J.C., Hendersonville, NC
Tags: cat Hendersonville NC
May 30, 2010
We live in a remote wooded mountain area in North Carolina. A few years ago, a ratty-looking, longhaired, white feral male cat appeared. We began feeding him, and in time we adopted him. We trimmed many knots in his fur, and he became part of our family. He is smart, patient, handsome and gets along well with our other two calico cats. He is current on all shots with our vet.
Occasionally, he will disappear into the woods for a day or two and returns tired and hungry. He leaves on the run, and weather is no deterrent. He has frequently left in deep snow and subzero temperatures. We have long wondered where he goes and what his motivation might be. We would appreciate your thoughts on the subject.
J.C., Hendersonville, NC May 31, 2010
It is possible that he has a surviving littermate who remains feral and is too timid to reveal its presence to you, as feline littermates form strong bonds. I trust your cat is neutered (an issue you did not mention in your letter). The other possibility, which reminds me of the traditional Australian walkabout, is that he wishes to engage all of his senses and consciousness in his familiar wild environment. Is he a hunter? That he is a "cool cat" who likes the wild side is evident. If he were mine -- as I did in the Maine woods with my cat Igor -- I would walk and stalk with him in the woods, perhaps beginning with a harness or leash. My assistant Ted Unseth confides: "In my early, more irresponsible 20s, I allowed my all-time favorite dog, Lady, to wander outside if she liked. She never went far and always came back the same day, except for once a year. She would be gone for a day or two. Initially, I was very worried, but got used to this over the years. She did it only once each year (almost like clockwork). When she came back, she was generally covered in stinky, gooey yuck and looked absolutely wiped out. But she also looked really satisfied and content. It seemed to me that she had taken a walk on the wild side and had a blast!"
L.K., Arlington, Va
Tags: dog Arlington VA diet food
May 30, 2010
I have a 15-year-old miniature dachshund who has suffered for more than a year with chronic sneezing and gagging. Many times when she sneezes, white mucus will come out of her nose. Lately, she has labored breathing, as if she is congested. I have had her examined by two different vets, both of whom have run several tests and put her on various antibiotics. No one has been able to determine the cause of her problem, and none of the antibiotics has helped. She has been on Hill''s Science Diet, both wet and dry, all her life. I also add some green beans to her evening meal. In the past few months, she has begun to walk with a shuffling gait. Other than that, she appears very well and fairly lively for a dog her age. Last week, she had her teeth cleaned, and several small teeth were removed.
Could she have developed an allergy that is aggravating this situation? I would appreciate your thoughts.
L.K., Arlington, Va May 31, 2010
Chronic sneezing and gagging could mean an upper-respiratory infection, which in some dogs is associated with congestive heart failure. The veterinarians probably ruled this out; otherwise, dental surgery would probably not have been done. In bad cases of periodontal disease, bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled or the infected saliva can be gagged up into the nasal passages, leading respectively to chronic bronchitis or sinus- or nasal-cavity infection. Her shuffling gait may spell arthritis. I would give your dog a daily massage (as per my book "The Healing Touch for Dogs"), and supplements such as chondroitin, glucosamine, coenzyme Q10 and New Chapter''s Zyflamend with food may help.
C.C., Newport Beach, FL
Tags: cat Newport Beach FL allergies
May 29, 2010
I have a question concerning therapy cats. My friend lives in a condo that does not allow animals. However, she baby-sat a cat for a woman who was going out of town. This cat belonged to her husband who was an invalid. It is a therapy cat, and the condo allowed them to have the feline in their apartment. My friend would like to "qualify" to get a therapy cat. I assume one must get a note from an MD stating that this is necessary for a patient''s quality of health. How does one qualify to be eligible for a therapy cat?
C.C., Newport Beach, FL May 30, 2010
Most people qualify because we all derive some health benefits from animal companionship, unless they are allergic to animals or are terrified of them! Any good primary-care physician worth his or her salt would write an official letter supporting a patient''s medical need for a companion animal and that it would be against the best interests of the patient to be denied the benefits of animal companionship, the therapeutic value of which is a medical fact. People should not be separated from their beloved animals simply because it is a condo or assisted-living or retirement-home rule. Every effort should be made to keep the elderly and infirm/handicapped with their animal companions because, with rare exception, they provide therapeutic benefit (most often emotional) to their owner caregivers.
D.F., New York, NY
Tags: dog New York NY
May 29, 2010
I was wondering if you believe dogs have a sense of time. When we leave the house for 10 minutes, we get the same reaction as when we come home after leaving him at a kennel for three days.
Also, I was told that every time we leave, the dog thinks that we will not return. Is this correct? It would seem to me this would put much stress on the animal.
D.F., New York, NY May 30, 2010
Your two questions are challenging because the science of ethology, which entails observing an animal''s behavior until you can predict what he or she most likely will do next, has its limitations. Educated guesses in the interpretation of animal behavior are excusable and could lead to further noninvasive research observation and hypothesis testing to advance our understanding and appreciation of animals. Separation (being apart from his pack, i.e., you and your family) is timeless. It is all or nothing, so he greets you with the same intensity regardless of how long you were gone. But that does not mean to say that the duration of separation doesn''t count. The longer duration is worse for some pining and anxious dogs who can even die if their condition is not recognized. My wife Deanna and I had a beloved dog Tanza whom she rescued and brought home from Tanzania. Tanza would ignore us for a day or two (after a brief welcome) if we were away from home for any length of time. I do not believe there is any evidence pro or con regarding whether dogs think we will not return once they have had a few experiences of being alone for a period of time. But some dogs may be more cognitively challenged than others.
E.A.P., West Palm Beach, FL
Tags: dog West Palm Beach FL diet food
May 23, 2010
I have a 9-year-old male Siamese cat that has just been diagnosed with arthritis. The first vet said his back legs and hip were affected and prescribed prednisone for a week and glucosamine/chondroitin capsules sprinkled on his food once a day. He felt an X-ray was unnecessary. The second vet said he thought that the arthritis affected his back and that it could be due to an old injury; he strongly recommended an X-ray to confirm. He also said to use the glucosamine/chondroitin twice a day. This seems to have helped somewhat; however, overall, my cat has been slowing down considerably in the last year.
What would you recommend as a next course of action?
E.A.P., West Palm Beach, FL May 24, 2010
The diagnosis of arthritis (especially in older cats who become crabby, less active and may seem depressed and are no longer playful) is often made too late, if not at all. This underdiagnosed feline malady is in part due to what cats are usually fed, namely manufactured foods with omega-6 fatty acid excess and omega-3 deficiency; not having the stimulation of another cat or highly interactive, play/chase-initiating owner; and not going to see the veterinarian on a regular, annual basis. In addition to what your veterinarians prescribe, give your cat a drop of fish oil in his food once a day, increasing gradually to 1/2 teaspoon daily. This provides anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. If your cat does not like fish oil, try organic butter or beef from grass-fed cattle.
J.K., Washington, DC
Tags: dog Washington DC diet food
May 23, 2010
I read your column concerning dogs that get anesthesia for teeth cleaning, and I have been concerned, as my two dogs have had this procedure.
My toy poodle had her teeth cleaned and three extractions, as her teeth are not very good. She was 4 years old at that time. Now, two years later, she has a loose front tooth that needs attention. The regular veterinarian will not do it and has referred me back to the specialist who cleaned her teeth. I do not want her to have anesthesia again, plus this treatment is expensive. I had another veterinarian give me an estimate of about $400, which is much cheaper than the specialist, but it still concerns me.
I love Molly and want to help her. Do you have an alternative plan for her? She likes the bones you recommend, but I am afraid to give her more as I worry about the tooth.
J.K., Washington, DC May 24, 2010
Toy breeds are especially prone to dental disease, so it is important to get them used to having their teeth cleaned by their owners at least twice a week, beginning at an early age. PetzLife oral-care products, especially the spray and gel (also flavored for cats), help prevent gum infection and the buildup of tartar. Using this kind of product for several days prior to professional teeth cleaning helps reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth, thus reducing surgical risk. Dogs (and cats) with heart and other health problems should also be put on antibiotics before dental work is done. After teeth cleaning, use PetzLife spray or gel to help maintain clean and healthy gums and teeth. Chewy foods such as thin strips of raw, scalded beef heart or shank beef can help keep teeth clean, along with chewing on an organic rawhide strip or beef soup (marrow) bone for five to 10 minutes daily. Time restriction is advisable because dogs can get involved in chewing so hard that they can crack their teeth.
J.K., Naples, FL
Tags: cat Naples FL diet food
May 22, 2010
My friends call me a health nut, which seems to me unfair because everyone should be interested in nutrition. But as I say that, I wonder if I'm feeding my two cats healthy food.
I do not give them byproducts, and I read labels. I've sent you two labels of the food that I use. Could you please send a list of pet-food companies that produce good diets?
J.K., Naples, FL May 23, 2010
Everyone should be concerned and informed about achieving optimal nutrition for themselves and their animal companions. Having a computer can be a great help in this regard. Because many of my readers don't have Internet access, I urge them to get books such as "Not Fit for a Dog" by Drs. Fox and Hodgkins, Anitra Frazier's "The New Natural Cat" and "Natural Dog" by Deva Khalsa. Those with computers can visit FelineNutritionEducationSociety.org to find a wealth of information.
Cats are picky and often prefer crunchy dry kibble; but the best is homemade, raw and/or lightly cooked. There are frozen, freeze-dried, baked and canned cat foods, many organically certified, which are better than most of the pet foods being sold in grocery stores, big-box pet stores and far too many veterinary hospitals. Here is a list of some of the better cat-food manufacturers: Evanger's, PetGuard, Merrick, Natura's Evo, Castor & Pollux and Stella & Chewy's. Visit your local health store and ask them. You may find a local provider of good cat food, raw or cooked. Remember, when transitioning to a new diet, accomplish it slowly over five to seven days, beginning with just a morsel of the new food. This will enable the animal's digestive system to adjust.
F.L.G., Lake Park, FL
Tags: cat Lake Park FL
May 22, 2010
I read in today''s paper about a cat that had to be euthanized, and I want to tell you about my daughter''s cats.
She had three beautiful cats that were in good health for years. But then she started using a Swiffer to clean her tile floors, and, after a period of time, the cats became ill and the vet couldn''t get them well. Two of the cats had to be put down. The third cat is still with her but has to be fed a special diet in an effort to keep her healthy.
My point is that this cleaning product is not good for animals, especially cats, because they groom and lick themselves all the time. Please tell your readers that cleaners can hurt their pets.
F.L.G., Lake Park, FL May 23, 2010
I receive many complaints like yours. Others are about scented products with artificial fragrances that are highly volatile and may be inhaled, as in scented kitty litter. Some balding cats recover when non-scented litter is used. Cats pick up potentially harmful chemicals from those in laundered sheets, household and furniture cleaners, flame-retardant treated carpets and room-diffused and sprayed fragrances.
The FDA is in lock step with big business when it comes to many products, so it''s not much help. But we can help our animal companions and ourselves by becoming chemically conscious. Unfortunately, one must often become chemically sensitized before waking up to these health hazards. It is notable that some cleaners do not say what chemicals they are impregnated with. Stick with cleaners that are known to be safe -- such as white vinegar, baking soda and natural products like Orange TKO. Avoid all products that contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds), because cats may be especially prone to develop adverse reactions, as they lack certain liver enzymes to help detoxify such environmental contaminants. I would like to hear from other readers who have resolved pet-health problems by not using certain in-home chemicals.
M. & N.C., Chesapeake, Va
Tags: dog Chesapeake VA diet food
May 16, 2010
My husband and I have a 9-month-old Maltipoo, whom we love dearly. Unfortunately, he has a disgusting habit -- Jaxon eats his own feces. Unless we follow him around the yard with a scooper, he will always eat his feces after he defecates. How can we resolve this problem?
M. & N.C., Chesapeake, Va May 17, 2010
Many people with dogs like yours have cured this coprophagic expression of canine dysbiosis (a digestive or nutritional problem) with brewer''s yeast, probiotic capsules or tablets, live plain yogurt, kefir or digestive plant enzymes (from papaya and pineapple). Go to a local health-food store, and check out the dog-food section for organic, whole-food-ingredient brands that other stores probably do not carry. Better-quality dog foods may have the essential nutrients that your dog craves and that are lacking in his present diet. The behavioral/psychological dimensions of coprophagia are considerable, ranging from an anxiety-driven vice to simply cleaning up, like a mother dog keeping the den clean for her pups. So never scold your dog when caught in the act, but rather, ignore and try aversive conditioning, putting hot-pepper sauce or cayenne pepper on some feces left in the yard as bait.
D. & G.B., Bowie, Md
Tags: dog Bowie MD
May 16, 2010
My wife and I are in our late 70s and currently own our third schnauzer. She is 14 years old and in fair health, suffering from internal tumors and not very active. She is not expected to live much longer. We expect to take in another schnauzer, but are unsure how to go about it. Should we get a puppy as a companion to our dying dog? Will they be compatible? Now that we are getting up in age, we fear we may find it more difficult to train a puppy. What are your thoughts about this?
D. & G.B., Bowie, Md May 17, 2010
Your dog is quite old, and a puppy may be more of a pest than a playmate and companion -- as well as a possible source of jealousy. Regardless of the difficulties in training, getting a pup who might outlive you would certainly not be my choice.
I would wait until schnauzer No. 3 passes and then adopt a middle-aged schnauzer in need of a good home. Your local animal shelter or humane society should be able to help you with this, and you may be surprised how many dogs are out there waiting to be adopted because their owners died before them or went into housing where pets are not allowed.