Dear Dr. Fox: My girlfriend gives my little Yorkie a large spoonful of sour cream every night. She says it’s no problem, but I’m not sure.
H.L., St. Louis
DF: I appreciate your concern for your girlfriend’s indulgence of your little dog. Yorkies can have a lot of genetic and other health problems, especially when it comes to their teeth.
Organic sour cream would be preferable to the conventional kind, because the latter will probably be lower in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and is likely to have come from cows injected with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, which is prohibited in Europe for consumer health reasons.
A tablespoon of organic kefir or plain yogurt might be a better choice for this little dog. You could also try a thimble of organic butter from free-range dairy cows, plus a few drops of organic flaxseed oil mixed in with the dog’s food.
Check my Web site, www.
drfoxvet.com, for some good dog food brands and my home-prepared dog food diet.
Dear Dr. Fox: Regarding the letter in your column about a carsick dog, I had the same problem with my beautiful Aussie when I adopted him a couple years ago.
There was a simple solution: peppermint oil on the bottom of his feet before getting into the car.
I have given lots of bottles to friends with the same issues, and it always works!
J.N., St Louis
DF: I am not surprised at the peppermint oil cure for carsickness, because peppermint is a calmative, like ginger, and subdues nausea.
Applying the essential oil of peppermint on the paws or foot pads is an easy way to accomplish rapid and possibly long-term dermal absorption.
Many dogs settle down quickly after having a treat of candied ginger 10 to 15 minutes before getting into the car.
I would try adding a few drops of calming lavender oil, which has been shown to benefit many dogs that are fearful rather than simply nauseated when riding in a vehicle. Because peppermint oil can be irritating, it should be diluted to a ratio of one drop to five to 10 drops of a carrier oil, such as almond or olive oil, before being placed between the animal’s toes.
Dear Dr. Fox: Our orange-and-white spayed cat, Emma, developed something on her right cheek that I noticed in July.
It first appeared to be about the size and color of a small garbanzo bean. I scratched at it; there was no indication of blood, but it was whitish and firm, and the small scratched area seemed to kind of crumble off. Emma is 4 or 5 years old.
At the time, my older Persian-Himalayan was failing because of polycystic kidney disease, and his care was the priority.
Not long after he passed away, the growth on Emma’s face was gone, but in its place was a sort of disc resembling the base of an acorn. There was no blood and no sign of anything under the surface, just a space where it looked as though the growth had popped off. I had no idea whether it fell off or was scratched off.
Now there is a growth in the same place. It is about a half-inch in diameter and growing straight out. The top is flat and the color of a garbanzo bean, and the texture is dry and firm.
Again, there’s no indication of blood, although Emma is not interested in me messing with it.
About three months ago, I took her to a vet for a flea-related issue. I asked the vet whether she could identify the growth. She had never seen anything like it and didn’t know what it was.
I have since sought more information on what this might be. It doesn’t match the description of a botfly. What do you think it could be? I do not have the resources to go from vet to vet, nor do I want to put her through biopsies and such.
C.H., Toms River, N.J.
DF.: Without being able to examine your cat — one of the limitations of my long-distance diagnostic and treatment suggestions — my first thought is that your poor cat might have an upper tooth abscess.
These will sometimes erode through the thin facial bone and appear as a swelling that might become fibrous and hard, or soften, burst and then scab over.
I suggest a visit to a veterinarian specializing in dentistry or one able to do an X-ray of the facial area and check out my provisional diagnosis. Treatment is surgical removal of the tooth and cleaning out the fistula caused by the abscess.
Dear Dr. Fox: My 4-year-old border collie has a broken canine tooth in its lower jaw. He came to me this way two years ago. The tooth is broken vertically, with the tooth pulp exposed to the back of his mouth.
The vet who examined him right after I got him indicated that removal of the tooth would be a very big deal, with great risk to his jaw. She said that he might live his whole life without it being a problem.
During his most recent exam, a different vet said that although he is currently fine and doesn’t seem to be bothered by the broken tooth, chances are quite high that down the road, it will become an issue.
I don’t know where to go from here. The whole “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” notion makes good sense to me. However, adopting a wait-and-see position with this, and potentially having an older dog with a jaw infection, doesn’t feel like a good way to go, either.
Is there such a thing as capping or crowning this kind of tooth in a dog?
DF: A broken canine tooth is a big deal when it comes to possible infection, tracking bacteria through the soft tissue into the jaw, subsequent bone infection and the possibility of tooth pain and associated difficulty eating.
You must have your veterinarian check around for a veterinary dental specialist. Such a specialist would be the best choice to remove this tooth under general anesthesia, with careful resection to avoid damage to the jaw. The veterinary dental specialist might offer to perform a root canal and cap the tooth or remove the tooth and put in an implant. Although the latter is controversial and likely to only be of aesthetic value to you and of no benefit to your dog, advanced dental procedures, once the exclusive domain of human dental surgeons, are now one of the good, although costly, services available for pets.
Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.