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An Irritating Problem That He's Itching to Solve

September 15, 1988|Dr. GLENN ERICSON | Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q: My dog's skin frequently breaks out in small red sores that often crust over and then flake off. He is very itchy, and we do find some fleas on him, especially since he is an outside dog. We bathe him with a flea shampoo, but he still has fleas afterward and still scratches. He will lose some of his hair from all of his chewing and scratching. My vet put him on prednisolone, which helped for a while, but I want to know if there is any other medicine that I can use. Should I use a different shampoo?

Larry Dalmas,

Orange

A: Skin allergies, especially those caused by fleas, require that the inflamed skin be treated to reduce the irritation and that the source of the irritation be removed or controlled. Your veterinarian used prednisolone, which is a corticosteroid, to relieve the pruritus or itchiness of the skin, which in turn, helped your dog stop the chewing and scratching. This drug is often very effective and, when used properly, safe to use over periods of time without serious side effects. There are several non-steroidal compounds that can be used, such as antihistamines, but their effectiveness varies greatly. Since you also noted some pustules on your dog's skin, an appropriate antibiotic should be used to help eliminate the infection. Medicated shampoos for skin infections will also benefit your dog.

The hard part of the treatment is removal of the irritant: most commonly, fleas. Baths help, but controlling the flea population in the environment is more important in helping your dog. This means spraying the yard and house on a regular basis. Your veterinarian will help you set up a program for both your dog and the home. Other allergy-causing items, such as grasses, pollens, and fabrics, may be more difficult to control. Skin testing of your dog for problem-causing antigens may be necessary to help identify the sources of your dog's skin condition. Desensitizing injections may also be helpful.

Q: My 3-month-old kitten occasionally attempts to nurse from our 4-year-old spayed female cat, who is not his mother. She lets him do this for a while but then walks away. How can we stop this?

Anne Friesen,

El Toro

A: Although the behavior is not harmful to either cat, you may have to separate the two if it starts to cause injury to the female cat. Generally, she will chase him off if he becomes annoying.

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