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Matthew Sisk: A common but itchy situation for pets
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I say “Lemmy.” He says “No! Memmy!”

I might as well say that to Lemmy’s little brother. He’s a toddler now and is fiercely protective of his fuzzy pal.

You might expect the inverse relationship — and we all know Lemmy’s favorite human — but this dog is a lover, not a fighter. Still, it’s nice to see the bond.

Lemmy is in the office because he has a punk rock hairdo. It is not the product of rebellion or any misguided barber activity on the part of little brother. No, Lemmy has done this to himself, because he itches.

Or to put it more accurately: He ITCHES!

After our customary paw/handshake, Lemmy immediately turns and backs his rump into my hand. I can feel the heat of his inflamed skin. Plus, the hair loss and scabbing are impossible to miss.

I give a soft scratch and he begins the familiar canine tap dance of appreciation while looking back with approval.

His little human brother looks at me with skepticism. Nobody is going to hurt his dog on his watch.

The history of the itching and hair loss is mysterious. Lemmy does go outside, and his yard sometimes has little forest critters in it. But he uses a reliable flea prevention, and the owners have seen no fleas at all. Still, the most likely culprit is a hypersensitivity to flea saliva.

The unfair thing about fleas, other than they’re vampires who use the bathroom on you as they suck your blood, is exposure to one can make you miserable.

If some stubborn flea bit Lemmy, the preventive medicine hopefully killed the little bugger. Parasites get what they deserve, sometimes. But that one bite in a sensitive dog can lead to severe itching, sometimes for weeks following a single insult.

Afterward, the dog chews and scratches himself raw, risking infection.

I see no fleas either, so we treat it symptomatically to control the itching and secondary infection.

Follow up calls find Lemmy recovering nicely. Still, we know he’s at risk, and vigilance is required.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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