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Published March 04, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Scales create a stink

Dear Dr. Fox: We took an 11-year-old male bichon frise from a cancer patient. We took him to the vet and were told that he had arthritis and needed pain pills (Previcox). Months later, the vet did a blood test and said he should be on thyroid pills (levothyroxine, .05 mg, daily).

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: We took an 11-year-old male bichon frise from a cancer patient. We took him to the vet and were told that he had arthritis and needed pain pills (Previcox). Months later, the vet did a blood test and said he should be on thyroid pills (levothyroxine, .05 mg, daily).

During the 14 months we’ve had him, he has always had scaling-skin issues. We got Pharmaseb shampoo, chlorhexidine skin cleanser, pramoxine itch spray, omega caps and antioxidant from the vet. He weighs 10 pounds.

The skin is getting worse. He has developed dark and white scales and black skin tags. A month ago, we switched to vegetarian dry and wet food – no improvement yet. Prior to this, he ate a no-chicken diet.

The worst part is that he develops a bad smell four days after a bath. I have tried vinegar and water between, but that is only good for two days.

In your column, you recommended small amounts of turmeric, ginger, kelp and brewer’s yeast that we give him daily. We need to get ahead of this smell problem. Do you have any suggestions? – P.L.T., Royal Palm, Fla.

Dear P.L.T.: I applaud you for taking in this old dog. His health problems come with age and possibly years of being fed nutrient-deficient, highly processed manufactured pet foods. His poor skin condition and bad odor are telling signs and may also reflect declining kidney and liver functions, which a routine blood test should help determine.

Adding polyunsaturated fatty acids such as flax, borage, hemp, primrose and coconut oil (alternating a few drops in his food every day) should help improve his skin and general condition. Bathing with Selsun Blue medicated (human) shampoo may also be of benefit. Then try weekly or every biweekly bathing with botanical doggy shampoos (, available in most pet stores. But if he does not improve, the veterinarian should run more tests, especially for Cushing’s disease, which is common in older dogs with concurrent thyroid issues.

Dear Dr. Fox: My female cat Pumpkin and I moved to a new home in 2002. The cat next door (Stripes) became her best friend.

Stripes would never go into his own house because three other cats lived there, so he was outside 24/7. He waited for Pumpkin every morning, they took sunbaths together and were just good buddies. I even made Stripes an insulated, off-the-ground cat home. Even though I fed him daily, Stripes would never let me pet him.

Three years after moving next door to Stripes, Pumpkin came in one Friday and became deathly ill over the weekend. She was at the vet’s until Wednesday night, and we made the decision to euthanize her. Stripes had not seen her since that Friday before she died.

I brought Pumpkin’s remains home Wednesday night after being euthanized to take her to the crematory the next day. The next morning, I went on the front porch with Pumpkin in my arms. Stripes had been milling around. He knew something was wrong because, even though I had still been feeding him, he had not seen Pumpkin for almost a week. I laid Pumpkin on the stoop. Stripes came over, sniffed her and walked away. After a few steps, he came back and sniffed her again. He sniffed and walked away about six times. The last time, he began licking her face. He then walked through the open gate to my side yard and began wailing. I put Pumpkin in the car and went to the crematory.

A few hours later, I went outside to get in my car to go to the crematory to pick up Pumpkin’s remains. Stripes had curled up, lying on a chair on my porch. I stooped down to put my hand on the front edge of the seat, and Stripes sat up and licked my hand (something he had never done before). He allowed me to console him.

Over the next few months, Stripes continued to stay in my yard, and I continued to feed him. About three months later, he began coming into my house, investigating then leaving. Within a matter of days, he began living with me. His owners were glad that he would not be outside 24/7 anymore and were fine with Stripes living with me. – S.K, Greenbelt, Md.

Dear S.K.: Many readers will be touched by your account of one cat’s reactions to the death of another.

While some animals (not unlike some people) show little or no reaction to another’s death, many indeed do. What they cognitively process about death and dying is an educated guess for us who witness their behavior.

Giving animals the opportunity to see the body of the deceased is wise, because many cats and other animals do seem to comprehend and most certainly grieve.

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 website at