washingtonpost.com  > Columns > Animal Doctor


Tuesday, December 21, 2004; Page C09

Dear Dr. Fox:

My 15-year-old cat, Cato, tries to wake me up every morning by nipping at my armpits. Why armpits?

By the way, he also loves cantaloupe seeds. What's with that?

J.W., Charlottesville

Your body chemicals (or pheromones) could be attracting your feline companion to your armpits. But certain deodorants can also be attractive to some cats, too.

Cantaloupe seeds (like pumpkin and sesame seeds) are a rich source of vegetable protein and oils -- your cat's enjoyment being a reflection of his instinctive nutritional wisdom. Your armpits are another story, however.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 1 1/2-year-old male Lhasa apso. He recently developed what the veterinarian described as a "hot spot." I had never heard of this before. Our vet prescribed a cream and a steroid in tablet form.

Can you comment on hot spots? What is the typical treatment? Are there any home remedies that will relieve the itching?

S.W., Charlottesville

"Hot spot" is the common name for an all-too-common skin reaction in dogs to certain allergic substances. These can range from the saliva of fleas to various pollens, food ingredients and household materials, including wool blankets, certain floor cleaners and even tobacco smoke. While allergy-prone people tend toward asthmatic attacks, allergy-prone dogs have hot-spot skin attacks due to the way their bodies respond to certain histamine-triggering foreign proteins.

Steroid creams and pills help in the short term, but are harmful when used over the long term. So you should thoroughly check for fleas (even one flea can trigger a hot spot) and conduct skin tests for specific allergens.

A change in diet to natural, whole-food ingredients (different from what your dog is normally given) and nutraceutical supplements (to help boost your dog's immune system) would be a more holistic approach to his problem.

Write to Michael Fox in care of United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies.

© 2004, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company