DEAR DR. FOX: In the paper a couple of months ago, you answered a letter from someone inquiring about black spots on her dog's skin. You said they were probably warts and to spray the spots with apple cider vinegar.
My cocker spaniel, Max, not only had black spots on his back and neck, but also on his stomach. The spots on his back were large and crusty, and the skin flaked off around them. His groomer thought he had allergies and dry spots and bathed him with oatmeal shampoo.
I thought your idea was worth a try, so I sprayed apple cider vinegar on his back a couple times a day -- when I remembered -- for a week or two. The spots not only reduced in size, but soon they were all gone -- even the spots I didn't put vinegar on disappeared. My vet had never heard of such a thing and was amazed. -- L.J., Rogue River, Ore.
DEAR L.J.: Yes, we have much to relearn from tried-and-true folk remedies for a variety of health problems. So many of the medications on the market today can have harmful side effects and are far more expensive than folk remedies. Remedies like apple cider vinegar and baking soda paste for skin conditions; peppermint or spearmint and ginger for nausea and an upset stomach; cramp bark or licorice for gut-ache; and valerian or catnip for anxiety are all great alternatives to expensive prescription medication.
While I do not advocate people making their own diagnoses, I urge more human and animal doctors to adopt a more integrative approach in their treatments. As an added bonus, unlike many prescribed drugs, these products are not an environmental health hazard when excreted.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have had a terrible problem with my 14-year-old male cat's eating habits. He will eat something for a while and then just stop. I try different foods with no luck. He also throws up just about every time he eats.
I've started giving him Gerber baby food -- turkey with turkey gravy. He gets a spoonful in the morning and another spoonful an hour or two later. After that, he gets cooked ground turkey, which I cook for him in salt-free chicken bouillon. I mix that with Science Diet kitten food (the minced liver and chicken entree). I add probiotics, psyllium and Be Well supplements to the mix. He seems to like it and does not throw up after eating. I've also tried Nature's Variety Instinct Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diet -- he ate that for about two days and now won't touch it, no matter what I mix it with.
Any suggestions on how to get him to eat and what he should be eating? -- M.L., Ft Myers, Fla.
DEAR M.L.: You are feeding your old cat just what I would recommend, but I would add a few drops of fish oil and encourage him to drink plenty of water. He may accept this via a dropper.
Most likely he is suffering from chronic kidney failure and needs a full veterinary checkup. Hydration and quality protein nutrition is important. Medication to help correct the kidney malfunction and to lower blood pressure if that is also an issue may be called for. Check my website for more details to help cats with this condition -- provided that is the veterinarian's diagnosis. Various cancers in older cats can produce similar symptoms, and this I cannot diagnose without seeing your cat and running various tests.
KRILL OIL SUPPLEMENTS
One aspect of veterinary bioethics is the source of various therapeutic products and nutrient supplements and their environmental impact/costs, which must be weighed against their effectiveness and availability of alternatives. A point in question is the current mass marketing of krill oil as a superior nutrient supplement to health-conscious consumers and pet owners, and which some veterinarians are now advocating and selling.
Krill is the food staple for several whale species and other marine creatures. The justification for krill harvesting is based primarily on profits and is a tie-in with the factory farming of corn-fed livestock and poultry notoriously deficient in omega-3s and with excess inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
There is now hope on the omega-3 supplement horizon -- and relief for krill and other marine resources -- with confirmation that cultures of algae could lead to the wholesale bioproduction of omega-3 fatty acids. Some of these are already being marketed and embraced by vegans and other heath- and environment-conscious consumers. For more details on why I am opposed to the shrimplike krill being taken from the oceans, see my entry at DrFoxVet.com.
(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.)