I like pills better because we know how much we’re giving every day and can adjust as needed. That’s another reason I prefer pills: once a shot is given, you can’t take it back. There’s no antidote. If we decide the benefits aren’t worth the side effects, you can’t take it away. We can stop pills if needed (of course always talk to your vet about it first). You can potentially give a very low dose of steroid every other day for a few weeks so that we’re getting consistent blood levels of the drug while minimizing side effects. Anti-histamines may be helpful either alone or in addition to steroids. Just like in people, different anti-histamines work better for different individuals so it will take some trial and error to find one that helps your Lhasa.
Depending on what shampoo you have, it could be drying your dog’s skin out especially if she’s itchier after the bath than before. If a medicated bath is helpful, it will likely improve the pet’s condition immediately after the bath and then the results wear off.
My thought would be to attack this a few different ways. First I’d repeat a skin scrape and impression smear to see if there’s anything different than before. I would then switch the antibiotic and give it for a month. I’d also switch to the steroid pills and maybe add in an antihistamine. If we didn’t get any improvement after that, it would be worth pursuing a skin biopsy and culture to make sure we’re truly dealing with infection and that the bacteria isn’t a super resistant bug.
Q. I was adopted by an energetic Plott Hound pup a year ago; she is now about 18 months old, around 50 pounds, and healthy as can be. We had hoped to take her with us on short trips (usually under 2 hours drive time) for camping and other outdoor fun, but she becomes horribly motion sick even after just 15 minutes, whether in the back seat of the car or in the back seat of our quad cab truck. What can we do to prevent motion sickness, or to treat it once it begins? We have tried frequent stopping, keeping water available at all times, and that has not helped. We have wondered if over-the-counter products such as Dramamine or Pepto-Bismol are safe for dogs? – Zippy [Read full dog question & situation]
Two things could be happening. Either this is truly motion sickness where your dog is actually becoming nauseated by the movement of the car or it could be a car phobia. If we only take our dogs to not-fun places, they start to become anxious about being in the car. That level of anxiety can certainly make them sick to their stomach so it’s important to differentiate. If your pet is anxious just getting in the car and not moving, it’s probably car phobia. Car phobia occurs when your pet becomes anxious due to the typical destination of the car ride. It sounds like you go fun places with your dog so it shouldn’t be car phobia but there’s a quick and easy test to do to be sure. If you can sit in the car with your dog, not moving, for 15 minutes and no vomiting or nausea then it’s probably motion sickness. Nausea is typically evidenced by excessive drooling even if your pet doesn’t vomit.
It’s thought that the cause of motion sickness is the difference in information from the eyes and the vestibular system (the part of the brain that tells you you’re moving and keeps balance). Meaning pets become motion sick when their eyes tell the brain they are not moving, but their inner ear is receiving motion sensors causing mixed signals to the brain. This stimulates a part of the brain causing nauseousness. Trucks are especially problematic because they tend to be more bouncy than other vehicles. Particularly if you travel with your pet frequently and they get motion sick almost every time, they can start to develop anxiety and car phobia because they associate the car with getting sick.
The first line of defense against motion sickness is aimed at prevention. If you’re planning a trip, short or long, feed your pet several hours prior to travel. In extreme circumstances, I’d even recommend no food for 12 hours prior to travel because some dogs have slower digestion than others. If you think most of your pet’s issue is car phobia or anxiety from previous motion sickness, some desensitization exercises may help. Sometimes, getting a little air with a cracked window helps, too.
The goal of treatment is, obviously, to prevent vomiting. There are several anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) medications available. Unfortunately, Pepto Bismol will not help treat motion sickness even though if you listen to their catchy jingle it sounds like it should. This is because your dog isn’t vomiting because his stomach is irritated or his gastrointestinal tract is diseased but rather because of the portion of his brain making him nauseous. The good news is there are several different medications that can be used, alone or sometimes together, to help treat motion sickness if simple preventative measures don’t work.
As you mentioned, Dramamine is an option. Dramamine, drug name dimenhydrinate, is used in dogs as well as non-drowsy Dramamine, drug name meclizine. Both would be options to try as one may work better for your pet than the other. Dramamine is a non-prescription medication but you should ask your vet how much to give your dog based on his weight.
Cerenia is a newer, prescription anti-emetic drug that acts on the center in the brain that makes your dog nauseous. It’s very powerful and works beautifully for most patients. However, in rare cases it can cause drowsiness at the motion sickness dose so lower doses have to be used. In these cases, some vets have had success with combining Cerenia with other anti-emetics so that the dose could be lowered on both drugs used.
Chlorpromazine is another prescription anti-emetic. Since Cerenia came on the market, this medication is used less. There are some people who use acepromazine as an anti-emetic too but this is a sedative that can have unwanted side effects. “Natural” products used by humans, such as ginger, have hit or miss success in animals. It’s worth trying first but be aware it may not be enough alone.
You will need to consult with your veterinarian to see what medication to start with and what dose. Of course, as with starting any new medication, you will want to make sure your pet doesn’t have any health issues that would affect which medication may be appropriate.
Q. I have 2 Jack Russell Terriers, a male who's 11 and a female who's 8. The female has serious issues with separation anxiety and loud noises, ie thunder, jets and even cars just hitting the storm drain cover on the street near our house. The vet we had when she was a pup put her on "puppy prozac" and 2 other meds to try to calm her down. They did they opposite, .... I'm wondering if there's anything like Ritalin in the veterinary (or natural) world yet. The male exhibits none of these traits... Thank you for your time, Renee [Read full dog question & situation]
Anxiety is, unfortunately, not an uncommon problem for many pets. Whether it’s just storms and fireworks or if it’s constant, it’s still frustrating and sometimes scary. Some pets, especially larger dogs, can not only be destructive but also hurt themselves in the process.
Anxiety is generally something that can be worked with, we just need to figure out what works in each particular case because they’re all different! There are several medications that could be referred to as "puppy Prozac". We really can use Prozac for dogs to help with anxiety but there’s also a sedative called acepromazine (commonly referred to as “ace”) that I’ve heard a lot of people call “puppy prozac.” There are, of course, several anti-anxiety medications on the market that we commonly use for anxiety cases: clomipramine (Clomicalm), fluoxetine (Prozac or Reconcile), amitryptilline, and alprazolam (Xanax). Sorry, no Ritalin.
Amitryptilline and fluoxetine are serum serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) which means it leaves more of the happy neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain to calm and make your pet happier. Clomipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) that works similarly to the SSRIs. Alprazolam is different. Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine drug that binds to and activates GABA receptors in the brain. Activation of GABA receptors causes calming. Other drugs in the same class are used as anti-convulsants.
Even if one of these medications does not work, that doesn’t mean that one of the others won’t. It’s really a game of trial and error, unfortunately. Of course, there are other non-pharmaceutical options to help deal with anxiety. Pheromone collars/diffusers, supplements, training, a special shirt or maybe even making some easy adjustments in your home may help.
The pheromone collars/diffusers contain a happy dog pheromone that has a calming and relaxing effect on anxious dogs. In this particular case, the collar may be more beneficial so your little girl can be around it all the time without you having to have a diffuser in every room. The diffusers are a bit pricey but the collars aren’t too bad (especially since you only need one collar at a time!). There are two different collars on the market: DAP and NurtureCalm. I don’t know that I’ve seen a comparison of how they affect the same dog but anecdotally I’ve had good success with both. The frugal side of me would be inclined to try the cheaper one first to see if it helps and if it doesn’t, try the more expensive option but your veterinarian may have a preference.
There are many calming supplements on the market. Some of them work well but you have to be careful. Especially if your dog is on medication or has any other health concerns, the ingredients can be harmful if used improperly even though they’re natural. Natural does not equal safe and you should consult your veterinarian prior to giving any over the counter supplements or medications. Supplements like tryptophan, valerian root, and l-theanine have a calming effect. Also, lavender is great aromatherapy for us and our dogs! Of course, their noses are much more sensitive so go easy on the lavender if you choose to give it a spritz in your home.
I don’t know if everyone has heard of Thundershirts yet or not. Trust me, I get no compensation for saying this but… they’re amazing! It’s really just a neoprene-feeling wrap that hugs your dog tight which helps to calm them. Thundershirts aren’t just for thunder; they can be used in just about any situation that causes your pet anxiety. There are some vet hospitals that use them on their hospitalized patients to keep them calm and relaxed. They aren’t terribly expensive and there’s a money-back guarantee. The only downside to it, and the reason I haven’t used it on my fearful and crate-anxious dog, is that they could most likely chew it off. I’d imagine that would be covered in the money-back guarantee but it would be worth checking before you purchase one.
An easy and free thing you can do to help your dog is to try giving her a “cave.” Not a crate that she gets locked in and can’t get out if she wants to, but a hiding spot that is quiet (except for maybe some white noise) and dark and secluded. Under a bed, in an open box, in a closet… any of these places may work. You don’t have to put her in it and lock her in. Just show her where it is and if she likes it and wants to go there then it may help calm her. This is especially good for storms. If she doesn’t use it, that’s ok. Not all dogs will take to the “cave” but it’s cheap and easy and worth a try!
The last thing I would suggest is working with a trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. Veterinary behaviorists are harder to find but there is one at Purdue who can do a consultation with your vet over the phone. The behaviorist may even have some suggestions of what anti-anxiety medication will have a higher likelihood of working given your girl’s response to previous medications. Desensitization training may help too but it needs to be done by someone who practices positive reinforcement and is experienced in desensitization. Choosing a trainer can be difficult and you may have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince but it’s worth it! A knowledgeable, kind, skilled trainer is worth the search. Your vet may even have someone s/he recommends because I’m sure this isn’t the first anxious Jack Russell they’ve ever seen!
It would also be worth, if you haven’t already, having some bloodwork done to make sure there’s no medical cause for the anxiety. If it isn’t new, it’s probably not medical related but it’s sure worth checking a CBC, chemistry panel, and a T4 to rule out any kind of hormonal reasons for the anxiety.
Q. I have a 1yr Tabby Point Siamese that has a small dog problem. "Kimba" has a Medial luxating right patella, grade II. His upper leg is slightly bowed so it doesn't line up with the lower leg and the grove that the patella glides in is shallow. ... [The vet] said that surgery is only needed if it is a stage 3 or 4 and he wasn't sure that would help since the bones are so small. The bones on my Chihuahua are too, so I don't understand, if my kitty might need surgery in the future, why this might not help. Have you heard of any cats with this problem and what has or hasn't helped? Thanks for answering this question that is sorta dog related! [Read full dog question & situation]
I certainly don’t mind answering questions about cats here. I’m sure many people own both dogs and cats as pets and will find the additional information useful.
Medial luxating patella is a condition where one, or both, of the kneecaps (patella) slide toward the inside of the knee. It’s true, this is typically a small-dog condition but it likely could happen to any animal with a knee cap! It can be something an animal is born with or it can be, rarely, due to trauma. There are three different things that can lead to a luxating patella: the groove in the femur is too shallow, the patella is an abnormal shape, or an abnormality of the ligaments that hold the patella in the femoral groove.
The drawing below may help orient you to the setup of your pet’s knee. This is a view from the front of the leg. The patella, or kneecap, is the orange oval in the center. Usually, it is held in the patellar groove where it glides up and down smoothly. The patellar ligaments and the quadriceps tendon help anchor the patella in place so it moves as it should without falling off track. The meniscus is a cartilage pad that sits on top of the tibia as additional cushion between the femur and the tibia.
As you mentioned, there are different grades of severity of luxating patellas:
• Grade 1: The patella will slide out of place (luxate) with pressure but returns to normal position when pressure is released.
• Grade 2: The patella luxates with pressure or can luxate with bending of the knee. The patella will stay out of place until pushed back manually or when the knee is straightened.
• Grade 3: The patella is luxated most of the time but can be manually replaced. Bending and straightening of the knee causes the patella to slip in and out.
• Grade 4: The patella is permanently luxated and cannot be repositioned.
Really the only “cure” is surgery. Pain management, when necessary, is an option for low grade patellar luxations but if it occurs frequently and is painful then surgery is generally the key. The downside to surgery is not only is it surgery, but sometimes it isn’t able to correct what the underlying cause of the luxation is. Surgery is generally aimed at reshaping the bones so they fit back together properly to prevent slippage and tightening up the patellar ligament to hold the patella in place more rigidly. Because this is most common in small breeds of dogs, oftentimes the bones are small and difficult to reshape. If the patella is completely flat on the bottom so it doesn’t sit in the femoral groove properly, there’s very little that can be done for that. The femoral groove can be deepened if the problem is that it’s too shallow but only so much. There is also a surgery where the attachment of the quadriceps tendon is moved on the tibia to correct for rotation of the bones. Sometimes we don’t know if only one or all of the above will be needed to treat a patient until we get into surgery.
Some young puppies will have Grade 1 luxating patellas early on that they eventually grow out of so I wouldn’t recommend surgery straight away for a young animal. After they are 18-24 months old, if it’s still a problem for the dog then I would consider surgery. We need to wait until all of the bones are fully developed prior to jumping into surgical correction for this particular problem.
Animals with luxating patellas that aren’t surgically corrected, or can’t be, will have constant inappropriate movement of the kneecap which eventually leads to arthritis in their knee. Animals that do have successful surgery are still more prone to normal animals but less so as we’ve decreased the amount of time that the kneecap has been moving improperly.
Q. Rescue pup was pulled 4 weeks ago, starved, dehydrated, second degree burns on his chest, we did, sub-q fluids, and spoon feeding for 2 days before he could walk again, that Friday we did a fecal float/parvo test, pos for parvo. So we did Cerenia, tamiflu, and IV fluids for 4 days, he only threw up once, and only had diarrhea the first day. after day 4 he was eating again, and playing. but developed a cough, fearful the parvo had caused heart problems we went back to the vet, it was kennel cough, doxycycline for 10 days. He has been off his antibiotics for almost a week now, his last check up 8/9/11 showed him free of intestinal parasites, heartworms, a cough, his kidney and liver function tests came back normal, and his heart appeared normal as well, he received a full check-up, and passed everything, except his temp, which has been 103.1 since the day I brought him home, with the exception of when he had parvo when it went to 104.6 before coming back down. My vet has classified it as a Fever of Unknown Origins, and said to just keep an eye on him. Any suggestions? – discoveryrealm [Read full dog question & situation]
Fever of unknown origin (FUO) is just as it sounds: a fever that we have no idea about the cause. This is very frustrating for everyone because you certainly don’t want to miss an ailment that may become life-threatening.
The first thing I would do, if you have not already, is to take the pup’s temperature at home first thing in the morning prior to letting him go outside. I consider the normal temperature range for dogs to be 99.0-103.0 depending on the conditions during which the temperature was taken although I’ve seen literature stating the high end at 103.8. Taking a temperature at the vet after a ride in a hot car and when the pup is excited can cause a falsely elevated temperature. A fever of 103.1 isn’t dramatically high for a dog if taken at the vet.
If the elevated temperature is consistent even with at-home testing, it may very well be a fever of unknown origin. Technically, to diagnose FUO, you must have eliminated all other possible causes. Of course, this can be nearly impossible (not to mention costly) so veterinarians typically limit diagnostics to the most common problems that can be causing a fever. Routine blood-work such as a complete blood count (CBC), heartworm test, and chemistry panel are wonderful places to start. I’d also add in tests for tick-borne diseases but that may have been included in the heartworm test. The heartworm test that our clinic uses, the Idexx SNAP 4DX, includes tests for Ehrlicia canis, Anaplasma, and Lyme. Many clinics use this test so check to see if that’s the test your pup had. Other “easy” and reasonable tests to pursue may be a urinalysis including a culture to test for bladder or kidney infection. Even if your pup had normal kidney values on his chemistry panel, there could still be an infection there.
Realizing this is a rescue that may be where I would stop with diagnostics as long as the puppy seemed to be normal other than the elevated temperature. Money is tight for most rescue groupss so sending off for blood cultures and more expensive diagnostics may not be possible. To really go all out or if the puppy doesn’t seem to be doing well, blood cultures, fungal cultures and possibly even joint taps may be in order as would referral to an internal medicine specialist.
One other thing I’d consider doing, although far from ideal and would potentially cause problems with diagnostics in the near future, would be a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics just to see if the fever responded. If the fever does not respond to a broad-spectrum antibiotic, it is less likely to be infectious in nature and perhaps continuing that antibiotic for an appropriate period of time (as determined by your veterinarian) would resolve the fever. It would be important to obtain culture samples prior to instituting antibiotics as the antibiotic could cause a false-negative culture. Of course, no response to antibiotics does not rule out fungal infections or infections that may not have been covered by that particular antibiotic because there is no one antibiotic that treats everything. Also, it may make many of my colleagues cringe as we do need to worry about antibiotic resistance from just blindly giving broad-spectrum antibiotics without a culture first. I would likely only do this if the pup is actually acting sick and we cannot afford the more in-depth diagnostics.
Before pursuing any of these big tests, I’d certainly want to make sure it’s truly a fever rather than mild hyperthermia due to excitement, activity or ambient temperatures. Check that at home first then discuss the further testing with your veterinarian if it is warranted.
Q. I have a very strange thing going on. My lab mix is eating dirt, but not just any dirt. She will go to my neighbors’ house and there is one spot in her yard that has very fine dirt. They have lived there for over 12 years and they have NEVER poured any grease or anything in that area that might attract her to it. She will eat it by the mouth full at least 3 times a week. This is the only place/dirt she will eat. I have taken a sample of it to have it analyzed to see what minerals etc. are in it but have not gotten that back yet. Can you tell me why would she be eating dirt? –RescueGang[Read full dog question & situation]
Interesting question! It’s always good to question when your pet starts performing an out-of-the-ordinary behavior.
Dirt-eating can have either a medical or behavioral cause. In certain cases, anemia can cause pica (eating inappropriate objects/substances) so I think a fecal parasite screening and some routine blood-work with a tick borne illness screening would be appropriate. A careful evaluation of diet and possibly even adding a probiotic supplement and multi-vitamin may be helpful if your pup is having some kind of gastrointestinal upset that has triggered dirt-eating.
You’re right in thinking that there may be something in the dirt itself that is causing your dog to want to eat it particularly if it’s only one specific spot. Even if your neighbor doesn’t put anything in that area of soil, you may be able to blame wild animals depending on where you live. Stray cats, rabbits, raccoons and a whole variety of other animals may be stopping by that spot and “supplementing” the soil. Stray cats are drawn to areas with textures that are similar to a litter-box like sand boxes or finer dirt.
Other behavioral reasons include boredom and compulsive behavior. Labs in particular seem drawn to eating things they shouldn’t. That can become a problem as even dirt can cause an intestinal obstruction necessitating surgery. Until you can determine a cause, or in case it is determined to be behavioral, keeping your dog out of the neighbor’s yard or using a basket muzzle if that’s not possible should help deter soil ingestion.
Q. Does shaving a dog during the summer really help them to stay cool? I have heard that leaving the coat can actually insulate them from heat. I have a sheltie/chow who inherited the lushest coats of both breeds - he looks like a sheltie with a bad hair day - poof! I have had him shaved several times before and it takes almost 2 years two grow back in - it grows slowly back in strange mangy looking clumps. He doesn't tolerate heat very well and I want to do what is best for him. What is your opinion? –Phyl [Read full dog question & situation]
Believe it or not, this is quite a controversial issue! Truthfully, veterinarians are split on the “to shave” or “not to shave” topic because there are good reasons for and against clipping.
Advantages of clipping:
1. Hair and skin dries more quickly: This is a benefit for dogs who love water or need to be bathed more frequently in the summertime.
2. Less “doggy” smell.
3. Easier to monitor skin and coat issues: Depending on your location, allergies may flare up more in the summer. Also, hot spots are more common when it's warm. Being able to catch these issues sooner means they can be treated more quickly before the problem gets out of hand.
4. Better heat dissipation: Maybe. Short hair benefits those that lay on cool floors but does not help (or hurt) those that lay in front of fans.
5. Reduced grooming requirements.
Disadvantages of clipping:
1. May be kind of goofy looking
2. Potential for radiant heat accumulation: There is less of a buffer between your dog’s skin and the hot air. When you mention insulation being helpful to keep your pet from getting as hot, this is the reason it helps. The hair helps absorb some of the heat in the air and keeps it from reaching your pet’s relatively cooler skin.
3. Potential for sunburn: A thicker hair coat can protect them from damaging UV radiation and does have some insulating properties to decrease the amount of heat that reaches your dog’s skin.
4. Prolonged period of hair regrowth in some breeds
5. Increased susceptibility to bug bites
Most dogs kept primarily inside with air conditioning probably don’t need to be shaved but would benefit more from shorter periods of time outdoors. My own belief is that if your dog did not tolerate being shaved, either he just hates being groomed or his hair does not grow back
well, and the benefits don’t outweigh the detriments then don’t shave. In your specific case, it may be worth a trip to the vet to ensure there are no medical causes for delayed hair regrowth. Some hormonal abnormalities affect the hair coat such as hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease). If there are no hormone abnormalities, your vet may prescribe melatonin to get the hair to regrow faster.
Q.What causes extreme shedding? I brush my dog Clyde daily and when done looks like I sheared a sheep! He is part Belgian Malinois and something else?? I have tried supplements but nothing seems to help. Wondering about castor oil--what do you think? Advice much appreciated! -Vanessa [Read full dog question & situation]
Thanks again for providing some additional information on Clyde’s history!
[Prospect note: Dr. Kelly used the private message feature on the K9 Forums where questions are posted to contact Vanessa and learn more about Clyde.]
I think it’s safe to say we all hate shedding especially when it’s constant! Some breeds of dogs shed more than others. Even those breeds that “don’t shed” like poodles, shih tzus, and bichons still shed some; just significantly less than most other breeds because their hair stays in the growing phase for longer. Constant shedding may be normal for your dog.
There are reasons why you would see an increase in shedding, though. Hormonal fluctuations, skin disease, and nutrition may all affect hair loss. Keeping your dog on Revolution is wonderful because it covers heartworms and intestinal parasites as well as fleas, one kind of tick, and sarcoptes mites. No scratching means it is less likely to be a skin-only disease. Castor oil, either topically applied to the skin or given by mouth is not likely to help in this case. Castor oil can have some anti-inflammatory effects but it doesn’t sound like inflammation is the cause of Clyde’s shedding.
You mentioned that Clyde’s tail was “mysteriously broken” a year ago. This combined with the excessive shedding makes me wonder if he is getting all the nutrition he needs from his dog food. A good omega fatty acid supplement may help as well as switching to a different food. I’d consider changing Clyde over to a food designed for sensitive skin or stomach. If you prefer Purina brands, ProPlan is a division of Purina that makes a good Sensitive Skin & Stomach diet. He may even have a very mild, underlying food allergy that’s causing the hair to fall out more easily. Even dogs with no food allergies can absorb and use food differently from each other. This means that while Purina Dog Chow may be a great choice for one dog, it may not be the best for Clyde.
If all else is normal and Clyde always has been an extreme shedder, it could be breed related. Shepherd breeds of dogs tend to have hair coats that shed more than those who have shorter hair without an undercoat. Unfortunately, no one has invented a no-shedding pill but I sure would love to be the one to do so!!! Frequent bathing, brushing and possibly even a blow-out at the groomer will help reduce shedding but nothing will stop it completely.
Q. Will eating Royal Canin for Urinary Tract (for struvite crystals) cause problems for the 3rd dog, who does not have struvite problems, by maybe throwing her urine Ph in the opposite direction? - PuggyBuddy [Read full dog question & situation]
While struvite crystals in the urine can happen for many reasons, I’m guessing your veterinarian prescribed a prescription diet due to recurrent urinary disease. Both Royal Canin and Hill’s have wonderful, effective prescription diets to eliminate crystals in the urine. Certainly, some dogs will prefer the flavor and texture of one over another and I’m glad to hear you’ve found one that works for your furry kids.
Royal Canin Urinary SO diet is a complete balanced diet for adult animals which is designed to aid in the long-term management of lower urinary tract disease caused by or made worse by crystals in the urine. Urinary SO is formulated to prevent the formation and accumulation of the two most common types of crystals: struvites and oxalates (hence the SO name). It is also designed to dissolve struvite bladder stones. Urinary SO is not designed to be nutritionally appropriate for puppies, dogs with pancreatitis or pregnant/lactating dogs.
So, if dog #3 is a puppy, this may not be ideal for her. If your third dog is an adult who is otherwise generally healthy, and doesn’t eat SO exclusively, the likelihood of this particular diet causing a problem is slim. However, if your dogs play musical bowls, it may be worth looking into a slightly different diet for your other two.
Royal Canin has another non-prescription diet that is sold exclusively through veterinarians called Skin & Stone SS Small Breed Adult. Skin & Stone aims at preventing two of the most common issues of small breed dogs: skin disease and bladder stones. Unlike SO, Skin & Stone does not affect urine pH. It does stimulate urine dilution to prevent the buildup of crystals, though. Thus, it isn’t as 'strong' as SO but for long-term management it may not be a bad option if your crystal dogs are already well-controlled with the SO. Bonus: if your food allergy dog has allergic skin issues, this may help!
Speak to your veterinarian about this newer diet and see if it is recommended for your crew since they all like to share. Alternatively, if feeding your dogs in separate rooms so they don’t share is an option that’s another way to go particularly if your vet does not recommend feeding the Skin & Stone food.
Q. Our dog Whiskey has some skin issues. He's a huskyish rescue a little over two years old and had terrible skin and coat when we got him (one year in a cage with no bath and malnourished will do that to you!). We got a better food (blue wilderness), invested in regular grooming, and some of the problems subsided. He still gets the itchies (no fleas) but the worst place seems to be his front elbows. Under the fur they are red, scaly, and the fur looks almost as dried out as the skin. What can I do to help him? He also has terribly red eyes but he never scratches them. I wonder if that's part of his "sensitive skin" package? Thanks for your advice! - Itchy Elbows in Alabama [Read full dog question & situation]
Poor Whiskey had a rough start to life! He’s lucky to have found someone to take very good care of him and give him lots of love.
It does sound like Whiskey is experiencing skin allergies. Unlike people who show their allergies by sneezing or having a stuffy nose, dogs get red and itchy skin. Allergies may also cause recurrent ear infections. Skin allergies in dogs is very frustrating to treat both for the owner and the veterinarian!
There are many different options for treating allergies in dogs and every vet seems to have their favorite methods. The first thing I like to do is look at what food is being fed. We can’t control most of what causes allergic reactions in our dogs but we can control what they eat. The most common food allergies are chicken, beef, corn, lamb, and fish. It used to be that we could switch dogs over to a lamb and rice diet for allergies and they did great but with so many of the most popular brands of dog food having lamb as a regular ingredient, there is a higher level of exposure and therefore dogs are more likely to be allergic to it. Same for fish, although less so at this point.
You mentioned you feed Blue Wilderness but it comes in a couple different flavors: chicken, salmon and duck. Of those three, I’d choose to feed the duck flavor because if we’re just blindly choosing a protein source that we think will be less allergenic, duck is a good choice. However, if you read the ingredient list of the Blue Wilderness Duck closely, you’ll see that ingredient number two is chicken meal. So, while the duck may be an improvement, we still haven’t eliminated the #1 most common food allergen. Switching to a hypoallergenic diet like Royal Canin HP or Hill's Z/D Ultra is an option but that gets pretty expensive pretty quickly especially for a large breed dog like Whiskey. You can also explore a different brand of food that is made with allergy dogs in mind like Natural Balance. Natural Balance has several limited ingredient diets including a duck or venison flavor that may be a good choice. For larger dogs, it is always also an option to have them food allergy tested prior to choosing a new diet. Some dermatologists don’t believe the food allergy blood tests are very accurate but we have had very good success with them at my clinic so I recommend it and had it done for my own allergy dog.
Additionally, we have some control over fleas. You mentioned Whiskey does not have fleas and that’s wonderful but you didn’t say if he was on a monthly flea preventative. For allergy dogs, I always recommend they be on a monthly flea preventative just in case. Many dogs are very allergic to flea bites so I feel it is important to be proactive about preventing a flea infestation. Sure, you can wait and only treat if there are fleas seen but then you’re behind and playing catch-up. If you don’t like the topical flea preventatives either because of personal preference or your dog’s sensitive skin, there are tablets like Comfortis, Program, Sentinel, and Trifexis. Sentinel and Trifexis also contain heartworm preventative so they are all-in-one. I prefer the tablet versions of heartworm and flea preventatives for dogs with skin allergies.
For all other allergens your dog is exposed to (pollens, weeds, trees, molds, indoor allergens), you can never 100% eliminate exposure. Treatment for those allergens means allergy testing and immunotherapy to teach your dog’s immune system to ignore those allergens. Testing and immunotherapy are pricey but better for your dog’s long term health than repeated rounds of steroids and antibiotics. Steroids and antibiotics work wonderfully, but they’re terrible if used long-term and are really only a band-aid solution. With Whiskey being so young, I would not recommend doing steroids every year as I would worry about potentially harmful side effects long-term.
There are a couple easy things you can try before jumping to allergy testing especially if your dog’s allergies aren’t really severe. Frequent bathing is helpful. I personally like and use Duoxo Calm shampoo and spray for my dog. It helps repair the skin’s barrier to allergens thus making your dog’s skin less likely to react. I also like a newer product called Allerderm that is a topical spot-on allergy treatment that aims at improving the skin’s barrier function. When my Great Dane is having an allergy flare-up, I just restart the Allerderm twice a week for a couple weeks and then go back to once a month. Supplements with omega-fatty acids help keep skin in tip-top shape, too. There are many omega-fatty acid supplements on the market, see what supplement your vet recommends for Whiskey.
Some dogs benefit from anti-histamine medications but you’ll want to consult with your vet about what ones she recommends for Whiskey and what dosage is appropriate for his size. As long as you have a standing relationship with a veterinarian and she has seen Whiskey within the past year, she may be able to recommend an antihistamine and dosage over the phone. Anti-histamines are typically safe for use long term if needed.
My suspicion is that if Whiskey’s eyes are only red and there is no green or yellow discharge or cloudiness to his eyes, then it is probably allergy related. Yes, unfortunately, that’s part of the allergy package. Severe eye allergies can be treated with an eye drop but that would be prescribed by your veterinarian. Most dogs with mild redness don’t require any eye drops but may see improvement with an anti-histamine medication.