DEAR DR. FOX: My 4-year-old English cocker spaniel has significant folds on the lower side of her mouth. About six months ago, she began leaving dark spots on the furniture, our clothes and the bed. These spots were coming from her mouth, where something seems to gather in the folds. I try to clean her mouth once or twice a day with MalAcetic wipes (suggested by the vet), and my groomer says to use witch hazel on a gauze pad. This has become a chronic problem. I try to keep this part of her face clipped closely. But I would love to figure out how to stop it instead of just treating it.
Do you think a change in diet would help? I am at a loss, and I am wearing out my washing machine! Could I get the residue analyzed to see what it actually is? -- L.B., Vero Beach, Florida
DEAR L.B.: There are bacteria and fungi that live normally on a dog's skin and oral cavity, and when established as a balanced population, like a well-managed garden, help keep the skin and gums healthy and prevent injurious organisms from becoming established. Some of these microflora can produce porphyrin compounds that stain and cause the problems you are facing. Your poor dog probably hates the smell of her stain-making drool.
The stain (pigment) can come not only from some of these microorganisms, but also from artificial dyes in pet foods, some of which are known carcinogens and should be banned.
Did the attending veterinarian closely evaluate your dog's oral health, including teeth and gums? That is a first consideration. I would try PetzLife's oral gel for dogs and my home-prepared diet and treats (posted on my website, DrFoxVet.net) or a dye-free dog food -- I like Sojo's freeze-dried dog foods.
Witch hazel wipes are good, but change to doing it twice daily for three days and then repeating after a three-day break. Your dog may benefit from a vitamin A supplement or Nordic Natural's cod liver oil for dogs, since cocker spaniels can develop a stinky skin condition (seborrhea) and they require more of this vitamin in their diets.
DOGS CAN DETECT POTENTIAL BACTERIAL INFECTIONS
A springer spaniel named Angus is trained to detect Clostridium difficile (C-diff) in the environment, and he'll soon be working full time, allowing staff at Vancouver General Hospital to do targeted disinfection. Angus' success rate is between 95 and 100 percent, and his brother, Dodger, will be trained next, says dog trainer Teresa Zurberg.
DEAR DR. FOX: We had a cat who suddenly started biting around age 4. He would get a wild look in his eye and rush and bite. I took him to the vet after he attacked my daughter. The vet asked if he was a jumper, and suggested an X-ray. It turns out he had a pinched a nerve in his spine. A very short course of steroids and muscle relaxants did the trick. -- D.W., Albany, New York
DEAR D.W.: You are most fortunate to have taken your cat to such a vigilant veterinarian, who must have suspected a pain-trigger for this behavior during the initial physical examination, one sign being hyperesthesia or hypersensitivity along the back. As a preventive measure, a daily massage as per my book, "The Healing Touch for Cats," could help prevent recurrence.
APPRECIATION OF ANIMALS USED IN BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH
Lisa G. Portnoy, DVM, DACLAM, Animal Care Program director National Institute of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, sent me this announcement:
"The Animal Research Advisory Committee members and the IC Animal Program Directors decided to commemorate the exceptional efforts and contributions made by the animal care staff and research animals to the mission of the NIH and the many health advances that have been supported. The commemoration will be a bronze plaque affixed to a granite boulder to be placed on the south side of the Clinical Center. The boulder will be a quiet spot with two benches along with discrete landscaping elements. The plaque will read: 'With recognition and gratitude to the research animals and the NIH animal care and use community that have contributed to exceptional biomedical research advances. Presented by the Animal Research Advisory Committee.'"
I empathize with both the animals and those involved in their care and pray for the day when there will be more alternatives to using live animals in biomedical research and greater integration of clinical studies of animals already ill as we move toward a better application of the One Health concept and preventive health care for all.
(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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)