Ask the expert… | Sep Oct 10


Q: I have a one-year-old Labrador, who is losing a lot of fur. I have shown to my doctors but they cannot figure out the reason. Please help.
–Deepti Shah, Pune
Dr KG Umesh: Hair loss is a common complaint in our country in dogs with skin disorders and results from a number of causes. Unlike human being, hair growth cycle in dogs is different. For example, hair does not grow continuously in dogs. Photoperiod (light intensity) is main factor besides nutrition, genetics, health that can cause dog to shed hair excessively during some seasons and therefore, can be physiological. Dogs may also shed excessive hair because of stress, worms, harsh climate and general illness. Therefore, my approach would be to find underlying cause(s) like fleas, ticks, mange or allergy, hormonal imbalance, bacterial or yeast infection, etc and then your vet will be able to recommend suitable medications that will eliminate the cause and therefore hair fall. Your vet may suggest some blood tests and trichogram. Evening Primrose oil capsules (1 cap per day) or corn oil (2-4 tsp) and Zinc capsules everyday in the feed may also help him improve his hair coat in the short term when no underlying cause is identified.
Q: My 33-day-old pug ‘Dhanush’ seems to have a birth defect on his right paw, which is slightly bent as diagnosed by my vet, Dr. Morton. He limps slightly when he walks. His paw is slightly bent inwards. Is this correctable by surgery? When is the right time? The breeder even offered to take him back but we are all so emotionally attached to him that we wouldn’t give him up at any cost. I look to you for help.
–Bharati Ramesh, Bangalore
Dr KG Umesh: It is difficult to recommend or suggest suitable therapy without reading his radiograph and confirming the diagnosis. Juvenile carpal flexural deformity and carpal laxity syndrome are pretty common growth-related conditions in young pups (usually less than four months of age). Most people advise a good quality puppy diet and good footing but there’s no sure evidence that this makes any difference. Splinting does not help and may be contraindicated. Thus, the best treatment here is probably benign neglect. Please contact your vet who can suggest orthopedic specialist in your region.
Q: I kept a street pup at the age of about 20 days, now she is two months old and she is having bowing of front legs with inversion at ankles, she was diagnosed with rickets and was given calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D without any improvement. I have just gone through a website which says it is a disorder called knuckling over which is due to overnutrition, my dog is on Puppy Pedigree–200 gm per day. Please help.
–Vikrant, Bhopal
Dr KG Umesh: Growth in dogs occurs within a genetically determined time frame, but is influenced by a variety of environmental factors, including nutrition. No specific cause has been identified as being ultimately responsible for the clinical manifestations of developmental bone disease, but research indicates that two of the more important nutritional factors are calcium and energy. Whereas simple deficiencies of both of these variables can induce growth and developmental problems, it is their excess (calcium and overfeeding/energy) or alterations in calcium homeostasis that are likely to be of more practical significance. Dysplasia, OCD, hytertrophic osteodystrophy, Valgus deformity are few examples of common orthopaedic problems seen in growing dogs. Therefore my suggestion is to find the cause by thorough investigations including radiograph. Treatment is to decrease the energy intake if the puppy is being fed ad lib and to discontinue any and all dietary supplementations while it is fed on recommended quantity of Pedigree.
Q: My eight-year-old Dachshund has not been able to walk for the past 15 days with his front legs. I took my dog to our veterinary doctor here in Thanjavur – they said it is due to spinal problem. They gave him two injections (painkiller and B-complex) and also IR therapy. His condition has worsened as he cannot get up at all—when he tries to stand up he makes noise. Please advice.
–Balraj & Alex, Thanjavur
Dr KG Umesh: Slipped disc (dislocation of cushioning disc between the vertebrae) is very common in short-legged, long-backed breeds like yours. Intervertebral discs function as shock absorbers and stabilizers of the spine. In these breeds, the disc undergoes degeneration over time but trauma and embolism etc are some other causes. The degeneration causes loss of normal disc architecture and function, resulting in disc bulging or herniation into the spinal canal. Severity and type of signs depend on the rate of disc extrusion/protrusion, volume of compressive mass/cord compression, and lesion location. Surgery or conservative management is used to treat the disease. Conservative treatment is recommend for grade 1 and 2 which includes strict confinement for 4 to 6 weeks; using harness rather than a collar to walk dogs with neck disease. Keep him in a well-padded, clean area to help prevent bed ulcers and urine scald, and bathe as needed. Loss of conscious urination will require manual bladder emptying. Range-of-motion exercises/physiotherapy help maintain muscle and joint health, and standing/balancing exercises encourage limb use and build strength. Non-ambulatory animals should not be allowed to drag themselves around. A cart is a good option for animals with permanent loss of mobility as long as the owner can provide appropriate care.
Q: How can hot spots be prevented? I have a 3 years and 10 months old Labrador who has just recovered from hot spots on the tail and I am a bit worried about recurrence.
–BG Menon, Ghaziabad
Dr KG Umesh: It is very important to recognise that recurring hot spot is secondary to some underlying disease in majority of cases and therefore it is important to perform appropriate diagnostics to find the cause. The most common underlying causes may include fleas and other parasites, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal or other metabolic disorders, allergies and immature immune system. Your vet may suggest some basic blood test and skin tests to find the possible cause. Make sure he is receiving balanced food containing adequate zinc and fatty acids that may help strengthen skin barrier function and bathe only when required (your vet may recommend suitable antibacterial plus colloidal oat meal shampoo). Grooming and flea control are equally important in prevention of hot spots.