Dear Dr. Fox: My husband and I have had five Cavaliers, often two at a time. About six weeks ago, Morgan began chewing on her right front leg and made it quite sore.

Our vet checked the spot. Her skin was clear, so the vet suggested we give her a Benadryl or two daily. No change. My sister read online that Cavaliers sometimes react this way to ear infections. We went back to the vet, but Morgan’s ears are fine.

My neighbor’s dog developed a skin problem, and his vet gave him Apoquel, so I requested to try Apoquel with Morgan. She has been on it for nearly 20 days with no improvement. I have to keep a collar on her at all times. Lately she has been waking at night, so I keep her crate door open, and she sleeps on the tile floor in the bathroom.

We have fed our dogs Orijen for many years. She gets grain-free Bear Crunch cookies as a reward, and they both enjoy cucumber slices.

Is this a common problem? What do you recommend? C.N., Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Dear C.N.: I am sorry to hear about your dog’s condition. Such self-mutilation is distressing to witness and often difficult to diagnose.

Take your dog off the Apoquel immediately, because it is not having any effect and could impair her immune system. This drug, along with another called Cytopoint (from the Zoetis drug company), is advertised internationally as a treatment for atopic dermatitis in dogs. This class of drugs is the new corticosteroid fix that many veterinarians, like yours, are now using for various conditions. They are expensive and may suppress symptoms, but often don’t rectify the cause.

Your dog could have underlying arthritis; a grass awn (awns are grass seeds that are sharp and sometimes barbed, and can burrow into dogs’ skin) or other irritant under her skin; or discomfort from elsewhere that makes her find relief in chewing on herself. I trust your veterinarian considered these possibilities, along with possible grass/ pollen allergies or some food-ingredient intolerance.

I would transition your dog onto my home-prepared diet. Give a teaspoon daily of local bee pollen in her food, and a few drops of fish oil. Apply organic apple cider vinegar to her leg morning and evening, drying it off only if she has been licking and chewing, for seven to 10 days. Give her a raw beef-shank bone to chew on, and take her out for lots of exercise.

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Write to Dr. Fox c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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