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Stubborn skin rash and/or hot spots

Candy Land
June 26th, 2006, 07:42 AM
My Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix has a severe skin rash that has taken over her entire torso. I could use some advice on its cause and treatment!

Here's the background details if anyone would like to assist me in some detective work....(these details are lengthy, but at the end is a basic list of facts) ....
It started out as two hot spots in her arm pits in May. I can't remember exactly when since I didn't think much about it at the time (shame on me in retrospect) because she'd had them before as a reaction to being concerned and nervous. Early May (first week of May) gave cause for nerves because I was doing a deep cleaning of the house to prep for houseguests and Candy certainly could see and feel my heightened anxiety. I cannot now recall if it was before or after our houseguests' visit that the hotspots developed.

She's an older dog (15+? - rescue dog so we're not sure) and not that she's lost bladder control, but she sometimes doesn't pay attention to the urge to pee until it's too late and if we don't see her immediately when she goes to the door, she'll walk away and just squat somewhere. On a late evening about two weeks after our houseguests' visit I was cleaning up a puddle of piddle on the family room rug. I was tired and frustrated and she came around the corner and I yelled at her to go away (shame on me again for losing it.) She was so startled she did a fast about-face, and as she did that her toenail got caught in the litte space between the hardwood floor and ceramic floor, and she tore off a nail--completely. We had an emergency run to the vet first thing in the morning (that was May 24th.)

The vet gave us an antibiotic and sent us home (Baytril 11.3mg twice a day for 14 days.) After a little over a week on the Baytril, and seemingly overnight, her entire body was covered with an incredibly itchy rash. Her feet, legs, ears, and face were not affected at all - just her torso. I stopped the antibiotic (on about June 2nd), but the rash didn't clear up, and after a week it got worse. She was licking, chewing, scratching whatever part of her torso she could reach. Still, no rash or itch on her legs, feet, face, nor ears. And her fur wasn't (and still isn't) coming out other than what she chewed out (which hasn't created any bald spots except for where her collar is -- have removed it.)

The skin she could chew or lick turned purple as if bruised. The parts she scratched were red or bright pink with millions of tiny little scabs. I took her back to the vet on Monday, June 12th. He kept talking about the possibility of scabies, but would treat her with steroids first. He said that if the steroids didn't work, then it probably was scabies (which are hard to detect he said). Candy has none of the classic signs and none of us humans (nor any of the cats) have any kind of rash (he said scabies were contagious and transmittable). So, I disagree that's the problem (gut feeling). I also don't believe it's fleas (an allergic reaction to them) because I haven't been bitten nor have the cats (we have 3--they're indoor cats--and they share the same spaces). As far as I know she has not had any ticks.

Candy had a full battery of blood tests, all of which came back fine except a slightly elevated white cell count which made sense since Candy had been tearing at herself because of the itch and probably had an infection because of the open sores. She was put on a steroids/antihistamine mix (Temaril-P) and an antibiotic (Clavamox 62.5mg twice daily) which immediately took away the pain and itch but did not fix the problem at all--no change in the appearance of the rash. She then had some sort of a reaction to the meds I think because on Sunday morning (the 18th) she completely stopped eating and drinking and started vomiting all that was left in her stomach. She was lethargic and did nothing but lay down with her eyes closed (couldn't tell if she was sleeping or not--she wouldn't react to anything.)

Being an older dog I thought enough was enough and I stopped the meds to let nature take its course. From Sunday night through Thursday morning she refused all food and drink and did nothing but lay down in a bizarre position (on her belly with her hind legs curled up and her front legs splayed out to the sides and her head extended forward with her chin on the floor.)

Thursday morning (June 22nd) was the turn-around. As usual I offered her something to eat -- a few bits of cheese (her favorite once-in-a-blue-moon treat). This time she ate it and kept it down. At lunch time I offered her a piece of balogna from my sandwich and she ate that, too. I helped her stand and assisted her to her water dish and she drank a little. She kept it all down. But she still had no interest in doing anything else but to lay down. Thursday night I figured I could do no worse and cooked up a can of turkey noodle soup. I offered her some cooled broth and she drank every drop. I carried her outside and she peed and after some strain and pain (and I had to hold her up) she did poop a little. It was loaded with hair which makes sense since she had been chewing at herself and had ingested some of her fur I'm sure.

On Friday I started giving her multiple tiny meals of soup, now including the veggies and noodles, and tossing in some deli turkey. Her appetite was getting much better, and her strength was returning so quickly. She still walked quite wobbily, but she at least could walk on her own. By Saturday she was even more stable, and more hungry. Yesterday (Sunday) she actually had a "skip" to her step and she wagged her tail for the first time in well over a week. She asked to go out with plenty of time to spare.

But ...

The rash is still present and still itchy - no better no worse than it was when it started - and it still is affecting her entire torso but nowhere else. She's been eating well (devouring anything but commercial dog or cat food which I won't give, not right now anyway), has a good level of energy, walks just fine (including doing stairs), sleeps on her side and not in that weird on-her-belly position, and pees on a regular basis. However, she hasn't pooped since Thursday the 24th. She did stop walking with the hunched back and curled-under tail (signs of constipation?), but she still hasn't pooped nor even tried to (memory of the painful session so she doesn't want to?) As for the itch, the only thing I have on hand is milk, and that's done a wonderful job to temporarily stop the itch (when it dries, it also dries the rash, but it's like calamine and is only a temporary thing not a cure.)

List of basic facts as possible reasons for the rash:

Bugs? no evidence of mites, fleas, ticks that I'm aware of, but they can be elusive.

Housecleaning? in early May I only used cleansers I've always used (Pledge furniture polish, Windex glass cleaner, Hoover rug shampoo), but ... did I stir up dust/house mites when doing a deep clean? Since then, all I've done is vac and dust (no polishing).

Detergents? I'm using what I've always used (Tide free) and don't use dryer sheets on Candy's bedding nor on scatter rugs.

Groomer? she went for a bath to the same groomer we've been using on Friday the 5th of May -- right before the houseguests arrived. Candy hasn't been back since then, and I can't recall if the original hot spots were present then or not. I've given her two tepid/cool plain water baths with no shampoos in the past month.

Lawn maintenance? on May 24th, right around the time this rash flared (coincidence or cause?), we had some weedkiller applied along the driveway edge (not the first time for this). This is not in "her" area, but nearby. That was a month ago and if that was the cause, I can't believe it would still be affecting her. Plus her feet never got rashy nor itchy. She doesn't eat grass at all. And we don't have any chemicals applied to the lawn.

Food? up until Sunday the 18th she'd been eating Purina puppy chow and Mighty Dog canned, and sneaking the cats' Purina indoor formula dry food. She's also had dry oatmeal mixed in to harden her stools - when we got her in 2000 (as I said earlier, she was a rescue dog) she came with a digestion problem (very loose stools) which, in 2002, was treated with the scary Rimadyl. After the prescription ran out I tried oatmeal and that fixed the problem. The vet also suggested Nutritab vitamins and she's been taking them as well as glucosamine/chondroiten for her arthritis. Except for the puppy chow, she's been eating this regimen of food since 2002.

Dental issues? reason for the above-mentioned puppy chow: last Sept. she had all her teeth extracted except for two molars -- don't know why they were left in, but they're in very bad shape; however, with Candy's age they don't want to put her under again and surgically remove them -- and of course now with this rash problem, they won't do it for certain. Along with the disgestion problem, Candy came to us with dental problems which finally led to the extractions, and the puppy chow was recommended since she had lost some muscle tone and had hardly any fat on her body.

Water? we're on well water which we know has a high mineral content. We've recently had a ton of rain which has made the underground aquifer a little turbulent. Just in case, I have switched over to bottled water for Candy (been drinking that since Saturday the 24th).

Weather? we had a string of rainy days in May followed by dry, execessively hot and humid days, and now we're experiencing incessant rain again.

So...
from an outside environment:
1) is this rash caused by something she physically got on her body? (but it would have been over a month ago)
2) is it "invisible" bugs of some sort? (but why not affect other parts of her like her ears or private parts)
OR from the inside:
3) is it something she's been eating or drinking? (maybe too soon to tell since it's only been a week or so since she's been off her regular food, and only a few days since she's been drinking bottled water)
4) is it caused by a side effect of the meds such as constipation and therefore the normal wastes aren't being expelled?
5) is the rash happening because of something she's been exposed to for a long time and has now built up in her system to the point of toxicity? (such as the glucosamine?)

Anyone who's lasted long enough to read my frustrated ramblings and can offer advice would be so welcomed.

Sue in PA

Blathach
June 26th, 2006, 11:00 AM
Post moved to new thread.

Prin
June 27th, 2006, 12:14 AM
Hmm... So you got a steroid shot, right? And that didn't do anything? Cortisone shots can take up to two weeks to fully kick in and if you're dealing with allergies, the shot should do something- at least lessen the itching if nothing else.

It could be the puppy chow. Maybe with all the antibiotics, she just became more sensitive to a food allergy that was already mildly there? Merrick makes a great bunch of canned foods, and with them, you wouldn't need to feed dry at all. The high quality will keep the teeth in better shape too. Check it out: Merrick Canned food (http://www.merrickpetcare.com/store/canned_dog_food.php).

Either way, for starters, IMO she needs some plain yogurt to replenish all the good bacteria killed with all those pills. If she doesn't like yogurt, you can get the live bacteria in pill form that you keep in the fridge. No flavored yogurt or yogurt with artificial sweeteners though.

For the painful "going", I'd check for arthritis... We only found out my old lab was severely arthritic when one day she couldn't go. We thought she was badly constipated or something, but it was just the pain from the arthritis that had gotten too bad (she was great at hiding it).

For the soup, be very careful about onions. A lot of broths can have onions in them and onions are very toxic to dogs.

For pesticides, that could be a cause and it might just be taking forever to disappear.

The other thing might be tree pollen, which usually starts around April or May (depending on your area- you'd have to find out for sure) and ends at the beginning of June, or maybe grass pollen, which started a little later (mid-late May) and will go on till August or later. Unless the doggy is allergic to the plant itself and the doggy steps on the plant, it might not show up on the feet... (But then some dogs get itchy feet from food allergies...)

If you have loads of cash, what I would do is get x-rays for possible arthritis and allergy tests for both food and environment. At my vet, xrays are about $50 each film and to be economical (especially with a tiny dog), he tries to fit more than one shot on each film. Allergy tests will cost a small fortune though...

If you don't want to go that route, I suggest trying a food switch. Being that purina foods are usually corn-based, you'd have to go for something with no corn at all (the merrick cans are fairly good for allergy dogs- their ingredients are pretty different). The key is to feed the dog something she has never eaten before.

Hope that helps a bit...:o

Candy Land
June 29th, 2006, 09:01 AM
Thanks Prin for all your great suggestions -- now that Candy is eating, I feel I can go to real dog food, and Merrick sounds like a great plan. Yogurt, too.

Yes, she had a steroid shot and was on a regimen of pills (three days, twice a day; next 3 days, once a day; next 3 days, every other day, but we stopped all the meds during this last 3-day segment when her health deteriorated rapidly.)

Her rash is status quo--no better, no worse--than it was a month ago, so my gut feeling is that even if the steroids and everything else could make it go away, whatever is causing it is still present. It's still just a torso rash and has not migrated to her legs nor feet nor head. And my first idea is to eliminate food as the possible allergenic (the unknown ingredients I've been feeding her that are also present in the dog food she was eating before this all started). And although I don't think it's an allergic reaction to fleas, I'll bomb our house anyway. (We could all use a day away for a change of scenery.)

Candy does have arthritis, and I didn't even think about the pain in squatting - was tunnel-visioned thinking constipation. Duh on me.

One thing I've noticed is that any kind of external moisture flares up the itching intensely. And that's been impossible to avoid since we've had rain just about constantly for more than a week (perhaps the news of all the Mid-Atlantic floods have traveled to your area--we're in northeastern PA, and although not personally affected, the towns around us are). At least Candy doesn't mind too much when I pat her dry with a towel, although some spots are raw and sensitive to the touch, especially under her front legs (her so-called armpits).

Whatever the outcome of Candy's affliction, I hope that someone down the road who's faced with this may find some help in eithering following what we've been doing or seeing the error of our ways and will avoid our mistakes.

Sue in PA