J.B., Winston-Salem, NC
Tags: cat Winston-Salem NC diet food
Jan 23, 2012
I have an ndoor/outdoor male cat, 9 years old. He has been eating the Hill's Science Diet cat food as recommended by our vet when he was little. The label shows that the main ingredient is chicken byproduct meal, followed by grains. This does not seem healthy.
Could you please recommend a food for a healthy adult cat? I have a bad feeling we followed advice that may be harmful to our cat. He is healthy except for a cyst on his back.
J.B., Winston-Salem, NC Jan 24, 2012
You are right to be concerned about what the veterinarian sold you to feed to your cat.
Even though your cat's health seems OK, I would transition him gradually over a five- to seven-day period to a healthier diet containing whole foods and, ideally, organically certified, fresh ingredients. For my preferred list of dog and cat foods, please visit my website. There, you can access the archives, which have my syndicated newspaper answers to many pet health and behavioral questions like yours.
Some cats, dogs and humans adapt to certain diets that cause no health problems, while others don't do so well, succumbing to various diet-linked illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis. Genetics plays a significant role, which should mean that good breeding and good nutrition go hand in hand. Some pet food "experts" contend that it's simply a process of natural selection -- those cats who do OK on a manufactured non-carnivorous, high-cereal or even vegetarian diet will eventually become the majority in the population through survival of the fittest.
But it's not that simple now that there is a majority population of neutered animals being fed manufactured pet foods that may not provide optimal nutrition. Some will do fine and others, sooner or later, won't. But those who happen to do fine will not pass on their genetic attributes, however, because they have been neutered. So the natural selection process argument for adaptation is null and void!
M.D., St Louis, Mo
Tags: cat St Louis MO
Jan 23, 2012
I enjoyed the interesting chapter in your book "Animals and Nature First" about animals having an afterlife, and the evidence from readers' accounts and photographs they shared with you.
I am enclosing a photo of our family taken a few years back that shows our deceased cat, Willy, in the lower left corner coming out from behind my son's legs. You can see the cat shape distinctly and his black and white face. The picture was taken about three months after Willy passed on.
M.D., St Louis, Mo Jan 24, 2012
I am glad you enjoyed this particular chapter in my new book, published with CreateSpace.
I hesitated to include it because skeptics might use it to ridicule the entire book, which has more to do with rectifying our relationships with animals and the natural environment than exploring the supernatural. But the metaphysical evidence of life after life, of animals being living souls like us and having spirits, all contribute to awakening us to the great mystery of life. As a veterinarian, I think treating all living beings with respect and compassion is the best preventive medicine, and a long overdue step in healing our relationships with the rest of the animal kingdom.
I would very much appreciate receiving photographs from other readers who have caught what appears to be the image of a deceased companion animal in the picture. Kindly provide information as to the age of the animal and when he or she died and when the photo was taken. A few such images are posted on my website.
F.M., Washington, DC
Tags: dog Washington DC fox
Jan 22, 2012
I am in love with the domesticated foxes from Russia I read about in a National Geographic magazine article "Designing the Perfect Pet." I have a friend who works in Russia, and he would be willing to look into buying one for me. There is no problem about importation if the animal is vaccinated, I am told.
Do you see any difficulties with my dearest wish?
F.M., Washington, DC Jan 23, 2012
I have read this article from the March 2011 National Geographic magazine. The tame foxes, from the Novosibirsk, Russia, Institute of Cytology and Genetics, are being sold to fund the genetic research. The foxes are all neutered to prevent competitive breeding. The suppliers keep some 3,000 foxes in small cages and have bred an estimated 50,000 foxes over the years trying to develop a truly domesticated prototype.
These numbers and the evidently poor conditions under which these animals are kept -- documented in Dr. Ceiridwen Terrill's book "Part Wild" (Scribners) -- lead me to question the ethics of continuing these studies. I advise you not to purchase any of these genetically tame foxes until significant improvements in their care are made.
I published the lab's earlier findings in 1975 in "The Wild Canids" (Dogwise), and, while the research is of scientific merit, animal care standards of excellence must come first. There are often foxy-looking dogs up for adoption in shelters and online that you might wish to consider. After all, dogs and foxes are distant cousins.
M.C., Chesapeake, Va
Tags: dog Chesapeake VA diet food
Jan 22, 2012
I have a Jack Russell terrier who has had severe allergies all his life, or so I thought.
Chester had a bad rash when he was about 2 years old. I took him to Banfield Veterinary Clinic, and I admit I do not like all of the drugs and shots they gave him. Ten years later, I've decided that Chester had developed a flea allergy. Banfield put Chester on a specialty diet and said he can never come off it or eat any other foods.
He always loved my home-cooked foods mixed with his dog food before the strict diet was imposed. He went nuts for your chicken and rice formula, but for the past decade he has not had it.
Can you explain what no other vet has been able to and tell me why he can't have treats such as your formula?
Chester doesn't have the appetite he usually has, and I would like to offer more of a selection -- at least something mixed with his regular food (Hill's Prescription Diet z/d Canine ULTRA Allergen-Free).
M.C., Chesapeake, Va Jan 23, 2012
I do not like questioning the decisions of other veterinarians who have actually seen the animals, while I must rely only on what the owners have written. That said, I have learned much from readers over the past several decades writing this column. As I emphasize in my new book, "Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health" (CreateSpace), some veterinarians are only too eager to sell manufactured pet foods and special therapeutic or prescription diets to pet owners. These foods are usually made by the same manufacturers, using ingredients that can cause other health problems -- and they are expensive, therefore highly profitable, and often unpalatable for many animals.
I would advise you to read the basic ingredients in the prescription diet you have been feeding your dog. Over a seven- to 10-day period, transition to a home-prepared diet that is based on the same primary animal protein -- either lamb, fish or turkey -- and brown rice. Add the other basic ingredients as detailed in my recipe. Another source for free recipes is www.dogcathomeprepareddiet.com, which was created by Dr. D.K. Strombeck. I also advise giving animals some probiotics with their food when they are being transitioned to a new diet to help with the digestive and adaptive processes.
Let me know how things turn out. You were probably right that your dog simply had a fleabite allergy, which good nutrition, including fish oil and brewer's yeast, can help prevent.
J.P., Alexandria, Va
Tags: dog Alexandria VA
Jan 16, 2012
Our 17-year-old Maltese is failing. He has limited vision and hearing, and his hind legs and hips are weak.
We feed him your home recipe, but lately he can't seem to keep it down. We find bits of brown rice in his vomit, and his stools are loose. We took him to the vet, and he suggested a bitter-tasting medicine to stop the nausea. We're hesitant to give him any more drugs. The last drug for incontinence made him very sick.
We know he is probably in or near his last days. We want him to be comfortable. He has very few teeth left, so food choices are limited.
J.P., Alexandria, Va Jan 17, 2012
Phenylpropanolamine, the commonly prescribed medicine for incontinence, can make some dogs restless and cause palpitations and panting. If your dog is on this, I would stop the medication and get him used to wearing a disposable baby diaper or doggy pad and put down a larger one where he lies down. My 17-year-old dog has had episodes of gastric upset and nausea. She responds well to a day of boiled white rice water (essentially "mini-fasting"), then two to three days of boiled white rice with a bit of cottage cheese or scrambled egg and Gerber baby food (turkey, chicken or beef). She is then given her regular food and regains her normal appetite and vitality.
Digestive enzymes and probiotics may be beneficial for older dogs who periodically go off their food. The number one reason for this is kidney failure, for which there are beneficial medications and supplements your veterinarian can prescribe. Visit my website archives for more details.
I always advise a veterinary checkup at such times in an animal's life. A routine veterinary examination every six months is an integral part of geriatric care. This includes fine-tuning your pet's diet; evaluating fluid intake and hydration; and checking urea, phosphate and potassium levels, as well as levels of cardinal indices of metabolism. This helps in maximizing comfort and deciding when it is time to let the animal go and administer euthanasia. Many older animals, like humans, show muscle wasting that is not entirely due to reduced activity, but to protein loss with impaired kidney function. This calls for the inclusion of high-quality protein in the diet rather than following the old protocol of providing less protein when there is poor kidney function.
Y.D., Chesapeake, Va
Jan 16, 2012
My cat has been licking her fur for quite some time. She has removed the fur from her hind legs and half of her body on both sides. She is now working on her front paws and tail. It is more than just grooming; it's constant, obsessive licking. She does not throw up any hairballs -- she's a shorthair cat.
I have taken her to the vet several times, but nothing has helped. The vet suggested fish oil; when that didn't work, he prescribed 10 mg of amitriptyline.
Y.D., Chesapeake, Va Jan 17, 2012
I frequently receive letters from people whose cats are suffering like yours. If the veterinarian did not take a blood sample and check your cat for hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland -- you did not mention this in your letter), you should seek a second opinion.
Hyperthyroidism is often diagnosed in middle-aged and older cats in part because many cats' home environments and food ingredients are contaminated with flame-retardant chemicals and other hormone system disrupting compounds. These chemicals have been found at high levels in the blood of cats suffering from this disease. For more documentation, visit my website, www.DrFoxVet.com/info.
Some cats may have an emotional reason for excessive grooming -- it is a way to alleviate stress or anxiety, which you should also consider. In that case, a short course of psychotropic drug therapy with a medication like amitriptyline can prove beneficial. Other cats make a quick recovery when scented cat litter is switched to non-scented, natural material like corn-based World's Best Cat Litter, or wheat-based Swheat Scoop Natural Wheat Litter.
V.S., Washington, DC
Tags: cat Washington DC scratching
Jan 15, 2012
My boyfriend and I just adopted a 1 1/2-year-old cat. She's our princess, and we've tried to make her as comfortable as possible since she is alone all day in our one-bedroom apartment.
We bought her shelving to perch on, two scratching posts (one vertical, one horizontal), numerous toys, cat grass and a water fountain. She's a loving, friendly, healthy cat.
One thing, though, is unsettling: We can't seem to redirect her scratching. We put double-sided tape on the couch and mattress, and she doesn't scratch there now. However, she doesn't appear to use her scratching posts, either. I know scratching is necessary for cats to mark their territory and stretch.
What can I do to teach her that she is allowed to scratch appropriate items to her heart's desire, but not certain other things?
V.S., Washington, DC Jan 16, 2012
Cats generally avoid using scratch posts that are not secure. A post or board that wobbles when they are reaching up and clawing can spook them. Some posts are simply too short for the cats to enjoy a full stretch before they start clawing. Providing a good, solid scratch post is the first step. Then rubbing dried catnip into the material on the post may make it more attractive to your cat. Be sure the material is not cheap, looped carpeting that snares the cat's claws. Most cats seem to like a short-cut pile or sisal woven twine or even a sturdy log with natural bark. Our two cats enjoy the sturdy, veterinarian-designed PurrFect Post, available at www.PurrFectPost.com or by calling 800-989-2542.
Since some cats are "copycats," get down on your knees in front of your cat and claw the post with your fingers. Then place her front paws against the post and alternately move them up and down so she gets the idea. Several repetitions of this should do the trick. Keep a squirt gun filled with water to spritz her when you catch her clawing where she shouldn't.
K.A., St. Peters, Mo
Tags: dog MO St Peters incontinence
Jan 15, 2012
We have a border collie-mix who is about 15 months old. She was spayed at 6 months and seems to be in good health. We feed her Halo dry food and one cup cooked food as per your recipe, along with chondroitin and glucosamine supplements.
A few weeks ago we noticed that she started having "accidents." (She has been housebroken for a long time.) After checking her urine, the vet decided it must be urinary incontinence due to being spayed. She is now on two phenylpropanolamine pills a day and, according to the vet, she will have to take them for the rest of her life. Also, she has always had very strong urine and has completely destroyed the grass in our backyard. So now she is also taking Nutri-Vet Grass Guard Max pills.
I feel we are overloading this poor dog with pills and would like to know if there is a better way to do this. She gets lots of exercise, is a very sweet dog and doesn't seem to have an ounce of extra fat on her.
K.A., St. Peters, Mo Jan 16, 2012
Your dog is young and, provided with good nutrition, does not need the chondroitin and glucosamine supplements.
Being so young, she is prone to develop cystitis. If your veterinarian did not check her urine for bacterial infection and simply attributed her incontinence to being spayed, I would consult another animal doctor. It is true that because of the hormonal deficiencies caused by spaying, some dogs have poor urinary sphincter control. This is the risk-benefit trade-off with having a dog spayed. Other notable benefits include reduced incidences of cancer and uterine infection (pyometra). But since urine tests may not reveal that the dog has mild cystitis, I would treat her for that possibility for a few days to see if she improves -- then put her on the anti-incontinence medication prescribed by your veterinarian if she needs it.
Take her off the purported grass-protecting pills. Give her a teaspoon of cider vinegar or two tablespoons of unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate or tomato juice mixed in with her food daily. Also take her off the phenylpropanolamine, which often has mild to severe adverse side effects on some dogs, and see if she improves. If there is no cystitis and the incontinence persists, diethylstilbestrol (DES) is an alternative medication that is effective, is needed only periodically and is one that you should discuss with your veterinarian. This hormone replacement treatment, used for a few days, can have beneficial effects that last for months without repeated treatment.
While DES is not without risk, especially with long-term use, it is the best choice for dogs who have adverse reactions to phenylpropanolamine, as did my own two spayed dogs. With the first dose they became highly agitated, developed heart palpitations and were clearly in a state of drug-induced discomfort and distress. In some instances dogs will vomit, develop high blood pressure, pant, become lethargic, show tremors or twitching and require hospitalization, often because of drug overdose. This can be avoided by stopping the medication as soon as adverse signs are evident.
C.W., Ballwin, Mo
Tags: dog MO Ballwin
Jan 09, 2012
I was quite disturbed by a column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about a dog with Cushing's disease. The writer's vet suggested chemotherapy, and you suggested vitamins and some antioxidants.
Our dog has Cushing's disease and does very well by taking Vetoryl. She has no side effects, and her symptoms have all but vanished. Abby has been on this treatment for about a year.
Those poor owners were thinking about putting their dog down! They need to know all the options that will enable them to enjoy their dog longer, perhaps years longer.
C.W., Ballwin, Mo Jan 10, 2012
Cushing's disease, a disorder of the adrenal glands resulting in the production of harmfully high levels of steroid hormones like cortisol, is one of the most common endocrine diseases in dogs. Clinical signs include poor heat tolerance, panting, muscular weakness, a potbelly, loss of hair, darkening of the skin and excessive drinking and urination. As the disease progresses, more serious conditions develop, including increased susceptibility to infections, congestive heart failure and blindness.
Most often, the disease is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland and, less frequently, by an adrenal gland tumor. Finding the root cause is a diagnostic challenge for veterinarians. Depending on this diagnostic outcome, medical, surgical and radiation therapies have all been used with some success.
The chemotherapeutic drug mitotane (which suppresses cortisol production) has been widely used but must be carefully monitored because there is a risk of it causing Addison's disease. The FDA has only recently approved Vetoryl, the drug that worked so well on your dog. It is an effective steroid inhibitor with minimal side effects.
Dogs being given prednisone and other steroid drugs for various inflammatory, allergic and autoimmune conditions on a long-term basis are at risk of developing Cushing's disease.
E.B., Alexandria, Va
Jan 09, 2012
Our 2-year-old seal point Siamese cat, a neutered male, has been losing weight. We got him and his sister from a rescue organization a year ago. Neither cat goes outside.
In the first few months at our home, he went from 9.2 to 10.6 pounds. He was a big, happy and beautiful boy.
But within a few months, he started losing weight. A year later, he is now 8.2 pounds. I have taken him to three veterinarians, including an internist/specialist. He has had every test suggested, including an endoscopy and multiple X-rays and blood tests. His blood work is always normal. His appetite is good, he is loving and affectionate and he plays with his sister. His stools are normal, and there is no vomiting. His sister is healthy and happy, yet he seems to be wasting away.
He was on a limited-ingredient diet for months with no progress. He has been on a mild steroid for a week or so, and he dropped another 4 ounces. He is now on a stronger steroid that doesn't seem to be working. He does not seem to be in any pain, but he looks like an older cat. The last blood test, as of a week ago, showed all organ functions normal.
I have had several cats who, as they've gotten older, developed thyroid problems and lost weight, but I've been told a thyroid problem in such a young cat is rare. I have also been told that my next step is for him to have invasive surgery to get multiple biopsies, and that it will be painful and may not identify the real problem.
Our hearts are breaking. Is there anything we are not thinking about?
E.B., Alexandria, Va Jan 10, 2012
A cat as young as yours with an as-yet-unidentified wasting disease is indeed a veterinary challenge. I would certainly put off the proposed invasive surgery and go back to square one.
This means a thorough fecal examination for internal parasites. A careful examination of the mouth and teeth to rule out debilitating stomatitis is also in order. Then consider the possibility of an enzyme deficiency disease associated with chronic pancreatitis. Discuss with your veterinarian a course of treatment with digestive enzymes, probiotics and such supplements as taurine, fish oil and Platinum Performance Feline Wellness supplement (available only to veterinarians).
Let me know how he progresses. I would urge that he be weaned off the steroid medication and not be given any further vaccinations or anti-flea medications.