Q: Rufus is our 5-month-old miniature Schnauzer and so far the best dog we have ever had. He has developed some bald spots on his face and neck. The spots don't seem to be very tender, nor are they red and itchy. I clean them daily with hydrogen peroxide and sulfadine, but others have appeared. Is this ringworm or mange? We don't have any sores on ourselves. Can we treat this at home?
Mr. & Mrs. Charles Willard
A: A patchy hair loss on the faces of young dogs is highly suggestive of either ringworm (fungus) or Demodectic mange. An examination by your veterinarian is very important to distinguish between the two diseases. Your vet can examine the lesions under an ultraviolet light to look for flourescing ringworm fungus, although only about 60% of these fungi will show up. A few hairs may be taken and put on a special culture medium to grow the fungus. This can take four to seven days for results.
A skin scraping will be necessary to look for the mite Demodex canis, which lives in the hair follicles. These mites multiply and destroy the hair shaft, and can cause secondary skin infections. In unusual cases, a skin biopsy may be needed if no mites are found.
Treatment, of course, depends on the diagnosis. Ringworm will require a medicated bath, clipping of the affected areas, topical medication to the lesions and, in some cases, oral medication to help stop the spread of the fungus. Demodex cases will require special dips, such as Mitaban, on a biweekly basis. Skin scrapings will also need to be done to evaluate the progress of the treatments. It may be necessary to clip or shave the dog to allow the dip to contact the skin, and it could take 10 or more treatments before the mites are gone. Diet will play an important role in helping your pet get better. Antibiotics may be necessary if the skin becomes infected. Steroids should not be used. Your veterinarian may need to rule out other possible disorders, such as pyodermas, trauma or endocrine diseases.
Q: We recently bought a female boxer puppy, and we were told we needed to get her ears cropped while she was still young. Does she need to have this done? How long does it take? Is it expensive?
A: Ear cropping is basically a cosmetic surgery in which the natural ears of a dog are trimmed to its breed standards of making them stand erect.
The surgeon determines the shape and lines to be trimmed surgically. The edges are sutured closed, and a brace, or rack, is sometimes applied to the dog's head with the ears taped in place to provide support while they heal. Later, after the rack is removed, the ears are often coned or wrapped to help maintain the proper shape. The ears need to be cleaned daily. The surgery and aftercare procedures may take up to six weeks.
Having the ears cropped is a personal choice of the owner. It is not required for the dog's health, and is an elective procedure.