DEAR DR. FOX: After reading your article on the poodle who swam in the river daily who had a dermatitis issue, I just had to write and tell you about a similar experience we had with our standard poodle about 25 years ago.
We lived in Lake Forest, Illinois, and my husband would walk our poodle with a friend and his golden retriever on the beach of Lake Michigan. They would throw sticks into the lake for the dogs to retrieve. Our dog began to itch and scratch and lose his hair like the dog in your article.
We took him to our vet, who said that he was reacting to the chemicals in the water from a processing plant in Waukegan, Illinois. This was just a few miles north of where we were. I asked why kids and the other dog didn't seem to be affected, and the vet wasn't sure about the golden, but said the kids always go home and bathe; we didn't bathe our poodle, just dried him off.
Long story short: We stopped letting him go in the water, and his skin condition disappeared. Maybe your reader could try this for his dog. It wouldn't hurt.
By the way, we appreciate you encouraging dog owners to feed their pets raw or frozen foods. We have been doing this for years, and our pets are quite healthy and living longer. We also have cut back on vaccinations. -- A.R., Bonita Springs, Florida
DEAR A.R.: Your letter concerning your dog's skin reaction to chemicals in the lake where he swam some 25 years ago is more relevant today than ever. It is astounding to me the degree of ignorance and callous indifference of not just polluting industries, but private individuals, too.
I live in Minnesota, "Land of 10,000 Lakes." Mining, timber pulp mills, industrial agriculture, community green-space management, golf courses and property owners with chemically treated lakes and riverside lawns pollute most of the natural lakes. Dogs have died very quickly from acute liver failure after swallowing "fresh" water contaminated with blue-green algae that flourish with all the nitrates and phosphates we release into the lakes and rivers across the United States.
For more details, see my article about pure water for animals at my website DrFoxVet.net.
The Bottom Line: Keep out of most water if there are no shower facilities with clean water close by. We should all support organizations like the Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth and the Earth Island Institute, who, among other nonprofit organizations, are working to clean up our messes and improve our health recovery.
DEAR DR. FOX: My dog, Sunny, is 15 years old. He is part yellow Lab and part beagle. He has always been a dirt eater. My vet says she doesn't quite know why. Sunny has slowed down because of his age, but he still gets around very well. He is a little hard of hearing, but otherwise the vet says he is in good shape for his age, with only a little muscle loss. I would appreciate your input on his eating dirt. -- B.H., St. Louis
DEAR B.H.: Many animal species eat dirt. Such behavior can be triggered by abdominal pain or discomfort and when dogs have anemia. More often, in my opinion, dogs eat dirt as a kind of self-medication, possibly to get certain nutrients lacking in their diets, or because of impaired digestive processes. These can decline with age, and many older dogs (people, too) benefit from being given probiotics, digestive enzymes and prebiotics. Discuss this option with your veterinarian, and keep me posted.
DEAR DR. FOX: This is a reply to the reader who asked why anyone would want a cat in his or her home:
My cat sleeps by my lower back. He knows when my bladder is going to go before I do. He meows to wake me, leads me to the bathroom, flushes my toilet and leads me back to bed. He wakes me at 6 a.m., leads me to my desk for my pills and then to the fridge for his food. When he finishes eating, he goes to the bedroom and whines until I make the bed.
When I leave my apartment, I keep the door open. He lies there by the open door and will not leave until he hears me coming. He meows and meows until he hears me coming, so I know where to go. I am in a power chair and could not get along without my cat.
That's why I want a cat -- he is excellent company. -- D.W., Perham, Minnesota
DEAR D.W.: Thanks for your account of how your cat cares for you. He should be an icon for his species, many of whom are neither understood nor appreciated by the less-informed of our own kind.
Indifference and prejudice toward other animals arise in part from the overarching chauvinism of society and deprivation of positive associations with them during formative childhood years.
CONCERNING PET FOOD AND TREAT RECALLS
Recalls of cat and dog foods and treats are announced frequently, reasons including contamination with mold and bacteria and, less frequently, ingredient deficiencies or excesses. Rather than take up limited column space with manufacturers' contact details, brand names, batch/lot numbers, etc., I will simply post product names and reasons for the recall and advise those who have purchased these products to return them to the place of purchase. Those who wish to keep informed in more detail should subscribe to Susan Thixton's pet food consumer alerts as detailed at truthaboutpetfood.com
-- Salix Animal Health, LLC of Deerfield, Florida, is voluntarily expanding its recall of Good 'n' Fun -- Beefhide Chicken Sticks because this product may be contaminated with salmonella.
-- Halo, Purely for Pets has initiated a limited, voluntary recall of its Spot's Stew Sensitive Cat Turkey kibble due to reports of mold. No other Halo products are affected.
(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.)