J.A., Chevy Chase, Md
Tags: dog Chevy Chase MD
Oct 31, 2011
My 18-month-old black Lab mix (rescued two months ago) frequently has loose stools. Not watery, just loosely formed. This doesn't seem to bother him, but I am concerned that he will need to have his anal glands cleaned out frequently (as per his vet). He tested positive for giardia and then tested negative after being treated.
I chose his dog food based on the list of preferred ingredients on your website. We started with ULTRA Adult and then switched to Kirkland Chicken & Rice (it seemed less rich and was much less expensive), to no avail. I've tried a tablespoon of pumpkin, some yogurt, brown rice and boiled ground turkey. Nothing seems to make a difference.
Any suggestions? He weighs about 55 pounds.
J.A., Chevy Chase, Md Oct 30, 2011
There are several reasons dogs have loose stools. First, you should have a fecal sample tested again for giardia and other internal parasites.
Second, give your dog probiotic tablets or pills daily. You can get probiotics (the best are kept refrigerated) in most pharmacies. Give your dog a recommended human dose one to two hours before his regular food. This will help build a healthy population of bacteria in his digestive system, improve his digestive processes and his immune system, and help firm up his stools.
Mixing 1 tablespoon of psyllium husks into his wet food each day also will firm up his stools and help improve digestion. A tea of peppermint, ginger, anise, catnip or chamomile -- all of which are soothing, beneficial herbs --also may help.
During episodes of very loose stools, giving Montmorillonite clay, kaolin or pectin will help, and your veterinarian should advise. He or she also may recommend an elimination diet to test for an underlying food allergy.
C.G., Keller, TX
Tags: dog TX Keller
Oct 31, 2011
We have a Jack Russell terrier named Piccolo. Our household always has a laugh, because when Piccolo wants something (food, toy, etc.), she will literally pray for it.
She sits on her bottom and lifts her two front paws into a praying position. Also, when we sing along to a song, Piccolo has her little bowwow solo.
C.G., Keller, TX Oct 30, 2011
I appreciate the wonderful photo you sent me of Piccolo (great name!) sitting on her haunches with her forepaws together in front of her face. I wish newspapers could print some of the photos I receive from readers that capture their animals' often unique behaviors and quirks.
Assuming a posture as though she is praying is certainly a very inventive, solicitous gesture. Some dogs will sit up like Piccolo and bat or flutter their forepaws as though waving or signaling for attention. Others will move their snouts up and down while sitting up.
My interpretation of dogs joining in when people sing, or singing solo when they hear certain sounds or music, is that it is an ancient sound ritual, much like the choral howling of their wolf ancestors and yapping howls of their coyote and jackal cousins. This is one way that wild canids bond, communicate and express their souls: canine opera, indeed! For more insights, see the book I edited that includes studies by scientists from around the world, titled "The Wild Canids" (Dogwise Publications).
Readers' accounts of their cats' and dogs' antics are always welcome. They add to our understanding and appreciation of our four-legged companions.
J.Z., Ayr, ND
Tags: cat ND Ayr
Oct 30, 2011
I appreciate your protection of animals other than dogs and cats. I also wonder how you can even stomach or print the letters like the person who insists on toilet training the cats and now has one peeing on her bed.
I'm writing about my cat Marshmallow, who has hopped on my toilet seat many times to poop or pee. I never taught her that. Another interesting thing is that when she is having a urinary problem, she shows me when I am on the toilet. She will go in the tub next to me, pee and stare at me. Or while I'm scooping litter, she'll come to show me she is straining.
J.Z., Ayr, ND Oct 29, 2011
Cats are notably adept at communicating to their human caregivers when they are ill. Cystitis is one of their most common maladies, and many cats will deliberately squat, strain and, if they can, void some urine (often tinged with blood) at their human companions' feet. A few uninformed owners think their cats have suddenly become house-soilers and scold them or put them outside.
I would like to hear other readers' comments about when, how, where and why their cats, dogs and other animals have communicated that they are ill, suffering or in need of help. Many simply go into hiding out of pain and fear. Remember that any such sudden change in temperament calls for an immediate veterinary evaluation.
A.T., Silver Spring, Md
Tags: cat Silver Spring MD
Oct 30, 2011
Over the years, you've published letters from people asking about cats who licked off their hair. You've responded with possible physical explanations, but you haven't said the causes may be emotional or psychological. I think you should include that suggestion in future responses.
I believe the experience of Milady Cat (my companion of 19 1/2 years) suggests that such compulsive behavior can result from emotional states such as depression.
We moved from a pretty, well-lighted second-floor apartment after 10 years together there (where she grew up from a 4-month-old kitten) to a much darker, ground-floor "garden" apartment. She hid away for hours after the move. After six to eight months there, her belly hair started to disappear. This continued, and I found a local vet who tried several physical remedies (not food changes), including a strong drug that affected her so powerfully she was limp on the bedroom floor.
After four years there, we moved to a town house with lots of windows and lots of light. This was our second move together, and she clearly knew what was up this time and let me know she approved of our new place -- rubbing on a corner, coming back to rub on me, back to rub on the banister, back to me, and purring at megaphone level. This was a huge, important "thank you," an enormous "yes."
After a year or so in this new place, her belly hair started to grow back. I rather hoped she would recover all that hair before she died, and she did -- completely grown back, totally beautiful, for the last years of her life.
A.T., Silver Spring, Md Oct 29, 2011
So-called psychogenic alopecia in cats who groom excessively -- to the point of self-mutilation and patchy, often extensive hair loss -- is an issue worth revisiting. It is a condition triggered by emotional stress such as the death of a companion, moving to a new place or even one family member going off to college. In my book "Cat Body, Cat Mind," I tell the sad saga of one cat who was so grief-stricken that he chewed off part of his tail after his companion kitten died.
The rule of thumb in diagnosing possible psychogenic and psychosomatic disorders in animals is to first eliminate physical causes such as flea-bite hypersensitivity, food allergy or thyroid gland disease.
Cats are extremely tactile and sensitive to touch, and they will briefly groom themselves when they are suddenly surprised or become anxious, such as before a thunderstorm or after a spat with another cat in the home. This is a self-comforting behavior that can become an obsessive-compulsive disorder when stress factors persist. The herb catnip, as well as various psychotropic prescription drugs, may alleviate symptoms.
A.S., Fairfax, Va
Oct 30, 2011
I have a 5 1/2 year-old male Brussels griffon named Callie. Callie was diagnosed with primary Addison's disease almost two years ago. Since Callie's diagnosis, his doctor has recommended that he receive a Percorten injection every five weeks, in addition to 1/4 tablet of prednisone 5 mg daily.
Callie struggles with stress, so I try to eliminate as much stress as possible on a daily basis. During a recent examination, his doctor detected a heart murmur and recommended that Callie see a cardiologist for his heart defect. I worry about the additional stress this may cause (in regard to visiting a new office) and understand that his daily dose of prednisone does have a significant impact on his heart.
In your opinion, would Callie benefit from seeing a cardiologist? I understand there may be nothing they can do for his heart murmur. Callie is a very sweet and loving dog, and he depends on me to make the right choices for his medical care. Your time and thoughts are greatly appreciated.
A.S., Fairfax, Va Oct 29, 2011
Your poor dog's condition is unfortunately quite common in dogs today, but the cause of this condition of poorly functioning or exhausted adrenal glands is not yet known. It could be a condition of breed and temperament, coupled with an as-yet unidentified external trigger. These triggers may include an increasing number of so-called endocrine disrupters, as well as injections or vaccinations that are associated with evoking autoimmune diseases. (For documentation, see my website www.DrFoxVet.com/info.)
You must continue with the hormone replacement medication and periodic monitoring. Supplements of buffered vitamin C with bioflavonoids, N,N-dimethylglycine, licorice and melatonin may help the adrenal glands.
Many dogs have heart murmurs, and I would not subject Callie to further tests at this time. Supplements such as magnesium and coenzyme Q10 should benefit his heart muscle. But any signs of fatigue, swelling of limbs or abdomen, pale or bluish gums, or coughing and difficulty breathing warrant an immediate heart checkup.
E.S., Sandy Hook, CT
Tags: cat CT Sandy Hook
Oct 24, 2011
I would like to tell you a true story about a cat I had.
In December 1999, my father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Dad was in the hospital for mainly palliative care, and Mom and I visited him every day.
My father really loved cats, and he especially liked my quirky cat, Rainbow. Unfortunately, she would have nothing to do with anyone but me. Rainbow avoided ever going into my parents' bedroom.
About three weeks into my father's hospitalization, Rainbow did something she had never done before. As I walked past my parents' bedroom, I could not believe what I was seeing -- Rainbow had not only gone into the bedroom, but she was asleep on the bed. And it was my dad's twin bed, not my mom's.
Suddenly I had a startling thought, and I called to my mother: "Mom, I think Dad is going to pass away tonight."
That night, just after midnight, my father died. My mom was there, and she said it was very peaceful. I will always wonder how my cat seemed to know and was able to communicate that to me.
Rainbow died from cancer (like my dad) exactly one year later, on the first anniversary of my dad's death.
E.S., Sandy Hook, CT Oct 23, 2011
Thank you for the account of Rainbow's apparent connection with your dying father. It seems highly probable that this was Rainbow's response to "knowing" (by some remote sensing ability) that your father was close to death.
I appreciate receiving letters from readers on this subject because they support my theory of the "empathosphere" -- a dimension of awareness that transcends space and that I have documented in my new book, "Animals & Nature First." I believe that physical, emotional and spiritual well-being are connected in this empathosphere, which in part explains how our attitudes toward animals can affect their behavior and health.
L.S., Apple Valley, MN
Tags: dog Apple Valley MN diet food
Oct 24, 2011
We have been feeding our two border terriers (8 and 7 years old) your recipe for homemade dog food for several years. We feed them half of your recipe and half Wellness Super5Mix Chicken dry food. Both dogs are doing very well.
Upon your recommendation, we also added a multivitamin and purchased Pet-Tabs by Pfizer after reading about this brand in your column. I recently read that these vitamins have been found to contain high levels of lead by one testing lab. Pfizer denies that this is true. Our vet researched this and advised us to discontinue the vitamins for four months to see if there was any change. Our dogs show no signs of lead poisoning, but I am wondering what your position is on this matter.
The other issue we have is that one of our dogs has continuing problems with her anal glands. Even though she eats a healthy diet and has firm, regular stools, her anal glands do not seem to empty on their own. My husband (an RN) has problems expressing them as often as needed (sometimes weekly). They are not infected, and the substance expressed is free of odor, mostly liquid with a slightly brown tinge. The vet told us that the anal glands can be removed surgically, but that it is not harmful to manually express them as often as needed. A relative who shows dogs suggested we add some organic pumpkin to her diet, which we have done in small quantities for the past couple of months. The situation has not changed.
Can you share your knowledge on this subject? Would a holistic vet have other treatment methods? Or should we just keep expressing them whenever she lets us know it needs to be done? We do not wish to subject her (or our pocketbook) to the surgical procedure unless that is the only reasonable option.
L.S., Apple Valley, MN Oct 23, 2011
Lead in Pfizer Pet-Tabs is probably so minimal as to be a non-issue. It is present in most calcium supplements that go into such formulations. I give them to one of my dogs with chronic anal gland issues. I have been periodically squeezing her gently for 15 years!
That is all one can do after ruling out food allergies and trying to increase fecal bulk with pumpkin or psyllium husks (about 1 teaspoon per 30 pounds of body weight). Fecal bulk, along with physical exercise, helps empty out the anal sacs (which sometimes does the trick).
When these glands get blocked or abscessed, they need to be irrigated and packed with steroids and antibiotics under general anesthesia. I advise against having them surgically removed because dogs may then suffer from a lack of anal sphincter control.
V.W.S., Winston-Salem, NC
Tags: dog Winston-Salem NC
Oct 23, 2011
I am thinking about getting a schnauzer puppy. A friend of mine has one with a natural tail. Should I get one with a docked tail like in the dog breed books? I can't make up my mind.
We are at our wits' end and are considering euthanizing him because he seems miserable and smells horrible. Our grandkids can't even pet him anymore. Thank you for any advice you may have.
V.W.S., Winston-Salem, NC Oct 22, 2011
Regular readers of my column know that I am opposed to docking dogs' tails (except for valid medical reasons) and cropping their ears. I spell out the many reasons in my new book, "Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health" (available on Amazon.com).
Briefly, docking can have serious medical and possibly behavioral consequences, because dogs use their tails to communicate. There is also the ethical question of mutilating an animal for purely aesthetic or breed-fashion reasons. In some countries, including the U.K., routine tail docking and ear cropping are prohibited.
I also advocate adoption from shelters, which you may wish to consider rather than purchasing a purpose-bred companion puppy. If you go through a breeder, you will have to choose the pup you want and ask that his or her tail be left intact, because docking is usually done within the first few days of life.
P.M., Long Beach, NJ
Tags: dog NJ allergies Long Beach
Oct 23, 2011
My 9-year-old border collie had a beautiful coat and skin until two years ago. He started scratching and biting himself raw, and his hair fell out every summer into fall. I had a feeling it was due to an allergy, maybe to something in the backyard.
I have taken him to two vets, and neither was certain what was causing this condition. He was on steroids, antibiotics and special shampoos. His skin would clear up for awhile but get bad again soon after finishing the medications.
Needless to say, it was very expensive, so I decided to switch dog foods and try other remedies, such as probiotics. The dog food now is Nutro Natural Choice, grain-free natural lamb and potato formula.
His skin and coat have only gotten worse. His skin produces a lot of oil, so the hair closest to the skin is very greasy. The skin turned black after the wet spots dried out.
His ears also bother him periodically -- itchy and smelly. We put ear cleaner drops in both ears, and this seems to help temporarily. We are at our wits' end and are considering euthanizing him because he seems miserable and smells horrible. Our grandkids can't even pet him anymore. Thank you for any advice you may have.
P.M., Long Beach, NJ Oct 22, 2011
I sympathize with you and your poor dog. This is a not uncommon and distressing condition called canine atopy, affecting dogs who become allergic or hypersensitive to insect bites, pollens, ingredients in their diet and so forth. Dogs often develop multiple hypersensitivities. Much detective work is called for, and various treatment regimens have to be tried after ruling out mange, the parasitic skin-mite disease that is the bane of dogdom.
Also rule out flea-bite hypersensitivity. Bathe the dog in Selsun Blue (human) medicated shampoo and cover areas where he lies down with cotton sheets. (Use a fragrance-free laundry soap.) A week later, bathe the dog with a soothing oatmeal or chamomile shampoo.
Do not have the dog vaccinated until he recovers. Do not use any anti-flea or anti-tick drugs on his skin, and have him checked for underlying hypothyroid and possible Cushing's disease complications.
Talk with your veterinarian about starting your dog on a so-called elimination diet to help identify which ingredients in his diet (home-prepared) are OK. He may benefit from antihistamines and such dietary supplements as fish oil, selenium and zinc. Some dogs with seasonal allergies benefit from a daily teaspoon of local honey or bee pollen in their food; others benefit from having their skin periodically soaked in aloe vera gel (available in health stores).
B.S., Sequim, Wash
Tags: dog Wa Sequim
Oct 23, 2011
We installed one of those seat ledges for our Chihuahua, and she absolutely loves it! She can overlook the whole backyard, including several bird feeders, and will often carry one of her toys up there for company.
B.S., Sequim, Wash Oct 22, 2011
Your short communication is much appreciated, as it supports my advocacy for greater recognition of companion animals' need for environmental enrichment and stimulation. I cringe at the thought of the thousands of dogs left alone and imprisoned in crates all day across the United States. There is no point to this, when they can be properly house-trained and treated for separation anxiety. Their boredom can be rectified with something as simple as the seat ledge you have set up for your dog. Adopting a second dog or a cat also would provide considerable social enrichment!