S.C., Bethesda, Md
Tags: dog Bethesda MD fleas
Feb 28, 2011
I was dismayed to read your encouragement of the use of the toxic flea-tick deterrents like Frontline and Program. We have totally eliminated fleas and ticks with fresh garlic and brewer's yeast on our golden retriever. When I see a tick in the house, it is on the floor, having dropped off the dog.
S.C., Bethesda, Md Feb 28, 2011
I am even more dismayed by your interpretation of whatever I may have written on this topic. I consistently advise readers to take every measure of flea control to avoid the need to use potentially harmful anti-flea and tick drugs. These measures include giving brewer's yeast (also to cats) and fresh garlic to dogs in their food daily (not "on them," as your letter implies). Full details are posted at my website, DrFoxVet.com/info, and in my book "Dog Body, Dog Mind." When these measures fail, the products that you mention can be effective, but I would only advise as an emergency/last resort. I deplore their routine, preventive use as promoted by the drug manufacturers.
S.A., Silver Spring, Md
Tags: dog Silver Spring MD
Feb 28, 2011
We would like to get a second dog. We already have a delightful 4-year-old golden doodle (golden-retriever/standard-poodle mix). We are completely smitten with this wonderful animal. She gets along well with other dogs in the neighborhood, which is something of an understatement. When she sees other dogs outside, especially the ones she recognizes, she is so eager to go out and greet them that she goes crazy. When friends have gone on vacation and left their dog with us, she enjoyed the company as long as we didn't give too much attention to the extra dog.
Will it harm her to bring another dog into the house? Will she get used to it? Or will she always be jealous? We would like to bring in a puppy because we enjoy bonding right from the beginning, and I would like to train the dog. Should it be female, male or a puppy? Does breed matter?
S.A., Silver Spring, Md Feb 28, 2011
I appreciate your concerns. Your dog has been well socialized into accepting your friends' dog staying with you while they are on vacation, so I see no problems.
Adopt a pup from your local animal shelter (provided he or she has a clean bill of health, has been wormed, treated for fleas, and given core vaccinations). The sex of the pup is not too important because neutering is to come, but a male who will grow to about the same size as your present dog may be your best choice.
Have them meet outside on neutral territory (like a quiet side street or park), and walk the two home after they have had time to sniff and check each other out. This will enrich all of your lives.
I will never forget how our dog Tanza behaved when my wife Deanna brought home a little pup she rescued in Jamaica while on vacation with friends. Tanza slowly circled little Lizzie, who was sitting still in our front garden, exhausted after her long flight to Washington, D.C. After sniffing her cautiously, Tanza's eyes brightened and with an enormous grin, she executed a series of play bows and skips around Lizzie. In circling the dazed little Lizzie repeatedly in this way, she was clearly expressing her joy and excitement at having her own puppy to care for. Tanza, a wonderful dog Deanna had rescued in Tanzania, became the perfect foster mother for Lizzie, who filled a hole in Tanza's life and vice versa!
A.K., New Brighton, MN
Tags: cat MN diet food New Brighton
Feb 27, 2011
Three years ago, three feral kittens showed up, begging and crying at our campsite. The only thing I had to feed them was bread. They choked it down, and for two days, I fed them bread and milk. The next time we went there, I fed them hot dogs and bread. Winter was coming, and they were terribly thin. Only the orange tabby showed up on the last trip. I took him home and went to the store and bought a sack of dry cat food. He has been doing very well on that. He was treated for worms, checked for feline leukemia, and given his shots.
The problem is that he will almost exclusively only eat the dry food, with the exception of mashed cantaloupe. He does get a tablespoon of canned cat food, but only eats a small amount of that if it is mashed with water. I would like to switch him over to a diet you recommend, but he will eat none of those things.
A.K., New Brighton, MN Feb 27, 2011
Feeding wild-born kittens that are often dumped by irresponsible cat owners is a feel-good response, but unless they are caught, neutered, wormed and given good nutrition and found good homes, that response simply prolongs their lives and suffering. Those cats and their offspring who do survive will breed and multiply, which means more suffering and in many areas a significant loss of wildlife when the adult cats hunt and kill birds and small mammals in order to survive.
Good for you for eventually rescuing at least one of these feral survivors. Ideally, you should have caught all three when they were young and taken them home with you or to an animal shelter. The longer kittens stay out in the wild, the more difficult it is for them to lose their fear of people and adapt to living indoors.
Breaking cats of their addiction to dry cat food can be challenging. There are a few good dry cat foods, such as Evo, Wellness and Organix, but most others are high-cereal-byproduct junk food. Try to transition your cat onto a quality cat food, as per the list at my website. Also be sure your cat drinks plenty of water or try moistening the dry food. Visit www.feline-nutrition.org for more information. Encourage him to eat canned cat food such as Wellness chicken and herring and if he likes it mashed with water, that's fine.
A.T., Herndon, Va
Feb 27, 2011
We adopted a mixed breed that appears to be a Samoyed/beagle. We feed him Organix dry adult formula and make our own wet food consisting of veggies such as zucchini, squash, green beans, peas, carrots, parsley, sometimes broccoli and a protein such as organic chicken, bison or round steak. (He doesn't appear to be enthralled with salmon or fish.)
He weighs 37 pounds, gets walked often, and we feed him 2/3 cup dry and 1/3 cup wet, twice daily. Do you think he's getting enough nutrients or does he need a supplement? He's about 4 years old.
A.T., Herndon, Va Feb 27, 2011
The diet you describe sounds excellent to me, but I would add one-half of a human daily multimineral and multivitamin supplement and a teaspoon of flaxseed oil, alternating with a teaspoon of coconut oil or organic butter from grass-fed cows. Also try a tablespoon of organic plain yogurt or kefir daily (for probiotics).
I am encouraged to receive many letters like yours that tell me more and more dog (and cat) owners are getting savvy about good nutrition, hopefully for themselves, too. Good nutrition is the best preventive medicine, which is yet to be taught in most medical and veterinary schools.
K. & B.P., Woodbridge, Va
Tags: dog Woodbridge VA diet food
Feb 27, 2011
We adopted a (then) 6-month-old Bernese mountain dog while serving with the U.S. Air Force in Germany. Within months of his arrival in our family, he began eating our golden retriever's feces and has continued doing so for the past four years. We have tried everything we can think of to stop this behavior:
- Picking up the feces to prevent him from getting it, hoping he would forget this behavior.
- Giving our retriever pills that would make her feces unpalatable to the Bernese.
- Using an electric collar to send electrical signals to the Bernese when he went to eat the feces.
- Sprinkling the feces with hot cayenne pepper.
None of these methods seem to have any effect. The Bernese is a dominant male who was neutered at eight months, yet he continues to practice the habit, much to the disgust of our family and friends. Do you have any explanation as to why he does this and can we stop it?
K. & B.P., Woodbridge, Va Feb 27, 2011
Dogs engage in coprophagia for a host of reasons, from cleaning up (as a parent dog would do attending to pups) to trying to compensate for a nutritional deficiency. I would suspect the latter, and if you are feeding your dog one of the big-brand, TV-advertised dog foods, that may be the root of the problem.
Check my website, DrFoxVet.com/info, for the brands I recommend that are not highly processed junk foods that consist mainly of carbohydrates, cheap soy protein and poor-quality, heat-denatured animal protein. Or try my homemade dog-food recipe.
Giving your dog probiotics (kefir and plain live yogurt or probiotics tablets) and supplements such as brewer's yeast and a daily pet multivitamin/multimineral may also help.
Many dogs suffer malnutrition when fed dry, junk dog foods and will eat feces to attempt to correct their dietary deficiencies. Having the dog checked for internal parasites is also advisable.
P.L.T., Royal Palm, FL
Feb 21, 2011
We took an 11-year-old male bichon frise from a cancer patient. We took him to the vet and were told that he had arthritis and needed pain pills (Previcox). Months later, the vet did a blood test and said he should be on thyroid pills (levothyroxine, .05 mg, daily).
During the 14 months we've had him, he has always had scaling-skin issues. We got Pharmaseb shampoo, chlorhexidine skin cleanser, pramoxine itch spray, omega caps and antioxidant from the vet. He weighs 10 pounds. The skin is getting worse. He has developed dark and white scales and black skin tags. A month ago, we switched to vegetarian dry and wet food -- no improvement yet. Prior to this, he ate a no-chicken diet.
The worst part is that he develops a bad smell four days after a bath. I have tried vinegar and water between, but that is only good for two days.
In your column, you recommended small amounts of turmeric, ginger, kelp and brewer's yeast that we give him daily. We need to get ahead of this smell problem. Do you have any suggestions?
P.L.T., Royal Palm, FL Feb 21, 2011
I applaud you for taking in this old dog. His health problems come with age and possibly years of being fed nutrient-deficient, highly processed manufactured pet foods. His poor skin condition and bad odor are telling signs and may also reflect declining kidney and liver functions, which a routine blood test should help determine. Adding polyunsaturated fatty acids such as flax, borage, hemp, primrose and coconut oil (alternating a few drops in his food every day) should help improve his skin and general condition. Bathing with Selsun Blue medicated (human) shampoo may also be of benefit. Then try weekly or every biweekly bathing with botanical doggy shampoos (www.nuhemp.com), available in most pet stores. But if he does not improve, the veterinarian should run more tests, especially for Cushing's disease, which is common in older dogs with concurrent thyroid issues.
S.K, Greenbelt, Md
Tags: cat MD Greenbelt grieving
Feb 21, 2011
My female cat Pumpkin and I moved to a new home in 2002. The cat next door (Stripes) became her best friend.
Stripes would never go into his own house because three other cats lived there, so he was outside 24/7. He waited for Pumpkin every morning, they took sunbaths together and were just good buddies. I even made Stripes an insulated, off-the-ground cat home. Even though I fed him daily, Stripes would never let me pet him.
Three years after moving next door to Stripes, Pumpkin came in one Friday and became deathly ill over the weekend. She was at the vet's until Wednesday night, and we made the decision to euthanize her. Stripes had not seen her since that Friday before she died.
I brought Pumpkin's remains home Wednesday night after being euthanized to take her to the crematory the next day. The next morning, I went on the front porch with Pumpkin in my arms. Stripes had been milling around. He knew something was wrong because, even though I had still been feeding him, he had not seen Pumpkin for almost a week. I laid Pumpkin on the stoop. Stripes came over, sniffed her and walked away. After a few steps, he came back and sniffed her again. He sniffed and walked away about six times. The last time, he began licking her face. He then walked through the open gate to my side yard and began wailing. I put Pumpkin in the car and went to the crematory.
A few hours later, I went outside to get in my car to go to the crematory to pick up Pumpkin's remains. Stripes had curled up, lying on a chair on my porch. I stooped down to put my hand on the front edge of the seat, and Stripes sat up and licked my hand (something he had never done before). He allowed me to console him.
Over the next few months, Stripes continued to stay in my yard, and I continued to feed him. About three months later, he began coming into my house, investigating then leaving. Within a matter of days, he began living with me. His owners were glad that he would not be outside 24/7 anymore and were fine with Stripes living with me.
S.K, Greenbelt, Md Feb 21, 2011
Many readers will be touched by your account of one cat's reactions to the death of another.
While some animals (not unlike some people) show little or no reaction to another's death, many indeed do. What they cognitively process about death and dying is an educated guess for us who witness their behavior.
Giving animals the opportunity to see the body of the deceased is wise, because many cats and other animals do seem to comprehend and most certainly grieve.
J.G., Minneapolis, MN
Feb 20, 2011
I have a 5-year-old beagle named Ruby. I give her one Heartgard a month for six months.
When I need the Heartgard for the next year, why does she need another heartworm test? I feel every year for a blood test at $48 is unnecessary, as long as she gets her preventive every month.
J.G., Minneapolis, MN Feb 20, 2011
I give our two dogs here in Minnesota the heartworm preventive medicine during the mosquito season; they are off this drug from November to the end of March. Come spring, they have a blood test to confirm they have no infestation before they go back onto the preventives.
This test is necessary because if a dog is infected -- a possibility in spite of preventive medication -- the drug could cause serious problems by killing some of the worms in the dog's heart. Dead ones disintegrate and block major blood vessels that could kill your dog or make her a permanent cripple from a stroke.
A positive diagnosis of infestation calls for a different treatment procedure and careful monitoring.
J.V., Granbury, TX
Tags: cat Granbury TX diet allergies food
Feb 20, 2011
I have a 7-year-old male Persian cat, neutered and de-clawed. He came to live with me 1-1/2 years ago. He has trouble with his ears and itches them all the time. He will scratch, shake his head, and flinch. The veterinarian put him on MalOtic ear medication for seven days, but it didn't help. The vet says he doesn't have ear lice or mites, but may be allergic to something. Blood tests show his white-cell count is low, especially neutrophils, and he is heartworm antibody positive. His dry cat food is Science Diet for hairballs, and his canned is Fancy Feast. His cat litter is Fresh Step, and he is an inside cat.
J.V., Granbury, TX Feb 20, 2011
Because conventional treatment for the ear infection failed, your veterinarian may be right in suspecting an underlying allergy.
Many cats develop itchy ears and skin problems when exposed to the volatile chemicals in scented cat litter and other household fragrances in laundry detergents, room fresheners, etc. So get all such products out of your home. Some cats are allergic to corn and other human-food-industry byproducts and additives in big-brand manufactured cat foods.
You should transition your cat onto a corn-/grain-free diet like Evo's canned and dry cat foods and other good brands such as Wellness, Pet Guard and Evanger's -- some of which are organically certified.
Both cats and dogs will develop ear problems as part of their somatic (body) response to certain substances that, when inhaled, touched or eaten, trigger an allergic reaction. This reaction includes the release of histamine from cells in the body, which cause swelling, redness and itching. Treatment with oral antihistamines or cream can provide temporary relief, but prolonged use, as with most medications, should be avoided.
M.G., Key West, FL
Feb 14, 2011
Hemingway (we found him around the corner from Hemingway's house in Key West, Fla.) is a part-Siamese 17-year-old male with three legs. He has had urinary-tract infections in the past, but, according to the vet, has no such problems currently; we take him to the doctor every six months.
He cries for no apparent reason. When he does so, he is usually carrying a toy in his mouth or standing over it. The vet doesn't think that the problem is arthritis and attributes his occasional difficulty in jumping onto the couch to his vision.
We also have a 2-1/2-year-old female cat, but they get along well -- both receive plenty of attention.
We can't imagine why he cries. Is he just "talking" to his toys? He does carry them all over the house, up and down steps and occasionally drops them in his water bowl.
M.G., Key West, FL Feb 14, 2011
Cats do "talk" to their toys and often drop them in their water bowls. This is part of their normal behavioral repertoire. But when it becomes obsessively compulsive with frequent bouts of yowling in older cats, we may be dealing with feline senile dementia or feline Alzheimer's disease. Cats can develop virtually identical brain changes seen in humans suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Try making a tea of catnip herb to drink (if the cat will not eat this herb), or mix valerian in his food or try giving a 25-mg capsule in the early evening -- these may help. Many cats enjoy catnip, which can have a sedative effect after initial euphoria, as it contains similar substances found in less palatable valerian. A few drops of fish oil in his food (increasing to 1 teaspoon daily) and up to one teaspoon also of coconut oil may be of benefit. The drug Selegiline, which your veterinarian can prescribe, may be another solution.