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Published December 23, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Scratching may signal allergies

Dear Dr. Fox: We have a 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier who is scratching and rubbing his backside. We have been to three vets and have had his glands cleaned. They provided a spray (CortiSpray), and I use 1 percent hydrocortisone on his raw spots.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: We have a 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier who is scratching and rubbing his backside. We have been to three vets and have had his glands cleaned. They provided a spray (CortiSpray), and I use 1 percent hydrocortisone on his raw spots.

We have not seen improvement. We feed him dry food and salmon, chicken, beef and sweet potato. But he is still biting and scratching, creating hot spots. Could this be from allergies?

He developed a snapping condition and is taking phenobarbital (16.2 mg) twice daily. We would like your opinion on these issues.

– F.M., Hendersonville, N.C.

Dear F.M.: Chronically inflamed anal glands, like some chronic ear conditions and “hot spot” itchy skin, can have an underlying food allergy issue. Some dogs respond well after a few weeks on a hypoallergenic lamb and rice diet coupled with anti-inflammatory fish oil supplements, such as Nordic Naturals (available in pet stores). Other dogs need to be put on an “elimination diet,” which should begin with a couple of basic ingredients and should be monitored closely by a veterinarian.

Your dog may have one or more other underlying medical problems such as hypothyroid disease, which is often associated with skin and behavioral problems. I would advise some additional tests and, of course, avoid using any anti-flea and tick preparations and giving any vaccinations to your dog.

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a 3-year-old female longhaired cat who has a lot of tangles and mats in her hair. This is the first time she’s had these mats.

I’ve bathed her in water with hair conditioner and have sprayed a conditioner on her coat for the tangles. Although it has softened her hair, the mats have not come loose. I’ve brushed her, but the brush doesn’t get them out. They are very close to the skin. What else can be done to get these mats out? – R.H., Stuart, Va.

Dear R.H.: Longhaired cats often need their owners’ help with grooming. Owners must use their fingers to gently pull apart the clumps of fur. Otherwise, thick mats can form, as with your poor cat. These put painful tension on the underlying skin, which may even tear and become infected. The discomfort discourages the cat from self- grooming and may lead the cat to avoid being groomed and even petted.

Your cat may need to be sedated by a veterinarian and carefully clipped. An experienced groomer may be worth consulting first, especially if your cat will tolerate being clipped and thoroughly groomed – ideally while you hold and reassure her. Once her coat is free of knots and mats, you must provide daily attention. The FURminator grooming tool may prove effective.


Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. 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 Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

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