J.H.A., Mystic, CT
Tags: cat CT Mystic
Dec 27, 2010
About 10 years ago, a young, semi-feral shorthair female cat selected me to be her provider at a small marina where I am employed. She is mild-mannered but easily spooked and comes to me only. She remains an outdoor cat by choice, but I provide a doghouse shelter, fresh water and three “squares” a day. Her appetite is good, and she grooms herself well.
Recently though, I noticed that her coat was visibly thinning along her spine, about 1-1/2 inches wide from mid-back to tail. There is no wetness, no scabbing and no flea dirt. It’s much like a man’s balding.
I want to spare her the trauma of an animal carrier and vet appointment, but mostly I want to preserve her trust. It was many years before she would allow me to pet her. I would appreciate your advice.
J.H.A., Mystic, CT Dec 27, 2010
I truly appreciate your spirit of the Good Samaritan caring for this cat. You have clearly established a bond, which could be subsequently re-established. I would trap her in a humane and effective box trap and have her condition evaluated by a veterinary cat specialist, carefully coordinating the trapping of the cat with an appointment set up ahead of time. She probably needs to be wormed, and the veterinarian will probably insist on vaccinations. You do not know if she has been spayed, and I would not agree to an exploratory operation to see if she needs this operation because she is getting on in years and her breeding days are probably over.
I doubt she will lose trust in you. She should come around quickly once you release her into her familiar terrain. Perhaps you should seriously consider making her a live-in companion. Unable to escape from a suitable room or indoor enclosure, many cats settle down and come to feel safe and secure, especially when paired with an outgoing, socialized cat.
M.E., Nixa, Mo
Tags: cat Nixa MO diet food
Dec 27, 2010
What kind of moist cat food do you recommend? I’ve been feeding nothing but dry. Years ago, our vet recommended only dry, saying canned food wasn’t good for cats. Our mixed breed gets some fresh liver snacks, but also Nutro Natural Choice Lite.
Is there something better for him? He is 5 years old and not overweight, even though he doesn’t get much exercise.
M.E., Nixa, Mo Dec 27, 2010
Veterinarians used to recommend just dry food for cats in part because some were led to believe that crunchy dry food would help keep their teeth clean. But these days, most animal doctors recommend that cats eat moist, canned, home-prepared or a balanced raw food (which you thaw before serving). Check with a local specialty pet store or an upscale grocery store for better brands of both canned and dry cat foods like Evo, Innova, Wellness, Organix, PetGuard and Newman’s Own.
A diet of dry, high-cereal-content cat food is responsible for a host of feline health problems, but they are still being sold. Your cat may be addicted to dry food, so try transitioning him onto a low or zero grain-containing dry cat food, as per the aforementioned brands, and then offer various brands of canned, giving a tablespoon for starters when he is hungry. Limit his dry food intake accordingly.
D.F., Fenton, Mo
Tags: dog Fenton MO obedience
Dec 26, 2010
I think bark collars and so-called training collars that shock are abusive and inhumane.
My dog weighs 70 pounds. When between puppy and adult stage (about 6 months), she would jump up on us, and her rough, playful nips hurt. Unwittingly, I purchased an obedience collar that emitted a shock from an activated handheld device.
I saw an immediate downfall in her spirits. She cowered and stayed away from my husband and me. She had traumatic reactions to us even touching her normal collar. I discontinued the use of that horrible device and method.
How awful was it? She is now 11 years old, and she still remembers that shock collar. She’s leery of anything that has to do with a collar, even her normal one. She shows fear and jerks away when we remove her collar for bathing. Eleven years later, she still remembers.
D.F., Fenton, Mo Dec 26, 2010
Shock collars for dogs are indeed an abomination. I agree that they have no place in basic, in-home training. There are collars that emit a preferable buzzing sound, but much can be done using a dog clicker or shaking keys in a jar or a tin can as aversive stimuli and part of any training regimen that should include reward for appropriate responses.
Still, even clickers can terrify some dogs, as I learned with one of mine who trembled like a leaf when he first heard the noise, his overreaction making further use of this device both pointless and inhumane!
J.E., Shepherdstown, WVa
Dec 26, 2010
I have a 10-year-old tortoiseshell cat that has a bad limp in her left front leg. The veterinarian says it is arthritis. Is she in pain? What can we do to relieve her?
She also is terrified when I want to apply Frontier, so much so that I’ve had to give it up at times. What can I do about this?
J.E., Shepherdstown, WVa Dec 26, 2010
I advise against all regular applications of topical spot/drop-on anti-flea chemicals on cats. For details and safer alternatives, check my website. There is a segment of society that puts profit before health and welfare of animals, be they farmed for human consumption (which many people now avoid) or kept as companions.
Arthritis is common nowadays, even in young cats. It’s a disease attributable primarily to inadequate, pro-inflammatory diets; and for similar reasons, it is prevalent in both feline and human populations, attributable to dubious products of industrial farming and the processed, convenience-food industry.
Good-quality fish oil for dogs and cats should help your cat. Begin with a few drops in her food, and then work up to a teaspoonful daily or a quarter of that amount if it is pure cod-liver oil. Also, give supplements your veterinarian can prescribe, such as chondroitin and glucosamine, but no NSAIDs (nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs).
V.M., Herndon, Va
Tags: dog VA diet food Herndon
Dec 20, 2010
We own two Scottish terriers: a 3-year-old spayed female and 2-year-old un-neutered male. They both eat Harmony Farms dry dog food.
We have noticed that the male develops a bad odor after only a few days from his bath. He is groomed and shaved regularly. Is there some reason why our male would have such a foul odor? The female doesn't have this problem. We have tried different shampoos. The groomer suggested Harmony Farms because it is all-natural. Unfortunately, the dog-food switch has made no difference. Any suggestions?
V.M., Herndon, Va Dec 20, 2010
Dogs differ individually in their metabolism and body chemistry, owing in part to differences in gender and genetics.
I presume the odor is from your dog's skin, which produces various oils and pheromones. Because you are feeding a dry food, his coat may be lacking in beneficial oils, especially polyunsaturated fats. Giving your dog a teaspoon each of flaxseed oil and coconut oil in his food daily should help improve his coat and skin in a few weeks. A weekly dry bath outdoors with baby powder or cornstarch rubbed into his coat and then brushed out after a long walk will help remove odoriferous, oily compounds from his coat that his skin is secreting. A periodic (every two weeks) bath with human Selsun Blue (medicated) shampoo may also do wonders. Healthy dogs rarely need to be bathed unless they have especially oily skin or get into dirty pond or polluted lake water. Frequent bathing every few days, unless advised by a veterinarian for certain skin conditions, can actually aggravate skin problems by removing natural, protective oils and disrupting the healthy bacterial population on the skin, leading to such complications as fungal infections and staphylococcus and other bacterial invasions.
J.P., Springfield, Mo
Tags: dog Springfield MO fleas
Dec 20, 2010
I have been using neem oil on my 80-pound dog and three cats for two years to protect against fleas and ticks. What is your opinion of neem oil? It has worked great, with seemingly no side effects.
J.P., Springfield, Mo Dec 20, 2010
Neem oil (and also the leaf) is widely used in India as an insect repellent. It is also used as medication for various skin, internal parasitic and other medical problems. It is now gaining recognition in the West.
Depending on the source (as with many imported products for medical and veterinary use), quality, safety and effectiveness go hand in hand. Many imports are contaminated, adulterated or diluted. So look for international organic certification and other recognized quality assurance. The book "Neem: India's Miraculous Healing Plant" by Ellen Norten (Healing Arts Press, 2000) is a good review of the benefits of this herb.
Neem and other essential oils are generally not safe for cats, so I wouldn't advise using this product on your cats until more research is published. There is also the risk to consider of cats grooming dogs in a shared household after any anti-flea preparation (herbal and non-herbal) is put on the dog's coat. Also, cats groom themselves more than dogs do, so there is always the risk of poisoning when they ingest such products off their own fur or from other animals they may live with.
M.J., New Brighton, MN
Tags: dog MN New Brighton
Dec 19, 2010
My neighbors have an 8-year-old cairn terrier, Benji, who has exhibited unusual behavior toward one member of the household. He urinates in this person's shoes or on the side of his bed.
I suggested maybe it's because this person used to walk him regularly but had gotten out of the habit, so I offered to help out.
I take Benji four days a week because his owners work four 10-hour days. I take him with me to the office, and he has never had an accident. This satisfies my desire to have a part-time dog and relieves the owners' guilt of leaving him home all day. Benji enthusiastically endorses this arrangement every morning when I come to get him. I recommend this arrangement to anyone willing to give it a try.
M.J., New Brighton, MN Dec 19, 2010
I hope many readers will consider your idea of being a part-time canine caregiver. It is a great notion for those who enjoy dogs' company and want to help both the dogs and their owners who are out of the house, leaving their dogs alone for long hours during the workweek.
Benji's shoe-marking with urine could be for the reason you suggest or because he is marking his territory and strengthening his bond with the wearer of those shoes, whom he may be pining for.
R.C., Albert Lea, MN
Tags: dog MN Albert Lea
Dec 19, 2010
When I saw your invitation for readers to let you know how our animals respond to music, I knew I had to write. As a longtime animal lover and harp player, I've known for quite some time that animals (primarily dogs and cats) have been attracted to harp sounds. My dogs often lie at the base of the instrument where the vibrations would be most strong.
The benefits seem to extend to nondomesticated animals as well. One day a couple of years ago, I took a harp outside and played on the deck. As I was playing, several Canada geese swam up to the area nearby, and then a couple of mallards joined them. A rabbit came hopping through the yard, and several small birds perched on nearby limbs. As a certified therapeutic harp practitioner, I most often use the harp to offer therapeutic music to people who are isolated, depressed or nearing the end of life.
I've enclosed an article from our local paper regarding our local humane society recovering from the theft of $150,000 that was targeted to build a decent facility. Many in the community were crushed. They had worked so hard to raise funds, and now the project is on hold indefinitely until the funds can be replaced. I felt I needed to do something in addition to a financial contribution, and the harp playing was something I wanted to offer.
R.C., Albert Lea, MN Dec 19, 2010
I greatly enjoyed the newspaper article describing the transformative effects of your harp music on the caged cats at the Freeborn County Humane Society in Albert Lea, Minn. Remarkable, indeed. Many experienced feral- and stray-cat rehabilitators put on soothing music to help the animals calm down while being socialized.
Music can fascinate many animal species, and the vibrations can affect other species as well -- even plants, according to some studies. Evoking the relaxation response, music can help reduce stress and indirectly benefit the immune system, even affecting developing fetuses whose mothers are exposed to soothing sound waves. The CD "Through a Dog's Ear" has been orchestrated to provide music to help dogs relax, especially on car rides.
Many animal shelters play soothing music during the daytime, and the benefits to the emotionally stressed resident animals and staff alike are clearly apparent. As for the theft of moneys intended for the animals, it never ceases to amaze me how degenerate some of our own kind can become, stealing and embezzling moneys meant for charities, human and nonhuman. This Christmas and holiday season, I urge all readers to donate moneys and needed supplies (old towels, sheets, collars and leashes, etc.) to their local animal shelters that are experiencing financial difficulties in these times, which are filled up with animals whom their owners claim they can no longer afford to keep. This is one of the little published tragedies of economic hard times.
C.T., Falls Church, Va
Tags: cat dog
Dec 13, 2010
A dog owner in my neighborhood says that his dog is a cross between a fox and a border collie. Is that even possible? Likewise, my sister believes her cat is part raccoon. Is that possible?
C.T., Falls Church, Va Dec 13, 2010
The genetic barrier between dogs and foxes prevents crossbreeding. So any dog that seems foxlike cannot have any fox ancestry.
Foxes are distant cousins of dogs; but close cousins like wolves and coyotes will crossbreed with each other and with dogs. The offspring are fertile.
The ringlike marks on some cats' tails look raccoonlike, but raccoons cannot interbreed with cats. Occasionally in the news, there are mistaken reports of cats thought to be part rabbit because they hop around like rabbits, which is most likely due to a spinal cord abnormality most common in tailless Manx cats.
R.K., Naples, FL
Tags: dog Naples FL allergies
Dec 13, 2010
Suzy, a 12-pound schnoodle, is my most recent rescue. We have no idea of her background other than she had at least two pregnancies and was deserted in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The vet determined that Suzy is between 8 and 9 years old.
She did have some medical problems. First, she needed a stone removed from her bladder from which she recovered nicely. Then she needed extensive dental work and three surgeries for glaucoma.
Suzy also has allergies. To determine if food was the cause, Suzy was switched to the Primal complete raw-food diet (1-ounce nuggets) of either chicken or lamb. I add 1/8 teaspoon of plant enzymes and probiotics; 1/8 teaspoon of Royal Coat Express (100 percent wild fish oil and borage oil) organic pumpkin puree; organic plain yogurt; and some freshly pureed cooked squash. She adores and laps this up, and the vet says Suzy is extremely healthy. For her sake and ours (we also have allergies), we have no carpeting except in the bedrooms; no chemicals are used at any time for cleaning anywhere except laundry, and she drinks filtered water, too.
After all of this, she rubs her eyes, scratches her muzzle, licks her pads, sometimes to the point of raw and red. The vet has checked Suzy, and no physical problems were found. I am at my wits' end and open to any suggestions.
R.K., Naples, FL Dec 13, 2010
You have done much to give Suzy a good life. Good for you! But allergies, especially in states such as Florida, can undermine the quality of life for animals.
Central air conditioning with an ionizing air purifier (that removes pollen, dander, bacteria and other potential allergens and pathogens) can make a big difference. We have the Bryant system in our home, which significantly improves the air quality.
Bathing every two to three weeks in a shampoo containing skin-soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, chamomile, lavender, calendula and other beneficial herbs may do wonders. Discuss a rotation diet with your veterinarian, giving your dog a different single animal protein (buffalo, duck, venison, lamb, etc.) for one week, then switch to another. The fish oil could be problematic, so give none for three to four weeks then try Nordic Naturals for dogs and cats. Also discuss with your veterinarian giving your dog immune-system-boosting antioxidants such as CoEnzyme Q and N-acetylcysteine. The antioxidant resveratrol has recently been found to have beneficial anti-inflammatory properties and may help your dog. Also daily supplements of probiotics (giving your dog a higher dose than in live yogurt or kefir) are often prescribed to help in cases like yours.
In some instances, dogs suffer from multiple allergies, including contact with certain upholstery materials, wool blankets and even toxic dog-bed and pillow-stuffing material. So spreading cotton sheets laundered in a scent-free detergent where the dog lies down most often may also be helpful.