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Best Advice for Dogs with Skin Issues

I still need to publish a real post about Mr. Stix’s full backstory, but this feels more pressing. For nearly 18 months, Mr. Stix’s permanent nakey spot (from unknown injuries before he was rescued, including 15 fractures and this big patch of coat missing) has featured several inflamed, peeling areas. Initially I tried to fix it myself at home with things like aloe vera, vaseline, a veterinary ointment called animax that the shelter had give us while we fostered him most of 2019, etc. a company that teaches of a combination of steroids, antibacterial, and antifungal stuff. I took him to see our main veterinarian in spring 2020, when there was a 2-month wait to get into see a board-certified veterinary dermatologist. It has been quite a journey since then, and it’s nowhere near over. Here’s my best advice for dogs with skin issues.

Before I tell the ongoing saga with Mr. Stix’s skin. Here is my best advice for dogs with skin problems.

See a board-certified veterinary dermatologist as soon as you can. Yes, your main veterinarian can probably help, but it’s honestly best to go right to the top experts.

Agree to whatever skin scrapings / cytology the veterinary dermatologist recommends. This provides information about what types of secondary infections currently grow on your dog’s damaged skin.

Do NOT assume every skin issue is allergies. It often is some sort of allergic process, but NOT always and assuming so (and acting accordingly may only delay real solutions and subject your dog to all kinds of quack advice and home remedies).

Buy the best quality fish oil and Vitamin E supplements you can afford, if it’s recommended for your particular case of a dog with skin issues.

When necessary, agree to the skin biopsies (yes, like minor surgery) and have them reviewed by a veterinary pathologist that specializes in dogs with skin issues. The one we used is at Texas A&M.

Follow your veterinary dermatologist’s advice and plans, and keep the faith. These dogs with skin problems often don’t improve quickly. (I need to take my own advise. See below.)

Mr. Stix’s Story as a Dog with Skin Problems

This is what Mr. Stix’s nakey spot looks like when it’s normal. Photo from May 2019 soon after his hip surgery. The bald patch is permanent. That’s not the issue.

This is how bad the red / peeling areas got in mid-2020 when we saw our main veterinarian, who added a low-dose of oral Vitamin E and some topical too and told me to keep using the animax.

This is how it looked when Mr. Stix first saw the board-certified veterinary dermatologist in early August 2020, but the specialist had me STOP the animax and instead use a prescription anti-bacterial ointment (mupirocin) … as well as add a better quality oral fish oil and continue both topical and oral Vitamin E (but at a higher dose twice a day). We knew from the skin scrapings / cytology they did onsite that Mr. Stix had a bacterial infection.

But, without the daily topical steroids (which long term are a bad idea), Mr. Stix’s skin got much, much worse — even breaking open and scabbing over.

Our veterinary dermatologist had recommended doing the skin biopsies right away in August 2020, and I *almost agreed to it then, but I was VERY worried about the cuts resulting in skin that would NOT heal. And, I figured it was at least worth a try to use the prescription antibiotic ointment and other supplements and stuff.

But, by around Thanksgiving, it was clear we had to do the biopsy. That photo is kind of gruesome, so you can see it here, if you want. I wish I had done the biopsy sooner. I feel like I wasted time from August through November.

Post-Biopsy Diagnosis

As I expected, despite all the know-it-alls trying to tell me it was an allergic issue, it turns out that Mr. Stix instead has an autoimmune condition called erythema multiforme. They believe it was triggered by the trauma of his earlier injuries. They don’t think it is life-threatening. They don’t think it will spread to other areas of his skin. Just the already damaged, permanent nakey spot.

With that information in hand, we updated the treatment plan to include a topical, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory ointment (tacrolimus — often pricey, but we used a Good RX coupon at Costco to get the cost down). They use a version of this medication orally for people who have had various kinds of transplants. It’s the smallest / safest option for treatment, and that’s where we started.

I was so hopeful it would work at the once-daily application, but the skin still didn’t heal completely.

So, in early 2021, we started applying it twice daily on the advice of our veterinary dermatologist.

But, it still hasn’t healed completely. It often improves a lot and then comes roaring back, so we had another appointment to see the specialist last week. We had to try something new.

Enter the Big Immune-Suppressing Drug

Despite my concerns and form of veterinary PTSD about major immune suppression drugs (after our experiences with Lilly), I agreed last week to add oral cyclosporine, which is also a drug that people get after various transplants. Mr. Stix would need to take it daily for life.

It smells like it’s made from skunk butts, so each gel-cap pill is individually packaged, and you keep them in the freezer because that can help with nausea it can cause (since it’s recommended you give on an empty stomach).

I found some good info on this med, and our veterinary dermatologist assured me that it has been safely used in veterinary medicine for like 20+ years, etc.

The med only comes in doses of 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg, and at his size Mr. Stix’s ideal dose is around 88 mg once a day. So we went with 75 mg (25+50) to err on the lower side.

It takes like 3-7 days for the med to build up in the blood to therapeutic levels, but it takes more like 4-6 weeks to know if it’s going to help the skin (or not).

We made it to day 4, then the barfing started.

Anxiety

I wish I could say that this is all going to be fine, but I just don’t know. I feel like I just have to accept that the skin will never fully heal, even though seeing his raw spots up close while applying the topical med twice a day and topical Vitamin E once a day causes me so much angst and anxiety.

I supposed to check in with our veterinary dermatology team next week to confirm that Mr. Stix’s weirdness and apparent suffering has improved.

It took a lot of convincing to get Mr. Champion of My Heart to agree to try the cyclosporine, so even if the specialist comes back and recommends maybe a lower dose, I doubt we’ll want to risk it … because Mr. Stix sure seemed to be having some neurologist issues to me, and after the Lilly situation, I just cannot do that again.

He is only 3 years old. I don’t want to make anything worse. It honestly felt like I’d poisoned him.

The good news is that most of the time his skin doesn’t seem to hurt or itch or anything — though I do have pain meds, if he needs them. It mostly just looks bad, and he has to wear a no-lick collar for about 20 minutes after I apply his meds so that he doesn’t lick it off.

His nakey spot is prone to sunburn anyway, and the topical tacrolimus increases the risk of burning, so I used his earlier sun-reflecting coat (which started to look ragged) as a pattern and sewed him a new / light sun protection coat. He looks very cute in it.

https://championofmyheart.com/2021/08/05/dogs-with-skin-issues/

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Need Some Dog Advice? Read This Article

Dogs are known as man’s best friend. This saying is quite true. Knowing about dogs can help your relationship between you and your dog. This article will give you some great advice on having a dog as your best friend.

Be careful with your dog around Christmas season, many dangers are lurking just under the festive ambiance. For instance, electrical chords are typically strewn about during the holidays, and dogs often chew them, creating an electrical hazard. Dogs may be tempted to eat the decorations on the tree. They may also be tempted by the tree water, which can be toxic.

Groom your dog regularly. A dog requires constant grooming to keep his coat in tip top condition. Make sure that your dog is completely relaxed before you start the grooming session; this is especially important if he is excitable. Keep the session quite short (5 to 10 minutes at most) until he is comfortable with the idea of being groomed. Most importantly – be sure to praise him and offer a treat after a successful grooming session!

Although the sound may be cute, your dog’s nails shouldn’t click along the floor when it walks. That’s a sign that the nails are too long. The nails should actually just barely touch the ground. Seek the advice of a professional on what tools are the best for giving your dog a pedicure.

Hot summer days are harder for dogs to handle than humans. Always make sure your pet has enough water to drink. Provide them with a shaded area to rest if they are going to be outside for any length of time. And, if your dog begins acting in an unusual manner, call the veterinarian. Heatstroke could be fatal, so it is important to get medical care as soon as possible.

Be sure to praise your dog thoroughly any time it behaves correctly, such as sitting when it is time to put their leash on. Let a dog know that their behavior is what you wish to see. It also reinforces the idea that they will receive attention if they behave as you want them to.

Don’t assume your toy-sized dog’s bite isn’t dangerous, just because he’s little. A lot of owners brush-off training, thinking that the smaller breed dog can get away with a little bad behavior and this isn’t true. As a responsible canine master, you’ve got to make certain your dog does not pose a threat to anyone by having him well trained.

Check and petsroof.com keep cat out of sandbox fenced in yard for spots your dog could escape through before letting him roam. The most secure method of keeping your dog outside is on a long run with a strong collar, but if you are comfortable that your fence can hold him, he’ll enjoy that even more. Just make sure there’s no room for error!

If you live with other people, make sure they are aware of your training “rules.” It is important that everyone redirects the dog off of the furniture, for example, and that they use the same language when doing so. If everyone’s rules are different, your dog is just going to get confused, which will make the training process much longer and more difficult.

Even if you seek a pure bred animal, you should not overlook the pound. Dogs are abandoned daily at such facilities, and they are in need of new homes. Speak to the nearest pound to see if an option suits you. You could get the dog you are looking for and save a life in the process.

Playing music in your home when you leave for your job may help your dog with separation anxiety. That helps the dog feel like someone is around. This could be the perfect fix to keep him calm until you return.

When taking care of your dog’s grooming needs, do not neglect their feet. Obviously, dog’s do not wear shoes so their feet are exposed to the elements and could hurt their feet in debris outside. Look for any cuts or abrasions on their feet and if you find something serious, bring him or her to their vet.

Keep your dog safe from dangerous chemicals. Similar to kids, cleaning chemicals and any car maintenance substances are harmful to them. These substances are poisonous, so if a dog gets any on them or ingests any, they could get burned, become very sick, or die. Store your hazardous chemicals in a place that your dog can’t get to, or keep them in a closed area using a child-proof lock.

Control your voice to control your dog. When he is a good boy, speak in a high-pitched voice and shower him with praise. When he misbehaves, use a very low and gruff voice to indicate your displeasure. Being consistent with this will help him learn faster, making training him much easier on you and him.

Always try to do your training in an area where the dog has some distractions around them. Rarely are you going to be in a situation where you need your dog to obey and it is completely quiet. It is best for you to practice your training with the television on, kids running wild and maybe some music playing.

Curb your expectations when it comes to your dog. When you train your dog, remember his attention span isn’t like yours. Try training your pet little by little. Don’t try to teach it too many things all at once, and be patient. This will help you to be sure that your dog doesn’t associate training with being punished.

In order to potty train a puppy, it is of utmost importance to take the dog outside frequently. Doing this will familiarize your puppy with the association between outside and going to the bathroom. Failure to do this will result in a harder time breaking your new family member of his/ her bad habits.

It is wise to check your area to find out what the local leash laws are. Many areas require a dog to be leashed at all times if it is not on your property. keeping your dog on a leash is a good idea anyway, as it can be dangerous to let your pet run unattended, where he could be hit by a car, or fight with other dogs.

There are few greater joys in life than the love you can share with your loyal companion. It won’t always be a walk in the park but the rewards are more than worth it. Enjoy your pup and continue to learn more to help keep your lives happy and healthy.
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