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Published May 13, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Treat ringworm naturally

Dear Dr. Fox: My 8-year-old female cat was diagnosed with ringworm eight months ago. My vet treated her with what I believe was griseofulvin for three months.

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: My 8-year-old female cat was diagnosed with ringworm eight months ago. My vet treated her with what I believe was griseofulvin for three months. During that time, she grew worse. She has now lost about 30 percent of the hair on her body, and the bald patches are covered with scabs and scaly patches.

According to my vet, antifungal medications are somewhat dangerous and likely to harm or kill the cat. However, if I do nothing, she will almost certainly continue her slow decline. She is currently lethargic, but her appetite and her bowels are normal. She doesn’t appear to be in any pain, although the dry and scaly skin has reduced her to limping along on three feet and spending most of her time curled up asleep. I’m at a loss as to what to do next. Any advice will be appreciated. – T.K., High Point, N.C.

Dear T.K.: Cases of feline ringworm (not a worm but a fungus) that do not respond to conventional treatment call for drastic measures. Discuss with your veterinarian giving your cat supplements such as omega-3, vitamins A, D and B-complex; shaving the cat to remove fungus-infected fur; and applying an Elizabethan collar to stop the cat from self-grooming and allowing you to safely apply an emulsion shampoo containing essential oils such as tea tree, rosemary, lavender and myrrh. These have antifungal properties, but because they can be toxic to cats when ingested, they should only be used as a last resort.

Your cat should be on a zero-carbohydrate diet, high in good-quality animal protein and fat. Probiotics in her food may help boost her immune system along with the above supplements.

A few days after the first medicated shampoo treatment, have a veterinarian check her to assess the effectiveness of the essential oils. More cat-safe hydrosols are available via Internet suppliers, which you should use if repeated shampooing is needed.

Dear Dr. Fox: We have a 9-month-old mastiff who likes to eat lots of things. He usually vomits after a while. He recently ate a small squeaky toy.

How long should I wait for him to poop it out? Or should I induce vomiting? If so, what can I use? And how can I prevent him from chewing on things? – F.B.F., Portsmouth, Va.

Dear F.B.F.: Your young dog probably developed this habit when he was teething from licking and chewing people’s hands and ears to shoes and kids’ toys. In a situation like yours, treat it as an emergency and go to a veterinary hospital without delay. Such swallowed items can cause potentially fatal intestinal obstructions, and may also contain toxic metals and plastic.

As a first-aid measure, try to immediately induce vomiting with diluted hydrogen peroxide or a weak baking-soda solution poured down the dog’s throat. This should not be done if any caustic substances may have been swallowed.

Spring flower warning

Ingestion of Easter lilies, which are especially toxic to cats, prompts many calls to animal poison hotlines each year. Spring brings a host of plants and flowers that can make pets sick, including lilies of the valley, which can cause heart problems in dogs and cats, and azaleas, which can induce vomiting, diarrhea and cardiovascular collapse. Veterinarians urge pet owners who observe their animals eating toxic plants to bring them in before symptoms begin.

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