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Dog's always licking

Dear Dr. Fox: I am at my wits' end with regard to my 4-year-old English springer spaniel. Ever since she was 2 years old, she has experienced "licking frenzies" where she frantically licks anything in her path, including rugs, walls, furniture, f...

Dear Dr. Fox: I am at my wits' end with regard to my 4-year-old English springer spaniel. Ever since she was 2 years old, she has experienced "licking frenzies" where she frantically licks anything in her path, including rugs, walls, furniture, floors, etc. During this time, she also tries to consume anything that's not bolted down such as scatter rugs, pillows, newspapers, etc. On occasion, I have pulled objects out of her mouth to avoid the possibility of choking.

Her licking is continuous even when holding her on a leash in front of me to keep her out of harm's way; and her breathing is rapid and heavy. These "frenzies" are not short-term and often last up to three hours, during which time she will not accept food or water. They happen at random, and just last week she had two episodes. I found no common element such as food, activity, outside noises or time period.

Her diet consists of Science Diet dry small bites, occasional table scraps and a few recipe dog treats. She also sometimes "delights" in her own feces. Ball playing and walks are daily staples.

She is an "only child" and confined to the kitchen while I'm at work. She has fresh food, fresh water, toys and her "haven" crate with a blanket and an open door. She has been to the vet for extensive testing, all of which came up negative. They have no answers for her behavior. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have. - L.S., Rensselaer, N.Y.

Dear L.S.: I am sorry to hear that you and your dog are victims of a borderline psychosis. Your dog's obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) probably has both genetic and environmental roots. You can't change the dog's genetics, but you can possibly influence some genetic processes involving the neurochemistry of your dog's brain.

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A daily treatment with nutraceuticals (like L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid and tryptophane) and herbs (like valerian and passionflower) may help significantly. Also, discuss with the attending veterinarian giving her Melatonin last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

A natural whole-food diet - free of wheat, synthetic preservatives, coloring agents and other additives - may be the best solution. Couple this with probiotics, prebiotics and glutamine recommended by the vet; lots of physical activity outdoors is important, too. You may then succeed in not having to give in to drugs like Prozac, Clomicalm and other psychopharmaceutical products that critics say are being over-prescribed for pets and kids alike.

Please let me know the outcome - I do appreciate follow-up letters from readers after my column advice.

Dear Dr. Fox: My poor dog had the most terrible seizures, and the vet put her on Phenobarbital. She became a "zombie." I drove myself crazy thinking of the cause. And I finally realized that she was eating my hollyhocks. There needs to be more research and warnings. Now I have to wean her off the drug. Please find out what you can about hollyhocks. Thank you. - L.P., Virginia Beach, Va.

Dear L.P.: Hollyhock is generally regarded as a safe plant, but there could be seasonal changes in root chemistry that could be toxic to animals consuming this part of the plant.

I am disappointed that the veterinarian did not consider possible poisoning as the cause of your dog's acute neurological problems before prescribing Phenobarbital on a regular basis. Many plants, to varying degrees, have some physiological effect on animals and humans. The flowers of the hollyhock have been used to make a tea to soothe sore throats, as a diuretic and as an emollient in cosmetics.

Dear Dr. Fox: My partner and I adopted a 2-year-old male gray tabby cat from our local Humane Society. They wouldn't release him for adoption for several months as he was suffering from diarrhea of an "unknown origin." We finally convinced them to release him to our care. He had a good appetite and was not dehydrated, but just could not have normal stools no matter what we tried.

First, we took him to a vet who tried a broad-spectrum de-wormer. When that didn't work, he suspected it might be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and suggested a good-quality high-fiber diet. We gave him high-quality dry and wet food. We tried several brands.

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Then I read a recent column of yours that referred to the raw diet at www.felinefuture.com . I switched him to a mix I make at home of raw ground turkey, raw ground chicken and the supplement mix and liver powder from that site. The very next day after feeding him this diet exclusively, he had a solid bowel movement and, indeed, has continued to have them since we switched him over.

We thought we had just a big mellow cat, but he has turned into an energetic, playful boy, which is due to the fact that he just plain feels better! Thank you for your column and advice. - L.K., Naples, Fla.

Dear L.K.: I trust that many readers will cut out this letter, which confirms what I have been advocating ad nauseam in this column. Thank you!

It's a good thing your veterinarian didn't give your cat an antibiotic and steroid treatment, which often makes things worse. You found a solution that all cat owners with sick cats will appreciate.

When transitioning onto the kind of diet that worked so miraculously on your cat, I advise soothing the digestive tract with herbs like aloe vera juice, slippery elm and marshmallow; you can also give probiotics and digestive enzymes. For more details, visit my new Web site 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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