Q: I noticed recently that my female dog’s private parts were swollen. After some detective work, my veterinarian figured out that it was a reaction to my hormone cream. How does that happen?
A: If your pet loves to lick, hormone products can make him sick. There have been reports for several years now that pets (and children) are inadvertently ingesting topical hormone sprays, creams and gels. Dogs and cats are affected when they lick or rub against the treated area or get petted after the product is applied by hand. Signs include fur loss, mammary or nipple enlargement, a shrunken penis in males and bloody discharge or a swollen vulva in females.
Estrogen and testosterone aren’t the only hormones that cause problems. A psoriasis cream called Dovonex, which contains a synthetic form of vitamin D (itself a hormone), can cause unusual thirst, appetite loss and severe vomiting or diarrhea if pets lick it off the skin or chew on the tube. To protect pets, wear disposable gloves when applying gels or creams, and toss the gloves in an inaccessible trashcan when you’re through. The same goes for disposing of hormone patches.
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Apply creams or gels to areas your dog is unable or unlikely to lick, such as the inside of the thighs. If you’re using a spray, wear clothing that covers the treated area. Even if you wear gloves to apply the product, wash your hands with soap thoroughly -- for as long as it takes you to sing “Happy Birthday” twice through -- before touching pets, children or food, including pet food. Before you apply any product, prescription or otherwise, read the label or package insert to make sure it’s not toxic to pets or children if ingested.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com.