DEAR DR. FOX: I recently inherited a very active and healthy 15-year-old Himalayan cat. She has always had a thin area of fur on the base of her tail, under the belly and between her legs. After we took her in, it got worse. She is never allowed outside, and neither she nor my other cat has fleas.
I took her to an allergy vet, who suggested I put her on Atopica. Because she is only 7 1/2 pounds, she is on a small dose for dogs. Atopica for cats is in the liquid form, and I'm not sure I could administer it without her choking.
Without expensive testing, we have concluded it is environmental. My husband is in the nursery business, and our yard is full of blooming trees and plants that he brings into the house on his person. Atopica has worked well, except for about a month in the summer when she gets a little breakout on the base of her tail. I wash it with dandruff shampoo and it clears up.
Do you have any suggestions as to what else I can use besides Atopica? -- D.E., Lake Worth, Florida
DEAR D.L.: Since the Atopica supplement seems to help your cat, I would continue administering it.
The seasonal flare-up in her skin around the base of her tail (where it is difficult for her to reach to groom herself) might best be treated with a mild chamomile, lavender or aloe vera shampoo. Provided she's not allergic to fish, give her a canned sardine every day. The oil in such fish helps animals with a variety of skin conditions. It is quite possible she has an underlying thyroid disease, which may be worth your veterinarian evaluating.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a Jack Russell terrier, and we have a problem. Jasper, a shelter dog, bites his feet. They get very red and look sore. I have changed his food: He now eats Purina lamb and rice.
What do you think I can do to get him to stop chewing on his feet? I'm thinking of changing his diet again. Jasper is 4 years old, and I'm at my wits' end. -- K.L., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR K.L.: I sympathize with you and your poor dog. This is a distressing condition that can quickly worsen the more the dog licks and chews his paws.
You must take your dog to see a veterinarian. Even if you are correct that diet has something to do with this, it takes careful sleuthing and giving a so-called "elimination diet" to reach a diagnosis and solution. There may be other causes independent of diet -- even a wool blanket or floor cleaner you use. Your dog may also be given immediate relief with a short-term treatment of prednisone, which can be a minor miracle for dogs like yours and help trigger the healing processes.
PEOPLE PREFERRING ANIMALS TO OTHER PEOPLE
Many readers have confided to me that they feel closer to and prefer the company of animals, rather than their own kind. Some express a feeling of guilt or of being a kind of "outsider," while others are quite clear about being misanthropes -- seeing more goodness in species other than humans. Some are shocked by how deeply they mourn the loss of a trusted and devoted dog or cat, compared to the death of a close family member.
I regard all these sentiments as healthy and justifiable: Animals do not lie or betray us. They do not wreak ecological damage and catastrophic environmental harm on the scale that we humans do, or engage in mass warfare and genocide.
(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.)