During the warmer months, Lamar tends to get these awful, itchy, crusty skin rashes that look kind of like mange in some spots, but even worse in others.
In the past, I've found a flea or two or a bunch and have learned that our Latrell is just very sensitive to these things. Just one bite and his rear half breaks out into an inflamed mess.
This summer we had the same problem but I saw nary a flea. So I thought it must be just a heat rash, and gave him some tea tree oil baths which seemed to alleviate the inflamed spots. It was only temporary relief though. I thought wading in salt water on the beach for a week might really bring relief, but no such luck. The crusties were still as crusty as ever.
So I decided it was time to bring the old guy to the vet. I'm never thrilled when its time to bring a pup to the vet, but there is one small part of me that's excited at the prospect that I might learn something new, encounter a new disease or condition or humane restraint technique or remedy that I can then use for all the other dogs I encounter in classes or as fosters or on my grooming table.
I even went to a different vet, as the one we usually see, a wonderful man who does house calls and sometimes charges me nothing, I knew would not be very concerned about the skin rash and would probably just tell me he didn't know what it was but that it would go away on its own.
I really wanted to learn something new here, so I went to a practitioner who was well- recommended, but surely more aggressive than my relaxed family vet.
She came through on my expectations, but in all the wrong ways. She was perplexed as she saw no fleas or evidence of fleas, but said the scabs look like a flea reaction and that was the most likely answer, given the number of flea infestations she's seen this year. She told me to put Lamar on Frontline or any of those products that poison the dog's entire bloodstream, bathe him using a shampoo with chlorhexidine gluconate, and put him on cephalexin.
Although I expected that this would be the outcome, I felt I owed it to Lamar to at least try to get to the bottom of his chronic condition and try to do something for his health and well-being.
The problem is that mainstream medicine is not oriented toward producing well-being, and even the best-intentioned doctors are not trained in treating the whole organism. I guess I hoped that this new vet would look at Lamar's skin and say "Lamar, you must be feeling anxious. Let me listen to your concerns," and prescribe a diet featuring wheat grass juice and blueberries and a daily regimen of organic lavender oil pedicures.
I did what she prescribed, though I didn't have the heart to do a full course of cephalexin --we quit after a few days because it just seemed so silly to throw an antibiotic at an unknown condition "just in case," like the mainstream medical profession loves to do so much of the time.
The skin ickies have gotten better, but they probably would have gotten better anyway with the cooler weather, and I probably could have saved a trip to the vet and just been a bit more diligent with the tea tree oil or hunted around for some other home remedies.
So it was a learning experience, though a different one than I was expecting. From now on, in the absence of any holistic vets in this area, we'll stick to our humble, less-aggressive vet in appreciation of his humility and his attitude: that not every condition demands an allopathic "cure," and human and animal bodies have a remarkable ability to heal themselves.