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By Dr. Michael Fox, Published February 15 2013

Pet Care: OK to use allergy meds?

By Dr. Michael Fox

Dear Dr. Fox: I am writing about our dog Patch, a 6-year-old cockapoo who weighs around 20 pounds.

Just more than five years ago, she was tested for allergies that have resulted in 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 have noticed that if I give her something to eat (usually a treat since it’s too early for her first meal) and massage her belly, the urge to throw up will sometimes pass.

I wonder if this is a sign of something serious, or if 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.

As far as her treats go, she receives a variety ranging from 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.

I would appreciate any insight or suggestions you may have. – P.B., Ashton, Md.

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

There are many factors to consider, from genetic/breed susceptibility to environmental, especially in-home chemicals, cleaners, detergents, synthetic fragrances and dust mites, from various food ingredients to exposure to pollen. Repeated vaccinations and anti-flea and -tick drugs 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 may be problematic for your dog. In addition, her kidney, pancreatic and liver functions need to be evaluated.

Dear Dr. Fox: First, thank you for your advice and books regarding cats and diet. About seven years ago, we adopted a young cat from the shelter who 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 who is about 9 years old. For the past few months, he has started to urinate on our basement floor. We are good about keeping the litter boxes cleaned and changed. We bought a black light to see if there was old urine in the basement that might be confusing him, but there was not. Since this has become such a problem, we no longer let the cats in the basement and have boxes now 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 by this. 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

Dear C.P.: 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 who has a fixation on urinating on the basement floor: If the floor is covered with some form of matting, the surface may be a trigger. Certain textures are attractants for some cats, especially beanbag chairs, shag rugs and rubbery bed covers. Plain cement may contain earthy odors that can act as a trigger, since cats normally evacuate in the wild on the soil, usually digging a small pit, then covering over their excrement.

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

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.