M.H., Arlington, Va
Nov 28, 2011
I felt compelled to write after reading your recent article on megacolon and after battling it in my own cat for many years. I hope that by sharing my own remedy, I can help to eliminate owners' frustration and, more important, cats' discomfort.
My cat eventually had such a problem defecating that we were visiting the vet every other week for enemas. This was while I was giving lactulose and cisapride twice daily. I also went to a homeopathic vet who suggested herbal treatments and acupuncture -- without any relief. My cat also refused any wet food and even stopped eating, so I had to remain with dry food. As a last resort, I considered surgery. Finally, though, I found a solution.
My vet recommended using MiraLAX mixed with water, and I switched from Science Diet to EVO (all protein). It worked! At first, I gave MiraLAX twice daily -- a heaping 1/2 teaspoon dissolved in one 5cc syringe of water. (He is a large cat, about 14 pounds.) I was able to reduce that to once daily.
It is no longer a fight to get him to take it because it's the consistency of water and not like the syrupy medication I gave him before. He now visits the vet like a regular patient and has not had an enema in more than a year.
One behavioral issue I noticed was that he was more likely to use the litter box while at the vet, as he was in a small, confined area with it. So I purchased a small dog cage and put his litter box in it. In the beginning, if I noticed he might be having issues, I left him in the cage with the litter box, food and water. This prompted him to go.
M.H., Arlington, Va Nov 29, 2011
Readers whose cats suffer from megacolon will appreciate your letter and insights. Yes, indeed, products such as MiraLAX can work wonders, as can a diet free of soy, corn and other cereals. A raw food, cereal-free diet is probably the best preventive and certainly the most natural diet for cats. (For details, visit www.felinenutrition.org.)
Over the last several years, other cat owners have been able to help their cats and avoid periodic enemas by giving their pets 1 to 2 tablespoons of canned pumpkin or mashed lima beans, beginning with a very small amount mixed with their regular moist (canned) cat food or dry cat food moistened with hot water.
Encouraging cats to engage in physically active play can do wonders for their digestive systems and overall health, which is one of the benefits of cats not living alone but enjoying the company of an active, compatible feline companion.
J.Y., Virginia Beach, Va
Tags: dog Virginia Beach VA
Nov 28, 2011
My daughter has a 95-pound, 1-year-old Weimaraner. She treats the dog like a human, and the dog always sleeps with her and her husband. My daughter is expecting twins in the next few months and is planning to continue the same arrangement. I am terrified of this and would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this to show her it is not safe. She also has cats who mostly stay outside.
J.Y., Virginia Beach, Va Nov 29, 2011
You are not the only grandparent-to-be to write to me expressing concerns about the family dog or cat being a possible hazard for a new baby.
First, you should share your fears with the parents-to-be and find out how they plan to introduce the dog to the twins. Has this young and presumably boisterous dog had basic obedience training to learn self-control (sit and stay)?
Purchasing a life-sized baby doll (ideally one that cries), swaddling it and pretending to nurse it will help habituate the dog and make the first introduction much easier, as well as help allay any jealousy or attention-seeking behavior. While handling the surrogate baby, your daughter and her husband should pet and reassure the dog. Giving him his own bed beside their bed (in which they will surely want to cuddle and play with the twins) would be wise.
All the animals should be tested for internal and external parasites, some of which could infest the babies. Also have the cats checked for ringworm, which is more common in indoor-outdoor cats than those who are happily conditioned to always staying indoors. Indoor-outdoor cats also could bring home fleas and ticks, which can harbor serious diseases transmissible to humans, such as the plague and Lyme disease.
Nov 27, 2011
I have two cats, one of whom almost every evening chews and pulls on her claws/nails, mainly on her front paws. I had her examined by the veterinarian and there was nothing wrong. I feared a fungus infection that I got myself some time ago from a manicurist. Should I stop her, or is this normal for some cats?
Nov 28, 2011
You did the right thing to rule out a possible fungal or bacterial infection in the cat's nail bed. This is not uncommon in warm, humid climates, especially with cats who frequently go outdoors.
Your cat's behavior is part of the feline grooming repertoire. Some cats are more fastidious than others about removing excess "quick" and any debris around the base of their retractable claws. Using a scratch post or board regularly is another way that cats clean and sharpen their claws and mark their territories. If your cat doesn't have a good scratch post, you should consider providing one for her.
NO MORE ARSENIC IN CHICKENS: At long last, the drug company Pfizer has moved to end production of the arsenic compound Roxarsone by its subsidiary company Alpharma. This drug has been used since the 1940s in the feed of broiler chickens and, to a lesser degree, in turkeys and pigs to control certain diseases and to stimulate appetite and promote growth. Pfizer's move follows a study by the Food and Drug Administration that found concentrations of arsenic, a classified cancer-causing chemical, in edible tissues of poultry, especially in chicken livers. (For details, see Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 239., No. 3, p.290-91.)
This decision is a significant step forward in improving the safety of manufactured pet foods that do not include organically certified ingredients, since Roxarsone is not used by organic poultry, turkey and pig farmers. For other pet food and human food ingredient concerns, check my website (www.DrFoxVet.com/info).
A BOOK FOR RABBIT LOVERS: Anyone who cares about animals or enjoys inspirational true stories will want a copy of Marie Mead's "Rabbits: Gentle Hearts, Valiant Spirits" (Nova Maris Press, 2011). The message of the book is not just about rabbits -- it's about hope, healing and caring for others. That readers will learn about the oft-misunderstood rabbit is a bonus, as these quiet creatures are full of wonderful surprises. The beautiful full-color book for adults and older children is also appropriate for reading aloud and will help children learn about love and respect for others.
R.P., Hendersonville, NC
Tags: cat dog Hendersonville NC
Nov 27, 2011
In Parade magazine, the supplement in the Sunday newspaper, I saw an article recently that compared cats to dogs. This article said dogs are smarter than cats, but I don't think so.
I've owned dogs all my life, and now I own a cat. My cat is every bit as smart as the dogs I've owned -- maybe smarter. In fact, my cat, Rose (named after Kate Winslet's character in the movie "Titanic"), is a lot smarter than some voters, and she is a lot more intelligent than a lot of drivers I see on the road.
But tell me, Dr. Fox, which is, in fact, "smarter"? Dogs or cats? Or is there no way to actually know whether the cat or the dog is smarter? Perhaps it's a matter of opinion.
R.P., Hendersonville, NC Nov 28, 2011
When I was a regular guest of Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show," he would often pop your question of whether dogs are smarter than cats. I would respond by saying that pigs are probably smarter than both and that because pigs are the most intelligent of farm animals, we should think twice about eating them. Then I would emphasize that each species has particular skills and that while one might perform better than another on a particular IQ test or learning aptitude assessment, many factors come into play. These include motivation, attention span/distractibility and emotional stability.
I conclude such "specist" questions and debates by stating that there is no creature more intelligent at being a cat than a cat. (For feline IQ tests, see my book "Supercat.") Some breeds of dogs have suffered selective breeding that can affect their attention span and learning abilities.
Humans, apes, elephants, dolphins, orcas and magpies respond when they see that their familiar image in a mirror has changed when a mark is put on their heads or bodies. This is supposedly a measure of self-awareness. But if dogs and cats don't respond, does that mean they lack self-awareness? I think not -- they're less narcissistic, perhaps!
J.S., Owings, Md
Tags: dog MD Owings
Nov 21, 2011
I read in your column about a dog with Cushing's disease. We have a 14-year-old golden retriever with this illness.
His name is Max, he weighs 62 pounds and he's on 60 milligrams of trilostane, which controls his drinking and urinating very well. He has blood work every so often to make sure the dosage is right. He has been on this for the last three years and is doing well.
J.S., Owings, Md Nov 22, 2011
There is no simple cure for the all-too-common canine curse of Cushing's disease, which is an overactivity of the vital adrenal glands that most often is caused by a tumor in the region of the brain (the pituitary) that regulates their function. It may also be brought on by prolonged use of steroids for skin problems and other inflammatory conditions.
It is good to hear that the trilostane (Vetoryl) medication is helping your dog. This drug has some harmful side effects when used long-term, so it is advisable to have the veterinarian administer the ACTH stimulation test and adjust the dosage as needed -- ideally toward a lower dose -- in 20- to 30-milligram increments.
Considering your dog's age (which is remarkable for a golden retriever), you should continue with the present dosage, which I presume is correct because you say your veterinarian has been doing "blood work" to ensure the right dosage. Too high a dose can actually destroy the adrenal glands and create a new disease called adrenal insufficiency, which is the opposite of Cushing's.
C.Y., Okeechobee, FL
Tags: dog Okeechobee FL
Nov 21, 2011
I got my Yorkie, "Angel," when she was 9 weeks old. She is a good little dog and a good watchdog. She's healthy and playful and is 5 years old.
But over the years, she has gotten very upset when we take her in the truck to go anywhere. It looks to me like she has panic attacks. After the first couple of miles, she starts to whine and get restless. It gets worse until she's almost screaming and wants to get out of the truck.
At first, I thought she might have been closed up in the truck when she had to relieve herself at a young age, but now it seems like anxiety attacks.
I tried pills the vet gave me, but they made her sleepy so I quit them -- they didn't help. We now leave her at home when we go anywhere. She seems happy with that and seems more relaxed.
Once in the spring and once in the fall, we have to drive out of state. When we drove from North Carolina to Florida this past September, it didn't seem to bother her like our short trips to the store. So I'm hoping next April when we go back to North Carolina, this won't be a problem.
I'd be interested to know what you think.
C.Y., Okeechobee, FL Nov 22, 2011
Her phobia could have been triggered by just one car ride when you had to slam on the brakes; or a trip to the groomer or veterinarian when the dog had a rough time; or a time when she really needed to evacuate and panicked to get out of the vehicle.
Many dog owners have found that spritzing the inside of the vehicle with a hydrosol of lavender, or hanging a couple of gauze squares with a few drops of essential oil of lavender, or tying a cotton bandanna with lavender around the dog's neck, can make a world of difference. Lavender can have profound calming effects, as can other essential oils, but this is one of the least expensive to try.
You can try to desensitize Angel by simply sitting in the truck with her for short periods of time and giving her treats and praise over a few days. Repeat this with the engine turned on for a few more days. Then take short trips with you or your husband driving while the other sits with her to provide comfort, praise and treats.
M.B., Port St. Lucie, FL
Tags: cat FL Port St Lucie
Nov 20, 2011
This is for the woman who wants to adopt a cat for her 10-year-old cat, Katy. I learned these amazing tricks from a very wise friend who helps others with cat problems.
For several days, keep the cats in separate rooms. Provide bedding for them both and periodically switch their beds. This will allow each cat to get familiar with the other's scent and realize there is another cat in the house.
During their separation, she should spend time "mixing their ears" as follows: Pet Katy, paying special attention to her ears and face, then go into the other room and pet the new cat, also paying attention to the face and ears. Without washing her hands, go back to Katy for more of the same. She should do this as often as she can. The extra attention will be reassuring, and this also will help familiarize the cats with each other's scent. Kitty treats should also be involved.
For the introduction, she'll need a small spray bottle (new or thoroughly washed). A single, quick spray at a misbehaving cat should distract it. However, do not chase a cat while continuing to spray it with water; it will only make the cat fearful and possibly mean. One spray should be sufficient.
After a few days, allow the two cats to have open access to each other. Be prepared with treats, the spray bottle and a towel to throw over a cat if it misbehaves. If the cats exhibit aggression, separate them and repeat the ear mixing/bedding switching/treat giving for a few more days.
When they are introduced again, put each cat in a carrier first. Let them see each other and become familiar before allowing Katy out of her carrier. Then she will get to know the new cat, who should be fine with his new friend by then. If no negative behavior is observed, allow the new cat out of his carrier and immediately provide their favorite food or treats, in separate bowls placed a few feet apart.
M.B., Port St. Lucie, FL Nov 21, 2011
Thanks for this helpful synopsis for how to introduce a new cat to a resident cat. I hope cat adoption shelters will provide this information to all people who are taking in additional cats.
I must remind readers, of course, to have a veterinarian thoroughly check any new cat for infectious and contagious diseases and to treat the cat for internal and external parasites as needed. If there are any doubts about the cat's health, it should be quarantined for seven to 10 days before bringing it into the home. In well-run animal shelters, all of these steps are usually covered, including spay/neuter, so you can take the cat of your choice from the shelter directly home to begin the introduction process with your resident cat(s).
K.B., Kitty Hawk, NC
Nov 20, 2011
My 5-year-old golden retriever has smelly anal glands, and I have tried everything to remedy this. He had it once before and it went away, but it has come back.
He really stinks, even after we have had his glands expressed. I've tried changing his food from salmon to lamb (and chicken, but I think he's allergic to that). I tried shredded wheat in his food and am now trying pumpkin puree.
He's stinking up the entire house, like bad gas. We've heard that surgery was an option. Any suggestions?
K.B., Kitty Hawk, NC Nov 21, 2011
A stinky dog is not a well dog. You need a holistic approach to help him improve his general physical well-being. No dog likes to smell bad.
His recovery should include lots of regular physical activity; a weekly bath with Selsun Blue medicated shampoo for three to four weeks; daily grooming; and massage therapy (see my book "The Healing Touch for Dogs").
Next, you should see to his diet. Give him 2 cups of porridge (oatmeal or boiled rice) flavored with 1/2 cup of lightly cooked ground beef (ideally from grass-fed cattle), chopped chicken or scrambled egg (organically certified as free-range). Give him this light, cleansing diet twice daily for three or four days, then transition him onto the home-prepared diet available on my website. You can also find free recipes at DogCatHomePreparedDiet.com by veterinarian Dr. Donald R. Strombeck, one of the first of my colleagues to recognize the importance of good nutrition for companion animals.
Avoid all dog foods containing soy protein, which can make dogs produce a lot of gas. Alternate single animal proteins (beef, lamb, turkey) in his diet every three to four weeks to help identify a possible food allergy, which often underlies chronic anal gland and ear problems in dogs.
E-BOOKS FOR UNDERSTANDING DOGS AND CATS
I am a fan of e-books because they make long out-of- print books available, are usually inexpensive and save trees! My two earlier best-selling books, "Understanding Your Dog" and "Understanding Your Cat," are now available at www.amazon.com as e-books, reasonably priced at $5.99.
Understanding animals' behaviors and needs is a first step in establishing a good relationship. Enhanced communication helps resolve and prevent behavioral problems, and is the cornerstone for animal health and well-being.
T.B., Gates, NC
Tags: cat Gates NC spraying
Nov 14, 2011
I hope that you can help my family; we are at our wits' end.
To make a long story as short as I can, my husband and I adopted five rescued kittens over a two-year period. All was well with our life until Belle became ill and died in September 2010 from feline lymphoma. She was only 4 years old.
Since that time, one of our other cats, Callie (who is now 5 and has been with us since she was just a few weeks old), has decided she needs to spray in our home. She does not do it all the time -- very sporadically and sometimes weeks apart. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason, or any event that we can put a finger on. There are five litter boxes, and we clean them four to five times a day, so cleanliness is not an issue. There is an entire bedroom just for the litter boxes, so traffic interrupting her should not be an issue, either.
Someone told me to purchase Feliway. I did, and she "laughed" at it. She actually backed up to it and sprayed it while it was plugged into the outlet.
I took Callie for a checkup just in case there was a medical issue, but I was assured there was no physical reason that the vet could see without an ultrasound. Everything checked out.
At the same time Belle was sick, a new cat appeared outside our home. As it turns out, the cat was a new addition to the house next door, but she still comes to our house twice a day. Another friend suggested Callie could be upset over the cat outdoors, even though it does not come inside. Yet another person said Callie could be upset over Belle's death. Another suggestion was that since one cat has left, Callie may be trying to move up the hierarchy chain -- but that makes no sense to me because Belle came after Callie and was not the alpha cat. Since Belle died, there has been a lot of fighting among our girls.
Is there a fix? How can we stop Callie's behavior? What suggestions do you have that we have not tried?
T.B., Gates, NC Nov 15, 2011
I am glad you had Callie checked for possible cystitis, which can be associated with cats becoming house-soilers. Most likely, there is an emotional stress factor underlying Callie's behavior since she is actually spraying, i.e., engaging in territorial marking, and is not simply urinating to relieve a full bladder.
Try the Feliway dispensers in every room where the cats go. This may help reduce the fighting that could be upsetting Callie. Have your veterinarian prescribe a behavior-modifying medication that can help stop cats from marking with urine, such as alpralozam or clomipramine. You might also try giving her some catnip, which is more palatable than valerian (from which Valium is made) but has similar cat-calming properties. Some cats don't care for catnip as a dried herb but will accept it as a strong tea when mixed with their favorite food.
You should try to persuade your neighbors to keep their cat indoors. Callie, like many cats, could be genuinely upset by a strange cat prowling, spraying and yowling around your house.
M.K., Charlottesville, Va
Tags: dog Charlottesville VA
Nov 14, 2011
Our 10-year-old, loving golden retriever has been spooked by a hot-air balloon! Even when she is inside and can't see the balloon, the sound of it going up or down drives her (and the other dogs in the neighborhood) nuts.
She became so upset one day that she ran away from home, and we eventually found her disoriented on a busy street. Even though her experience with the balloon was several weeks ago, she has run away three more times since then. She is now afraid to go outside, and we keep her on a leash in fear that she might take off again.
We have several acres of property near Charlottesville, Va., and didn't have a fence (electronic or otherwise) until last month. She has always loved roaming the property around the house and never failed to return until now.
Please help us understand what scares dogs about hot-air balloons and how we can help our dog feel safe.
M.K., Charlottesville, Va Nov 15, 2011
Many animals will spook when they see and/or hear some novel object in their environment, but they quickly habituate after repeated encounters. Plastic bags blowing in the breeze used to terrify one of my dogs. Some dogs fail to habituate and develop a phobia, a not uncommon one being toward jet planes and their vapor trails in the sky.
The most effective way to help a dog overcome a phobia is desensitization through repeated exposure. Fit your dog with a secure collar or harness so she cannot break free, and have her medicated with a prescription of Xanax or a similar anxiety-relieving drug from a veterinarian. Then take her to the hot-air balloon field and drive around slowly. Eventually take her out of the car in view of one or more balloons. Have her sit and reassure her with treats. Repeat this routine daily for seven to 10 days, increasing the duration of each session from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how well she habituates.
You can also make a tape recording of the sound of the balloon and play it at brief intervals intermittently during the day while indoors. A few helium-filled balloons in one or two rooms will also provide associative stimulation to help the desensitization and habituation process.