J.S.S., Benson, MN
Apr 25, 2011
My mother told this story about her dad's foxhound Jack: "As a rule, Jack was not allowed in the house. But on this particular evening, he insisted on coming in. Once in the house, Jack went to each family member and placed his paw in his or her hand or on his or her knee and then left. In the morning, they found his body under Grandpa's hunting buggy."
As for me, I have a black Lab mix and three horses. The dog Inky and the horses became friends, so when I go riding, Red Rocker (my trail horse) is not as buddy sour (missing his pasture pal) when Inky is along. Inky was given to me as a 6-week-old puppy on the condition that I give her a good home. She has given me many hours of pleasure in return.
J.S.S., Benson, MN Apr 25, 2011
Your account of the old dog Jack is a valuable addition to the many accounts of dogs and other animals seeming to know when they are going to die. Their concept of death may be quite advanced, having seen the difference between the quick and the dead, and the sleeping and the mortified.
Many young readers will enjoy your horse story, and I am sure would enjoy a ride with you. You were wise to keep Inky, and it is great to see how horses and dogs can become best friends.
C.S., Chesterfield, Mo
Tags: cat Chesterfield MO
Apr 25, 2011
I read your column religiously, but have never seen anyone else with the same problems I have.
I rescued a sickly kitten, had her checked out at the vet and nursed her back to health. She's spoiled rotten, and I love her very much, but she has a bad habit that I don't have the faintest idea how to break.
Whenever I hold her or anyone tries to pet her, she starts biting. If she is on the floor and we try to pet her, she bites our feet. She cries when she is left alone, but when we try to give her affection, she starts biting again. Once, when she bit me, I left the room. I hit her on the nose and said "no." I felt terrible, and it didn't work. Do you have any idea what I can do? She seems to like the other cat, but the feeling is not mutual. I had her spayed, but she appeared to get meaner. She is now 1 year old, and although she seems to be getting better, she still bites. It's almost as if she thinks this is playing.
I couldn't give her away with this bad habit, and I can't just put her down, but my sister is on blood thinners and my mother is 101 years old. I'm afraid one of them could get badly hurt.
C.S., Chesterfield, Mo Apr 25, 2011
You are not the only cat owner with this problem. In some instances, a sudden change occurs in a cat's behavior and temperament after spay/neuter surgery, and some veterinarians believe this may be due to the use of ketamine as the sole surgical anesthetic, which it is not. Proper anesthetic agents should be used. Ketamine may cause hallucinations and is a dissociative analgesic -- pain is felt but not reacted to.
Your cat may simply want to play, and because your other cat does not like her, you must become her playmate rather than her play-fight-and-bite surrogate. If your other cat had accepted her, she probably would have learned to bite and claw gently, exercising self-control during physical social play-chasing and tussling.
Mother cats discipline kittens with a loud hiss and a paw-slap on their noses -- which you can mimic, but be consistent. More important, learn how to redirect your cat's focus onto a substitute play-prey object, like a bundle of feathers on the end of a string or tied to a cane. My cats love this feline wand.
R.M., Shelton, CT
Tags: dog Shelton CT
Apr 24, 2011
About a year after the loss of our 16-year-old golden retriever Minnie, we decided we were ready for another. We fell in love with Zoe the moment we saw her. She was a little ball of energy and friendly.
One thing we noticed, though: Her brother was almost twice her size. Now she is 2 years old and only 39 pounds. She has always been a finicky eater, but what worries us the most is her lack of energy. For the first year, her activity level seemed normal, but now she sleeps most of the day and night. She won't fetch, run, or play with any toys. When we walk her, she walks slowly and will sometimes just stop in the road, refusing to move. However, if two of us go on the walk, she seems to move a bit faster.
We have invisible fencing in our yard, but she only does her business there and then wants to come in. The only other health issue she was treated for was head tilting, which the vet blamed on congestion. She also has some dental issues and will require a cleaning next year.
Her diet consists of dry dog food, rice, carrots and biscuits, but some days she only eats a few treats. I decided to feed her dry food because I had heard it was better for her teeth.
I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on our little Zoe. We just want to do what's best for her health and happiness.
R.M., Shelton, CT Apr 24, 2011
You most probably acquired the runt of the litter -- in other words, the pup who, in competition with other developing puppy embryos in their mother's uterus, was almost crowded out and had a small placenta. So her development became impaired early on, even though she was "a little ball of energy" when young.
I would suspect a congenital/developmental abnormality of the heart or hydrocephalus, which could account for some of her symptoms and dull behavior. She may next develop seizures. The best treatment is tender loving care and appropriate medications as symptoms surface.
A.T., Washington, DC
Apr 24, 2011
I have a 10-year-old miniature pinscher who recently had a tooth extracted. The vet told me that my dog has an enlarged heart and a murmur -- this was from blood work done before the tooth extraction.
The next day, I had to take him back to the vet because the prescribed medication caused him to suffer. He was put on intravenous set and catheterization IV vitamin-B-complex injection.
My dog refuses to eat. I have to force-feed him. The vet recommended that I take him to a cardiologist for consultation, including an echocardiogram.
A.T., Washington, DC Apr 24, 2011
My guess is that you did not take your dog for annual checkups that might have disclosed underlying health problems. These surfaced following the stress of general anesthesia and dental surgery. I cannot stress enough the importance of regular veterinary checkups for dogs and cats, especially from middle age on. This is not to say that you are at fault, and you may have had those checkups.
Your experience underscores the attendant risks of dental surgery in older animals, especially those whose oral health has been neglected. Neglect can mean bacteria and inflammatory substances from diseased teeth and gums entering the dog's bloodstream and harming internal organs, especially the kidneys and heart.
The medications you listed in your letter (abbreviated for this column) that your dog received were appropriate, and once out of your dog's system, he should feel better. Give your dog a daily supplement of probiotics and B complex or brewer's yeast and coenzyme Q10.
B.P., Minneapolis, MN
Tags: cat Minneapolis MN diet food
Apr 24, 2011
I have a 4-year-old Siamese cat who is overweight at 14 pounds. I've fed her Wellness CORE dry food. It's all protein and fat, no carbs. I give her 3/4 cup a day, which is probably too much, but I can't stand to see her sitting by her empty dish and looking at me. She is shedding terribly. I brush her almost every day, and it keeps coming. She also has developed fur knots that I mostly must cut out. The knots have appeared just in the past month.
What worries me is that my sister had a cat with many knots that also had a hyperthyroid condition. Could knots be a symptom of a thyroid illness?
B.P., Minneapolis, MN Apr 24, 2011
There are many reasons why cats (and dogs) constantly shed their fur and need daily grooming. You must do this to reduce the chances of your cat developing fur balls in her stomach from swallowing the shedding fur that she grooms off herself. Knots of fur are more of a problem with longhair cats and can form painful mats that must be clipped away. But remember, brushing cats too much can stimulate hair growth and shedding, so all things in moderation.
Your cat is probably too young to have thyroid disease. Her coat condition should improve by adding a few drops of good-quality fish oil, beginning with two to three drops daily on her dry food and working up to a teaspoon daily. Feed her several small portions of food throughout the day. Try her on various quality canned cat foods (such as Wellness, Castor & Pollux, Evo and PetGuard), because moist foods are better for cats than most dry foods.
B.S., Bethesda, Md
Tags: dog Bethesda MD
Apr 18, 2011
We have a 9-year-old beagle (stray) with an injury on his tail that must have been slammed in a door. We have had him for about a year and have cleared up most of the injury by putting a cone on his head (to keep him from licking the wound), per our vet's suggestion.
However, there is a small part (1/3-inch diameter) that never seems to heal; and when it does get a good scab, he will not leave it alone. He bites and licks it. I feel I cannot leave the cone on forever. A gauze bandage slips off because the tail is tapered. Any suggestions?
B.S., Bethesda, Md Apr 18, 2011
Too many dogs get their tails injured by various doors, and in some instances, amputation is called for.
Your dog's tail wound may never properly heal if there is any broken bone beneath it -- an X-ray would determine this best.
Beagles need their tails, so I would put a soft, padded 5- to 6-inch-wide collar around his neck at all times, except when eating and playing under strict supervision. This is more comfortable than the lampshade-like cone.
Discuss with your veterinarian about healing the wound with manuka honey and essential oils such as helichrysum, myrrh and even propolis from the beehive if it is pure. The antibiotic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties of many natural products are remarkable and well documented.
B.C., Naples, FL
Apr 18, 2011
We adopted a wonderful Maine coon cat. She came from terrible conditions at a cat breeder. She spent part of her early years in a cage with many other Maine coon cats. The Domestic Animals Service rescued the cats.
She was filthy, and her paws were burned from the urine in the cage. She has adapted beautifully to our home as our only pet and is our joy. The vet said that he thinks she is 3 or 4 years old.
When she has been sleeping, she wakes up crying. When I pick her up to comfort her, it stops. Could she be having bad dreams of her past? I have had several cats over my 64 years, and this is the first time I have seen this behavior.
B.C., Naples, FL Apr 18, 2011
Kudos to you for providing love and care for this poor cat rescued from such cruel conditions.
I trust the Maine coon cat breeder was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and was prohibited from ever keeping animals again. Many breeding facilities for cats and dog "puppy mills" are atrocious and should be more effectively policed for animal neglect and cruelty.
It is quite possible that your cat is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, after bad dreams and memories reliving her past life in a cage, wakes up crying in distress. She is fortunate to have you close by to comfort and reassure her, giving the security and affection she needs.
M.S., St. Louis, Mo
Apr 17, 2011
I have seen your article on dog food. I am 78 years old and need to find a cheaper way to fix meals for my 5-year-old golden retriever. I just can't think of giving my Buddy up -- it would break my heart.
M.S., St. Louis, Mo Apr 17, 2011
Many readers have written to me saying they are close to giving their dogs up for adoption because they can't afford to buy good-quality dog food; nor can they afford animal vaccinations. When they buy the poorer-quality dry kibble in big bags and their animals become ill, they cannot afford to take their dogs to the veterinarian or to pay for costly remedial diets. Some animal shelters provide free pet food of reasonable quality donated by manufacturers for hard-up pet owners, which you should look into. If it is just dry food, add at least a teaspoon of olive or safflower oil per serving.
Here's a cheap, simple recipe for dogs:
- 2 cups of uncooked, ideally brown rice.
- 1 cup each of hamburger and grated carrot or sweet potato (yam) stirred into the rice when fully cooked and still hot. You can also include green beans and leafy greens such as spinach and collard greens.
- Add four crushed Tums (for calcium) or four 600 mg calcium-supplement tablets.
- Refrigerate and serve 1 cup (more or less) for every 30 pounds of body weight, morning and evening.
- Garnish with any scraps from your table, but no bones!
In the old days, pet owners could get green tripe, kidneys, lungs and other nutritious trimmings from the local butcher. In some small towns, they still exist, and cat and dog owners should help keep them in business.
C.G., Norfolk, Va
Apr 17, 2011
We've had a collie pup with colitis from the time he was little. The vets gave him pills, which didn't help, so I ended up cooking for him for 9-1/2 years. When he had stomach cramps, the only thing that would help his diarrhea was Kaopectate about two to three times a week.
We didn't know that he was inbred until we had to put him down from a combination of things -- his immune system wouldn't kick in, no matter how many antibiotics we gave him from the vet. We discovered he was inbred when we got another dog from a rescue site. The woman there said our collie was probably inbred if he was sick from his earliest years. I know there were 10 puppies at the time we got ours and wonder how many owners went through what I did. After that, I decided never to go to a breeder again. So we went to a rescue site and we got a dog that is half Australian shepherd and half border collie. She is a great, healthy dog.
Thanks for bringing attention to this horrible situation. No one should go through what I did.
C.G., Norfolk, Va Apr 17, 2011
I appreciate your letter sharing your financially and emotionally costly personal experience with a sickly, highly inbred purebred dog. Because of these problems, commercial breeders (many of whom operate abominable puppy mills) are now producing "designer" half-breeds like Labradoodles and cockapoos that are not without problems. Rescue sites and animal shelters fudge a bit when they guess that a great-looking mutt is half shepherd and half Labrador or half schnauzer and half poodle (a schnoodle) when they don't know the animal's ancestry for sure. But does that matter? I'm not quite sure of my own. People who want a particular breed of puppy should never go online or purchase from a pet store. Visit the breeder, and assess conditions at the facility and the temperaments of the pups' parents. If such visits and evaluations are denied, you should look elsewhere. I have been to puppy-breeding factories that would make you weep, and many states still resist stricter legislation and oversight. Money rules to the detriment of good dogs and our own humanity.
D.B., Springfield, Mo
Tags: dog Springfield MO
Apr 11, 2011
I have a 5-year-old male orange tabby who is fixed and de-clawed. I got him from a vet's office, where he had been rescued at 8 months old. I live alone, and he was good companion -- loving and playful.
The problem is that I have moved recently and could not take him with me, so I left him with my mother in her home; she has had cats all her life and loves them a lot. She has two fixed females living there -- one is temperamental, and the other is a bit shy. My tabby gets along fine with the shy one, and he sort of stays away from the other one. Now the tabby has started to spray on the wall next to the floor in different areas of the house. The vet in town says he thinks he is just marking his area. I think that because he is fixed and never did this before, he might have a urinary-tract problem. My mom says no, but I say we need another vet to check it out. What do you think?
D.B., Springfield, Mo Apr 11, 2011
Spraying on the wall or other vertical objects (furniture, doors) is a territorial-marking behavior, especially in male cats and occasionally in females. Non-neutered males do this most often and such behavior normally subsides, along with the pungent, musky, tomcat-pheromone stink in the urine.
I doubt your cat has a bladder problem, but to rule out that stress-related possibility, a veterinary checkup is advisable. More usually, cats with cystitis strain painfully while they urinate in a squatting posture, sometimes even at their caregivers' feet (to communicate their distress).
Your mother should try the Feliway pheromone room diffuser to help your cat settle down, his spraying being a likely sign of anxiety. Giving him catnip may also help alleviate his anxiety.