DEAR DR. FOX: My wife and I adopted a 6-year-old Maltese rescue about six months ago.
We do not know any history on her, and it appears she was abused and mistreated. She runs away when approached, is afraid to be picked up and when picked up, turns her head so she does not face you. She will not come to us when called, except to eat. We have a doggie door that she has taken to well.
She does have another trait that my wife finds very annoying. She will go out the doggie door, then sit and bark, refusing to come back in the house. When approached, she runs out into the backyard until we finally back her into a corner to be picked up and returned to the house and close the doggie door.
Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated. -- C.F.C., Imperial, Missouri
DEAR C.F.C.: From your brief description of how you respond to your dog's reactions to you, consider ignoring the barking outdoors, which could just be for attention. Do not try to corner her and catch her to bring her inside. Let her come in when she wants to, and give her a treat when she comes in. This is best done when she has been on a 24-hour fast so she will be hungry and food-motivated.
Do you spend time playing with her outdoors, especially interactive games of fetch or hide-and-seek with some chasing? Her barking may be to invite you to play! Make a game out of chasing rather than just catching her to bring her indoors. Try some basic "sit" and "stay" instructions with the dog harnessed and leashed, using a long leash to teach her to come to you for a treat. A certified animal behaviorist may be worth consulting.
DEAR DR. FOX: In a recent column, you answered back-to-back allergy questions, one of which was about the long-term use of Atopica for a cat.
One year ago, we lost our beloved 7-year-old English setter, Otis, to liver cancer. Otis suffered from a variety of diagnosed food, seasonal and environmental allergies, which led to chronic suffering, and the related foot chewing and body scratching.
After years of trying a variety of diets, daily allergy injections and repeat courses of prednisone to try to alleviate his suffering, we started Otis on a daily dose of Atopica at the suggestion of an allergy specialist vet. After several weeks, the Atopica definitely had improved Otis' quality of life, and we followed the allergist's schedule of routine check-ins and blood tests, as Atopica can affect the liver. All was fine until about after a year of Atopica use, when Otis' fatigue and lack of eating led us to a non-routine blood test, which showed a slight elevation in liver enzymes. An ultrasound that was expected to show nothing actually showed multiple inoperable, large tumors throughout his liver; after about two months of trying to stimulate his appetite with prednisone and relieve his pain with Mobic, we euthanized him after an agonizing night of his crying showed us his quality of life was poor.
Pathetically, the allergist avoided returning my calls afterward, but I am convinced the Atopica caused Otis' cancer. I wanted to caution you and the cat owner from Florida about the long-term use of Atopica. -- J.S., Rumson, New Jersey
DEAR J.S.: Atopica risks per the manufacturer's statement:
"IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR ATOPICA (Cyclosporine capsules, USP) MODIFIED. As with all drugs, side effects may occur. In a field study, the most common side effects were gastrointestinal signs. Gingival hyperplasia and papillomas may also occur during the initial dosing phase. Atopica is a systemic immunosuppressant that may increase the susceptibility to infection. Atopica is not for use in reproducing dogs or dogs with a history of neoplasia."
I am not sure that this generally effective drug could have caused the liver cancer, but certainly, from what the manufacturers say, it could have aggravated a pre-existing cancer in the liver. I believe that some breeds and individual dogs are extremely sensitive to high-gluten dietary ingredients that can cause "leaky gut" syndrome, which in turn leads to large, potentially allergenic protein molecules entering the circulation. Dysbiosis (gut microflora imbalance) can aggravate this issue. Probiotics, prebiotics and even fecal enemas are part and parcel of dealing with "atopy"(skin disease of unknown origin in dogs). Omega-3 fatty acid supplements in the food are also advised. Fungal and bacterial infections, especially in the ears and feet, must be treated appropriately as secondary infections brought on in association with atopy and related immune system dysfunction.
(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.)