People's Pharmacy

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Can Fatty Acids Cure Cocker Spaniel's Itch?

Posting Date: 05/05/2003

Q. I know you mostly answer questions about human problems but I have three pedigree cocker spaniels with dry skin. They scratch all the time but have no fleas.

I have tried conditioner and baby oil on their fur and vegetable oil in their food, which just made them sick. Is there anything I can give them to improve their skin?

A. Our veterinary consultant says that cocker spaniels are susceptible to skin problems. Itchy, flaking skin may respond to a dietary supplement with the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. One product is called 3 V Caps and another is called Derm Caps. You may need to consult your vet for access. Another option to try is safflower oil, starting with one-fourth teaspoon in the day?s food ration.

Q. My cholesterol runs a little high, between 220 and 240. My doctor has put me on a low-fat diet to try to bring it down without medication. As a certified chocoholic, I find the biggest hardship is doing without chocolate.

A dietician I consulted said that chocolate is not a big problem for cholesterol, but it binds to calcium so you don?t absorb the mineral. When is it safe to eat chocolate, and is it really OK on my low-fat diet?

A. The oxalates in cocoa and chocolate can reduce the absorption of calcium, but for most people this is not a critical issue. Even chocolate milk supplies some calcium, though not as much as unflavored milk.

The plant compounds in chocolate, called flavonoids, may have some heart benefits. They can help blood vessels relax and keep platelets from sticking together to form clots. For maximum effect, choose naturally processed cocoa. Dutch (alkali) processing reduces the flavonoid content.

We have prepared a cookbook that summarizes the health benefits of chocolate and provides recipes for reduced-fat, reduced-calorie treats you can easily make at home. Anyone who would like a copy of Chocolate Without Guilt may send $14.95 plus $3 postage and handling to: People?s Pharmacy, Dept. CWG, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.