DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 14-year-old husky/shepherd mix. Last July she developed a bump on her right leg that has now become an open sore that she licks constantly. I have applied antibiotic ointment and covered it with clean dressings. But she chews the dressing off and licks the wound. This does not allow the area to dry and heal. The open sore does not smell, weep or look inflamed or infected. She runs and walks without any problem. She continues to eat normally and acts normal. However, she does sometimes shake, but she does not seem to be in pain.
Since she is 14, I do not want to pay for any heroic measures, but I will not let her suffer. I realize you cannot see what I see, but would like to know if there are some basic things I can do to help heal her open sore. I read online that some dogs get cancerous mast cell tumors. If this is what she has, I would do only comfort care. She is a great dog, and I will care for her until it looks as though she is not able to enjoy her daily runs and the love of our family.
Thank you for any help you can offer. She trembles when we go to her local vet, and I have not taken her for a checkup for this reason. We get her shots through local clinics offered in our area on a yearly basis, so she is up-to-date on all her shots. -- T.Z., Rockville, Md.
DEAR T.Z.: I fully respect your decision not to engage in "heroic measures," considering your dog's age. But you owe it to her to have the bump on her leg examined by a veterinarian. You may find one who does house calls, which would be much less stressful for your dog.
Without knowing if the swelling is a form of cancer or simply a fibrous inflammatory growth called a granuloma, you really don't know what might be best for your dog. It might be easily removed surgically, which would put an end to her constant licking. Early examination and removal often stops a diagnosed cancer from spreading. Clearly, the fact that she is licking it means she is experiencing discomfort, so the best solution to improving her quality of comfort is a thorough veterinary examination.
You speak of a plurality of shots being given every year to your old dog. This is outrageous and is tantamount to malpractice. For details on canine and feline vaccination protocols, check my website, www.DrFoxVet.com
DEAR DR. FOX: I have had cats since 1972. They all lived from 13 to 20 years of age. They all came from our local Humane Society. My only dog was 16 when he passed.
I have suffered a stroke and had two knee replacements. I am now in a wheelchair and did not want a kitten because I wouldn't be able to train it properly. But I've been without a companion animal for three years, and it's been difficult living alone.
Our local Humane Society had a special running before Christmas on older cats. I felt strong enough, and I now have in-house help, so I adopted a 3-year-old cat. The previous owners used this Humane Society for their veterinary needs, so I have all of his health records.
He's not overweight. I try to play with him for 30 minutes in the morning and again before bedtime. My only concern is that he eats only Purina dry food. I have tried chicken, pork and fish in various cooking methods -- he smells it and just walks away.
I've had several cats over the years, and I believe they've all had long lives because I fed them a good variety of food. A good friend advised me of that in 1972 with my first cat, and he lived to be 20 years old.
Have you ever heard of a cat refusing chicken? What should I do? -- S.D., St. Louis
DEAR S.D.: Considering that you have in-home help, I think it is good that you have given a home to an abandoned adult cat. The best interactive toys for you in the wheelchair are laser lights and lures tied to the end of a long cane.
A lot of feeding trials are conducted by cat-food manufacturers geared toward making cats prefer and become addicted to their products. Some manufactured dry foods are given a covering of an "animal digest" formula. This is all very well and good, but corn, soy, rice and other cereal grains have no place in proper cat food diets.
Try mixing some of the Purina chow with other brands such as Organix, Wellness and Feline's Pride. There are other excellent brands available that have either little or no cereal content and no soy, which, like the corn, is genetically engineered and can harm animals.
Be sure your cat is drinking plenty of water. This is a must for cats who drink little and are addicted to eating only dry cat food. You can try moistening your cat's dry food with warm water.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.)