DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 4 1/2-year-old female Chihuahua named Angel. She is an alert and friendly dog, but she has one quirk that we do not understand.
The problem that causes concern is her licking. If you sit next to her on the couch, she will reach her paws out and pull your hand over to her. Then she will start to lick and may do so for 10 or 15 minutes if allowed to.
But it is not just people she licks. She will lick upholstered furniture like the couch until the area she is licking becomes soaked. Since she is something of a burrower, she may be under a blanket, licking away, and we are not even aware of it.
We feed her Purina Pro Plan for small breed dogs. We wonder if this licking is due to some kind of dietary deficiency, and, if so, what we need to do to correct it. -- P.B., Manassas, Va.
DEAR P.B.: Your dog's licking is probably a neurotic obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that should be evaluated by a veterinarian. It may be resolved, which will improve the quality of your dog's life -- and yours, too.
Compulsive licking can also be a sign of discomfort caused by periodontal disease or other oral problems, which the veterinarian will consider. Another strong possibility is digestive discomfort.
If there are no oral health issues, I would transition your dog onto one of the dog food brands that carry my seal of approval on my website, DrFoxVet.com, or look up my home-prepared dog food recipe. Soy ingredients and some cereal grains can cause serious digestive problems in dogs.
If your dog does not improve after six to eight weeks on a new diet coupled with safe chew toys to play with and as much physical activity outdoors as possible, she may have an anxiety-driven OCD. Psychotropic drugs such as Prozac have proved very effective for dogs with this condition.
DEAR DR. FOX: My indoor male cat is about 9 years old. Lately, he's been limping or favoring his right hind leg or hip area.
Sometime last year, he may have fallen from a cat climbing tower or window and landed wrong. We're not sure exactly what happened, but he avoids climbing the tower now. His vet thinks he has some arthritis due to the probable injury and the fact that he is a large-framed cat who weighs 14 or 15 pounds.
My vet has given me a sample of tramadol to try for him as needed for pain relief. I have heard that the taste of the tablet is very bitter and that he could foam at the mouth after taking it. Aside from the bitter taste, are there any serious side effects of using this drug as needed for my cat?
As a side note, he is also asthmatic and has been on a daily regimen of inhaled Flovent and albuterol for about six years. He is very good about this routine. -- L.W., Alexandria, Va.
DEAR L.W.: After middle age, many cats suffer from chronic arthritis, which is often only diagnosed when they take a tumble because of reduced mobility, like yours probably did.
The tramadol will give some pain relief, but I would not advise long-term use. Fish oil is something I recommend frequently because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
Massage therapy and acupuncture can be beneficial, ideally done in-home by a qualified therapist or trained veterinarian. There are schools for pet massage -- just search the Internet -- and my book, "The Healing Touch for Cats," is used by many for in-home therapy.
You are fortunate that your cat accepts the inhalation therapy. Many cats protest this and are stressed by the experience. With patience, many often come to accept the treatment -- no doubt because of the associated relief.
In all cases of diagnosed asthma, food allergy and heart disease must be ruled out. A change in diet -- trying various formulations -- might be all your cat needs if this has not been considered before.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)