Friday, January 14, 2011

Sophie will be 12 next month, and we've had her for 11 years, having adopted her in December 1999 from MHRHS when she was 10 months old. She was a fully grown young dog, about 10 pounds underweight, with almost no hair. So pitiful. I know everyone thought I was crazy to choose her. (Doesn't help that besides her heartbreaking looks, she has a grumpy disposition.) The shelter had tested her for hypothyroid, I'm sure because of her hair condition, but that wasn't the problem.

When we brought her home, the only place she had visible hair on her back were two small, symmetrical, tear-shaped patches high on her neck. It was puppy hair, and it gradually fell out. At first I thought maybe she would grow hair once her diet was good and she wasn't under stress, but that didn't happen.

She has short hair on her legs and feet, and soft fuzz on her muzzle and parts of her ears, she's had an occasional patch of thin hair here or there elsewhere on her body at times, as well as few stray hairs in other places, but her underside seems to be completely hairless, and everywhere else is practically bald. She is bald with patches of hair, not furry with bald spots. In the summer, she gets rashes from the grass, she digs at her chest and chews her legs constantly. She's terribly allergic to bee stings.

We never deeply explored it, although we took her to the vet right away after adopting her (she had kennel cough), and she has had routine exams every year and some exotic bloodwork over the years. We've gone to three vets in Sophie's lifetime, the current one (a holistic and conventional veterinarian) for the past five years. None has figured out what is wrong, although as I mentioned, we haven't really pushed the issue. I'm sure it would be a costly process to figure out, and that assumes it could be figured out and treated at all, which is not a certainty. We give her benedryl when she has an allergy flare, she eats a homemade diet and takes calcium and fish oil. She wears a coat on very cold days, and we keep her out of the sun on very hot days. She's not much for the outdoors anyway. When inside, she is usually wrapped in a blanket.

She's been otherwise (relatively) healthy, until she developed hair follicle tumors a couple years ago, and had to have surgery in November. Bassets are prone to hair follicle tumors, and I imagine Sophie is even more susceptible with her hair issues. In preparation for her surgery, our vet prescribed a supplement regime starting in August. In an effort to discourage growth of the tumors (she has many more besides the two that caused problems and had to be removed), we added some new supplements starting when she had her stitches out, so since December 1 (ironically, her "Gotcha Day" :-) she has been taking about 10 different supplements, at total of 18 pills plus some powders and liquids. (Luckily Sophie's a voracious eater and happily takes anything I give her.)

For the first time in her life, Sophie is growing hair! It is filling in very quickly, from her hindleg area and moving forward. It's almost up to her shoulders at this point. I don't think it will be a normal coat, or that she will ever grow it on her chest and underside, and on her back it is still sparse in places, but it is really coming in. I always thought if she could grow hair, she would be a Red and White Basset. Her skin has a sort of color pattern - and that is how it looked to me, that she would not be tri-color, but two colors, mainly dark brownish with a white chest. But now that some is growing, I have discovered that she is Lemon and White! Such a pretty girl!

The Honey colored hair that is coming in is very fine, like puppy hair. Just like the two little patches that she had when I adopted her. The white hair is coming in wiry, more like I would expect a hound dog's hair to be. I wonder if her alopecia was why she was dumped at the pound all those years ago? She was a cute Lemon puppy who promptly lost her fur? Maybe the product of a puppy mill or other disreputable breeder?

Armed with new information, I found this site that discusses the reasons dogs lose hair. I can't find anything exactly like Sophie's problem, but a couple of the hormonal ones sound similar. Or the dilute nature of Lemon coloring may have something to do with it. Some of the treatments I've read include melatonin, which is one of the supplements Sophie has been taking. Miraculous! Wish I had known about it sooner.

She has a cool white stripe on her back!

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