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Removing tar from a dog's coat and feet

Published Dec. 16, 1997|Updated Oct. 2, 2005

Question: The county recently resurfaced the road in front of our house, and our springer spaniel walked on it and got her feet covered with tar and oil. We had to take her to our veterinarian to have the mess cleaned off her feet and legs.

The next day, she promptly ran out in the street and did it all over again. We are racking up quite a dog dry-cleaning bill.

When seabirds get into oil spills, volunteers must have a special non-toxic product they use to clean the stuff off the animals' feathers. Surely one cannot put gasoline or mineral spirits on them, although this is what I use on myself.

I would like to know what you suggest that we employ the next time Maggie decides to jump the fence. _ A.K., Tampa

Answer: Tar, grease or paint imbedded in the haircoat or on the pads of the feet may be difficult to remove. Larger clumps should be allowed to harden and, if possible, carefully cut out of the hair with scissors.

Tar on the feet and hair can be soaked in vegetable oil to soften the tar and loosen its adherence to the hair. After about 20 minutes of soaking, the feet should be washed thoroughly with a dish detergent and warm water. Make sure the detergent is thoroughly rinsed off. This procedure can be repeated as often as necessary to remove all of the tar and grease.

One should never use paint removers or organic solvents such as kerosene, turpentine or gasoline, since these products may burn the skin or be absorbed into the bloodstream, where they can be extremely toxic.

Finally, be careful. If your dog repeatedly runs out into the road, she may end up with more problems than just tar on her feet. _ Paul Reifer, DVM, Countryside Animal Hospital, Clearwater

Canine arthritis

Question: A couple of days ago, I saw an ad for some sort of arthritis medicine for dogs that the spokesman said would put the spring back into an ailing dog's step. My dog, an 11-year-old male collie mix, has been getting progressively stiffer and now walks with a decided limp in his hind quarters. He has degenerative joint disease, a result of hip dysplasia.

Please tell me about this new medication. How expensive is it, and are there any side effects?

My dog is taking aspirin now, but occasionally it bothers his stomach. The nice thing about aspirin is the low cost. _ M.D., Largo

Answer: Millions of dogs suffer from the crippling and painful effects of osteoarthritis, whether it be from hip dysplasia or from some other degenerative joint disease. Until recently, medications aimed at reducing the pain associated with these diseases also came with unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects affecting the gastrointestinal tract and/or the kidneys.

A new veterinary drug called Rimadyl (carprofen) recently became available to combat pain and inflammation in dogs. It appears not only to bring relief of pain and return of mobility to many patients but also enhances the animal's quality of life by doing so. Side effects so common to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs seem to be less frequent with the use of Rimadyl.

Laboratory testing on older pets with possible underlying illness or on those animals needing long-term treatment is recommended, however. There have been reports of specific breed idiosyncrasies. As with all drugs, certain intolerances exist. Your veterinarian is most familiar with your pet's overall physical health and medical history and can determine if Rimadyl would be a safe and wise choice for him.

The cost of Rimadyl is more than for aspirin and varies depending on the weight of your pet but, in the end, the relief and comfort gained from this exciting new drug may be well worth the investment. _ Christa Tolksdorf, DVM, Steele Animal Hospital, St. Petersburg

Karen Ann Wilson is a certified veterinary technician. Please send questions to Ask a Vet, Pinellas Animal Foundation, P.O. Box 47771, St. Petersburg, FL 33743-7771. Because of the volume of mail received, questions can be answered only in this column.

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