Dear Dr. Fox:

I’m writing in response to a letter by F.A.V. of Honolulu, who had a Brussels Griffon with oxalate crystals in his bladder and urethra. The dog had to have surgery every two years.

Three years ago, our 9-year-old Jack Russell terrier had the same problem, but only one surgery. After surgery, our vet prescribed Royal Canin Urinary SO dog food. This has solved the problem and keeps her urine clear. She has not had any problems since going on this prescription food. I give her dry and canned servings of it.

N.H., Middleburg

DF: There is a confounding combination of genetics affecting dogs’ metabolism and kidney function.

The artificial acidification of some manufactured dog foods, done to help prevent struvite crystal formation, might make dogs prone to developing oxalate crystals in their lower urinary tracts. High dietary calcium and low fluid intake when a dog is fed dry food only may also be contributing factors.

The best prevention is a home-prepared diet, as I offer on my Web site,

have leash, wON’T WALK

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our 2-year-old Lhasa Apso will not walk on a leash. She’s a nice little dog, but all suggestions have failed.

We let her drag the leash around the house when we are home — it doesn’t work. We’ve tried offering treats — no, she doesn’t like any kind of treats.

She came from a wonderful shelter, but we think she had been kept in a cage before her arrival there. She was bred before she was a year old. During our six months with her, she has learned to play, enjoys a huge yard and seems happy. But we’d like to be able to enjoy walking her.

P.B., Stephens City, Va.

DF: She might have a phobia about going into open spaces and strange places, not of being led on the leash. Patience is called for.

Be sure she is not wearing a collar attached to the leash. Instead, keep the collar, but fit her with a comfortable, snug harness and attach that to the leash. The pressure on her neck when you try to walk her with the leash attached to her collar could trigger fear and, if she struggles, cause serious damage to her windpipe.

The pressure of the collar on the dog’s trachea could cause permanent damage, especially when repeated as a “no pull” training method.

rx for car sickness

Dear Dr. Fox:

My daughter’s 2-year-old bull terrier has developed car sickness over the past year. He was always happy to ride in the car on trips that generally did not exceed 11 / 2 hours. But he now vomits several times after each ride, and it can take up to two days before he recovers.

He is in good health otherwise.

J.D.F., Springfield, Mass.

DF: That your daughter’s dog enjoyed car rides rules out any anxiety issues. Hanging a cloth strip soaked in essential oil of lavender or placing a few drops on a bandanna around the dog’s neck can produce a small miracle of relaxation for dogs that are anxious in the car.

The vomiting is more a motion sickness issue. Give the dog half a teaspoon of freshly chopped ginger root buried in a couple of balls of cream cheese or peanut butter 30 minutes before going on a long journey. Then make hourly stops to exercise the dog and allow him to relieve himself.

Giving a second dose of ginger after two hours in the car should keep his stomach calm and make him one happy puppy.

411 on Staphylococcus

Dear Dr. Fox:

Please tell me something about staph infection in puppies. We have been fostering some pups, and a few got little pustules on their tummies the vet said was Staphylococcus.

L.B.S., Fort Myers, Fla.

DF: Staphylococcus bacteria, of which there are various strains, is arguably a normal “commensal” organism.

Along with other kinds of bacteria, it helps keep the skin healthy and resistant to invasive bacterial and fungal infections. But in puppies with poorly developed immunity and animals with impaired immune systems, Staphylococcus intermedius can cause follicular dermatitis — pustules with a hair shaft protruding from the center.

Shampooing with benzoyl peroxide, chlorhexidine or human Selsun Blue medicated shampoo may resolve the problem. Applying essential oils with antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties — such as frankincense, lavender and tea tree — diluted in 10 parts almond oil to one part of these oils, applied twice daily may prove effective.

More resistant cases call for oral antibiotics such as erythromycin. Penicillins are not generally effective because of bacterial resistance. Be sure to get the dogs tested and treated for other concurrent disease.

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