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Tuesday, March 22, 2005; Page C10

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a beautiful 1-year-old West Highland white terrier. Two months ago, our vet discovered that she had the mange due to a "hot spot" on her inner thigh -- it caused mucous in her eyes and loss of hair, and she constantly rubbed her eyes. With medication, injections and baths she is doing so much better (the vet gave her a 50-50 chance).

What is the probability of this condition returning, and will she need medication for life? J.D., Flushing, N.Y.

Mange is a nasty disease; the disease is caused most often by sarcoptes or demodex mites. These mites burrow into the skin and breed, causing terrible, constant itching that makes affected dogs constantly paw, rub, scratch and chew their flesh. The mites then spread, which results in reddening and often thickening of the skin as well as a loss of hair. Secondary bacterial and fungal infections are common.

Poor sanitation and nutritional deficiencies make dogs and pups more susceptible. Demodectic mange is more difficult to treat than sarcoptic mange. Various pesticidal or tar and sulfur dips, treatment with ivermectin, and nutrient supplements generally prove effective, and the disease rarely returns if all the mites are killed and all bedding material is destroyed.

Skin scrapings are often needed to diagnose early cases, and the mites don't always show up. Some dogs with pollen allergies can be misdiagnosed as having mange, and vice versa. Mange is often thought to be a rare disease in clean and affluent homes, but it is more common than you'd expect, especially in pups from pet stores and "puppy mill" breeders.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Recently, we purchased two Siamese kittens. They are 4 months old, healthy, lively and loving in every way. However, the little girl "squints" continuously. Our veterinarian checked her thoroughly, and found no infection or cause for this condition.

Do you have a diagnosis or suggestions to end this condition? She seems to see just fine and gets around quite well.

S.J.G., Grand Blanc, Mich.

The condition that you describe is common in Siamese cats. It is a congenital disease and nothing can be done. Cats in the wild with this disorder would not survive long, since their hunting ability would be impaired. This genetic defect would thus be eliminated because afflicted cats would not live long enough to breed and raise offspring. But in the protected domestic environment where cats don't have to hunt in order to survive, this and other potentially lethal traits become part of the genetic makeup of these poor cats.

So contact the breeder and don't accept an excuse like "it goes with the breed." Such defective cats should not be bred. Ask for your money back -- but keep the cat!

Dear Dr. Fox:

My cat has been with me for the past 18 years. She has hyperthyroidism for which I have been treating her with methimazole for the past five years, and her thyroid and kidney values are good.

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