R.E., Arlington, Va
Tags: cat Arlington VA
Jan 31, 2011
I must tell you that my old cat has become addicted to your massage treatment. Thank you for your excellent book "The Healing Touch for Cats." My only complaint is that Mr. Bubbles insists on his evening massage and won't stop rubbing, rolling, and meowing until I oblige. He seems more lithe and lively ever since I started six months ago, and he is going on 15!
R.E., Arlington, Va Jan 31, 2011
Older cats do become arthritic, and massage therapy, plus a warm heating pad on which to lie, can work miracles. The same goes for old dogs. Massaging one's animal companion can become more than a daily routine -- a ritual of healing and communion. Our Minnesota-winter-rescued feral cat, Mark Twain, was so crippled from years in the cold that the veterinarian who neutered him thought he might have a damaged spine or injured hips because his hind legs could not be extended fully when he was under a general anesthetic for surgery. Now, after a year of rehabilitation, he is almost normal, and his favorite back and hip massage is when he stretches out fully with his front claws hooked into his scratch post and he waits for a deep back and hip massage!
Arthritic problems such as his can make it difficult and painful for afflicted cats to properly use the litter box because assuming the normal squatting posture is virtually impossible. They can become house-soilers, messing outside or on the edge of the litter box. It is regrettable that many older cats who stop using their litter boxes are euthanized when this generally treatable condition is not recognized.
G.G., St. Peters, Mo
Tags: dog MO St Peters
Jan 31, 2011
I read your articles regularly, even though my husband and I have no pets because we are both 90 years old. When we did have pets, we experienced how much they loved us (as we loved them), so we feel it is not fair to the animals to leave them at our age when we are gone and they miss us. Years ago, we had two collies, and the younger one whined and cried for days in the spot where the other had died of old age.
But that is not why I'm writing today. Our daughter had a puppy that was being housetrained on newspaper, which she gradually moved close to the door leading outside. But the puppy wouldn't do her business outside, only on the paper inside. One day, our daughter moved the paper outside. She showed the puppy the paper outside and then let her out. The puppy would do her business outside if the paper were there. She was completely housebroken from then on.
G.G., St. Peters, Mo Jan 31, 2011
Readers with puppies who need to be housetrained will value your daughter's confirmation of the method I have long advocated for getting puppies used to evacuating outdoors. But certain breeds (I don't want to embarrass anyone) never get it -- they seem to be cognitively challenged! The trick is to put the pup on the newspaper or pee-pee pad at regular times when he or she is most likely to want to evacuate, which is soon after waking up, after a bout of play, before and soon after feeding, and last thing at night before turning in.
Your observations on getting too old to have pets are much appreciated. Yes, indeed, too many elderly people take in young animals that will outlive them, without forethought. Parrots (who can live into their 60s) and some reptiles like turtles may pass from one generation to the next. I know of several active senior citizens who love animals and have decided, as you have, to live without one but now offer their services to care for neighborhood pets when the neighbors are away at work during the day or on vacation. Others take in old dogs or cats from the local shelter, offering tender loving hospice care as an alternative to euthanasia because most people want to adopt younger animals. In many instances, these older animals are from owners who have passed on or are living in retirement homes where pets are not allowed to live, only visit. What better gift than to adopt such animals if other immediate family members are unwilling or unable to do so, and take the pets to visit their owners at the retirement or nursing home.
I.V., Toms River, NJ
Jan 30, 2011
We're trying to do the best for our two cats, Mushy and Petals, who were adopted from shelters in North Carolina. Both cats are 11 years old and get regular checkups. This year, we decided for no shots, except rabies.
We had blood work done on Mushy this year, and his kidney numbers were slightly elevated, but all else seemed fine. Our veterinarian said this is common in older cats, so we put both cats on Purina NF and Hills k/d. We were advised not to give Mushy the occasional pieces of cheese, cat milk or protein (phosphorous), as they could make his kidneys worse.
Mushy does not like the canned k/d food, so is there anything we might add to make it taste better? Or do you have any other suggestions?
I.V., Toms River, NJ Jan 30, 2011
Older cats with poor kidney function need some good-quality protein in their diets, along with fish oil or safflower oil, which can help improve kidney function.
Manufactured diet/prescription-only cat foods often contain questionable ingredients and additives, so it is best to prepare your cats' food from known ingredients. For details, visit www.feline-nutrition.org; and for helping cats with kidney problems, see my review at DrFoxVet.com/info.
Veterinary-formulated recipes made from more palatable ingredients that you prepare at home are available for a nominal fee to help cats and dogs suffering from a variety of conditions calling for special diets. For more information, call (888) 346-6362, or visit www.balanceit.com.
As with a human's failing kidneys, supplements such as vitamins B-complex and D, potassium and a phosphate binder can be beneficial for older cats (and dogs, too). Complications such as high blood pressure, associated impaired vision and anemia need to be closely monitored as the kidney disease progresses.
B.P., via e-mail
Jan 30, 2011
We have a neutered, 15-year-old bearded collie who licks his paws until they are raw. This has been going on for the past several months. Our veterinarian checked him out and found no health problems but recommended sprays and lotions, none of which have worked.
He has plenty of attention and toys he loves to play with. He also used to lick the walls until there were holes in them; we eventually covered the lower portions of his favorite spots with clear heavy vinyl material. We would appreciate any advice you may have.
Jan 30, 2011
Anxiety associated with some internal discomfort, notably chronic indigestion and food allergy, can trigger compulsive licking. In older animals, chronic discomfort from cancer or other degenerative diseases should be considered. A thorough veterinary examination is called for. Some dogs, out of sheer boredom, become obsessive paw lickers, and secondary bacterial or fungal infections in the paws will need treatment.
If the veterinarian considers a food allergy a possibility, transitioning your dog onto a hypoallergenic diet like rice or potato and lamb could make a world of difference. Corn, soy, beef, egg and dairy products in manufactured pet foods are common allergens for dogs, as are grains like wheat, which cause digestive problems and skin reactions and can be at the root of ear- and anal-gland inflammation, as well as your dog's compulsive licking.
Anti-inflammatory supplements such as fish oil, chondroitin, glucosamine, probiotics and glutamine may help. The underlying discomfort/anxiety may be alleviated with daily treatment with valerian or Valium under veterinary prescription.
B.M., Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Tags: cat Palm Beach Gardens FL
Jan 30, 2011
My 14-year-old Burmese cat has trouble climbing stairs. He is somewhat overweight, and I haven't been able to help him lose it. We have another cat, and they both will eat only Purina natural dry food.
How can I help him be more comfortable? He appears to hate heat of any kind and loves spreading out under the ceiling fan or in front of the A/C vent. Would chondroitin and glucosamine help? How can I get him to take it?
B.M., Palm Beach Gardens, FL Jan 30, 2011
If your cat is not seriously overweight, he most likely has arthritis that can make it painfully difficult to navigate stairs. One of our rescued feral cats has arthritis and solicits deep massage along his back and around his hips. My book "The Healing Touch for Cats" will help your cat feel better.
Give him a teaspoon of fish oil (like Nordic Naturals) in his food daily, beginning with just a couple of drops on the dry cat food until he gets used to it. Switching to a grain-free dry cat food like Evo or Wellness may also help, along with crushed 50 to 100 mg of glucosamine and chondroitin mixed in with some of the dry food, which you should moisten and mush with a little water. This is an alternative to giving these supplements in pill form, because many cats do not like to be pilled.
I.C., Flint, MI
Tags: cat Flint MI
Jan 24, 2011
We have a cat with "cat-itude," and it is not endearing.
We adopted Larkspur, our 4-year-old calico, from a shelter when she was just 2 months old. We have an older calico, Sunny, who is 6. Larkspur is the dominant one, and Sunny seems to be OK with that.
Larky has never been a lap cat; it seems as if she would be just as happy without us. We're OK with that, but she recently has become totally unpredictable and aggressive. She often scratches us without provocation. We just walk by and she darts out, claws at the ready. Blood has been drawn many times in the past few months. This behavior is on the rise.
Just yesterday, she was getting head rubs and purring, seemingly enjoying being petted and stroked. Then, all of a sudden, she clawed my head and drew blood. We have two children, 11 and 8, and I'm afraid for their safety.
What's up with Larky and how can we get her to stop chewing us indiscriminately?
I.C., Flint, MI Jan 24, 2011
Your Larkspur is most probably a delinquent young feline who is dominating you and using you as substitute prey, hiding to ambush you and attack your legs as you walk by.
I would advise a two-pronged behavioral-readjustment-therapy approach. Play hide-and-seek with Larky, and have her attack and "kill" a small stuffed toy on a string. Second, put on gloves and a thick coat to protect your arms and, while petting her, grab the scruff of her neck and hold her down for 10 to 15 seconds. She may protest violently, but this is the best way to restore your dominance over her in a way she'll understand, because this is how one cat will dominate another. It is also the way a mother cat will carry a kitten, so the scruff hold acts like an instinctual trigger of passive submission in most cats, and is not a cruel or abusive treatment. Also try giving your cat some fresh catnip herb, a half-teaspoon being sufficient to make cats who like this herb quite mellow for a while. Your cat is on the young side to be developing hyperactive thyroid disease, but this common endocrine disorder can cause cats to become more irritable and aggressive. In your cat's case, the behavior seems more like rough play rather than aggression per se, and she gets carried away. The final solution could well be a third companion cat of comparable size and age, and more assertive or outgoing than Sunny, so she can have a playmate to roughhouse with, and to experience her true nature with one of her own kind. This way she will also learn self-control and not play too roughly. Cats who live alone without the company of their species sometimes become too dependent on humans for social stimulation and affection and, especially when not socialized with their own kind when young, may never learn to play properly and draw blood when they get their signals crossed. Cats are likely to possess what scientists have identified in other species as "mirror" neurons in their brains. These enable animals to quickly decipher and mimic another's behavior, especially a member of their own species. Such brain stimulation is an important dimension of social and environmental enrichment; it's a major reason why most animal species and individual animals should not live without regular contact with their own species, especially during early development.
P.F.M., Virginia Beach, Va
Tags: dog Virginia Beach VA epiliepsy
Jan 24, 2011
We have a problem with our mini beagle and wonder if you can supply some advice.
About two years ago, she developed epilepsy. Our vet said we would see how she did, and she went another year without an attack. Then they began to happen quite frequently, and she was put on Phenobarbital, a 32 mg tablet, twice daily. This seemed to do the job, as she has not had an attack since.
When we had to take her back to the vet for other reasons, I walked her around the outside area for a few minutes and then took her inside. The minute we stepped inside, she had an attack! The attendants took her in the back and after a short time, she was OK again. What do you think?
P.F.M., Virginia Beach, Va Jan 24, 2011
Epilepsy in dogs is more prevalent than most people realize. Some older veterinarians believe it has increased in recent years, in spite of distemper-related epilepsy that vaccinations have helped reduce. There may be a genetic basis for the higher incidence of epilepsy in certain breeds such as beagles. Genetic factors could play a role in breed susceptibility to adverse, autoimmune reactions to vaccinations, seizures and other neurological problems in dogs.
Phenobarbital, as prescribed for your dog, is one of the most widely used drugs to help prevent seizures. In some dogs, potassium bromide or primidone works well, along with some new drugs effective for controlling seizures in humans that are prescribed off label for dogs.
From your experience, you have learned that anxiety and stress can bring on a seizure. So the next time you have a veterinary appointment, double the dose of medication and give two hours before the visit. Some dogs have seizures when they are afraid or become anxious when family members are having a spat. There can be a hereditary basis to epilepsy, to an adverse vaccination or drug reaction, or to hypersensitivity to certain foods such as wheat. In older dogs, seizures may indicate a brain tumor.
You may wish to explore other ways to control your dog's seizures such as a hypoallergenic and grain-free diet, acupuncture and, under veterinary supervision, evaluate various Chinese herbal formulas or Western herbs like skullcap and passionflower. Giving melatonin in the evening may also help.
A.C., Washington, DC
Tags: cat Washington DC diet food
Jan 23, 2011
I have an 11-year-old cat named Molly. She's active and likes to bat her toys, chase a feather on a string, "stalk" birds outside the window, and play with the younger cat. She has a hearty appetite, maintains her coat, and has regular bowel movements and constant access to fresh water.
The problem is that in the past six months, she has vomited her meal in its entirety, with little of it seemingly digested. She has been given dry IAMS cat food since I first adopted her more than six years ago. She does not go outside at all and doesn't get table scraps.
When this first occurred last July, I took her to the vet. She gave her a complete checkup and found nothing wrong. She also said that because the vomiting could be a response to the unusually warm summer, I should provide extra bowls of water.
The vomiting stopped for a while, and I thought it was over. But the problem has returned, and I cannot think of what's causing it. The contents of the upheavals are dry cat food and quasi-clear fluid. I don't see hairballs or any foreign objects.
A.C., Washington, DC Jan 23, 2011
If Molly's blood tests for kidney and liver function and other profiles are within normal range, you should first do the elimination diet test to rule out a food allergy or hypersensitivity.
It is quite likely that she has developed a bad reaction to one or more ingredients of her extremely mixed diet -- mixed in terms of an unnatural diversity of ingredients. Molly should not be on a dry-food-only diet that's high in grains/cereals. There are dry cat foods like Evo and Wellness that are grain-free, a trend that I applaud and our two cats enjoy! In my opinion, the high-corn and grain diets being fed to far too many cats are abnormal for any carnivore and may play a leading role in feline urologic syndrome, which includes painful cystitis and frequent urination all over the house. They also contribute to obesity and diabetes.
Discuss the elimination and hypoallergenic diet approach with your veterinarian, who should be well versed on this subject because food allergies cause a lot of serious, chronic health problems in cats and dogs.
C.A., Poughkeepsie, NY
Tags: dog Poughkeepsie NY
Jan 23, 2011
I have a Shih Tzu who is 2 years old. He has developed the habit of licking everything -- walls, furniture, floors and carpet. He also walks around with his tongue halfway out of his mouth. His tongue is like that even when he is sleeping. Someone suggested he might have a vitamin deficiency. I only feed him Science Diet dog food. At one time, he was licking so much that he licked a hole in the wall.
C.A., Poughkeepsie, NY Jan 23, 2011
I would never recommend feeding a dog (or cat) just one brand of commercial pet food. Most pet foods contain highly processed ingredients and human-food-industry byproducts together with various chemical additives and preservatives.
Humans and animals alike need whole, natural foods, including some raw items like grated sweet potato and alfalfa sprouts. Dogs do well on an omnivorous human diet of cooked grains (rice, barley, etc.), vegetables, meat or poultry, with a little vegetable oil and a multimineral multivitamin (one a day) supplement. Discuss this sensible alternative with your veterinarian, and give your dog a raw beef marrow or soup bone to chew on.
He needs a full physical exam to determine if his obsessive licking has a physical or psychological basis. Dietary deficiency may be responsible or discomfort from an underlying chronic gum or other infection/inflammation. Sheer boredom and lack of exercise or anxiety may be the cause, and treatment with Prozac may be the final solution. Either way, you must improve his diet.
E.G., Port St. Lucie, FL
Tags: cat dog FL Port St Lucie
Jan 17, 2011
Regarding your article about the dog that licks tile floors. I have a basket full of smooth stones that my cat always licks. A friend told me it's the salty taste she likes. The stones came from the beach years ago. Is it all right for cats to do this?
E.G., Port St. Lucie, FL Jan 17, 2011
I doubt there are any significant traces of sea salt left on the stones. Sea salts (as distinct from refined and iodized salt) contain beneficial trace minerals that your cat may be craving. Animals have an innate nutritional wisdom and will seek out certain soils, plants and rocks to lick to compensate for dietary deficiencies and when they are sick. Some cats with chronic diseases such as feline leukemia and hyperthyroidism sometimes lick brick, cement walls and wall plaster.
Hopefully, your cat has a clean bill of health, but may nonetheless enjoy and benefit from a multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement your veterinarian or local pet store can provide.