Thursday, November 17, 2011

A less interesting skin ailment than I was hoping for

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.


  1. Hopefully, by your description, someone might have some experience or ideas about what it is or at least some thoughts about treatment or relief options. Hope Lamar is feeling okay and the cooler weather brings some natural relief as your mentioned. Hugs to Lamar.

  2. My sister had a similar problem with her dog. After numerous non-diagnosis' from various vets, including specialists, she switched her dog to a raw food diet. Problem solved!

    Happy, Waggin' Tails, FUREVER!
    Stumpy and me

  3. Have you tried emu oil? A lady I volunteer with said it works wonders for hot spots.

  4. Hope someone reads this and can help! Hoping that next summer you will have a solution!

  5. In the past, I've rubbed jojoba oil into my dogs' fur in the summer and it seemed to help a lot. Though come to think of it we've not seen any of these skin issues since switching to a different food. I just got some salmon oil stuff from Amazon which is supposed to be good for skin and coats. We'll see...

  6. WAtching our little ones itch and scratch and not being able to help is such a frustrating thing.

    I hope someone reads this who has an answer for you, so I can try it with my old girl Jamie

    Bert's My Vickie

  7. I get Ickes and dark scabs, bizarre! No fleas ever in sight. Mom narrowed it down to the new grass fertilizer the landscapers are using
    Benny & Lily

  8. Delilah gets large scaly bumps from tick bites. Usually we catch the tick before it is too engorged but once we pop it off her skin she has a huge lump that almost resembles a wart. It lasts a good two weeks. I haven't thought to put tea tree oil on it though....

  9. Virgin Coconut oil -- undiluted and unrefined -- is supposed to be amazing when applied directly to dogs' skin. I know several groomers who recommend it. It can also be ingested without harmful side effects, but introduce it gradually just to make sure.

    An equal part mixture of apple cider vinegar and water (though the dog may smell like an easter egg for a little while) virtually eliminates itching for Elli. :)

  10. I use PalDog's Boo Boo Gel on Sadie when she gets scabby. I also used it to help heal Hurley's neutering incision. I swear it helps them heal so much faster! Buying this specific product isn't necessary - the key ingredients are aloe for soothing the itchy part and calendula oil for healing.

    I'm with you on vets prescribing antibiotics too much. I will only give it to them if we know what the specific infection is. I think it's ridiculous how much they over-medicate and fail to address causes but only treat symptoms. My philosophy is that I only turn to chemicals & pharmaceuticals if I cannot find a natural solution or that natural solution isn't working for me.

  11. Poor Lamar. That can't feel good.

    My girl Agatha was also flea sensitive and had similar reactions. And it didn't take many fleas to bother her so sometimes we'd have to work really hard just to find one.

    I found the solution was boosting her immune system with really great nutrition. Even if you have Lamar on a really good diet, he just might need a boost of some nutrient to boost his immunity.

    I used to give my dogs a nutritional supplement called Missing Link which my homeopathic vet recommended. You might just need a little something extra.

    I hope you find some peace for Lamar soon.

  12. I recently took a puppy with an unknown skin ailment to a dermatologist, and though it was expensive, we actually reached a diganosis, not a vague 'maybe maybe' that other vets were giving us. I highly recommend this course of action for mysterious skin conditions.

    Sorry to tell you off, but please don't only do half-doses of antibiotics. Either don't start, or finish. It can create bacterial resistance which is bad for your dog and bad for the world.

  13. Thanks for all the great comments, all. Next time we get mysterious skin ailments I will definitely be trying some of the alternatives you suggest.

    Tegan, I realize that the popular wisdom has long been that a course of antibiotics should be completed, no matter what. More recent research suggests otherwise, and in this case I decided stopping was the lesser of two evils. See

  14. We've been very lucky not to have any of those problems, so I'm not much help, but I am glad that he's feeling better, regardless of what did the trick!

  15. Hi and thanks for this post. My beagle used to suffer from skin itchiness and I saw some tiny red bumps on her skin. In addition to that, she was persisitently gnawing on her front paws. I did the unthinkable - I stopped her dog food and started home cooking for her. Brown rice, squash, and meat were her staple food. What made the difference was the addition of half teaspoon of virgin coconut oil in her food everytime. In two weeks, the scratching has stopped and the bumps have disappeared. There are a lot of skin conditions in dogs mostly what I've learned in this site

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