DEAR DR. FOX: Our beagle/basset-mix has had a persistent itching/scratching/biting problem for the past two years.
We have tried many medications. They all bring temporary relief, but none cures the itching. We have tried many types of food, from grain-free to all-natural to homemade. Again, there is no consistent relief. We have spent a lot of money at different veterinarians, trying to pinpoint the problem -- to no avail. Prior to the itching, which started in August 2010, our dog had been on the same high-quality food for three years. We've added no new pets, changed his beds and given him baths with prescription shampoo and conditioner/lotion. There is no consistency as far as time of year.
We got him as a rescue, so we are unsure of his age, but we believe him to be 8 to 10 years old. We have grown weary of opening our wallet time and again to try and fix a problem that is frustrating for him and us. -- J.P., Washington, D.C.
DEAR J.P.: It seems you and your poor dog have been through the ringer. He may have multiple allergies and a dysfunctional immune system. More costly tests and trial-and-error treatments may -- or may not -- put an end to his problem.
Here are a few suggestions: Have his thyroid function evaluated. Try short-term oral antihistamines. Discuss starting an elimination diet with your veterinarian. Give your dog cotton towels or bedsheets to sleep on, and never use scented laundry detergents. Don't use any anti-flea or -tick products. Give him up to 1 teaspoon brewer's yeast and fish oil. Give him a spritz of a mixture of aloe vera juice, calendula and witch hazel. (For more suggestions, check the archives on my website, DrFoxVet.com.)
DEAR DR. FOX: Our 18-year-old cat, Carmen, was just diagnosed with diabetes -- again.
Carmen had a scary start in life: She was an injured, lost kitten we rescued. She has always been timid and more fearful of things than the average cat. She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was about 15 years old. We used Lantus insulin for a year or so, and the diabetes, according to the vet, was "cured." Then a few months ago, she started losing weight and peeing outside the litter box, so back to the vet we went, where the return to diabetes was confirmed.
The vet wanted to bring her in for a daylong glucose curve test, which we did, although we were concerned about the stress on Carmen. The testing cost $200, and the vet said she wanted to do it again in two weeks. We complied, paid $200 and were told to bring her back in another two weeks for yet another test.
When Carmen had diabetes the first time, we would test her at home, and if the levels were within normal range, we would continue with her food (Wellness Turkey and Salmon canned food) and testing program. When I asked the vet why we couldn't do that this time around, she said that our testing was just a moment in time, and it takes the whole day to get an accurate reading. Our concern is that these daylong tests at the vet are extremely stressful to Carmen and so the glucose level readings are probably not going to be as accurate as they should be.
Our other concern is that dear little Carmen is close to 100 years old in people years, and we want this time to be calm and relaxing for her. And, needless to say, the $200 a pop ,in addition to the cost of the insulin, syringes, etc., is beginning to add up.
What are your thoughts? -- F.D., North Beach, Md.
DEAR F.D.: Subjecting a cat as old as yours to such stress, especially considering her timid disposition, is borderline malpractice. Saying that her diabetes was "cured" and taking her off the insulin makes me wonder. I would never subject my cats to such stressful tests, the costs notwithstanding. They may be scientifically valid, but are they medically relevant and of any real value? For your cat in particular, I think not. Why could you not be instructed to do the blood tests at home?
Diabetes mellitus may not be your cat's only problem. Her weight loss may be associated with thyroid disease, and she may have some loss of kidney function. Considering her age, quality of life is paramount. Check feline-nutrition.org for alternative diets, including raw foods that have cured many cats of diabetes, and seek a second opinion with a feline specialist.
(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.)