DEAR DR. FOX: Several years ago, my sister suffered a cat bite and the cat was never caught. As a precaution, she went to the hospital for rabies shots.
She has terrible plaque psoriasis. Strangely, the rabies shots completely cleared up her psoriasis -- but after several weeks, it came back. Do you have any explanation for this? -- C.M.C., Cumberland, Maryland
DEAR C.M.C.: It is my educated guess that cellular elements of your sister's immune system, which was over-reactive to her own skin and causing the autoimmune disease of plaque psoriasis, were temporarily "distracted" and redirected to respond to the rabies vaccine. This could open up a new approach to autoimmune diseases, rather than prescribing often-risky drugs to suppress the immune system. It may also have some resonance with homeopathy (treating like with like) and possibly acupuncture -- both therapeutic fields beyond my scope.
Our collective knowledge of immune system functions is still relatively rudimentary, as demonstrated by recent discoveries about how the gut microbiome and genetics influence immunity and susceptibility to autoimmune and degenerative diseases.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our pup, a 3- or 4-year-old rescued shepherd, developed a tumor the size of a small walnut near her left shoulder. Our vet aspirated it, said mast cells were present and suggested removal of the tumor. We did have it removed, and have also started a regimen of Benadryl.
Is there a pro-immune-system additive or supplement that you recommend? We feed her Blue Seal kibble and canned meat. -- T.D., Poughkeepsie, New York
DEAR T.D.: Sorry to hear that a dog so young as yours has developed cancer. Mast cell tumors seem to be on the rise, and I wonder what is going on to trigger this kind of multifactor disease in our animal companions.
Not so long ago, chatting with friends while walking our dogs, they had me feel a lump on their dog Gunnar's hip. Their vet had just diagnosed is as a fatty tumor and said not to worry. I palpated it and urged an immediate second opinion, fearing it was a mast cell tumor. A biopsy confirmed my suspicions.
When caught early, before it can spread to internal organs, dogs can recover from such tumors, but the surgical removal must be very thorough. Antihistamines can help subdue the histamine release from these tumors. I strongly advise diets that are low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fat for dogs with any cancer. Add a few drops of fish oil to their food daily, plus antioxidants like grated raw carrots and scalded blueberries (1 tablespoon of each per 40 pounds of body weight), mixed with cottage cheese for enhanced palatability. Also, try melatonin (3 mg per 40 pounds body weight) at bedtime and one daily (human) dose of a supplement with chelated magnesium, zinc, selenium, B complex and vitamins A, D and E. Do this for five to seven days, then stop for about three days, then repeat. Nordic Naturals cod liver oil (just a few drops) is also a good supplement for vitamins A and D and omega-3 fatty acids.
All these supplements are good for aging dogs and may help prevent cognitive decline -- same for us!
Your dog may develop more mast cell tumors and, after correct diagnosis, there is an alternative to surgery worth your veterinarian considering. A new treatment for mast cell tumors that are less than 8 cubic centimeters in size is to inject them with an extract from the seeds of the Australian blushwood tree. The company behind the treatment is Virbac; ask your veterinarian to look into it if this issue does recur.
DEAR DR. FOX: My dog is 12 years old, and she has been coughing for the past eight months. We took her to vet and they ran lots of tests, including radiographs, to see if it could be her heart. They said it wasn't kennel cough. They gave us cough tabs, which didn't help. We took her to another veterinarian and they told us the same thing -- that they don't know what it could be.
She has a lump in her neck area, which they looked at but said it wouldn't have anything to do with the cough. Could you please help? -- J.S., via email
DEAR J.S.: I am sorry to hear that your dog's condition has neither been diagnosed nor effectively treated. There are many reasons why old dogs cough, ranging from chronic heart failure with congestion in the lungs to lung cancer, bronchitis (either bacterial or parasitic), and even a foreign body such as an inhaled grass awn in the upper respiratory area.
I always request people writing to me to give their city of residence, which can help me in many ways: Some health issues are geographic, and some readers may be close to a state veterinary college to which I would refer cases like yours. See below for one such localized disease outbreak.
INFECTIOUS CANINE RESPIRATORY DISEASE WARNING
An infectious canine respiratory disease caused by mycoplasma bacteria appears to be spreading in places where dogs congregate. Veterinarian Angela Lusty says she and her colleagues in central and southeastern Michigan have seen a rising number of cases over the past two to three weeks. The disease is neither kennel cough nor COVID-19. It can progress to severe disease if untreated, but usually resolves quickly with veterinary care. (Full story: MLive.com, 9/29)
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)