DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 10-year-old dachshund named Abigail. She had what appeared to be a rash with dried, scaly scabs for more than two years. She licked herself constantly.
We tried different foods, narrowing it down to individual proteins rather than food with several meat products. Our vet suggested we try making her homemade food and treats for dogs with allergies. We eliminated beef and chicken and replaced them with fish and veal. We started trying different high-quality pet foods, mixing dry with moist food. The vet ordered several tests, including thyroid activity. Nothing showed up in the test results.
She was put on multiple rounds of antibiotics, anti-fungal medications and prednisone. We shampooed her two or three times a week using prescription shampoo, and we also tried medicated oatmeal shampoo, Selsun Blue medicated shampoo and Head & Shoulders shampoo, all to no avail.
Finally, we decided to have her tested for the type of allergies she may have. The test cost about $300, but it was worth it. Abigail is allergic to several things. However, the test that shot through the roof was food mites. The vet explained that some stores keep dog food on the shelf until it sells, rather than until its expiration date. Abigail is also allergic to dust mites.
We moved all the old rugs and even had hardwood floors put down in the den and hallway (something we were planning anyway, but this result expedited the change). The few rooms with carpet, which she does not go into often, were shampooed and sprayed for allergens. We threw away her old bedding, and all bedding and blankets are now washed weekly with hot water.
Abigail was placed on another round of antibiotics, anti-fungal medication and prednisone. We switched her food to a Blue Health Holistic Fish and Sweet Potato (dry and wet). Abigail had no signs of rash or scaly scabs within three months. It has been more than year and a half without any signs of a breakout.
It has been a long and trying road to get her relieved of her condition, but we consider our pets as part of our family, and we would do anything to relieve her discomfort. I hope this information will help others. -- E.R.P., Kernersville, N.C.
DEAR E.R.P.: I have noted several instances of food mite contamination of dry pet foods over the years. The bugs multiply inside the sealed, contaminated bags, so the older the bag, the greater the number of mites. Always check the expiration date on the bag, and think twice about buying discounted dog and cat foods past their expiration dates. Also, the older the food, the more nutrients are lost through oxidation.
Dust mites in the home are a significant allergen for dogs and cats. These mites eat the dead skin cells humans shed and the dander that dogs and cats shed.
Thorough vacuuming every five to seven days is a routine hygienic practice for all homes. You should also launder any animal bedding at the same intervals.
DOGS' SUPER SENSES
Dogs are acute observers of human behavior, so much so that they are trained to warn when a person with epilepsy is going to have a seizure. They also have an incredible sense of smell, which enables them to detect bladder cancer from urine, lung cancer from breath and diabetic ketosis from body odor. This reflects dogs' ability to detect differences between what is normal and abnormal, and to be trained to respond accordingly. Since our body chemistry changes under stress and distress, we should wonder how that impacts our canine companions and the "good" and "bad" scents they pick up from strangers.
Dogs can also detect deadly bacterial infections. Cliff, a 2-year-old beagle, is trained to detect the bacterium Clostridium difficile, which is responsible for 14,000 human deaths annually in the U.S. Cliff correctly identified the infection in 25 of 30 people and determined that 265 of 270 uninfected people didn't have the bacteria. Researchers say dogs could be trained to detect the infection more quickly than conventional tests.
Even the presence of a dog has its own magic. Dogs can often encourage children to read, and one autistic child recently spoke for the very first time in an outpouring of coherent sentences about his dog!
(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.)