Dear Dr. Fox:

Patch, our 6-year-old cockapoo, weighs about 20 pounds. About five years ago, she was tested for allergies. The result was an injection every 21 days. She is allergic to a number of things: certain weeds, trees, dust mites, molds and insects. The allergy serum is Liquid Gold by Varl. Patch gnawed and licked her paws excessively and scratched herself often.

I want to confirm what the veterinarian has assured me: The long-term use of the injections will not pose a health risk to my dog. Some friends have suggested that I could just give her Benadryl instead, but I wonder about its long-term effects, as well.

I also have a question about episodes of vomiting that occur in the early morning (4 to 7 a.m.) and always as a yellowish (acidic?) bile. It happens two or three times a week, and Patch lets my husband or me know when it’s coming. I can hear her stomach gurgling at these times, and I have noticed that if I give her something to eat (usually a treat, because it’s too early for her first meal) and massage her belly, the urge to throw up will sometimes pass.

I wonder whether this is a sign of something serious or whether it is a matter of just keeping food in her belly. She eats Chef Michael’s dry food mixed with Chef Michael’s canned or chopped-up turkey or chicken, twice a day. She is a somewhat picky eater. Earlier in her life, I tried a number of organic or specialized dog foods, but she would not eat them.

As far as her treats go, she receives a variety, including Milk-Bone MarO Snacks, Milk-Bone Mini’s Flavor Snacks, Grand Champ Beef and Liver Snacks, PureBites Freeze Dried Beef Liver and PureBites Freeze Dried Chicken. After reading in the news about questions raised concerning the chicken jerky treats made with poultry from China, we stopped giving them to her.

P.B., Montgomery County

DF: Why are so many dogs (and children) suffering from multiple allergies that reflect a serious immune system dysfunction?

There are many factors to consider, such as breed susceptibility to what’s in the dog’s environment, especially in-home chemicals, cleaners, detergents, synthetic fragrances and dust mites; certain food ingredients; and exposure to pollen. Repeated vaccinations and drugs to control fleas and ticks must also be considered.

Which of the above possible contributing factors can you control? Many, indeed. Become a detective. Your home could be a toxic chemical environment.

Let your dog sleep on hot-water-only laundered cotton sheets. Give her three shampoos, spaced three to four weeks apart, with Selsun Blue medicated shampoo. Stop all treats, and have your veterinarian start your dog on a home-prepared elimination diet, along with probiotics, to help determine which food ingredients might be problematic for your dog. In addition, her kidney, pancreatic and liver functions should be evaluated.


Dear Dr. Fox:

My 9-year-old cocker spaniel has several health problems, but the most recent one is the growth of warts in her ears. They are quite large and far down in her ear canal.

The vets I go to are reluctant to remove them surgically because they are difficult to get to, and removing them would be painful. The warts stop up her ears and keep them infected.

Do you know of anything I can do for this poor dog? I have tried vitamin E, and it is working to some extent.

A.G., Luray, Va.

DF: Poor cocker spaniels suffer from a human-created (anthropogenic) disease susceptibility caused by genetic selection for heavy, long, pendulous ears.There should be a change in their breed standards, selecting for dogs with ears that are shorter and not so heavy. In the interim, many cocker spaniels enjoy a better quality of life having their earflaps (pinnas) tied with a ribbon on the top of their heads for part of the day. The ear canals can then be ventilated and dried out after routine cleaning. If you have never bow-tied her ears as part of the treatment protocol, I would start today.

So many cockers suffer from itchy, smelly, chronically infected and inflamed ear canals. Good nutrition rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps, as does a zymogen enzyme-based cleaner or diluted apple cider vinegar and olive oil applied after drying the ears out, which can work wonders in helping prevent more serious problems such as the one your poor dog is suffering from. Try various topical treatments to reduce the inflammatory growths and make her life more comfortable. She might even become a better candidate for corrective surgery to open up her external ear canals.


Dear Dr. Fox:

My daughter is having her first child. She has had three cats for several years. My concern is for the baby’s safety after he is born.

Are there any precautions my daughter can or should take regarding the cats not injuring the baby?

M.J.L., Baltimore

DF: Most cats are gentle, curious and often affectionate with human infants. Some might show fear and run away or approach with evident concern in response to an infant’s crying.

Generally, cats habituate quickly to these distress calls, which are not unlike their own.

Cats have been blamed for smothering babies in their cribs. The myth is that they are trying to suck the milk out of the babies’ mouths. Cats might lick regurgitated milk, but crib deaths are more likely attributable to sudden infant death syndrome or to the baby being placed in the wrong sleeping position. Still, a large cat could lie across the baby’s head or face and restrict breathing.

A baby placed face-up will flail hands and feet, which might get scratched by a playful cat. Your daughter should place a net over the crib to keep the cats out. She should have the cats checked for toxoplasmosis and ringworm. Get rid of any pediatrician who advises her to get rid of the cats.


Dear Dr. Fox:

About seven years ago, we adopted a young cat from the shelter that had what seemed to be a bowel disorder.

Whenever he would use the litter box, we would find blood in his stool, in addition to blood around the house. The vet suggested shots of cortisone, but this never worked. After reading what you had to say, we changed his food, and he has been healthy ever since.

We have another cat that is about 9 years old. For the past few months, he has urinated on our basement floor. We are good about keeping litter boxes cleaned and changed. We bought a black light to see whether there was old urine in the basement that might be confusing him, but there was not.

Because this has become such a problem, we no longer let the cats into the basement, and now have boxes on the first floor. He does not do this on other floors of the house, only the basement. We prefer to have the boxes in the basement.

Do you have any thoughts on this? He seems happy, and we are very confused and frustrated. We’ve let him downstairs a few times since checking with the black light, and he will go on the floor while we are watching.

C.P., St. Louis

DF: It would be helpful to readers if you could write back and let me know what food your first cat was being fed that was associated with his bowel problem, and what dietary change brought him back to health.

As for your other cat’s fixation on urinating on the basement floor: If the floor is covered with some form of matting, the surface might be a trigger. Certain textures attract some cats, especially beanbag chairs, shag rugs and rubbery bed covers.

Plain cement might contain earthy odors that can act as a trigger, because cats normally evacuate in the wild on the soil, usually digging a small pit, then covering over their excrement.

A penetrating enzyme cleaner might help, or you could try applying epoxy resin or a waterproof sealant.

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.

2013 United Feature Syndicate