Persistent itching plagues dog? Check his thyroid.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our beagle and basset mix has had a persistent itching, scratching and biting problem for the last two years.

We have tried many medications. They all bring temporary relief, but none cures the itching. We have tried many types of food, from grain-free to all-natural to homemade. Again, there is no consistent relief.

We have spent a lot of money at different veterinarians, trying to pinpoint the problem, to no avail. Before the itching, which started in August 2010, our dog had been on the same high-quality food for three years.

We’ve added no new pets. We changed his beds and have given him baths with prescription shampoo and conditioner/lotion. There is no consistency as far as time of year. We got him as a rescue, so we are unsure of his age, but we believe him to be 8 to 10.

J.P., the District

DF: It seems you and your poor dog have been through the ringer. He might have multiple allergies and a dysfunctional immune system.

More costly tests and trial-and-error treatments might, or might not, put an end to his problem.

Here are a few suggestions: Have his thyroid function evaluated. Try short-term oral antihistamines. Discuss starting an elimination diet with your veterinarian. Give your dog cotton towels or bedsheets to sleep on, and never use scented laundry detergents.

Don’t use any anti-flea or anti-tick products. Give him up to a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast and fish oil. Give him a spritz of a mixture of aloe vera juice, calendula and witch hazel.

For more suggestions, visit the archives on my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com.

diabetes redux

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our 18-year-old cat, Carmen, was just diagnosed with diabetes — again.

Carmen had a scary start in life. She was an injured, lost kitten we rescued. She has always been timid and more fearful of things than the average cat.

She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was about 15. We used Lantus insulin for a year or so, and the diabetes, according to the vet, was cured. Then a few months ago, she started losing weight and urinating outside the litter box. The vet said the diabetes returned.

The vet wanted to bring her in for a daylong glucose curve test, which we did, although we were concerned about the stress on Carmen. The testing cost $200, and the vet said she wanted to do it again in two weeks. We complied, paid $200 and were told to bring her back in another two weeks for yet another test.

When Carmen had diabetes the first time, we would test her at home. If the levels were within normal range, we would continue with her food (Wellness turkey and salmon canned food) and testing program.

When I asked the vet why we couldn’t do that this time around, she said that our testing was just a moment in time and that it takes the whole day to get an accurate reading.

Our concern is that these daylong tests at the vet are extremely stressful to Carmen and so the glucose level readings are probably not going to be as accurate as they should be.

Our other concern is that Carmen is close to 100 in people years, and we want this time to be calm and relaxing for her. Needless to say, the $200 a pop, in addition to the cost of the insulin, syringes, etc., is beginning to add up.

F.D., North Beach

DF: Subjecting a cat as old as yours to such stress, especially considering her timid disposition, is borderline malpractice.

Saying that her diabetes was “cured” and taking her off the insulin makes me wonder. I would never subject my cats to such stressful tests, the costs notwithstanding.

They might be scientifically valid, but are they medically relevant and of any real value? For your cat in particular, I think not. Why could you not be instructed to do the blood tests at home?

Diabetes mellitus might not be your cat’s only problem. Her weight loss might be associated with thyroid disease, and she might have some loss of kidney function.

Considering her age, quality of life is paramount. Check www.feline-nutrition.org for alternative diets, including raw foods that have cured many cats of diabetes, and seek a second opinion with a feline specialist.

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.

2012 United Feature Syndicate

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