Q. My 10-year-old dog gnaws occasionally on his front legs, which end up red, inflamed and bare of hair. What might be causing this and how do I treat it?
A. Dogs itch for a variety of reasons, ranging from boredom and anxiety to fleas, food allergies and environmental triggers, like grass and pollen they may have contact with or inhale. Assuming you give your dog flea and tick preventatives every month, let’s talk about some of the other things that make your dog gnaw on his paws or legs.
Allergies are common this time of year for both people and pets. Every March, my dog chews his paws because of grass allergies. Between March and July, I have to give him allergy medicine, spray topical ointment on his paws and give him baths with a vet-prescribed shampoo to provide itch relief and heal hot spots.
If you don’t think it’s seasonal allergies, food allergies also can make dogs itch and chew on their paws and legs. Switch to hypoallergenic foods or change the main protein, from chicken to salmon for example, to see if this reduces your dog’s symptoms.
Dogs also may chew on themselves because they are bored or anxious. Often, this can be addressed through increased activity every day. You may still need the topical spray mentioned above to heal hot spots.
Just last week, my vet told me there is a new, monthly shot that can control a dog’s excessive itching, regardless of the reason. It’s a bit pricey, but certainly something to consider to provide your dog some itch relief.
Q. My son recently bought a 3-month-old Boston terrier named Riley, who is now receiving all of his necessary vaccinations. My son has been advised the next vaccination will be for parvovirus, but because of the side effects he’s heard and read about, he is clearly leaning toward not getting this shot for Riley. Understanding how deadly parvovirus is, is he making the right decision to forgo this shot?
A. Don’t let your son forgo this vaccination for Riley. Parvovirus is a very deadly virus that chiefly affects a dog’s intestinal tract, which results in vomiting and dehydrating diarrhea. If a dog does somehow survive this horrible ordeal, the virus can damage his or her heart muscle permanently, resulting in lifelong cardiac problems.
Puppies and young dogs are the most vulnerable to this disease. It’s a highly resistant and highly contagious virus that can live in an environment for many months and can even survive on inanimate objects, such as clothes, carpet, shoes and food bowls. In fact, many animal shelters will not adopt a puppy or young dog into a home that has had a dog with parvovirus during the past year, even if the new dog has been vaccinated.
Most side effects from the vaccination are temporary and clear up after a few days. Ask your son to discuss his concerns with the vet who can ease his worries and discuss with him the benefits of this much-needed vaccine.
Q. In your letter to Mundy Rado from Lawrenceville, Georgia, why didn’t you take the opportunity to tell the owner that cats should not be loose outside? You could have given her stats on the longer life of housecats at the very least. You shouldn’t suggest a future kitten without encouraging responsible pet ownership.
A. I have been in the animal welfare field for 25 years and try to use every opportunity I can to educate readers on responsible pet care, so I went back to the letter to see what I missed. She was talking about a kitten who was mourning the loss of another kitten who “disappeared.” I focused on addressing the kitten’s grief and what she could do to alleviate it, and glossed over the word “disappeared,” which certainly could have indicated it was an outdoor cat who slipped away.
I don’t know for sure if that was the case, but I am happy to use your letter to encourage responsible pet ownership and advocate for keeping cats indoors. On average, outdoor cats live three to seven years compared to indoor cats who can live 14 years or more. Several of my indoor cats, in fact, have lived past 20.
So keeping your cat inside not only reduces the chances your pet will “disappear,” but ensures more quality time with your best friend.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal