Max Attacked by Small Alligators!

Sorry to inflict upon you another tale about Max’s feet. This will be the last one as by now you must be incredibly bored.

From here on out, I might from time to time note any major improvements or problems but the seemingly endless blogging of paw problems ends here. For those interested, this post will provide a comprehensive update; for those whose tolerance to dog foot issues has already exceeded its sell-by date, leave now and save yourself.

You’ve been given fair warning.

Dad and Son socks

My sock, his sock.

This is not to say that the Maltese paw issues have resolved. Not at all; in fact, they have worsened but at least there appears to be light ahead.

For a couple of weeks we tried a plethora of home remedies to help heal Max but the results were unsatisfactory. We were somewhat timid in our experiments. Despite all of your great suggestions, we kept our ministrations mild because we were hung up on the principle of “primum non nocere”, meaning “first do no harm.”

Doubtless several of you more astute readers will have read that and immediately proclaimed, “Yuh huh, the Hippopotamus Oath”.


By the way, most everyone thinks that all medical students, as part of becoming doctors, are required to take the Hippocratic Oath which promises, among many other things, to “first, do no harm.”

That’s not entirely true.

While the quote is correctly attributed to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, it isn’t a part of the Hippocratic Oath at all. It is actually from another of his works called “Of the Epidemics”. Furthermore, whilst some medical schools do require this oath of medical students, many others use a different oath and some use no oath at all.

But I digress.

After the consistent failure of our home remedies and much research, we identified a husband and wife team of Veterinarians who possess exceptional qualifications and skills in veterinarian medicine as practiced in both Western and Eastern disciplines. A blend, if you will, of scientific and holistic approaches encompassing everything from high tech diagnostic equipment to Reiki to doggie acupuncture and nutrition counseling. (Yeah, that loud noise was my credit card screaming in agony.)


Still counting on the Lottery to fund the Malt’s healthcare. Bought the AJF a super scratcher but all 30 picks were a failure.

The Malt’s exam took well over an hour. The news wasn’t good. First, we were advised that the prescription of strong steroids over almost two years had damaged Max’s immune system and led to a possible early case of Cushing’s disease.

Next, we found out that the previous treatment plans were doomed to failure because they not only did not address the underlying cause of his foot problem, they exacerbated the problem; namely a severe case of demodex mites enabled by a severely suppressed immune system.


Demodex canis magnified about a bazillion times. They kinda, sorta look like alligators. Alligators from outer space. (Not my photo. Duh)

Mites! Yes, the skin scrapings confirmed he’s got plenty of the little monsters. So let’s talk mites, shall we?

When first informed, I suggested to the Vet that, based on the extent of the infection, they must be Mighty Mites! There were no snorfs. As I got the hairy eyeball from the Alpha Japanese Female (AJF), the Vet said, “Have you any idea how many times I’ve heard that?” I took his question as rhetorical and shut up.

I learned we all have mites. Everybody’s got them in one form or another: man, woman, and dog although the AJF contends that Japanese mites are more polite, bow before biting, and say arigato when done. Max probably has a genetic pre-disposition to demodex mites and likely got his original complement of blood suckers from his mother while nursing. Thanks, Mom.

No butt

You’re probably thinking you didn’t need to know this choice piece of trivia. How’s that breakfast taste?  (Also not my photo. )

Demodex mites are not visible to the naked eye or, for that matter, an eye wearing a cute frock and Christian Laboutin heels. Under a microscope the mites look a bit like deformed alligators.

There about 65 varieties of demodex mites including two that like to hang out in human eyelashes. Max’s version is Demodex canis which is not contagious to other dogs and is not considered zoonotic; in other words, does not transfer from dog to human (whew!).

Mite Upclose

Mites crawling out of hair follicles. This is happening to all of you right now. Feeling the itch, friend? (Oh yeah, not my photo.)

Whilst all dogs have mites, this is normally not a problem because said pooches are protected from the effects of mite bites by their immune systems. However, when a puplet is immuno-compromised (like our hero) the number of mites inhabiting the hair follicles and skin of the dog become exorbitant, causing skin lesions, incredible itching, inflammation, hair loss and worse.

Bad Foot 1

Swollen and inflamed.

Take a gander at these photos of the FurButt’s feet and cringe.

Bad Foot 2

Shaved and plucked.

Together with the Vet, we’ve developed a very detailed treatment plan to help the Malt recover.

We have to wean him from the steroids that he took in the past to suppress itching caused by allergies. This will require a tapering of medication over the next three weeks.

Immediately, Max was put on a new anti-itch product called Cytopoint which is a monoclonal antibody injection that, being a biological, avoids the negative side effects of the steroid.

But wait! Like a late night infomercial, there’s more! Max also has been put on anti-fungals to reduce complications from a yeast infection that apparently came along as a BOGO – buy one, get one free disease package.

He also received a slew of other medicines for the systemic elimination of the mites themselves, various palliative products – shampoos and lotions – to alleviate discomfort and a schedule for when and how to apply these goodies.

Lazy Dog 2

He eased his suffering at The Lazy Dog restaurant where he had burger, the AJF quaffed Pinot Grigio and I sampled the seasonal beers. We all needed a drink after we got the Vet bill.

Max was delighted when the Vet’s better half – Mrs. Vet – recommended that he be fed home-cooked meals only, henceforth eschewing packaged kibble and products with high carbohydrate content. The Pupperoni allowed as he would be courageous and accept steak, burger, stew and other delights lovingly prepared by the AJF. Also, take out from the Lazy Dog.

Lazy Dog Menu

The Lazy Dog is a classy dog joint. Avoid the “3 Bs”.


The Vet thinks that the recovery plan may take months before the negative effects of the steroids are diminished and Max’s immune system is again strong enough to combat successfully the mites. Meanwhile, it will be meds and booties, socks at night, special grooming and feeding and lots of attention.

Sounds like the AJF will be busy. Hehe.

As for me, I’m planning Max’s next Halloween costume. Can you guess what it might be?

Between the legs

I tried to watch TV but couldn’t avoid the Malt’s accusatory stare.

39 replies

  1. Oh, Tom. Oh, Max! what in the heck brought this on in the first place? I girl I work with transferred her care from a traditional medicine doc to an Eastern med doc and the first thing he did was take her off the steroids she had been taking. I am anxious to hear if all this works–for Max, not for the girl I work with. She is fine. And if Max gains weight from all the great food your credit card will be paying for.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Since puppy time Max has been an “itchy” dog. We’ve searched and searched for the magic bullet that would give him relief without side effects. No joy but we were able to achieve a balance with a very light steroid. Just as we were moving to the Rancho he had a bad breakout and the new Vet prescribed a powerful drug that worked but Max should have only been on it for a few months not 10 months. That drug ruined his immune system and as they say, an idle immune system is a mite’s playground. Stupid me for not knowing this. But the outlook is positive and the Malt will triumph.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow! Bless his heart. It sounds like poor Max has rather a slew of complications. This was a truly great summation of demodex mites and how they operate. Well done!
    I have experience with two dogs having demodex mites. With mine it was inherited and my other dogs as you say are completely unaffected. It is not contagious! My two that are affected are treated once every three months with Bravecto taken by mouth. One of them was dropped off in my area and so pitiful you can hardly imagine. In less than two weeks he began to regain all of his hair and put on weight. He’s the happiest guy you can imagine…and rather pudgy now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Before we start snorfing in chorus, note that my husband is not a dog….

    However, years ago he was put on steroids which

    A…exploded his weight
    B…buggered his immune system

    As far as we know he does not have mites – but just suggest that he might – mite – to the Costa Rican health system and they will be investigating!

    Seriously, though, your exposition of those mites was superb. I just don’t want to meet one.

    I don’t like to think what all this is costing…possibly the pinot grigio might have to be substituted for something cheaper from Sicily, though the beer budget is , of course, inviolable….and home cooked food for his lordship will be cheaper than anything commercial and a damned sight more tasty.

    I do hope this works for the little chap…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also attribute weight gain to steroids even though I don’t take them. In any case I’ve had enough chemo that my immune system took the last train out of town long ago. As to cost…the visit and meds were exactly $636. Yeah, I had the same reaction. When I started to comment on that to the AJF I got the “look of death” – Silence! – and after 40+ years I know when to shut up. Usually.


    • To continue, steroids can be a life saver and I’ll bet Leo would agree nothing is quite so effective on inflammation, joint pain, arthritic matters and such. But they do come with baggage and no fooling around, these are powerful drugs. But at least Leo does not have mites which I understand are taxable in Costa Rica.


      • Just do not suggest taxing mites to Hacienda…the country is in such a financial mess that they might just go for it…

        When he was first taken ill no one knew what it was that he had and steroids were the current go to drug…with the result that his immune system went down the swannee for good.

        Apparently there are only thirty people alive diagnosed with his illness…clearly they got rid of the others with steroids…which are still being prescribed!

        When it comes to arthritis, etc…then our general practicioner when I was a child had the answer.

        He was a refugee from Hitler’s Germany…mixed his own prescriptions…was the terror of the workshy.
        You could just see him ordering them back to the Russian front.

        Mother’s hands were crippled with arthritis. He prescribed a glass of white burgundy a day…the minerals in the soil, absorbed in the wine, would sort it out.
        Within three had.
        At 101 years she still takes her glass of white burgundy…though that could be just for pleasure…

        Liked by 1 person

        • I love the Mom story. Although my Dad was a physician he leaned towards the notion that the human body had amazing recuperative abilities that would assert themselves if given a fighting chance. A glass of wine can sometimes do more than fancy drugs. My favorite home cure is exercise. I truly believe that I still walk the planet in large part due to an aggressive workout routine. Of course, I ascribe magical properties to beer so take my opinion with a large dose of skepticism.


  4. Egad, that’s some kind of torture for our poor little malted hero. So very sorry to hear this latest update is less than pawsitive for Max but glad you have secured the services of another team to help him feel better. Too bad there is no humor in their repertoire of remedies. But in the ‘glass is half full’ category, at least Max’s water is complimentary at the Lazy Dog. 😆 Sending oodles of poodles tail wags to feel better soon, Max and suggest your Dad send all withering looks from the AJF toward eliminating those crawly creepy critters. Surely they would work quicker than it takes time to run a credit card?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the kind wishes. The Maltster is feeling poorly this morning, probably too many new meds all at once. Tough on the stomach even one as prodigious as his. He’s also been giving me the evil eye for making him wear the Cone of Shame. So now both the dog and the spouse are glaring at innocent old me. It’s unfair I tell ya, unfair. I think I’ll retreat to my office cubbyhole and watch the football games alone. I’ll probably have to make my own beer runs now, too. Sheesh.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Poor Max! I hope there’s some relief in sight for him, soon . But, I must agree, good home cooking is good medicine. 🙂 Feel better soon, Max, and enjoy your lovingly prepared meals!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Clowie! Yep, hearing about the mites wasn’t pleasant but at least we had a diagnosis with which we could deal. The “maybe this, maybe that” approach of the former Vet did not encourage confidence. Vacillation is not something one wants in a care provider!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Finally someone comments on the key point of this entire post: mites have no anuses!!! (or ani or whatever). This, to me, was a striking bit of information and one which I will deploy from time to time in order to win bar bets throughout the western US. I think the reason God made an animal without an a****le is because He made so many other two legged creatures that are 100%, complete a****les. That’s my theory, anyway.


  7. Poor Max. You were correct in your description they looked like hideous alien alligators and I am itching as I type. To cheer Max, and you, I have written a short piece featuring the cheerful Max and snoring lumbering Bob. Oh, I included a link to your blog (I hope. trust that is okay, if not please let me know asap) Maria

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay? It’s more than okay – it’s wonderful that you wrote such a funny little story about the dogs! Loved it! In turn I took the liberty to re-blog it. Thanks so mush. It put a dog smile on the furry little Maltese’s face.


  8. Ohhh my goodness now I being poor and my dog old and failing physically somehow also had whay appeared to all as those awful mites I used peroxide rubs and calamine lotion over couple weeks with vitamin assistance he recovered nicely nut your little guy is more like my delicate BELLARINA than my old sweety the #BEEZ AMERICAN BULLDOG after his first stroke he was prone to so much after lifetime of no major issues..
    But was always skin sensitive like so many bully breeds nights just saw him coming ….BELLARINA in all her delicate Diva self is now suffering from recurring back nerve problems …that only keeping her from dancing around or chasing squirrels can fix…oh yah bed rest …sure good luck to me lol..
    Hope your latest batch of meds works poor little guy thankyou for stopping by the blog glad to have you…Elle


  9. Hi Tom,
    It’s been awhile since this post, so I was wondering how Max’s paws are going now? Has there been some improvement? I am immunosuppressed for my auto-immune disease and have to watch out for chest infections which can get out of hand. Had chemo, and all the nasties multiplied.
    Haven’t caught up with you for awhile but we’ve got two pups who are now six months old….Zac and Rosie who are brother and sister. Zac becomes airborne on the lead and Rosie is a chewer and food thief. Actually, she’s not too particular about what she chews and I recently posted a photo of her with pink paws after she chewed up a highlighter pen.
    It’s really late here so had better get to bed.
    Best wishes,


All comments are welcome, so speak! Speak! Good dog.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.