Dear Dr. Fox:

Your recent column about the poor dog with incessant itching reminded me that I had a similar experience with my little schipperke.

He developed a rash and itched so badly that he was digging out his fur on his back and legs. Our veterinarian gave him prednisone and changed his diet to fish and potatoes.

It was by accident that I came across an article about a woman who had a terrible eczema problem and nearly itched herself to death. It turned out that she had an allergy to peanuts. It dawned on me that maybe this was causing my dog’s problem, because I had recently started giving him various treats that were peanut-butter-flavored, plus a little peanut butter as a reward.

I stopped all of that, and he healed and stopped itching. I just wanted to pass my experience along as a possible solution.

J.U., Montgomery County

DF: Your diligence is commendable. We must be mindful of the treats we give to our dogs on occasion and not forget to mention them when the animal develops an allergy and is seen by a veterinarian.

SAFE SNACKS

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a mini-Chihuahua that weighs six pounds and is 31 / 2 years old.

I fed him human meats, hard dog foods and dog snacks. He wouldn’t eat a lot of regular dog food, so I gave him chunks of ham, beef and salami. Then I gave him popcorn, Doritos, potato chips or cheese for snacks. He ate about one cup of food a day.

I saw that he had dots in both eyes, so I took him to a vet. I was told that his cholesterol levels might be high and that this would cause the dots. I then got a cholesterol test, a blood test and had his eyes checked. I was told not to feed him any more human food. I was told that some human foods aren’t bad for dogs (such as cheese) but that one must be careful.

Are there any human foods that won’t affect him negatively? If I can feed him any, I would like to when I am eating and feeling guilty. I am waiting for the vet’s results.

T.C., O’Fallon, Mo.

DF: I understand how tempting it is to give in to a dog who is looking at you with great expectations.

Instead, have a container beside you with some healthy dog treats, such as freeze-dried beef or salmon that is free of preservatives and additives. Most human snack foods are full of fats, sugar, salt, MSG, artificial coloring and preservatives. Dried organic fruits and nuts are better for you and your dog — but no raisins for dogs.

As for cheese, all things in moderation. Low-fat mozzarella and white cheddar cheese are better than the cheaper, often high-salt yellow and gold cheeses. These latter cheeses contain a vegetable dye called annatto, which can cause seizures in some dogs.

DIFFICULT DIAGNOSIS

Dear Dr. Fox:

One of my female cats, who is about 10 years old, began vomiting a few months ago. Because she vomited all the food she had eaten, I changed the food to a more natural wet food with fewer additives and no grains.

When she vomits, it is usually one to three hours after eating her food, and it is undigested.

Because she continued to vomit frequently, I took her to the vet, who did a basic evaluation that included urinalysis. Nothing unusual showed up on the tests, and the vet diagnosed irritable bowel disease and prescribed Cerenia. The medication stopped the vomiting, but as soon as she was done with the prescription, the vomiting resumed.

I took her back for a second appointment, and the vet drew blood to provide a better diagnosis for the vomiting. The vet was surprised when the blood panel results were completely normal. She recommended other tests — requiring surgery — that I refused to do, not only because of the cost, but also because of the risk and discomfort for my cat.

The vet agreed to keep my cat on a maintenance dose of Cerenia to prevent the vomiting. So far, I have spent $800 for the two vet appointments, which included a rabies shot.

Two days ago, my cat threw up all her food, undigested, three hours after eating. This happened the night before her next dose of Cerenia. She has lost weight, and I worry about the possible side effects of her taking Cerenia long-term. I am trying to balance my financial situation with my cat’s health, comfort and quality of life.

J.G., Montgomery County

DF: Blood tests are not likely to pinpoint the cause, which could well be lymphatic cancer invading your cat’s intestines. Costly and risky gut biopsies can help confirm what could be the provisional diagnosis of inflammatory disease.

I am shocked that the veterinarian gave your cat a rabies vaccination. Sick animals should never be vaccinated.

Test for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. Try dietary changes. Prednisolone, chlorambucil and fenbendazole might help a giardia infestation. Supplements such as vitamin B12, D and E, probiotics, and glutamine or glucosamine might also be beneficial. Discuss this approach with your veterinarian.

Be sure there is no carrageenan in the canned food she eats, and try feeding her small meals four to five times a day.

SEPARATION ANXIETY

Dear Dr. Fox:

I rescued a dog from an animal shelter. He is a beagle mix, about 11/2 years old.

After I had him for three days, he chewed part of his tail raw. I took him to the vet, and she tested for mites and fleas but did not see any. I called the shelter where I got him, and they said he was allergic to grain and chicken. I changed his diet and that helped, but he still chews at his sides at times.

The real problem I am having is when I leave the house. He takes all the knickknacks I have on coffee tables and end tables, puts them on the couch and chews on them. He also chews DVDs.

He was in the shelter for more than six months. The vet suggested that I put him in a crate while I’m gone, but I just cannot do that to him after he spent so much time in one. I do not have anything around for him to get into now.

D.A., Hyde Park, N.Y.

DF: Good for you for adopting this poor dog. He was incarcerated for a long time, and this could have harmed him, both psychologically and physically. Many shelters need more volunteers to walk and socialize their dogs.

I am glad the dietary changes have helped. Try a few drops of fish oil and one teaspoon of coconut oil daily in your dog’s food.

Your dog’s destructive behavior when you are gone can mean boredom and separation anxiety. If your workplace is not too far away, you should try to get home for lunch breaks and take him out for a quick walk. Leave a TV or radio on, and get a rubber Kong toy from the pet store that you can stuff with cream cheese or peanut butter. Put it in the freezer and give it to him when you leave. Check my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com, for more details about helping dogs with separation anxiety.

THE CALL OF THE WILD

Dear Dr. Fox:

Having seen the devastating effects of mange on foxes, I did some research and found a homeopathic remedy, arsenicum album and sulfur, which has been very effective. I had to do some guessing on the dosage, but three pellets of each daily has worked.

However, I now have a neighborhood fox that doesn’t seem to be getting better. Her fur is not really bad, but it seems to be deteriorating rather than improving. I have been treating her for about four weeks, which is usually the amount of time it takes to see some improvement.

Because she started showing up younger and smaller than any others, I initially gave her only two pellets a day. Do you think that might not have been enough to be effective?

J.S., Anne Arundel County

DF: I appreciate your concern for the little fox but have mixed feelings about encouraging people to intervene to help wildlife without any experience or qualified rehabilitation training.

I also have little clinical experience with homeopathic remedies, any and all of which I doubt would help an animal suffering from mange.

Ivermectin, available only from a veterinarian, is my drug of choice (the amount you put in the food being determined by the estimated weight of the animal, taking 10 pounds off if she has a full coat). Try a half a can of sardines or other oily fish daily to provide omega-3 fatty acids that help the skin fight the infestation.

With good nutrition, many wild canids recover. Mange is highly contagious and often strikes when fox and coyote numbers are high.

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.

2014 United Feature Syndicate