Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 3-year-old neutered male Lab/Siberian husky mix named Max. Max seems to be very healthy and happy, with the exception of an irritated area on his front foreleg that he has licked until it's raw.

One vet diagnosed this as "licked dermatitis." Max has had two previous episodes of this problem -- one five months ago and another almost a year ago. He was treated successfully both times with Tritop ointment and hydroxyzine (50-milligram capsules). The vet said this condition could be related to a mental/nerve problem, therefore he doesn't want to try an Elizabethan collar because he felt this could cause Max stress and make the situation worse. He also mentioned a biopsy, but felt that if he made any type of incision it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get Max to leave it alone long enough to heal.

Max doesn't seem to have any nervous tendencies. He's very loving and playful. He gets lots of attention. He also has two close playmates with whom he runs, plays and chases squirrels in a three-acre enclosed yard.

I love my Max so much and I'm at my wits' end on how to help him.

T.E., Rural Hall, N.C.

Some dogs who get a cut or abrasion on a paw or leg become obsessed with the sore spot and keep licking and licking, which prevents natural healing. A so-called lick granuloma develops that will never heal without surgical excision.

So, if an Elizabethan collar is out of the question, have the veterinarian thoroughly clean the lesion, removing all hair around its edges, and prescribe the same medicine that worked in the past plus lots of wound dressing and bandage. Make a short splint out of a piece of a plastic water bottle, punching small holes in it so it can "breathe," and strap it over the bandage to stop your dog from tearing off the dressing. Clean and change the dressing daily until the wound is healed; then put on a dry gauze bandage and splint for three to four more weeks to help break the compulsive habit. If he starts to lick the area again, put the splint and bandage back on for an additional seven to 14 days. Give your dog marrowbones and safe chew-toys as a distraction.

If this treatment fails, repeat it along with psychotropic medication such as Valium, which your veterinarian can choose and prescribe.

Dear Dr. Fox:

My cat, who is approximately 14 years old, has a small black patch under her chin. A long time ago, when I had another cat with the same situation, I asked a former certified veterinary technician about it and I think she called it acne. It was treated with something, but I don't remember what, exactly.

Can you help me? What treatment will it need, or should I just leave it alone?

J.S., Niangua, Mo.

Your cat is suffering from a condition called feline acne, which can become a source of irritation for affected cats and can be quite disfiguring.

There are various glands (including scent glands) in a cat's skin that can become hyperactive, inflamed and blocked.

Treatment with an ointment containing antibiotic and cortisone, applied three to four times a day for seven to 10 days, will clear the problem up. But it may well recur. Alternative treatment with essential oils (under veterinary supervision) such as neem, frankincense and myrrh may also help.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our daughter has a dear little rat terrier who is 3 years old -- our "granddog" (Otis). He is constantly hungry, but eats only two cups of the correct blend for his size. He also sheds constantly (white hair), year-round. Should he be getting a vitamin or cod liver oil to slow the shedding?

G.R., West Fargo, N.D.

Little Otis is a very active little terrier, and while it is wise to follow the manufacturer's guidelines as to how much of the processed food to give a dog of a particular body weight, he may not be getting enough food. Less-active dogs of his size could get fat on two cups, so one has to use some common sense and feed the dog in accordance with condition and performance or physical activity -- whether the dog is too fat or too thin.

The shedding could mean his diet is deficient in certain essential nutrients. The constant hunger could also indicate a nutritional deficiency that may not be corrected by simply feeding him more of his dry food. He could also have worms that are robbing him of certain nutrients.

So have your daughter get Otis examined by a veterinarian, and try out the basic home-prepared dog-food recipe on my Web site at

Michael Fox, author of many books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him in care of United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

(c) 2005, United Feature Syndicate Inc.