You ask – we answer:
Q: I’m allergic to pet hair and dander. Is it true that hypoallergenic dogs have “hair” rather than “fur?” Also, a friend was telling me that her daughter had TERRIBLE allergies and someone suggested she get a Chihuahua to actually get rid of her allergies. Is there any way that this dog could cure her?
A: There is really no difference between “hair” and “fur.” Some schools of thought say that hair continues to grow, while fur stops at a particular length. However, if you apply this to humans, it would mean that our eyebrows and eyelashes are furs!
There are different types and growth patterns (curly vs. straight), and curly-haired dogs (like poodles) do shed much less — and produce less dander — than other straight-coated dogs (like Retrievers), so they are usually considered better for people who suffer from allergies. There is no evidence that Chihuahuas can help get rid of or cure an individual’s allergies.
Q: My black lab freaks out when it storms. As soon as he hears thunder or loud rain he shakes real bad and tries to get under my legs to hide. The problem is when no one is home he tears up the rug in front of my bedroom door if the door is closed. If it is open he goes into our bathroom and goes on the floor. Is there any way to calm him down?
A: Lots of dogs suffer from “thunderstorm anxiety” (also called “storm phobia”), which causes the type of behavior you are experiencing with your lab. In an effort to “get away from” the storm, many dogs will damage doors, carpets, window sills- I’ve even had a patient of mine break through a glass window! My own dog, Gypsy (a Jack Russell Terrier,) suffers from the condition. There are medications that your veterinarian can prescribe to tranquilize your pet and help them get through it- Gypsy responds very well to this, and I usually give her a dose about 1-2 hours before the storm gets bad (I can always tell when a storm is heading our way by her behavior- she is a great barometer). Other dogs will need some behavioral modification and/or training.
Q: My dog continues licking a spot on his leg. He seems to lick the carpet when he gets nervous or anxious. I am currently bandaging the spot on his leg because he’s licked it so much that it’s raw there. The vet has prescribed medication, one of which is for depression. I do not want to begin giving him any medication for depression.
A: What you are describing sounds like an acral granuloma (commonly called “lick granulomas,” and “granuloma” is a fancy name for a mass of thickened tissue). This is an area of the skin that becomes raw and irritated after chronic licking. Acral granulomas can be secondary to an insect bite, allergies, anxiety, or even boredom, however, an underlying cause is often not determined.
Certain breeds (Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, Border Collies, Rottweilers) will obsessively lick their legs or toes, many times because they are restless and need more entertainment or exercise. Sometimes anti-anxiety medications are helpful; other times, a topical ointment may do the job. A second opinion — or even a referral to a veterinary dermatologist — may be in order.