The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Dog Losing Hair

DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 3-1/2-year-old white purebred Pomeranian. He is 7 pounds.

About a year ago, he started losing hair -- not the long outer hairs, but the short ones underneath. I heard of a remedy of coconut oil mixed with oil of oregano, which I tried, and I thought the hair was coming back in. I then went to a vet dermatologist who said “stop that, just give him melatonin.” No results, as I expected.

Now, six months later, I am back to the coconut and oregano treatment, but nothing is happening now. I believe the hair has been gone too long.

Anything you can tell me to try? -- L.J., Fort Myers, Florida

DEAR L.J.: Your little dog has a condition that will not be helped, to my knowledge, with coconut oil.

Melatonin may help in some forms of this alopecia. A daily supplement of vitamin D (200 IUs) or a few drops of cod liver oil may help, after a few weeks.

Your dog probably has alopecia X (AX), which is a hereditary condition that primarily affects Pomeranians and causes truncal alopecia and skin hyperpigmentation. To date, AX’s etiology remains unknown, although altered sex-hormone metabolism has been suggested as an underlying cause.

DEAR DR. FOX: I have an 8-month-old kitten, Frankie, who is wonderful. She uses the litter box (we use pine pellets), she’s playful, she sleeps through the night and is very affectionate.

For a week, I am babysitting my friend’s terrier. Frankie has not had any experience with a dog other than a day visit. Frankie suddenly has found the corner of my bathroom rug to defecate on, though she still urinates in the litter box. I wash the mat with hot water, but it is the third time this happened.

I’m sure this will resolve itself after the dog leaves on Wednesday, but I’d like your opinion. -- K.E., Boynton Beach, Florida

DEAR K.E.: This could be coincidence, not associated with the dog’s presence, because your young cat may be constipated.

This can be a serious problem when cats are fed only dry kibble, which they should not be. Give her canned food or soaked, freeze-dried food. Constipation is painful and cats may associate painful evacuation with being in the litter box, so they evacuate outside the box.

Alternatively, the cat may feel especially vulnerable when straining to defecate because of the presence of the dog; if so, the problem will resolve itself when the dog is gone, as you said. Many dogs like to eat cat poop, so be alert to that possibility!

DEAR DR. FOX: We had to take our Doberman back to the vet after she was spayed because some stitches had come out and there was a bit of blood.

The vet put in fresh sutures, put her on antibiotics and gave her tramadol for pain and discomfort. It made her so restless and agitated -- she would lie down and try to rest, then get up again, and sometimes she stumbled. So I took her off it, and she is doing better.

What is your opinion? -- G.K., Minneapolis, Minnesota

DEAR G.K.: This tramadol issue has come up before in my column. Some years ago, I used it on one of our dogs, with the same disturbing side effects, including rapid heart rate and anxiety. Recent reports in the veterinary literature indicate that this drug should not be given to dogs because it is not an effective analgesic.

As for the antibiotic prescription: If the surgical lesion was sterile and the dog had a normal body temperature, other than application of a topical antibiotic, an oral prescription was probably unwarranted. Both the veterinary and medical professions are adopting the precautionary principle with regard to antibiotic use because of overuse, especially by the livestock industry and the rapid evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


The United States has 190 regions in 44 states with a critical shortage of veterinarians, the USDA reports. Some of these regions have as few as one or two large-animal veterinarians available to care for thousands, or tens of thousands, of farm animals, writes AVMA President Dr. John Howe. A combination of low pay and high student debt drive the shortage, as newly minted vets opt for higher-paying work in urban areas. But Congress could alleviate the problem by passing the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act, which would eliminate a 37% tax on student loan repayment funds, Howe writes. (The Hill, 8/27)

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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