with Lisa Peterson
All dog owners need expert advice from time to time to meet the challenges of caring for their canines. The American Kennel Club aims to provide you and your purebred dog with the help you asked for.
Dear Lisa: I recently saw some cool Halloween costumes for dogs in a catalog. I want to buy one that looks like a devil but I'm worried my Pug bitch might not like it. Will she tolerate the costume? — Boo Hound in Boston
Dear Boo: Halloween costumes for dogs may be very cute and adorable but they can be hazardous in terms of safety and emotional well-being for your dog.
I just got a catalog in the mail and saw all the costumes on page two. There was the devil dog costume you spoke of, the Lil' scarecrow, the angle and the bad dog in a jail outfit complete with ball and chain.
I've always wondered if the dogs really like to wear these potentially embarrassing outfits. However, I don't think the dogs would be embarrassed, but I know I would be dressing my dogs up like they were children. Okay, I know many of us think of our dogs as children, but really. Okay, when I was a young adult I dressed one of my Schipperkes up as Santa Claus complete with white beard. Busted!
My main concern would be the dog's safety. Many times young dogs may chew it up, eating parts of the costume like wires to hold up those angle wings or synthetic fiberfill to make those devil horns stand out. And I can just see a puppy gnawing away on the straw sticking out of the arms of that scarecrow. So if you must dress for Halloween success, I would insist that you always keep your dog supervised when in the costume so she doesn't ingest any parts. Never leave her along in her crate with the costume on either. And limit the time you keep it on her to no more than a half hour.
My other concern might be that your dog is afraid or spooked (sorry) by wearing one. Some designs might be uncomfortable such as hats, cape or booties with elastic cuffs or bands. If the costume has multiple parts, I would introduce them one at a time, rather than throwing the whole outfit on at once. And once you dog is used to one part, remove it and try another. When she's comfortable walking and running around with all the parts separately, then I would put the ensemble together.
If you are going to a party, watch out other dogs don't tug on necklines or belts that might cause choking or injury to your little girl. Happy Halloween!
Dear Lisa: My six-year-old female yellow Labrador Retriever has been itching herself for about a year now. She is licking her paws, scratching her ears and has a rash and redness on her belly. I've taken her to the vet for antibiotic treatment but the problems keeps coming back. Is this something Labs are prone too? Is there anything else I can do for her? - Lab Work in Los Angles
Dear Lab: It seems your pet has an overall itchiness in various places. This could indicate three separate problems with the same symptoms or one overall problem with symptoms in different parts of the body.
According to a Labrador Retriever breeder I spoke with, she said there is about a five to ten percent incidence of itchiness in Labs, which in some cases is a true allergy, and in others it's not known what's causing the problem.
Skin irritations could be a food allergy, sensitivity to a chemical in the environment, some overall disease like diabetes or hypothyroidism where skin problems are a symptom, a bacterial infection, a stubborn fungus or even mange. There are many choices. Unfortunately, you will have to go down the list and rule each one out to find the culprit before you can start to treat the cause and not just the symptoms.
History of the Problem
After having your vet check for autoimmune diseases, the best approach is to start with a complete history of the problem. Make a journal and write down when things started to happen. Look for clues, such as old vet bills for dates of problems cropping up. Look to your personal calendar to see if any activities or changes might have correlated with the problem. Note any changes in dog food, illness or any factors that were out of the ordinary.
- Allergies - Ruling out allergies would be first on the list since if that's the cause, removal of the allergen is a simple task with some follow-up to clear up symptoms. Food-related sensitivities, intolerance or improper nutrition can cause skin flare-ups. Owners have reported great results with a fish and sweet potato diet. One Labrador owner said changing to that food, "cleared a chronic case of yeasty ears up in six weeks."
- Environment - Since the paws and belly are involved with the itchiness and redness, some outside substance like a new carpet cleaner or floor wax might have triggered a reaction and continued exposure keeps the rash from healing completely. Changing cleaning products to a more natural brand with less harsh chemicals might help.
- Yeast - Look into a fungal infection - widespread yeast will cause itching - and it can be a symptom of an allergy. If it's a yeast overgrowth try adding some acidophilus to her food to build up good bacteria, since she's been on antibiotics lately, this might be helpful to create a more balanced intestinal flora (good bacteria to combat yeast) for her.
- Mange - Always check to see if the dog has fleas or possibly mange as the cause of the itchiness. A good medicated shampoo could take care of the problem if she has an allergy to these parasites and follow-up with a good preventive program to stop re-infestation.
Working with your vet or breeder throughout the process with help you find the culprit that itchy situation.
Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org and she may select it to be answered here in Ask AKC.
© 2005 The American Kennel Club, Inc.