DEAR DR. FOX: My Yorkie-daschund mix has been diagnosed with mange. So far, she has had three shots of ivermectin, just finished Simplicef tablets and has some special shampoo.
Her condition seems to be improving, but now she has matted patches of hair on her hind legs. When you scratch the matted hair, it comes right off. The vet says the entire family -- my husband and I -- needs to be treated for mange, but so far our medical doctors will not help. My husband has a recurring rash on his back, arms and legs. I have had few symptoms.
We don't know how the dog came into contact with mange, although there was a mangy timber wolf in our pasture. We actually saw the wolf a number of times when he was sleeping in our pasture; we burned the brush pile he was sleeping in this spring. The doctors have been clueless, and my husband has visited the emergency room twice, a walk-in clinic twice, a dermatologist (who said he had dry skin), his regular doctor and the same dermatologist. I have only experienced minor irritation.
When my husband burned the brush, he thinks the smoke may have gotten on him. But my mother and brother-in-law were diagnosed with scabies recently. We told all this to our doctors, but all we have gotten so far is various creams for ourselves, none of which are working very well.What else can we do -- for the dog and ourselves? -- M.J., Bemidji, Minnesota
DEAR M.J.: First, good for you for at least giving that poor wolf some shelter through the winter in your pasture. Many wolves with mange, having less and less fur insulation, die during the winter. The disease can wipe out one pack after another. Although it's against state wildlife regulations, providing food for such suffering wolves is one humane option. Severe cases should be euthanized or captured, treated and released.
Your dog probably picked up the Sarcoptes scabiei (itch mite) while sniffing around where the wolf had been sleeping in the brush, and then infected you and your husband. I came home from India one time after treating dogs and other animals and developed itchy bumps on one arm, which I recognized as probable scabies. I went to the emergency walk-in clinic at a major teaching hospital, where they did a scraping and found nothing -- which is not uncommon. The only thing I needed was Benzyl benzoate cream.
This is what you and your husband need. Essential oils of lavender, black pepper or citronella can also help. A lime-sulfur shampoo may help your dog. Usually, no more than two injections of ivermectin are needed to clear up the infestation in dogs. Boil all sheets, covers and clothes; don't sleep with your dog; and put out clean sheets for the dog to sleep on to break the infection cycle.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 3-year old tonkinese cat who chews off all my purses' leather zipper pulls. She does not chew the leather purse itself, or leather shoes, just the long leather fringelike pulls. I have been replacing these pulls with beaded pulls as I find them, but she always seems to find another purse fringe to chew on.
My guess is that chewing on dyed and processed leather is not healthy, but is there a small leather chew toy suitable for cats? Is this indicative of something missing from her diet? -- M.G., Alexandria, Virginia
DEAR M.G.: One of our cats likes to chew and swallow any kind of threadlike material -- string, clothing tassels, shoe laces, etc. This can put cats in jeopardy from swallowing harmful materials, including needles on the ends of threads, and in large quantities could cause intestinal blockage and perforation. A cat-safe environment includes keeping all such materials out of cats' reach, which calls for vigilance!
Your cat may crave more fiber in her diet, and part of a cat's natural diet includes skin, tendons, etc. from their prey. In some cases, this becomes an obsessive behavior and may be associated with underlying chronic infection/inflammation, which chewing and swallowing may help alleviate. Try giving your cat some sprouted wheat grass to chew on and scalded raw chicken wing tips or very thin, 3- to 4-inch long strips of raw chicken or turkey with the skin attached. Be sure to scald or briefly microwave first to kill potentially harmful bacteria that contaminate these kinds of factory-farmed animal products.
(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.net.)