(31) Tic Tac Toe, the Cat’s Got to Go: Anguish of the tick

Molly, the service dogGolly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)


Miss Molly’s Blended Family

When we adopted Miss Molly into our family, we birthed a blended family. Molly joined us as our second pet. Moses, our cat, inhabited the Graft household fourteen years earlier. William’s son gifted Moses to us when entering the Coast Guard, promising to retrieve him at a future date. The cat never returned home but instead made our house his permanent digs.Cat, Moses, sitting on perch

Fourteen years embolden a cat to reign over his territory and declare that none other shall encroach. In cat words, “No dog is coming into my neighborhood.

Molly wiggles the scale meter around 134 pounds thanks to the treats she scarfs down with hidden medicine. Moses barely tips the scale at ten pounds. When Molly bumbled into our home as a permanent resident, Moses stood his ground–for about two seconds. He retreated to the furnace room in the basement where he now reigns as the resident mouse catcher. He surfaces occasionally for loving time once he no longer hears the pouncing weight of Molly overhead. Other than that, I see him only for meals and my litter-box cleaning chore.

Molly Visits the Dermatologist

William and Molly outside the Dermatologist's officeToday, Molly saw the animal dermatologist for her allergy to oak that continues to flare. Keeping a service dog at home because of her scratching and unsightly appearance does not help William with his disability. Molly’s veterinarian decided it was time to refer her to a specialist.

“Dr. Campbell does amazing things with dogs. I know she can help.” The veterinarian referred us to a Dermatologist.Molly and William at the Dermatologist's office

The first thing I noticed, entering Dr. Campbell’s office struck my olfactory senses with smells of Lysol and Swiffer disinfectant. The first thing Miss Molly noticed sat on the counter top and smelled of sweet potatoes and peanut butter. We told her a polite dog never helps herself to treats in someone else’s home so she sat down and drooled in anticipation of a doggie treat at the end of her visit.

It took the specialist but a few moments of hearing our description of her ailments and peeking at Molly’s measles-like rash to identify the cause.

The Diagnosis

“My suspicion is Sarcoptic parasites but I’ll need to do some scrapings to be sure.”

“Isn’t that a venereal disease?” I had never heard of Sarcoptic before but I knew the word parasite and surely our sweet Molly would never have such a thing.

The doctor retrieved a glass slide and began scraping skin while a kind-hearted technician rubbed Molly’s head and ears. Both doctor and technician disappeared for a few minutes.

“Would either of you like to see what we found?” The technician bubbled with excitement at the find. “You can see it under the microscope.”

Thrilled at the invitation for analysis, I followed her to the next room while William remained with Molly. Focusing into the scope, I shrieked at the alien critter squirming in an ooze of stringy things.

Now confirmed, Miss Molly contracted MANGE—Sarcoptic mange to be specific. In addition to a dailyRed fox on sidewalk trail of bears and turkey through our yard, red-tail fox traverse our pine-cone hillside, leaving their parasitic friends for innocent Molly. These parasites are common to the fox and coyote. The fox must be the culprit because our area is devoid of coyotes (they’ve all been eaten by the mountain lion or the bears).

While a simple treatment will resolve Molly’s problems, Moses surfaces as a kingpin.

“Your cat is an island of parasitic potential. He must be treated, too.” The doctor sounded apologetic at the proclamation.

cat resting on chair“He sleeps all day, stays away from the dog, and lives in the basement—away from Molly.” I could not bear to give the news to Moses that he must be medicated because of the dog. I understood the doctor, nodding when she explained that the ticks transfer between animals—even when they do not touch if they pass through any common space. They bide their time until the next animal passes and jump aboard. They ride it out on the new animal and wait again until another animal comes by—living in the environment for four days to three weeks, waiting for the next host.

“Can’t we just get rid of the cat instead?” William never professed to be a cat lover. His PTSD–laced humor comes across crudely at times.

The doctor peered over her glasses at William. Looking at me, she said, “Don’t worry. I have a brother with “filter” problems, too.”

“I would love for more people to know about Sarcoptic mange. It is a frequent occurrence but often is misdiagnosed as allergies. I’ve seen cases so bad that some pet owners are ready to euthanize and yet it is simple to treat.”

I shared Miss Molly’s blog with her, telling her we can help by sharing the information on our blog. She granted us permission to quote her and share her website, which contains a special paper about “Sarcoptic Mange” at www.AnimalAllergyColorado.com. (Scroll to page 101 in the PDF document of this link.)

On our way out, the staff gave Molly her treat and Dr. Campbell gave us a discount since Molly works as a service dog!

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) does not apply to animals so please keep Molly’s name out of any discussion about mange. (To a dog, the mange is as embarrassing as a human having a disease with the initials STD.)


Mr. Moses will write the next Molly Blog: How Much is that Doggie in the Window?—I’ll sell her for free

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Have you been surprised by a medical diagnosis for your pet? Please comment below.

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her husband, William, and dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.