DEAR DR. FOX: I have a shih tzu/bichon-mix who scratches his face a lot. There are no fleas, and his vet can find no apparent reason for the itching. Could you advise me of the best way to solve this problem? -- V.E., Fort Myers, Fla.
DEAR V.E.: The itchy face condition in dogs can be linked with oral health problems like gingivitis, so a thorough oral examination is called for to rule out this possibility.
Another possibility is chronic conjunctivitis, which is often associated with one or more turned-in eyelashes. This is a common issue that I trust your veterinarian ruled out.
Some face-rubbing dogs show significant improvement when plastic food and water bowls are replaced with steel or ceramic ones. In other instances, the fur around their lips must be trimmed and their mouths wiped with a baby wipe containing soothing lavender and aloe extracts after every meal. Some dogs develop a hypersensitivity to certain food ingredients, and those treatments can provide immediate relief.
If all else fails, you may want to transition your dog onto a different diet -- one that contains a single protein as a food allergy elimination test. Providing filtered/purified drinking water rather than straight tap water may be advisable. For details, see my report on my website, www.DrFoxVet.com.
Finally, coming into contact with wool or synthetic fibers could set up some facial irritation, so have him sleep on clean cotton towels or sheets laundered with a scent- and fragrance-free detergent.
DEAR DR. FOX: We enjoy your syndicated column here at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), and we appreciate your commitment to companion animal health and welfare. We want to alert you to a rally on Aug. 7 at 4:00 p.m. at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. We are marching to the South Korean embassy to protest publicly the production and sale of dog and cat meat in that country. I hope you can attend!
For those of you who can't attend, you can still organize a campaign, demonstration or leaflet distribution for South Korean dogs and cats at a local venue. AWI will provide the materials you need. To learn more about events happening nationally and internationally, please contact Rosalyn Morrison at AWI: Rosalyn@awionline.org or 202-446-2126. -- R.M., Washington, D.C.
DEAR R.M.: Many readers share your concerns about the cruel treatment of dogs and cats in South Korea and other Asian countries, where cats are often skinned and boiled alive and dogs are tortured, beaten, hung and torched to tenderize their flesh before they are killed.
I will not be able to attend your rally, but here is my position statement: Why dogs and cats are killed for human consumption in countries such as South Korea is a question of culture, custom and commerce. But how they are handled and killed is a question of conscience, civility and compassion, which must be answered by all involved. Informed people from around the world are calling for full accountability since the measure of civilization is in how humanely animals are treated, regardless of their monetary value and utility. We should all ask ourselves if it is ethical to consume any animal species that has died in fear and pain.
DEAR DR. FOX: Frequently, our 6-year-old terrier-mix gags up some bilelike liquid, shakes her head, drools and seems very upset. She will drink some water, but won't finish her food. What can I do to stop this and help her feel better? -- R.E., St Louis
DEAR R.E.: Many dogs who have bouts of coughing, gagging, panting in evident discomfort and vomiting, and even those with raspier barks, are suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. This condition, common in humans, can be distressing for afflicted dogs. In some cases, the stomach acids that the dogs regurgitate can damage not only the esophagus but also the throat, larynx and trachea.
There are other conditions that can cause these symptoms, so a thorough veterinary examination is called for. Your dog may show rapid recovery when given antacids, antibiotics and a change in diet -- reducing the cereal content and providing a single protein source.
(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 DrFoxVet.com.)