OCD, Seizures, Nutrition and Alopecia'¦

(Question) I'm sharing this information because a subscriber had a Deutsch Drahthaar that suffered from OCD. Many years ago, I also had a DD that suffered from the same affliction. I found out later that two others from the same litter also had this problem. The breeder was notified and he supposedly reported it to Germany where the breeding took place. Nothing was discovered.


At that time, my veterinarian said that in his experience OCD occurred mostly in racehorses because of the high-grade hay they ate. He recommended that I try feeding my dog a cheap supermarket dog food for a while. I could not see any significant change so my vet then recommended I take my dog to Washington State University to have the surgery done.

My female DD was eight months old at that time. She came out of the surgery okay and recovered in a short time. I had her spayed once she was back to normal. The information I subsequently picked up from vets and from reading up on OCD leads me to believe that it is hereditary. Luckily, it is rather rare for a dog to have this affliction.


I think your reader should have the dog operated on and then spayed. Just so he knows, my dog hunted until she was eight years old and lived as a house pet until I had to put her down just after she turned 15 years old. She had to be put down for other reasons but she never suffered from the OCD surgery.


Again, I recommend he have the surgery and then have a great time hunting with her for many seasons. --BK

(Answer) Your experience is not unique and I thank you for sharing it with us. I do feel that OCD is not as rare as one might think, however. Some of these young dog lameness issues that seem to go away with rest or short use of NSAIDs could very well be mild cases of OCD that are resolved without surgery.

(Question) I read with interest your comments about seizures and had a question based on personal experience. I had an Irish setter many years ago that developed seizures after we moved to a house that had a well and associated water softener system. He had not displayed any issues while living in a no-softener home. He was kept on Phenobarbital for three years, after which we moved to Virginia (from Ohio) to a home that did not require a water softener.

I decided to try not giving him any more Phenobarbital and he never did have another seizure. My question is whether or not you are aware of any studies linking salt intake (from the water softener in this instance) to seizures.I now have a female English setter and we again are living in Ohio with a water softener and I am not sure if I should only provide unsoftened water for drinking. So far we've had her for a little over a year and she shows no signs of seizures. --BS

(Answer) I've never seen clinical reports that associated normally softened water with seizures in dogs. I would think that if this were true in your area many other dogs would be affected, not just yours. Remember that the Irish setter is a breed noted for seizure problems. It is usually just plain epilepsy and those dogs do often grow out of the condition.

(Question) I just finished the nutrition article in the latest issue of Gun Dog and would appreciate your thoughts on the general condition of hunting dogs versus the average housedog. I ask because I increasingly hear individuals (non-hunters and anti-hunters) comment that hunting dogs are mistreated and underfed.

I contend that hunting dogs are like athletes and maintain a much slimmer appearance than the average housedog that is 10 to 20 pounds overweight. I have two Brittanys, a male 71⁄2 and female 21⁄2, and have found that keeping weight off is much more of a challenge than keeping weight on. Based on the chart in the article, my dogs usually start the fall in the four to five range and end up in the three to four range by the end of the season.

I run my dogs on released birds from September through March. I live in Virginia and many of the comments I hear are in regard to deer- and foxhounds. It's been my experience that hounds go through the same transition from slightly overweight at the start of the season to slightly underweight at the end of the season. Your time and thoughts are appreciated. --KK

(Answer) I agree with your notion that hunting dogs should go from slightly overweight at the start of the season to slightly underweight at the end. It seems that this is your assessment of your own dogs and I think that as long as you understand that scenario you will get along well with your dogs.

Several things can happen that will complicate your program, however, and these should be kept in mind as you go into the season. First, what is one person's concept of a four to five dog may not be the same as mine. This leads to dogs that are too thin going in and they rapidly deteriorate if hunted hard. Second, if the environmental conditions are such that the dog has to utilize a lot of energy to maintain its body heat, the dog will rapidly lose body condition and be in trouble.

A third factor is pregnancy. I realize a pregnant bitch is not a dog that you will be taking hunting but her nutritional requirements are similar in some respects. She should gain 25 to 30 percent of her normal body weight as the pregnancy progresses.

Many times owners breed a bitch that is moderately underweight and then when she gets about 45 days into the pregnancy they notice that her backbone is sticking up and she is in fact skinny. At this point it is impossible to put weight on the bitch.

The same thing happens to the dog that is hunted; if it goes into the season thin and gets thinner as the season goes on, it is impossible to put weight on him unless you stop hunting and bring the dog into a warm environment.

As far as overweight housedogs are concerned, I think you only have to stand in the mall and watch the people go by to realize that we are no longer a country that worries about our weight.

(Question) We own two black Labs, mother and son. Their pedigrees are outstanding and the dogs are tremendous hunters. Both are also neutered.

Bear, my wife's dog, is three years old weighs about 105 pounds and has the sweetest disposition of any dog I have ever known. Recently he was diagnosed with seasonal flank alopecia, for which there is no known cure. It is more prevalent in the fall than now. He exhibits some moderate hair loss around the hind legs. It does not affect him at all.

The treatment suggested is fish oil and melatonin. My questions are, what is your experience with this condition if any, and what is your suggested treatment? --JS

(Answer) Most of the dogs I have seen with this condition have been German wirehairs. In these dogs the alopecia usually manifests in the

late fall to early winter and seems to resolve in May--not great timing for a hunting dog.

These dogs also had hair loss along the sides of the trunk back into the flank and on the ears. Most of my treatment plans are aimed at protecting the dog from injury to the skin as well as keeping it warm. I have also tried various vitamin supplements, zinc supplementation and fish oil preparations with omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

I don't think anything works very well and if you can just get the dog through the season of affliction then go on with it. I also would say that in GWPs there is a hereditary component to this disease and if breeding is anticipated do so with caution.

Contact Tom Holcomb, DVM, at: htholcombdvm@qwest.net

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