Dear Dr. Fox:

My 2-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Rondo, has a large bald hot spot on the upper thigh of his right hind leg. I took him to a veterinarian when the spot was small. She said it came from hormones in a vaccination that was too strong for him. She prescribed Animax ointment nystatin-neomycin. I used the entire tube, to no avail.The spot is getting larger and has a bumpy feeling. What do you suggest to make it heal? Although it does not seem to bother Rondo, it is unsightly for such a little dog.

C.R.W., the District

DF: If this is indeed the spot where your little dog was vaccinated with a relatively huge shot for his size, then you could have a serious problem developing, especially because it is getting larger and has a “bumpy feeling.”

A biopsy is needed to determine whether the growth is a benign granuloma or a cancerous fibrosarcoma, which is a more prevalent reaction in cats at the point of injection. Until such a determination is made, don’t give your dog any more vaccinations or other treatments.

soft paws

Dear Dr. Fox:

My West Highland white terrier is 13 and has a problem with his feet. His paws, especially between his toes, crack and bleed all the time.He has had this problem several times before. I try to fix this problem by soaking his feet in water and Epsom salts or hydrogen peroxide and then applying Neosporin. But this treatment is no longer effective.

S.F., Fairfax

DF: Old dogs often suffer from dry and cracked paw pads and elbow callouses. Soaking in warm water with hydrogen peroxide and Epsom salts is a good cleansing and softening first step.

But you must take the next step; otherwise, the paw pads are going to dry out even more.Apply a good-quality human moisturizing skin cream twice daily after the initial soaking. Make sure the dog doesn’t lick his feet for at least an hour.Alternatively, you can make your own healing formulas. First, apply aloe vera gel (available in health stores) once daily. Once that has dried, apply an organic olive oil solution, which has incredible skin-healing phytochemicals. Add four to six drops of frankincense, lavender and myrrh essential oils to one tablespoon of the olive oil. It’s a truly excellent healing potion.

coping WITH heat

Dear Dr. Fox:

With all the extremely hot weather we are having, my thoughts go to the animals. I wish you would address cats’ and dogs’ paws as they relate to hot asphalt and concrete.I have suggested to several people that they remove their shoes and feel what their pets are experiencing. I’ve seen poor dogs that seem to be trying to walk on their toenails. Even my four cats do all they can to avoid walking on our hot wooden deck.Animals’ pads might be tough, but I don’t think they’re immune to hot asphalt.

V.N.E., Saluda, N.C.

DF: With climate change intensifying and droughts across the heartland, this summer and beyond are likely to be hotter than ever.

Many pet stores sell dog booties, which most dogs eventually learn to walk in — provided they stay on. Some designs are better than others. These offer some protection on hot surfaces, and Army dogs serving in the Middle East are equipped with them.Hot weather wraps and coats are also available. They are worn wet, and they cool the dog’s body through evaporation. The darker the dog’s coat, the faster it heats up.

dogs will be dogs

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 6-year-old English bulldog and a 4-year-old Chihuahua. They are indoor dogs, but they do go outside for exercise and bathroom duties.When the Chihuahua urinates, the bulldog will come by and lick her, causing his tongue to freeze in place for a few minutes, and then he drools. Why does he do this? We have tried everything to stop him.How can we stop this disgusting habit? They both get along famously and are the best of friends.

E.W., West Falls, N.Y.

DF: What might seem disgusting to you is perfectly normal canine behavior. Some people are even put off when dogs sniff each other’s rear ends.

I can understand anyone protesting when his dog rolls in some stinky, organic goop, but that is, in some ways, akin to humans putting on perfume.Your English bulldog is showing the Flehmen reaction, which is most often seen in bulls and stallions sniffing the females of their species.In a Flehmen reaction, the tongue curling and freezing is done to place the scent or pheromone of whatever has been licked on a spot just behind the upper front teeth. This is where two ducts leading to the vomeronasal organ are — a second scent organ present in other mammals, including cats, that often show the Flehmen reaction when sniffing and tasting various substances. This organ might play an important role in pheromone influences on the animals’ brains and behavior.So please accept your bulldog’s bond-affirming behavior, and let him be.

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