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People’s Pharmacy: Veterinarian objects to Listerine use

Q. As a veterinarian, I was curious about your recent article on Listerine for a dog’s coat. The dog’s owner described a non-itching patch of hair loss between the dog’s shoulder blades and her subsequent use of diluted Listerine on it following a Web search. Here are my thoughts:

When a pet experiences hair loss, seek a veterinarian’s advice. Looking online won’t provide the expertise about your pet’s problem that a vet can.

Treating animals with human medicines carries tremendous risks. And treating a skin problem with mouthwash also is risky. The company that makes the product has not subjected it to appropriate testing to make sure it will not cause harm to the skin.

I know no veterinary dermatologist who would recommend Listerine as a drug of choice for a dog’s skin problem. There are many proven veterinary medicinal products that are better. For a pet’s health concerns, advice from a veterinarian offers the most benefit.

A. We’re big fans of veterinarians – we have one in our family – and agree that hair loss requires a professional consultation. We first heard about the Listerine-and-baby-oil remedy in 2004. A radio-show listener said that his vet had recommended this combination for relieving itchy spots on his Dobermans and his horses. He was so impressed with the results, he used it to get rid of his own dandruff.

Other readers also have reported success, like this person: “My mother’s dog has anxiety problems, and when she’s stressed, she licks and chews on her elbow until she ends up with a raw sore. On the advice of her vet, my mom and I mixed this up and rubbed it into her ‘hot spot’ twice a day, making sure to bandage it so she didn’t ingest any of the mixture. We started noticing results immediately – the spot scabbed over and dried up, and started healing within a couple of days.”

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Q. I have suffered from a number of health problems for years, including abdominal pain, bloating and cramping. In addition, I have been plagued with anemia that I have been unable to correct.

A blood test was negative for celiac disease, but I decided to cut out gluten anyway. It made a huge difference. My doctor says because I don’t have celiac disease, I don’t need to avoid gluten. I am puzzled why I feel so much better without gluten in my diet.

A. Many doctors are puzzled by the concept of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, since they have no way to measure it other than the patients’ reports of their reactions (BMJ online, Oct. 5, 2015).

For a long time, however, most cases of celiac disease went undiagnosed because there was no easy way to detect it. Now there are genetic tests; people with genes that make them susceptible to celiac disease can be tested further with biopsy.

Perhaps someday the biological basis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity will be discovered. In the meantime, you’ll have to rely on your own reaction and good judgment. To learn more about both gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, you may be interested in our one-hour interview with Dr. Alessio Fasano, a leading expert in this field. For a CD of the show, “Should You Go Gluten Free?,” please send $9.99 plus $2 shipping and handling to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, CD-964, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. An MP3 of the interview may be downloaded ($2.99) at PeoplesPharmacy.com.