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Allergies take toll on dog

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a 2 1/2 -year-old female Jack Russell terrier/dachshund mix. Last year, she started having skin allergies. She would break out all underneath her body. She would scratch and chew on her feet and make them raw. Her veterinaria...

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a 2½-year-old female Jack Russell terrier/dachshund mix. Last year, she started having skin allergies. She would break out all underneath her body. She would scratch and chew on her feet and make them raw. Her veterinarian put her on three prescriptions of Prednisone. This year, the same thing happened. So far, she has had six of these prescriptions. As soon as we start lowering the dosage, it starts all over again.

When she's on the Prednisone, she gains weight (started out at 11 pounds; she is now 16 pounds). We limit her food intake, but she is still gaining weight. I am worried about long-term use of Prednisone. The same goes for long-term use of Revolution heartworm/flea-tick medication. Additionally, she has a knot where she got her first rabies shot. Thanks for any help you can provide. - L.C., Jonesville, N.C.

Dear L.C.: Did your veterinarian ever discuss the possibility of a food allergy and put your dog on an "elimination diet" to rule this out?

There are other reasons why dogs develop skin allergies - pollen, dust mites and contact with wool or other materials. But the most common causes are in the pet's food. Get rid of plastic food and water bowls - use glass or stainless steel - and get rid of all scented room air fresheners and deodorizers, and use scent-free products from detergents to floor cleaners. That could be hazardous to all.

The Prednisone is making your dog sicker than ever, and she will soon become incurably ill as a consequence. Seek a second opinion with a holistic veterinarian who practices integrative medicine; ask about diet, lifestyle and environment; and don't rely simply on "bullets" like Prednisone, the overuse of which is a serious ethical and medical issue. Certainly, this kind of drug can help give animals much immediate relief, but when symptoms return and do not go away, a different treatment regimen is called for.

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Dogs and cats with multiple allergies are like the canaries that were taken down the coal mines to warn of poison gases (they would convulse and die), now warning us of hazardous chemicals in the environments we share with them.

Dear Dr. Fox: I have two Shih Tzus - one is 12 years old; the other is 1 year old. I had been feeding them Blue Buffalo dog food. My 1-year-old has a problem with struvite crystals in her urine. My vet suggested I put her on Hill's Prescription Diet C/D, but I decided to make homemade dog food for her. The crystals persisted, so I tried the Hill's. The ingredients listed on the can are terrible, plus the 1-year-old started throwing up regularly.

Parasites and bacteria were ruled out, but both dogs have had diarrhea with mucous, so I changed their food to Azmira Holistic Animal Care - it is supposed to be just as good as holistic, organic "people" food. They seem to be doing quite well on it. It is a low-carb, high-protein food. I would like to know what you think of this product. I feed my dogs a little dry along with the canned food.

Also, I've read that coconut works for people with Crohn's disease and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Is it OK to give unsweetened organic coconut to my dogs? - L.B., Hendersonville, N.C.

Dear L.B.: The consensus with regard to the cause of struvite crystals in dogs and cats is that their diet and urine are too alkaline, caused by high cereal content. Cut out the cereals (corn, wheat or rice). More meat and some vegetables in your dog's daily diet will help keep her urine more acidic. The more water she drinks, the better. Flavor it with salt-free chicken or beef broth, or a little milk.

Genetics play some role in a dog's susceptibility to a variety of diet-related health problems. These are called "epigenetic" influences (as detailed in my book co-authored with two other veterinarians entitled "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Foods"). What mothers eat during pregnancy can have epigenetic effects, influencing offsprings' food choices, overall health and disease susceptibility.

Coconut is an overlooked oil, at least in the United States. It has many health benefits - give about 1 teaspoon daily per 30-pound dog body weight, mixed in with the food.

Pesticide alert

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Pesticides widely used in products applied to cats and dogs to control fleas and ticks - an issue that is often raised in this column - is the subject of a detailed review of pets being harmed by these products that I do not advocate for routine use. "Pesticides in Pet Products: Why Your Dog or Cat May Be at Risk" by M.B. Pell and Jillian Olsen is available at www.alternet.org/healthwellness/123420/?pageentire . For an integrated, safer approach to flea and tick control, see my review at www.twobitdog.com .

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

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