C.G., Hendersonville, NC
Jun 17, 2013
I am a cat owner/lover, and I read your column regularly. You give excellent advice, and I have learned many things from you. I have one problem with your advice, however: I am concerned that your descriptions of ideal cat care, especially diet, may discourage some folks from adopting a shelter cat.
The home preparation of some foods and the purchase of specialized and expensive prepared foods may be more than many people want to take on. My own cats have lived long, healthy lives with supermarket foods.
As you well know, thousands of cats are put to death in shelters because there are no homes for them. Wouldn''t you choose life for a cat in a comfortable, loving home with a less-than-ideal diet rather than euthanasia?
Your advice is good, but I''d like to see you do more to encourage adoption by people like me.
C.G., Hendersonville, NC Jun 18, 2013
I appreciate your comments, and I must stress that pet food manufacturers often provide free cat and dog food to shelters, which is better than nothing -- or whatever might be rounded up from local butchers, bakers and grocers, as was done in the old days. Also in the old days -- I am talking about 20 to 30 years ago -- pet food manufacturers, while having less nutritional science knowledge, often had better ingredients from U.S. family farms with minimal pesticide use and no GMOs (genetically modified foods). Today, manufacturers rely on food and beverage industry byproducts and imported ingredients, like those from China that have sickened and killed thousands of dogs and cats. Certainly, adopting a pet with a pack of free food from the shelter is good salesmanship when it comes to pet food manufacturers marketing their products.
I agree with you that cats and dogs can adapt to the kinds of diets that I do not endorse because they are not biologically appropriate -- too high in soy and cereals with poor-quality animal protein and fats. But many do not, and they develop costly chronic diseases, as documented in this column on a near-weekly basis.
I constantly beat the drum for good nutrition for humans and animals. It is not simply a matter of food costs, but of what manufacturers are putting into pet foods and prepared human foods that contribute to the obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome epidemics and a host of other physical and behavioral maladies plaguing the Earth.
Tags: cat diet food
Jun 17, 2013
Snoopy, my brother and sister-in-law''s 11-year-old beagle, is ailing. A year ago, they were told he had an inoperable tumor on his heart. But after a lot of TLC, he revived, recovered energy and became like his old self. It appeared his tumor had shrunk.
But now he is lethargic again. He hardly has the energy to go outside or walk to his pillow bed on the floor. He sleeps a lot, will eat when fed directly and occasionally drinks a small quantity of water. Family members pet him gently for long periods, and this puts him to sleep. When he wakes up, he is perkier.
I am writing to ask if there are some foods (or better still, liquids) you recommend to make him as comfortable as possible. Since his tumor shrank before, I wonder if it could shrink again.
Jun 18, 2013
Strange things can happen with various cancers when the immune system kicks in and is supported by good genetics and good nutrition.
There is a movement gaining momentum for human and animal cancer patients that recommends going on a high-animal protein (meat, eggs, poultry, fish), high-fat (fish, flax and coconut oils) diet with lots of variously colored fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, all blended together and fed raw or lightly cooked. Always transition gradually onto any new diet, therapeutic or otherwise, and provide probiotics and digestive enzymes. In addition, supplements such as canine resveratrol; vitamins A, E and C; coenzyme Q10; magnesium; and selenium may also be of benefit. Some holistic practitioners also prescribe the amino acid L-arginine and various anti-cancer mushroom formulations.
To find a holistic veterinarian in your area, a searchable list can be found at ahvma.org. Veterinarians wishing to learn more are encouraged to become members of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. The winter 2013 issue of the journal Integrative Veterinary Care has an excellent article on nutrition and cancer.
W.M., Arlington, Va
Tags: dog Arlington VA
Jun 16, 2013
I was disturbed by a CNN reporter''s statement concerning the search-and-rescue dogs working in the Moore, Okla., tornado wreckage: "The dogs, brave dogs going into these homes and buildings, some of them stepping on the nails and other dangerous debris here." What are your thoughts on this? It seems like animal abuse to me.
W.M., Arlington, Va Jun 17, 2013
There is no excuse for not providing these dogs with protective boots and body wraps to help prevent injuries to their undersides and flanks. Military dogs are provided with such protective gear, and animals handled by civilian services should likewise be properly attired to help minimize injury and incapacitation. In his study of injuries and illnesses in search-and-rescue dogs, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Lon E. Gordon notes, "Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for training of search-and-rescue dogs stress the need for traction on rubble piles. It is plausible that searches in areas of little to no rubble, such as homes searched in response to Hurricane Katrina, could be safely conducted by dogs wearing booties."
Susannah Charleson, canine search-and-rescue team member and author of the new and inspiring book "The Possibility Dogs," sent me the following statement: "Safety for the search dogs is a serious concern for all of us who work with loved, respected K-9 partners. Operational gear for the dogs, like body wraps and boots, certainly needs to protect from puncture injuries, (while) at the same time it doesn''t raise the risk of heat stroke, entanglement and serious slip/fall accidents. Debris dogs often work ''naked'' to lessen the risk of hanging or binding a dog, and disaster sites often present a tough call. There''s been quite a bit of research and development for this kind of gear, particularly since 9/11, and there are boots, vests, goggles and so on that some handlers swear by and others have had reason to mistrust. I think most of us would love to see protection available that really functions as it needs to, allowing the dog to do a strong, sure-footed job without compromising the ability to balance, maneuver and ventilate."
So I appeal to all concerned to get some good gear designed for these dogs to be used with greater regularity when they are at work.
B.L.C., Washington, DC
Tags: dog Washington DC
Jun 16, 2013
I am hoping you can help me understand this cat behavior: I adopted two lovely female ragamuffin cats about 2 1/2 years ago from a rescue site; they were about 8 months old. I was told they were sisters.
I noticed Leeza was the dominant one. Sissy would let Leeza eat some of her treats if Leeza finished first. Leeza did not want to be approached and was very skittish. Sissy would follow me around like a dog and was very vocal, greeting me when I came home and sitting on my lap when I watched TV. Leeza would stretch out on the floor with her legs in the air and mew quietly, but when I approached her, she would run off.
Recently, after reading an interesting a book about cat personalities, I decided that when Leeza stretched out, put her legs in the air and mewed, she probably wanted me to pet her. I crawled slowly toward her, and she allowed me to pet her and very much enjoyed it.
Now Sissy is not following me around, won''t greet me at the door, acts standoffish and hides in another room. She is eating less. Leeza has become my shadow and is the vocal one, constantly stretching out on the floor and mewing for attention while Sissy is off hiding somewhere. It is almost as though there was a shift in personalities.
I feel bad for Sissy. I have petted them both when they are near one another, but it is as though Sissy is a dejected cat. Tell me what more I can do to show both of them that they are loved equally.
B.L.C., Washington, DC Jun 17, 2013
What you describe is something very feline in terms of how cats react to attention -- you can call it jealousy, competitive social dominance or displacement. Encouraging your cats to interact playfully with a lure on a string or grooming them in turn may help bring the triangle of your two-cat family and you together. My e-book "Understanding Your Cat" may give you other helpful insights that cats have taught me over the years.
Jun 06, 2013
In Dr. Fox's column yesterday he talked about Pets passing from broken hearts. Typically an owner passing and asked if anyone had similar stories. I do and thought I'd share.
I had a wonderful Cat (Original Stray) named Kitty. She lived 19 very happy years. Throughout her life Kitty had only been sick one time with a UTI. That was it. I was diagnosed with stage IIIB cancer in 2004. Kitty was 17. I had to take extensive chemo and was very ill. I would lay on the couch and Kitty would lay, not on me as usual, but on the floor, right next too me. I noticed she wasn't really moving around or eating, like me, and became concerned.
I had been having trouble with my red blood count and needed injections. Well, I took Kitty to the Vet, and she had the exact same problem, her red blood count. They were astounded that at her age that was the only problem with Kitty. NO other ailments. We gave her a bit of medication but she actually got better with me.
She was a wonderful kitty and lived 2 more years after my treatment. I believe she developed my symptoms as sympathy.
Just a little story, but perhaps Dr. is interested.
I now have a new Kitty (5 years) taken actually from an ASPCA, all infected, bronchial, eyes, spade before she was even 4lbs...they were going to leave her to die.
She was with 2 other kitties. One, also spayed, what I believed too young, that poor kitty just stayed in place and swayed, obviously very sick, and one a bit more active. No Mother Cat. The conditions were a freezing January day and they were in a cold cage on the concrete floor away from light lined only with light newspaper. It was awful. McFaddy, as she is now known, actually, without me even seeing her, climbed into armpit of my coat and went into my sleeve. She was so tiny she was at my elbow. I was able to take her next day and get her to Vet and treated. She remains skittish to this day. Unfortunately she won't sit with my, but she does sit next to me, and is learning to play and see people more and more without fear. It's been a slow process, but a rewarding one. She has a terrible fear of leaving my small apartment, even to go in the hallway, but, again, slowly, she is coming around. I wonder if she was actually Feral.
And, FYI, that ASPCA was investigated and I believe the people who were running it, if you could call it that, were fired.
Thank you for your column, I enjoy it very much, and all you do!
Jun 07, 2013
Dear Peggy, I appreciate your account of your cat developing the same symptoms as you, I have written about this phenomenon of an apparent sympathetic resonance between emotionally connected animals and humans. It may be one of the hazards/ burdens of empathy, but in many instances it could be pure coincidence.
As for the account of the neglected kittens at the shelter, this is a problem when there are no inspectors or trained and responsible supervisors of such facilities. There is a municipal shelter in the St. Louis MO area where visitors are never allowed inside, nor are volunteer dog walkers, which is outrageous. I know from first hand experience how personnel can become emotionally disconnected from the animals that they have to handle and care for day in and day out as a defense mechanism, or because the burden of empathy leads to 'burn out'. Such staff need appropriate counseling. Yet others have no feeling for fellow creatures and should never be employed in the first place.
For the animals,
Michael W. Fox
P.K., Naples, FL
Tags: dog Naples FL fleas
Jun 03, 2013
This letter is about detoxification. Years ago, when I lived in Collingswood, N.J., my 15-month-old Dachshund started throwing up and having diarrhea. Home remedies did not work. I took her to the vet, where she was admitted. Two or three days later, she was deemed fine and released. This happened twice. The third time, I dropped her off for the same problem, and as I was leaving, I noticed they were removing her flea collar. I stopped in my tracks and asked, "Have you removed the flea collar every time she was admitted?" They said yes, always. I took her home and trashed the flea collar, and she never had the problem again.
Truthfully, I was upset with the staff for not considering this, and I found another vet. She was allergic to the flea collar. It cost me several hundred dollars to figure that out!
P.K., Naples, FL Jun 04, 2013
I wrote about problems with flea collars and spot-on anti-flea and tick drugs in an earlier column. I hope that all readers will take note of your costly -- and distressing -- experience and adopt the integrated flea control program detailed on my website. Readers can also try the new, safe spray from PetzLife, Complete Coat.
It is ridiculous to give potentially hazardous insecticides to cats and dogs in order to prevent flea infestation. That's like taking antibiotics to prevent infection. It's not real prevention, but it is really profitable for the drug companies!
Tags: cat litter
Jun 02, 2013
I have two 10-year-old Cornish rex brothers. After I returned from a 10-day vacation, which I take two times a year, I noticed that they both started urinating on chairs, counters and tables as well as using the litter box. I used my regular cat sitter while I was gone.
They don't have any physical problems. I've tried using different litters, and I've used the Feliway pheromone dispensers. They're on antidepressants. I'm trying Royal Canin Calm cat food now. I clean the boxes daily. I've moved litter boxes into the areas they are marking, but they use them and then go to another part of the house and spray. There are three open boxes and one covered.
It seems strange that they are both doing this. Is one copying the other? They are very close and only fight now and then. They are extremely affectionate cats, and I love them dearly. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Jun 03, 2013
I sympathize with your difficulties. Whatever insecurity made your cats feel the need to mark around the house, they have developed the equivalent of a habit-fixation, continuing to soil after your return even though everything is the same as before you went on vacation.
There is a remote chance that there is an outdoor cat prowling, spraying and yowling, which may have set off your cats while you were away.
You need to confine the cats to one room to break the cycle. Spend as much time with them as you can for seven to 10 days. Get them back onto their regular cat food and off the antidepressant. Offer them a little dried catnip every other day. Clean all soiled areas with a liquid enzymatic cleaner like Nature's Miracle. Do not put litter boxes out except in the places they went before the problem started. When you let them out after their de-conditioning isolation, be very calm and go about your normal daily routine. A little lightly cooked turkey, which contains the calming amino acid tryptophan, would be as good as anything to help calm them down. Tie a cotton strip with a few drops of lavender oil around their necks, and hang a similarly prepared strip in the room, which you can replenish every 24 hours.
B.N., Potomac, Md
Tags: cat Potomac MD
May 27, 2013
My 17-year-old cat has a neoplasm at the site of a rabies vaccination on his mid-back that he got about four or five years ago. It has increased in size. I raised objections to the injection site (having heard that it was better to give the shot in the leg), but the holistic vet said that's no longer true. My homeopathic vet has begun treating it and wants to refer me to another holistic vet to consider escharotic injection. I understand it's very messy and possibly traumatic for the cat (and owner).
We haven't done a biopsy. He is in no apparent pain, it doesn't hurt when I touch it gently, he is eating well, he loves his twice-daily walks with me and his eyes are bright -- he's in good spirits.
My vet is also treating him homeopathically and with Standard Process Feline Renal Support for serious renal issues, further compounding my aversion to surgery for the neoplasm. I've had him on homemade cat food, high quality raw food and high quality canned food all his life, with about 10 nongrain kibbles as a bedtime treat.
Do you have any further suggestions for these issues? Many thanks.
B.N., Potomac, Md May 28, 2013
An escharotic injection is an injection of a caustic chemical like silver nitrate. Such a caustic material would not differentiate between the cat's healthy tissue and the cancer, essentially destroying both and possibly stimulating surviving tumorous cells to proliferate and probably causing the cat great discomfort. I think the veterinarians need to focus more on your cat's age and quality of life than on treatment options.
I am not aware of clinical studies demonstrating effective escharotic treatment of feline fibrosarcomas. Nor am I aware that there has been any change in the protocol for vaccinating cats as far down on their legs as possible, where amputation of the limb above any injection-site turmors is a more reliable way of getting rid of the cancer than extensive surgery.
If this were my cat, I would give him supplements of fish oil; Resveratrol for cats; and put one part each of essential oils of frankincense, lavender and myrrh in 40 parts organic almond oil. Apply this mixture twice daily for seven days, stop for seven days and apply again for another seven days. If there is no sign of shrinking, stop further treatment since essential oils are risky for cats.
While grapes and raisins can cause renal failure in dogs, the toxins involved have not been identified. Resveratrol for dogs and cats is, by all accounts, safe, even though it is extracted from grapes. Its anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and other beneficial qualities have made this a popular human supplement. For details, visit resvantagefeline.com. I have no financial interests in any company producing this supplement.
May 26, 2013
I've lived with cats all my life and thought I understood most of their behaviors, but there's one thing that my two cats do that has me stumped. Right as they begin to drink, they scratch the ground eight to 10 times right next to the bowl. They may take a drink or two as they do this, then they quit scratching and settle down in earnest to drink. I don't remember any of my other cats doing this. My two kitties are females, 11 and 13 years old.
Thanks for any insight you can give about this strange behavior.
May 27, 2013
My book, "Understanding Your Cat" (available now as an e-book at DrFoxVet.com), has helped thousands of people decipher feline behavior. Cats are copycats, and that explains why both your cats engage in a behavior you have never seen before. Being littermates makes them more likely to be copycats, and I advocate always adopting two littermates for the cats' sake -- they really need each other's company.
When cats paw around water and food bowls before drinking and eating I interpret it as a ritualistic, superstitious behavior, linked in the wild to uncovering and checking whatever they are going to ingest. Our two formerly feral cats routinely paw around their food bowls after eating and often cover them completely with the short throw rugs placed under their bowls.
E.L., Holly, MI
Tags: dog Holly MI diet food
May 26, 2013
My beloved 12-year-old purebred Siberian husky, Cassie, was sick off and on this year, but all the diagnostic tests and blood work we had done didn''t show anything.
She lost her usual vim and vigor. She kept getting itches between her toes and on her belly that she licked and chewed on until she was raw and bloody, and she had occasional bouts of diarrhea. Finally, about six weeks ago, the latest round of blood work showed her thyroid levels have crashed -- off the charts, actually.
Cassie has been on the thyroid medicine for more than a month now, and she is doing well. All her health problems related to her drastically low thyroid levels have cleared up.
Unfortunately, she has an issue of shaking back legs, which is something else entirely. Now it has progressed to occasional full-body twitches and a general lack of good balance. Our vet and I suspect a neurological cause, but he says that even if we do a $3,000 MRI (which we would), often it does not show small tumors, so it''s dubious whether to do it. And if we see a brain tumor, what then? We are not going to put her through that type of surgery at 12 years old.
She is happy, full of pep, totally enjoying her walks, has a good appetite and loves life, so we are just going to treasure every good day she has with us and see what happens. We don''t know what else to do. This leg shaking and body twitching does not happen when she is walking or running, only when she stands still.
Have you personally experienced or know of any cases where a dog started off with mildly trembling back legs that progressed to full-on shaking, and then full-body twitches? Do you know what this might be?
E.L., Holly, MI May 27, 2013
I am glad you found that treatment for severe hypothyroidism, which can manifest in a variety of symptoms.
The spasms you describe are common in older dogs; the more severe shakes are linked most often with tumors or spinal deterioration from spondylosis. An MRI may or may not give the answer, and, as you said, then what? Regardless of the cost of making a possible diagnosis, there is probably no effective treatment that is not invasive or involving repeated chemotherapy or radiation, which may lower your dog''s quality of life. If she is not in pain or fearful/anxious, I would try anti-inflammatory supplements, like good-quality fish oil; New Chapter''s human Zyflamend supplement (give the same doses as for a human, with food, twice daily); Acetyl-L-carnitine; and massage therapy. Be sure she has a soft pad to rest on. In some instances, acupuncture and laser heat therapy can provide temporary relief.
My 15-year-old Indian pariah dog got some temporary relief from his spondylitis with prednisone. He was in pain and fear from this degenerative disease, which got worse and eventually lead to euthanasia.