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Published May 27, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Holistic approach needed

Dear Dr. Fox: I’m writing for help with my cat’s 10-month-long skin condition of two 50-cent-size sores that never heal. She does not go outside and has been eating Wellness Salmon dry and Wellness Turkey moist food.

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I’m writing for help with my cat’s 10-month-long skin condition of two 50-cent-size sores that never heal. She does not go outside and has been eating Wellness Salmon dry and Wellness Turkey moist food. I’m now gradually introducing Natural Balance Duck & Green Pea.

She has had Clavamox and Prednisone, and now receives Clemastine ointment and Neosporin daily. The dermatologist says it’s probably a flea allergy, but there haven’t been fleas for months. She wears a Victorian collar and a shirt, but one scratch opens the sores again despite all the protection (which isn’t foolproof).

Would omega-3 help her skin? Is there an allergy test for her?

I have nine animals in a split-level house. The dogs are not with the five cats. The cats have four rooms downstairs (vinyl flooring). All the other cats are fine. I put Advantage on them to prevent fleas, although I don’t like using it. The vet said that I should use it in case the affected cat has a flea allergy and one bite will cause her distress. – J.M., Fairfield, Conn.

Dear J.M.: Because a conventional approach to dealing with your cat’s skin disease has not proven effective and because your cat has been to a veterinary dermatologist (who presumably ruled out any specific fungal or bacterial infection), an unconventional approach is called for.

This means a more holistic, environmental perspective that considers co-factors other than fleabites as contributors to your cat’s malady. Several readers with cats showing symptoms like your poor cat improved their pets’ lives by avoiding scented cat litter or tissues, cleaners, detergents, room fresheners and other household products. Others found success transitioning their cats onto grain-free or single-protein raw cat foods, or by giving their cats supplements such as fish oil and brewer’s yeast. I advise against treating all cats with the Advantage flea-killer drug because that is a shot in the dark, and, without fumigating your home (cats out!), is too risky and costly.

Dear Dr. Fox: Loud noises such as thunderstorms never bothered our 4-year-old bichon, Lily, until recently.

We were on a walk a few weeks ago, and some kids were setting off firecrackers a couple of blocks away. Her tail went down immediately, she shook uncontrollably and frantically pulled us home. To further the problem, our neighborhood is new and homes are still under construction. Every day, explosions ring in the distance, as rocks are being blasted. Needless to say, it is a struggle to get Lily to walk. What can we do to help her with this fear? – S.P., Urbana, Md.

Dear S.P.: Putting on the radio or a CD to fill the room with soothing music for Lily may act as a sound barrier. There is a purportedly calming music CD for dogs called “Through a Dog’s Ear” that may help.

Sound phobias in dogs can be difficult to treat, especially because most dogs are resistant to the usual phobia-reducing desensitization and behavior-modification treatments.

The underlying anxiety could be alleviated with a 10- to 14-day trial of Xanax, a psychotropic drug proven beneficial, especially for dogs suffering from “thunderphobia.” In some cases, treatment with melatonin is effective. Discuss these options with your veterinarian.

A non-drug approach is to wrap the dog tightly with a T-shirt taped around the chest and abdomen. A special “anxiety wrap” tailored to fit dogs of different sizes is also available commercially. Such wraps help many dogs feel more secure prior to a thunderstorm or a night of fireworks.

Thousands of birds in several states died this past New Year’s Eve after being startled out of their roosts by fireworks and colliding with solid objects in their flight path. Personally, I find fireworks a childish abomination.

Pfizer drops anti-flea, tick drug ProMeris

Pfizer Animal Health has announced that it will halt production of its spot-on/topical ProMeris (metaflumizone and amitraz) flea and tick preventative for dogs. This comes after a North Carolina State University study of 22 dogs, which showed a possible link between the product and cases of Pemphigus foliaceus, an autoimmune skin disease. The remaining stocks of the topical preventive will be available through mid-September unless supplies run out sooner, the company said. I have received many letters over the years from readers reporting adverse reactions in their companion animals to these kinds of products. That is why I have repeatedly advised that these kinds of spot-on/topical insecticidal drugs should only be used as a last resort after safer, alternative controls, detailed on my website, have failed.

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