Recurring ear infections

Q: I have a Cocker Spaniel that gets recurrent ear infections. What should I do to help prevent these infections, and are Cocker Spaniels more prone to this than other breeds?

A: Otitis externa, outer ear infections, are very common in Cocker Spaniels. Many of them develop low grade infections that flare up from time to time, causing discomfort, bad odors, moisture and waxy discharge. The long floppy ears tend to trap moisture and infection, making floppy eared dogs more prone to recurrent infections than dogs with open, upright ears. Cocker Spaniels often have much hair within the ear canal, which traps dirt and germs, compounding the problem. Due to inbreeding, these dogs are also more likely to develop allergies, and some ear infections are merely chronic allergies to ear fungi.

To combat the problem, the first step is proper diagnosis. General treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics and steroidal anti-allergy medications do help initially, but fail for long term control. You may need to keep your dog off all treatment for several weeks to remove the chemical influence on diagnostic procedures. Then, your veterinarian can perform tests such as cultures for bacteria and fungi, allergy tests, blood panels, and microscopic examination of ear canal scrapings for mites. When the results come in, you’ll be ready for a lifelong treatment regimen. Like flea control and other problems that plague our pets, chronic otitis externa often requires care for the life of the dog

A typical treatment regimen may include an initial combination of oral systemic antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication, and topical antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory drops. Once the immediate infection is suppressed, a program of weekly ear cleaning, disinfection and drying is instituted. Periodic topical and systemic antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications may be necessary. I usually try to avoid constant long term medications to preserve the germ susceptibility to the antibiotics and to avoid the side effects of steroids. Your veterinarian may set you up on a program of regular rechecks and re-cultures. If steroids are part of the program, regular blood panels may be necessary.

Moist ear infections often involve moisture requiring bacteria and fungi or yeast. Keeping the ears dry greatly improves this form of otitis. Avoiding swimming, and drying the ears thoroughly following baths will help. Ear drying solutions help too. In these cases, one should avoid putting too much cleaner and medication into the ear, especially if it merely adds to the moisture.

The regular cleaning and disinfection of a Cocker Spaniel’s ears is critical to prevent an infection from reoccurring.

My dog ears have scabs and bumps.

Q: My dog has been having ear trouble lately. His ear is red with bumps which may be blisters, and they are peeling. Further down in his ear, he has brown spots, like scabs but not bleeding, and his ear is a little sensitive. Do you possibly know what it is?

A: Bumps and scabs on a dog’s ear may indicate fly bite dermatitis. Biting flies attack the delicate and sparsely haired skin of the ear. The problem is worse in the summer months when flies are plentiful.

Some flies like flesh flies, face flies, houseflies and blowfiles are attracted to blood. Keep your dog’s ears and other areas free of blood. Bathe your dog at least weekly. Keep him indoors if possible. Outdoor fans keep many flies away. You can use fly trap bags, called Big Stinkies, in the area. Hang them in the far corners of your yard to attract the flies away. Pyrethrin sprays and wipes are safe and partially effective. They must be applied every two to six hours, which is often inconvenient. Horse feed and tack stores often have better products than regular pet shops. I like the pyrethrin barn mister, which sprays an area automatically every fifteen minutes. Holiday and VIP pyrethrin fly ointment works on ear tips.

Bandages trap moisture and make wounds more attractive to the flies, so let wounds breathe. Consider fly masks and light covers to wounds if severe. Most of these flies breed in feces and garbage. Try to find the source and eliminate it.

Many cities have pest control abatement departments which may help clean up your neighbors and other areas.

Dogs and ear mites

Q: My dog shakes her head all the time. I thought she had ear mites and bought ear mite medication at the local pet store. I used it for two weeks but she is still shaking her head all the time. Is this serious?

A: Ear mites may be causing your dog’s discomfort. However several other possibilities must also be considered. She may have an ear infection or foreign material in her ear. She may be shaking due to an eye problem, inner ear infection, fleas or other causes. Your veterinarian can best determine the origin of her problem by a thorough physical examination, including a deep otoscopic exam.

Ear mites live in the environment and infest a dog’s ear canal when the dog rolls in the grass, or wind carries the mites to the ear. The live in the superficial skin of the canal, causing irritation and damage. Infections may follow if left untreated. The mites are fragile, and are killed by mineral oil, oil based ear ointments or insecticidal ear mite medicine. Even when only one ear is suspected infested, both should be treated. Treatment is usually five drops twice daily for one week, then repeated once every three to four days. Even though the mites are killed easily by medicating, they return quickly by re-invading from the environment. The ears should be cleaned thoroughly after treatment is finished.

Foreign bodies, such as fox tails, insects and burrs may bother the ear canal, and can cause severe infections. Your veterinarian can scope deep down the ear canal and remove such objects.

Infections, bacterial and fungal, are common secondary problems to mites and foreign bodies, or they may be primary problems. Cultures, topical ointments, systemic antibiotics and/or ear disinfectant cleaners may be necessary for recovery.

If your dog seems severely affected, or if a mild problem persists more than a few days without improvement, you shouldn’t hesitate to visit your veterinarian

Possible canine skin infection

Q: My three month old German Shepherd is always chewing or scratching. She doesn’t have fleas. Her skin doesn’t seem to be dry or flaky. What can I do to stop the constant chewing or scratching?

A: There can be many, many causes of pruritic dermatitis (itchy skin). A visit by your veterinarian is really necessary. A certain degree of chewing and scratching is normal dog behavior. Excessive chewing or scratching does indicate a problem. She may have mange mites, allergies, contact irritation, seborrhea, fly bites, skin cancer, metabolic disease or one of many other causes. Your veterinarian will ask many questions, such as when, how long, where etc. After a thorough history, a physical exam will help determine the cause. Certain diseases affect specific areas on the body. Others affect the entire body. You may need blood tests, skin scrapings or other samples run at the laboratory. The good news is veterinarians are generally successful at solving pruritic dermatitis. Sorry, the solution is not as simple as using a different shampoo.

Sleeping with cats in the bed

Q: I have several cats, and one of my cats shares my pillow at night. A friend recently told me that it’s dangerous to allow cats near my face at night, as I can breath in their fur and have it lodge in my lungs. Is this true, and if so, what are the dangers?

A: Cat fur presents no more danger than other sources of dust, dirt or dander. Unless you are allergic to cats, you are safe cuddling as close as you want to your cat.

What causes lumps on my Pekinese?

Q: I have a male Pekinese and when I was giving him a bath I found two hard bumps on his back and side. My vet is going to do surgery and send for biopsy. Of course I am fearing the worst. What could they be?

A: Hard lumps can be many different things. The most common superficial lump in the skin of Pekinese is the sebaceous cyst. Much can be done before considering anesthesia, surgery and biopsy. You may ask your doctor to perform a fine needle aspirate of the lumps. This is done without sedation or anesthesia. The aspirate can be visually evaluated in the syringe. Lipomas, seromas, hematomas and cysts have distinctive appearances, and can be identified without laboratory analyses. In the case of tumors, the aspirated sample can be placed on a slide and submitted to the laboratory for cytological evaluation.

My dog has many weird blisters and is losing hair

Q: I have no where else to turn to help save my dog, who has a severe skin problem. It started out like a hot spot, but turned into raised blood blister like things. The skin splits and then it runs blood. The vet thought that it was a bacteria, but intense treatment has not completely cured it. Twice it seemed to go away, but returns. She has now stopped eating and is losing weight. She has a lot of small knots under her skin. Countless visits to the vet have been fruitless and am afraid we are going to lose her.

A: A skin biopsy collected at several sites under local anesthetic would be most diagnostic. Although many possibilities exist, this problem sounds like pemphigus. Several types of pemphigus exist. This is a non-contagious skin condition related to an abnormal immune response. If it is pemphigus, no cure exists. However it can be so well controlled through medication you wouldn’t even know the disease was present.

Kittens with ear mites

Q: I gave away two kittens about a week ago and now the lady is asking me to take them back because they have ear wax that her sister claims is dried up blood. None of the other cats/kittens that I kept had this ear wax problem. She claims that it came from my house and now I have to take them back. I need to know what this could be, if it is contagious and what I can do about it? I don’t want my other cats to get this thing whatever it is.

A: Excessive dark ear wax in one or both ears of a cat is usually indicative of ear mites. These minute spider-like creatures infest the ear canals of cats. Like fleas, they irritate the skin when they drink blood. The cat’s ear responds by producing wax in attempt to defend itself. Cats or kittens with ear mites often shake their heads and scratch at their ears.

Ear mites spread to the environment, then to other cats. They are considered highly contagious. Elimination includes keeping the environment clean, and treating the kitten or cat with topical mitacidal ointment. It often takes a week or more to eliminate the problem. Since the mites infest the home, recurrence is common. Treat each occurrence aggressively, and eventually the problem will leave your home.

Ear infections, excessive ear canal hair, and foreign bodies in the ear can also cause dark wax and discharge. Keep this in mind if the problem doesn’t resolve with ear mite treatment.

Why does my cat scratch his ears?

Q: I have a male neutered 10 year old cat with low white and red blood count. He has an unidentified ear problem which causes him to shake his head repeatedly and scratch his ears until most all hair is gone and often bloody. After $1000 in blood tests/bone morrow/ear cleaning bills the vet states he doesn’t have Feline Leukemia but a non-specific blood cancer. He is on 10 mg of Prednisone/day, 1/4 tablet of 2 mg Alkeran every other day, Neomycin/Dex/Thi (3-drops each ear twice daily) and Gentocin (Gentamicin Sulfate) for the abraded skin around the ears. He is minimally responding to treatment for the blood cancer, but what concerns me most is the on going ear problem and his discomfort as current treatment has done little to help. The vet states little more can be done as there is no indication of mites/yeast or other infection. What can we do to help him be more comfortable?

A: Cats, just like people, are susceptible to a multitude of different cancers. You can consult an oncology specialist veterinarian to more clearly identify the non-specific blood cancer, and to consider more treatment options.

The ears may be affected by the cancer directly, the cancer may generate blood clots which block vessels in the ears, or the cancer may weaken your cat’s immune system allowing normal bacteria to induce inflammation. The ear itch could be induced by the current therapy. What ever the original cause of the irritation, the shaking and scratching creates inflammation and irritation which self perpetuates the problem. Just like the chapped lip scenario, you must block the cycle to stop the problem. Physical barriers may help. Consider using an Elizabethan collar, head bandages and/or paw booties to prevent self damage. Soothing ointments may comfort more than the antibiotic liquids you are using. Make sure the ear canals are free of mites and foreign bodies.

What can I do for my retriever’s crusty nose?

Q: My three-and-a-half year old Golden Retriever had what I thought might be a well placed wipe on his nose from one of the cats. I noticed a small, bloody spot on his nose which I wiped clean and applied some Neosporin. Now his poor nose seems to have what looks like chapped lips along the edge of his nose where the fur begins on his snout. I’ve begun applying some Cortaid, but I’m not sure what I’m really dealing with. Could it be some sort of a fungus? Oregon has had a long week of rain (as usual), and could the initial cat punch let a spore in somehow? I’d appreciate any input. Thanks!

A: The edges of a dog’s nose often become hard and dry associated with illness, age, and dermatitis. An upper respiratory infection can cause the chapping you describe, but would be associated with nasal discharge, coughing and sneezing. Golden Retrievers show their age in the nares of their noses after reaching eight years. Your dog is less than four.

Perry has rostral dermatitis. Fly bites and sun burn are the most likely culprits. These are treated with topical fly repellents and sun block or avoidance. Fungal dermatitis, or ringworm is a possibility, but would only affect the hairy areas of the body, not the nares of the nose. Mange, caused by mites, also only affects the hairy skin. Both ringworm and mange spread rapidly and make dogs itch severely. In some unusual cases, people mean well by applying a variety of topical ointments, which the dogs are quick to lick off. The induced nose licking actually chaps the nose, as with lips in humans.

A quick visit to your veterinarian will give you a precise diagnosis, and let you rest easy.

Does Program ® (Lufenuron) really work on flea control?

Q: Do these flea control pills really work? What is the best way to control fleas this summer?

A: An effective flea control program includes environmental agents for long term perimeter protection, and products applied directly to your pet for immediately relief and short term repulsion of fleas.

Your basic attack plan depends on the precise nature of your home, yard and pets. It may include house and yard sprays, carpet powders, shampoos, dips, flea combing, foggers, collars and repellents. Households with outdoor cats and dogs may need all forms of control simultaneously. Those of us lucky enough to have only strictly indoor cats may get by this summer with a good flea bath and dip, and pyrethrin spray on the doorway thresholds. Certain tricks of putting carbaryl powder in the carpet and vacuuming, putting a flea collar in the dog house and cleanliness are always helpful.

When shopping for products, be careful to read labels. If you have a cat, kitten or puppy, the label must say it is safe for these pets. Also, more expensive or “all natural” is not necessarily better, and really cheap products are often overly diluted. This year, pyrethrins and methoprene in sprays and foggers, pyrethrin derivative shampoos, carbaryl powders, and chlorpyriphos in yard sprays are perhaps your best bets. Keep in mind chlorpyriphos is not safe to use directly on cats.

Lufenuron, sold as Program in stores, is an oral pesticide used in dogs and cats. This medication is administered as a pill or suspension once a month. It should not be given to other animals not specifically mentioned on the label. The Lufenuron is absorbed into your pet’s body, and infiltrates the skin. Lufenuron is a benzoylurea pesticide, with fungicidal properties. Fleas that eat enough of this chemical by chewing on your pet’s skin, pass the pesticide onto the next generation of fleas in their eggs. The larvae of these eggs are abnormal, and fail to develop a proper exoskeleton. Lufenuron works by blocking the production of chitin in the insect’s external hard protective covering. Such fleas are not killed, and continue to pester your poor pet. The flea population is reduced by decreasing the survival of subsequent generations of fleas. Program is only helpful when used in conjunction with other flea control products. We have found it to be ineffective alone, and not worth the effort with the many better flea products on the market. We have found it completely ineffective in pets that go outside.

You should consult your veterinarian for more advice on flea control products. Many of the best products are available by prescription only. We recommend and personally use Revolution for flea and tick control.

My cat has a big lump on her lip. What could this be?

Q: My cat recently developed a large lump on her lip. I was told by a friend that it is an abscess and that it will pop. However, I think it may be a tumor. One way or another it needs to be looked at and taken off. Approximately how much does something like this cost?

A: Lip lumps may be tumors, abscesses, hematomas (blood blisters), feline acne, or seromas (water blisters). Examination by a veterinarian can determine if it is a fluid filled vesicle or a hard mass, such as a tumor. Each is treated differently. Abscesses and blisters are lanced, drained and treated topically, usually without anesthesia. A tumor may require general anesthesia, histopathology, blood tests, and even x-rays to determine if metastases have occurred. Your best option is to visit your veterinarian, and get an estimate for advanced procedures prior to giving your permission to continue. The cost can vary from the cost of an office visit, under fifty dollars, to hundreds of dollars in the case of a cancerous tumor.

What are these black spots appearing on my dog’s belly?

Q: I rescued my Golden Retriever from the shelter last October. I knew he suffered from some type of dermatitis causing him to scratch himself almost non-stop to the point of bleeding. He also has pyoderma and is administered 1,000 mg of Keflex per day. Recently, however, I’ve noticed that he has irregularly shaped black spots on his underside. Is this a thyroid problem and, if so, what can I do to help him?

A: Black spots on the skin in areas of current or previous dermatitis are indicative of hyperpigmentation. This is a normal reaction of the skin to chronic irritation. Melanin pigment infiltrates areas of scar tissue. The degree of pigmentation is often proportional to the degree and duration of dermatitis. If the initial skin problem has resolved, the pigmentation is no problem, and does not warrant treatment. The pigmentation is permanent. To be on the safe side, you may wish to have your veterinarian examine the area, for some hyperpigmentation problems, such as the cancer melanoma, need immediate attention.

Bumps on cat’s legs

Q: My cat Mickie has these sore like bumps on his forearm. The vet said it is probably an allergy. After the antibiotics and shots wore off they returned and now there are three more of them. Do you think he could be allergic to a specific food with dyes or something? I was to have allergy testing done but it’s too expensive for me. I have a cream from the vet that I put on twice a day and it seems to help somewhat but he totally goes nuts when I put it on. He has licked the area bald and he is only over a year old. What should I do? Do you recommend a special food to try? He loves his dry and canned food. My other cat has no problems at all with anything like this, and neither does his blood brother. What do you think it could be, and what do you think I should i try to help him get this gone?

A: The source of the bumps needs to be investigated. First, we should determine the general category of the ailment: is it an allergy, insect bite, trauma, irritation, infection or wound? Then, we can analyze all the possible causes within the category to determine the cause. After, treatment is easy. Allergies occur spontaneously, can appear anywhere on the body, and are seen as red bumps that rise from within the skin. Allergic bumps, or urticaria, usually arise suddenly, and are numerous. Insect or mite bites are more localized, rise slower than allergies, and are fewer in number. Skin infections, either viral, bacterial or fungal present in quite a variety of ways, from pustules to severely infected, oozing sores. Certain diagnostic tests, such as a skin scraping for mites, checking for fleas, a complete blood count test to see if allergy or infection fighting white blood cells are elevated, and fungal cultures of hairs may be necessary if a close physical and microscopic examination are unable to determine the cause.

The most common causes which come to mind include simple staph infections on cats who lick their forelegs in boredom, and flea bites. Generalized allergies to food and environment are less likely, due to the localized, intermittent, small number of bumps.

Sometimes a complete treatment plan, including anti-allergy oral medication, antibiotics and medicated bathes help problems, bypassing the diagnostic phase. The problem doesn’t sound life threatening, so I wouldn’t be too afraid of losing him to these skin bumps.

Itchy dog

Q: My eight month old female dog has been scratching and chewing constantly. She is a lab/dobie mix. There are no fleas on her, but she seems to be shedding excessively, and I’ve noticed some pink scabs on her chest next to her front leg.

A: Itchy dogs are common at all times of the year. Pruritis, or itchiness, can be caused by allergies, insects or mites, fungi such as ring worm, metabolic diseases and many other ailments. From your description, allergic dermatitis is most likely. Something in the air, in your dog’s food, or something that has bitten your dog starts an allergic response, resulting in pruritis. If the chewing and hair loss is heavy on her rump and abdomen, then flea bites are very likely. Even though you do not see any fleas, they may still be present in the environment. A flea may bite her on a foreleg, then jump off. The allergic response presents itself on her rump, where you see her chew. After a good bath, and basic dog, home and yard flea control measures are taken, if the itching and hair loss persist, I would recommend having her veterinarian take a closer look at her. Your veterinarian may also be able to assist with anti-pruritic shampoos and medications.

Why is my ferret losing her hair?

Q: I adopted a ferret a little over two months ago. I had noticed a little hair missing from her tail area. Now one of my ferrets, that I’ve had two years, has less hair on her tail. A week later my other two ferret’s tail hairs have started to disappear. My vet seems to think it’s mange, but I’m not sure. If you could offer any advice it would be greatly appreciated.

A: The ferret’s hair loss may be due to mites, hormonal imbalances, ringworm or chewing behavior. Mites are common and highly contagious. They usually affect the entire body, particularly the legs, tail base and abdomen. Mites cause intense itching, and a rash in affected areas.

Ferrets are susceptible to several severe diseases and cancers of their internal organs, creating hormonal imbalances. Such imbalances cause weight loss, and symmetrical hair loss. The hair loss leaves normal underlying skin, and usually affects the back and sides.

Ringworm is a fungus which cause patches of hair loss. The edges of the hair loss regions are reddened and form scabs. Ringworm spreads quickly, and will not confine itself the tail only.

The ferrets may be over grooming each other, chewing off the tail base hair. Aggressive behavior may also be contributory. Separation and observation will help identify this as your problem. In consideration of having multiple ferrets, and the problem is confined to the tails, behavioral tail chewing is the most likely cause of hair loss.

Guinea pig hair loss

Q: I noticed that my guinea pig has very dry skin. There is dandruff everywhere and she is beginning to lose her hair. We change her water everyday and make sure she has a clean house and a good diet. What could be the cause of this?

A: Guinea pigs are prone to vitamin deficiencies, mange mites and allergic dermatitis. Be sure to use guinea pig food, not rabbit pellets which look similar. Guinea pigs require more Vitamin C and E. Excessive crusting around the eyes often indicates a Vitamin C deficiency. You can supplement with citrus or Vitamin C fortified beverages. Mange mites cause a rash and hair loss, usually worse on the back and rump. Allergic dermatitis is often caused by pine shavings, and is worse on the chest and abdomen. You can use human baby shampoo to bathe the pigs, and a cream rinse is a good idea.

Itchy sore on dog

Q: I have a black Labrador/Great Dane mix about a year and a half old who has developed some sort of skin problem that has myself and my vet stumped. He gets round ulcer like sores on his skin that lead to hair loss followed by frantic itching and licking. My vet has checked for flea allergy, ring worm (which it looks a lot like), mites, and an assortment of other things. My lab has been on Cephalexin off and on for the last seven months. He also has had two steroid shots for the itching. Still the sores keep coming back in multitudes once the antibiotic is gone.

A: Many diseases can cause the dermatological condition you describe. Labs and Danes are particularly bad about over licking themselves in places they itch. This can cause an area of slight irritation to develop into a large, very itchy, open sore. Insect bites and spider bites can cause individual, very localized sores, and are especially common on the lower abdomen and legs. Contact irritants, such as juniper and grasses, generally cause problems on the feet and abdomen, and appear in multiple areas at once. Food and inhalant allergies are more generalized, causing a rash and skin irritation on the chest, neck and forelegs. The dog may pick a convenient location to lick, making the large sore, but check the remaining skin out thoroughly for clues, such as bites, plant material, pimples and rashes. Autoimmune diseases, such as pemphigus can cause the sudden and persistent appearance of many severe scabs and sores all over the body. These disease can be identified through blood testing.

A logical diagnostic regimen would include a screening blood panel, possible including specific autoimmune tests. A set of skin biopsies are extremely informative. Serological allergy screening tests may help identify possible irritants. Restricting the environment and diet may help determine causes if allergies. You can isolate the dog inside for one week, then outside for one week, and feed a hypoallergenic lamb and rice diet.

If the condition is serious enough, I recommend jumping right to the diagnostic blood tests and biopsies. This may be more costly initially, but in the long run will save you time and money over merely trying different medications.

What can I use to control fleas on my dog?

Q: We live in Texas and our three-year old female American Eskimo is very sensitive to flea saliva. According to our vet, her pain is intense. We had to put her on steroids once, but we would like to prevent it as much as possible. She is on the Program pill all year-round and once a month in spring and summer I put Advantage between her shoulder blades and some above her tail. We treat the yard and the house regularly during high-flea season, but our yard backs up to a public park. Program kills flea larvae, Advantage kills adult fleas, and yet my dog is still bitten and this is what we are trying to avoid. Is there ANYTHING we can do to repel fleas so they do not get on her and bite her? Thanks in advance for any tip you might be able to give us.

A: Flea control is difficult when neighboring areas you are unable to treat are severely infested. Revolution is an excellent product, and the one that I recommend and use myself. You may want to use Revolution every two weeks, instead of monthly. Spray your yard’s perimeter with Chlorpyriphos insecticide monthly, or keep your dog indoors. Spray a pyrethrin flea spray on your dog’s legs every day she goes into the yard. Use the Pyrethrin spray around doors and low windows to help keep the fleas outside. Methoprene containing spray products can be used quite liberally around the house and yard, and are extremely safe and effective. Use Carbaryl powder on your carpeted areas, by lightly sprinkling it around monthly. You can also put the powder on cloth furniture and in the vacuum bag. Pet shops carry all these chemicals as pet flea products under various brands. All are safe to use as described, but can make your dog sick if she ingests large quantities. Many other products are available. I feel the above mentioned products are the best.

Fly strike

Q: What can I use to get the flies away from my dogs? And what can I do about the areas where the flies are attacking my dog? They cause open skin wounds that are very painful.

A: Some flies like flesh flies, face flies, houseflies and blowfiles are attracted to blood. Keep your dogs ears and other areas free of blood. Bathe your dog at least weekly. Keep him indoors if possible. Outdoor fans keep many flies away. You can use fly trap bags, called Big Stinkies, in the area. Hang them in the far corners of your yard to attract the flies away. Pyrethrin sprays and wipes are safe and partially effective. They must be applied every two to six hours, which is often inconvenient. Horse feed and tack stores often have better products than regular pet shops. I like the pyrethrin barn mister, which sprays an area automatically every fifteen minutes. Holiday and VIP pyrethrin fly ointment works on ear tips.

Bandages trap moisture and make wounds more attractive to the flies, so let wounds breathe. Consider fly masks and light covers to wounds if severe. Most of these flies breed in feces and garbage. Try to find the source and eliminate it.

Many cities have pest control abatement departments which may help clean up your neighbors and other areas.

Dachshund Hair Loss

Q: I have a one year old smooth-haired Dachshund. Lately he has been losing a lot of his hair generally on his belly and neck area. Is this normal for this time of year? He is eating healthy and very playful and I haven’t noticed any odd behavior. Please let me know if I should get him checked or if this is normal for this time of year.

A: Thinning of a Dachshund’s hair is common and usually normal. It thins for the summer, then returns to normal for the winter. If your dog’s skin looks normal, he is not itchy and the back and sides remain normal, then you don’t have much to worry about. Excessive flaking, itching, redness, symmetrical hair loss from his sides and year round progressive hair loss are not normal conditions, and require a veterinary examination.

Min-Pin Milk Spots

Q: I was told that my Min-Pin has milk spots. They look just like you splashed milk on her. What can I do for this? Is it a disease or just a form of skin disease?

A: Miniature pincers, dobermans, and dachshunds are prone to aberrant spots of white that contrast to their normally dark fur. These spots usually show up as the dogs age, and are not associated with other abnormal dermatological signs. If your dog is itchy, or has dry, flaky skin, or any other skin problems, then an examination with skin tests may be necessary. Some forms of liver disease can also cause aberrant colors in the skin and fur. However, milk spots as described are usually permanent color changes, and are not pathological.

Labrador with dry skin

Q: I have a year old mid size yellow lab mix whom seems to have dry skin as well as very rough pads on her feet. I give her Program once a month as well as regular baths and have not seen one flea. I switched her food to the chicken Iams because she didn’t seem to like the pro plan I was giving her. My vet says she has good skin and that Eukanuba is even better than Iams. She seems to chew on her paws and the inside of her legs but not to the point of hot spots. I also notice her rubbing her belly on the carpet which gives her little red bumps. What would you suggest? Should I change her food to Eukanuba? I also read that tea tree shampoo was supposed to be good for itchy skin? What about her pads on her paws? Thanks so much.

A: Her problem is likely nutritional. Definitely keep her on a top name brand maintenance dog food. Add a supplement containing vitamin E, Zinc, linoleic and linolenic acids (omega 3 and 6 fatty acids). Give her baths every two weeks with a pH balanced shampoo for dry hair. Human products are often better than pet products. Follow the shampoo with a moisturizing cream rinse. Make sure you keep her free from fleas and biting grass gnats in the yard.

Why does my Brittany Spaniel get lip sores?

Q: I have a one-and-a-half year old Brittany. I noticed on Friday that he had a small blister-like thing under the area of his bottom lip. On Saturday there were a few more and on Sunday they were bigger and bleeding a little. There are about five round sores now. What could this be?

A: Blisters on the lip usually indicate a contact irritant. Your Brittany may have bitten something irritating to his mouth. English ivy, nettles, and other plants can do this. He may have an allergy to something in his environment. His food is unlikely, for the same reaction would have occurred in his stomach, and he would have vomited if it were eaten.

Sometimes the muccocutaneous junctions found on the lips, anus and nose blister as a manifestation of a systemic immune response. Certain viruses, some autoimmune diseases and other less common problems can cause this. If the problem worsens, or spreads to the nose and anus, consider these other possibilities. If it occurred only once, possibly repeating occasionally, then you need to hunt down the substance he is getting is mouth into and eliminate it.

Why is my cat losing her hair?

Q: My cat has been losing her fur in patches (mostly on her legs and a little on her chin). She does appear to be biting and licking those areas often. My vet first thought it may be a fungus or an allergy of some sort (does not believe it is mange and she does not have fleas). He gave her a shot of an anti-inflammatory and the biting subsided only slightly. He feels that she has feline endocrine alopecia. He suggested a hormone shot that would last for months at a time and valium (she does display some neurotic behavior!). Is there any other more natural treatment for this condition? What causes this? Any advice you can give would be helpful.

A: Cats lose hair for many reasons. External parasites such as mange mites and fleas will make a cat itch, and lick the fur away. Fungi, like ringworm, will make sores and cause severe itching. Internal metabolic problems and hormone imbalances usually cause symmetrical hair loss. Many other causes of itching and hair loss are well documented.

The key to proper diagnosis involves a thorough history and examination, and laboratory testing. Lab tests may include skin scrapings, cultures, biopsies and blood tests.

In your cat’s case, an allergy seems most likely. When a cat’s hormones become unbalanced, a cat becomes more sensitive to allergens in the environment. Food or inhaled chemicals can trigger the allergy. This is feline endocrine alopecia. Supplementing the deficient hormone usually solves the problem. Simple blood tests can determine if this is the issue or not.

Make sure she does not have fleas, have the blood tests done, and your veterinarian will likely treat with steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.

My puppy has dry skin patches

Q: I have a six week old Husky puppy. She has hard scaly skin on her toes of one foot that breaks and the skin peels away. She now has the hard scaly skin on a half inch of her tail that has started to break as well.

A: Hyperkeratosis is a proliferative, dry and scaly skin condition. Chronic rubbing and abrasion causes the skin to form callouses. Hyperkeratosis is commonly seen on dog elbows and on foot pads of dogs raised on cement.

You should combat the problem with topical medication, proper nutrition, and environmental improvements. Topically, moisturizing lotions, such as human hand lotions, will help soften the skin to prevent the deep cracks. A diet rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, Vitamin E and zinc will help the skin grow properly. Consider changing the diet, or at least supplementing the needed nutrients. Providing soft pads, carpets and non abrasive surfaces will help prevent the callous formation. Try to identify the behavior that results in the tail dermatosis. She may sit and wag her tail aggressively over the cement, causing the abrasion. Tail bandages do not work well. Tincture of Benzoin can toughen the skin, and liquid bandages may provide some protection while the skin is healing.

What is the lump on my dog’s lip?

Q: My 10-month old Bernese Mountain Dog female has developed a ~5 mm lump on her lower lip. It is pink and appears composed of smaller nodules half a millimeter or less in length. This lump is somewhat spherical and it extrudes (outwardly) from the middle part of her lower left lip. We just noticed this right after coming back from a three week vacation and the soonest we could schedule a vet appointment is in four days. Could this be a more urgent matter ?

A: Any new lump is worthy of examination by your veterinarian. Lumps can have many origins, including wounds, infections, blisters, tumors, gingivitis, impacted salivary glands, etc.

In general, if the lump is not growing over the course of a week, does not bother the patient, is not sore to the touch, and is not surrounded by inflammation, it is not likely to be a problem. A close look and feel can rule in or out many of the possible causes. If your veterinarian is concerned, a fine needle aspiration can remove cells that can be examined microscopically.

Most lumps as you describe go away in one to two weeks with no treatment. The occasional gingival squamous cell carcinoma that begins as you described is the incentive to have your veterinarian take a closer look.

See our other articles in this Ask the Vet section on lip abscesses and lip sores.