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Published September 14, 2012, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Oily hair, dry skin puzzling

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a 7 1/2-year-old Yorkshire terrier. Ever since I’ve had him, he has had very dry skin. A few years ago, his hair became very oily, but his skin remained dry. Three days after giving him a bath, his hair is very oily.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a 7 1/2-year-old Yorkshire terrier. Ever since I’ve had him, he has had very dry skin. A few years ago, his hair became very oily, but his skin remained dry. Three days after giving him a bath, his hair is very oily.

I have tried aloe, oatmeal and lanolin, plus numerous other shampoos and different kinds of food. I have been giving him a bath about every three days because if I wait any longer, he looks like he has been dipped in oil.

The vet hasn’t seemed very concerned about this. Two years ago in the spring, my dog’s hair started falling out on his back, and he was itching. The vet said he had a flea allergy. I comb him once or twice every day with a flea comb – he had a few, but never many, fleas. In the winter, his hair grew back.

This spring, the hair started falling out again. I took him to the vet, and the vet gave him Temaril-P tablets. He seemed to be a lot better while taking the tablets, but when he was through with them, the hair started coming out again with the itching.

I have put him on brewer’s yeast tablets, and I spray him with a pennyroyal and water mix for fleas. I gave him Comfortis for a while and he was better, but I did not like giving him those types of things.

What do you suggest doing for the oily hair and dry skin? – M.S., Archdale, N.C.

Dear M.S.: Your Yorkie is at the age when the thyroid, and sometimes the adrenal gland, become dysfunctional, leading to hyperthyroidism and Cushing’s disease.

The veterinarian should rule out these underlying possibilities; you should also discuss your dog’s nutrition. He may be lacking omega-3 fatty acids, a common problem in dogs fed poor-quality dry dog foods. His digestive system may need enhancement with probiotics, which will also help his immune system. For more details, visit my website, DrFoxVet.com, and check the archives, which contain several letters from people with dogs sharing symptoms similar to your little Yorkie. I would not use the pennyroyal since it may cause liver damage.

Dear Dr. Fox: My 17-year-old female indoor cat’s behavior has become increasingly unbearable in the past six months.

She leaves poop on my couch, on carpets and right next to her clean litter box, though she urinates in the box. She yowls constantly and for no apparent reason. These episodes wake us up three or four times a night. She will stop if we clap our hands or yell louder than her screams.

The tones of her vocalizations sound as though she is in severe pain. Our vet said that, but for the usual ailments of an old cat, she is fine.

What causes these horrific sounds, and what can we do to stop it? It is driving us nuts. – J.C., Beltsville, Md.

Dear J.C.: I am not sure why your veterinarian said your cat is fine but for the “usual ailments.” What does that mean?

She is clearly suffering, most likely a combination of chronic constipation, possibly diabetes, arthritis and probably senile dementia. One form of feline dementia is virtually identical to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

There is much that can be done to improve your cat’s quality of life – visit my website for more information. For good measure, find a more empathic and informed veterinarian, and get a second opinion.

Dear Dr. Fox: We have a 7-year-old male domestic cat who has overgroomed himself from the belly to his behind. He is now starting on the inside of his back legs.

We keep his litter box clean and give him as much attention as we can with a newborn in the house. How can we change his behavior and make him happy again? – S.D., Weaverville, N.C.

Dear S.D.: A crying baby in the home and the associated change in daily routines can be extremely stressful for some cats. Obsessive-compulsive grooming can be one self-comforting response. The stress may have contributed to your cat’s thyroid gland becoming overactive, one common sign being excessive grooming. So I advise a veterinary appointment. Other possible causes are allergens in the cat’s food or home environment, which the attending veterinarian will also consider.

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.