DEAR DR. FOX: We are at our wit's end with our 14-year-old Chihuahua/rat terrier. He is having some sort of reaction and, according to our vet, is producing too much yeast.
We have been taking him to the vet for a monthly allergy shot, bathing him weekly with Pharmaseb Shampoo and feeding him Hill's Prescription z/d food in addition to a small amount of homemade chicken and vegetables. His whole belly is like alligator skin, and he is losing hair on the top of his back. Besides the expense of the monthly trip to the vet and the shot, the food is expensive, too. Now the vet is suggesting an allergy test that would cost $500, along with keeping my dog on a serum for the next several months, which would cost $325 every three months.
Is there anything else we can try? I am desperate for help and a solution. This poor little dog spends 3/4 of the day scratching. He even stops to scratch before going out for a pee in the backyard. His ears are also inflamed.
Do you have any suggestions? Is this an immune system problem? Is this just par for the course for older dogs? -- J.F., Palm Beach, Fla.
DEAR J.F.: Your poor dog is suffering indeed. First, has mange, a skin parasite, been ruled out? Next, consider hypothyroidism, which in older dogs is often combined with Cushing's disease, both of which the veterinarian should have checked for.
The possibility of an underlying food ingredient allergy or intolerance remains, and one of the problems with these expensive prescription diets is that they often contain additives and other ingredients as well as contaminants that may cause more harm than good.
I would put your dog on a "detox" diet of 3 parts boiled brown rice or quinoa; 2 parts ground lamb or white fish; and 1 part chopped green beans for three to five days. After that, transition him onto a boiled potato and white fish diet with a pediatric multimineral or multivitamin tablet and a few drops of fish oil mixed in. Also, give your dog probiotics and a bath using Selsun Blue medicated shampoo, followed a week later with a soothing oatmeal and aloe vera or chamomile shampoo.
DEAR DR. FOX: My 7-year-old yellow Lab has a bad habit that is driving me crazy. When she is in the yard playing with a ball or stick, she stops playing and starts pulling out the grass with her teeth. She does not dig holes.
She does this when she is alone a and when I am out there with her. When you try to correct her, she thinks it is a game, runs across the yard and does it again.
What can be done to correct this behavior? We cannot leash her every time she needs to go out or prevent her from running around. Do you think an electronic training collar would help, or might it do more damage to her mental state? Any recommendations would be appreciated. -- M.M.
Dear M.M.: Is your dog eating some of the grass or just snapping and pulling it up?
If she is eating some of the grass, you must know that is normal dog behavior. Give her a small unmowed patch of couch grass to nibble on. This could be good for her digestive system and urinary tract. Dogs with some internal irritation or discomfort will often eat grass, and not always to trigger vomiting.
If this is more a redirected play behavior, throw her some sturdy squeaky toys and 18-inch ropes with a knot on both ends, which she may especially enjoy being able to retrieve and "kill."
Never use a shock collar. For details, check my short article, "Dominance Training" on my website, DrFoxVet.com.
(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.
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