DEAR DR. FOX: I have a standard poodle who is about 7 years old. He developed sores and flaking skin on his nose that wouldn't go away. It seemed to expand to around his nostrils.
I took him to the vet, and he said my dog likely had lupus but could not tell for sure without a biopsy. I was saddened by this preliminary diagnosis. The crustiness would improve and get worse. Home treatment of Vaseline improved the appearance.
After a few months, I took him in for the recommended biopsy, which appeared painful and was also expensive. It turned up nothing but a crusty nose. Since then, I've looked online and found the problem is reported to be a common cosmetic issue. I treat it successfully with Blistex.
Now, I have two questions. Should my vet have been able to diagnose the crusty nose without all the cost and trauma of a biopsy? Also, is crusty nose truly benign and nothing to worry about? -- J.G., St. Louis
DEA J.G.: I have seen this kind of condition in standard poodles, and it certainly can be a lupuslike autoimmune disease, which I've seen lead to lesions around the nose, lips and face and broken and bleeding toenails.
Taking a biopsy can help in the diagnosis of autoimmune disease versus a benign skin condition, such as solar dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis. In many instances, a treatment trial with antihistamine or steroid cream -- or my formula of 10 drops each of frankincense, myrrh and helichrysum in 100 drops of olive or almond oil, applied two to three times daily -- can be more cost-effective and less distressing for the canine patient. Increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the daily diet may also help.
DEAR DR. FOX: I read your article about dogs sleeping under blankets, and there is wisdom with your words. However, our doxie, Boomer, sleeps with me and cries or barks if I don't hold the cover up so he can crawl under the blanket. If the crying or barking fails, he goes to the foot of the bed and pulls the covers up until he can crawl under.
Don't bother telling us he should sleep in his own bed. On his first night here, it was total chaos until he was in bed with us. The only time he uses his own bed is during the daytime. If we want to sleep, he's in our bed. -- J.M., St. Louis
Dear J.M.: I am sure that you are not alone in having a dog who likes his own bed for napping but insists on sleeping with you at night. This is an ancient behavior pattern of pack mates sleeping close together for safety in numbers.
At my wife Deanna Krantz's animal refuge in India, small groups of three or four dogs will sleep with resident staff, each dog knowing to which group and bed he belongs.
Most dogs like light covers for additional security as much as warmth, which is better than allowing the dog to lie between the sheets with you, especially if the odd tick might have been picked up outdoors.
PET OWNERSHIP WIDESPREAD BUT DOWN OVERALL
According to the latest American Veterinary Medical Association's United States Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, more than half of U.S. homes include a pet. However, ownership is down 2.4 percent compared with data collected in 2006. "That is something I was not expecting," AVMA President Dr. Douglas Aspros told USA Today. "Pets are important for people's mental, psychological and physical health. The decline is also bad for pets because there are a lot of animals left in shelters."
As I see it, the economic hard times afflicting so many families and individuals is a major reason why dogs and cats are filling up animal shelters in many communities across the country, too many of whom are euthanized. In some communities, there are now pet food banks and low-cost vaccination and health care outreach programs. I believe that many more are needed, modeled after the famed PDSA (Peoples' Dispensary for Sick Animals) in the United Kingdom, to enable people to keep their animal companions and maintain their health.
In the long term, this would be of significant economic savings because of the documented health benefits that companion animals can provide to children, adults and the elderly.
(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.)