Dr. Walt's happy tails: October 2002

Dr. Walt's happy tails: October 2002

Author: Canadian Living


Dr. Walt's happy tails: October 2002

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It is with great pleasure that I endeavour to answer pet-related questions that Canadian Living Online visitors may have. I use the term "endeavour" for two reasons.

First, there has been such a fabulous response to our "Ask a Vet" feature that I simply will not be able to answer everyone's questions. I will, however, address common question themes to provide the greatest assistance to the many queries posed.

Second, I want to ensure you the reader realize that there are very real limitations to providing specific answers to many of the questions you may raise. Like any health care profession and for the vast majority of health ailments, "hands-on" investigation is still the best route to follow before any treatment is contemplated. So please, don't wait or rely solely on my answer but instead, call your own veterinarian who truly is the best person to provide the individual care your pet needs -- especially for problems that are acute and appear serious.

Dear Dr. Walt: I have a Doberman and he thought he would visit with a skunk the other night. I know there is a solution of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and water. Do you know the amounts? I bathed him in tomato juice and went to the vet and got a product called Skunk Off but found that I couldn't get rid of the smell completely. He got sprayed in the face and it's hard to get rid of.

Ah, the joys of dog ownership! I can truly commiserate with you as I recently had a similar experience yet, having two dogs, I also had double the odour trouble. In a frantic effort to try and eliminate the odour, and without tomato juice in the house, I used the next best thing -- clamato juice!

Many recipes exist for trying to eliminate this most unpleasant of odours including tomato juice, vanilla extract (mixed with water and used as a rinse), feminine douches (especially the vinegar and water-based, over-the-counter preparations mixed with 4 liters of water and used as a rinse), and products that you can purchase through your veterinarian. However, the number of solutions available demonstrate that there is no perfect approach that will be sure to fix the problem. The odour seems to recur whenever your pet gets damp. That being said, the baking soda-based solution you have asked about is receiving rave reviews as a very effective product. The recipe is as follows:

65 mL (1/4 cup) Baking soda
1 L (1 quart) hydrogen peroxide
5 mL (1 tsp) liquid soap

Mix the ingredients together, work into your pet's coat, and rinse off.

Some other pointers should your pet get "skunked:"

1. Bathe your dog thoroughly with a regular dog shampoo first.

2. Try and avoid getting any product used in your pet's eyes. Bathe this area carefully and cover the eyes with your hand when you rinse.

3. Never wear your best clothes to do the bathing, wear rubber gloves, and avoid, if possible, bathing your pet in the house -- believe me when I tell you that this smell is hard to eliminate from anything it comes in contact with!

4. Ensure that you yard isn't attracting skunks with easy access to garbage.

5. Ensure you have your pets current on their rabies vaccine.

Best of luck! I'd love to hear from any readers who have the chance to use the above recipe and can provide a rating as to its effectiveness. Just write to "Ask Dr. Walt" at

Dear Dr. Walt: My 6-year-old king shepherd is developing tumors on his chest! I have friends who own a Doberman, and he is covered with them (he's much older). They say that they aren't dangerous and have had them checked. Is there a chance that they may be cancerous?

What you are referring to in your friend's Doberman are most likely called lipomas -- benign fatty tumors that occur under the skin of dogs as they age. They vary in size with some being as small as a pea whereas others can grow as large as a softball. However, I would not assume that your own dog has the same type of lumps as your friend's dog; they have had their dog checked and I would counsel you to do the same.

Your veterinarian can utilize a simple yet effective diagnostic technique called a fine-needle biopsy to gather more information on the lumps. This procedure uses a hypodermic needle (much like the ones used to give vaccinations) that is inserted into the growth and then some of the growth's tissue is aspirated or sucked out. This is placed on a microscope slide, special stains are applied to make the tissues more visible, and a diagnosis is made. Once the sample is collected it is often sent to a veterinary pathologist, someone who specializes in evaluating samples of this nature. Because the sample collected is small, a diagnosis is not always possible but the procedure is quick, relatively painless, and can be done without an anesthetic so may be worth considering as an initial step in the diagnostic process. Don't delay because on the off chance it truly is cancer, the sooner it is identified and treated, the better.

Dear Dr. Walt: Every year at this time until the first frost our dog (a Yorkie) gets allergies. Here are his symptoms -- greasy-looking coat, itchy, droopy eyes, and his back gets a little sensitive. Our regular vet gives him steroids in pill form and we don't like giving Max (our dog's name) that drug. Is there any product we could buy off the shelf at the drug store that would make Max get some relief?

I have already received a number of questions regarding allergies in our pets -- particularly our canine companions -- and this would fit with the fall season as allergies are more common in the late summer/early fall. Allergies in dogs are unique in how they present; whereas in people, we have respiratory symptoms (e.g., runny nose, sneezing, asthma), in dogs the symptoms usually involve the skin and/or ears and consist predominantly of pruritis or itchiness. As in people, the severity of the symptoms will also vary among afflicted dogs and this will impact on the treatment employed.

You refer to the use of a steroid in pill form and this remains the most effective treatment for allergies in our pets. The steroid used is not the muscle enhancing variety that seems to be getting our athletes into trouble. It is actually an anti-inflammatory variety called glucocorticoids of which the most commonly used product is prednisone.

You are right to be concerned over its use as there are potential side effects, namely excessive thirst, urination, and an increased appetite, that may lead to other problems with chronic use. However, if used in small, every-other-day doses for the short period when allergy symptoms are at their worst, there shouldn't be any health concerns.

There are other treatment strategies that you can use to try and avoid or reduce the dose of prednisone used and include the use of fish oil-based supplements (rich in omega 3 fatty acids), antihistamines, bathing with colloidal oatmeal based-products, and protecting your pet against fleas, which will compound any allergy symptoms it may have. Although many of these products can be purchased over the counter or through the pharmacy, consult first with your veterinarian to ensure their use is appropriate and the dosage used correct for the size of your dog.

For some dogs, determining the specific allergen through allergy testing may help you to avoid contact or allow your veterinarian to produce an allergy serum, specific to Max's allergies, for injection to try and reduce the severity of his symptoms.

Best of luck!

Happy ‘tails' and I'll be back with some more answers next month.

About Dr. Walt Ingwersen
Dr. Walt Ingwersen is Chief Veterinary Officer at PetCare Insurance Brokers Ltd. He is a 1982 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College. Board certified in Internal Medicine, he has the distinction of being the first Canadian editor of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, a position he currently holds.

Involved in many aspects of the national and international veterinary community, "Dr. Walt" is the recipient of the President's Award for outstanding contribution to the veterinary profession awarded by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). He is also Chief Veterinary Officer and Chairman of the Veterinary Advisory Board at PetCare Insurance Brokers Ltd. -- Canada's leading provider of insurance for dogs and cats.


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Dr. Walt's happy tails: October 2002