G.B., Arlington, Va
Nov 04, 2012
Our 4-year-old schnauzer has been diagnosed with dry eye KCS. This came on suddenly, and after three weeks of erythromycin with no results, she was switched to cyclosporine. I have been applying it twice a day, and after three weeks, I can see no difference. I have heard surgery is sometimes necessary for this. What is your opinion?
G.B., Arlington, Va Nov 05, 2012
There are many causes and predispositions -- such as breed and being spayed -- that can contribute to dogs developing this distressing and potentially blinding condition of keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), a chronic deficiency of aqueous tear secretion. Drying of the corneas can lead to opacity and ulceration and can be extremely painful. Your dog will need to be on the cyclosporine two or three times daily for the rest of her life.
Changing her diet gradually to a whole-food, organic formulation with omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as my home-prepared diet on my website, www.drfoxvet.com, or a commercial raw-food diet may provide some benefit. Artificial tears and eyedrops containing eyebright may also help and can be used once daily as a substitute for one cyclosporine treatment. Your dog's eyes must, of course, be constantly monitored, and any rapid blinking (blepharospasm) or rubbing of the eyes calls for a veterinary eye examination for possible corneal ulceration.
S.L., Arlington, Va
Tags: cat Arlington VA
Sep 10, 2012
I was very surprised at the harsh comments about Persian cats in your column, in which you referred to them as "freaks."
I have a 7-year-old male Persian. Yes, he has a flat face, a biggish head and his eyes weep from time to time, but, in spite of these so-called impediments, he is the sweetest, happiest, most contented and affectionate cat you could ever meet. I find this is often the case with this breed.
Let's be kind about these beautiful creatures that bring so much pleasure to their devoted fans here in the U.S. and around the world.
S.L., Arlington, Va Sep 11, 2012
Thanks for your contribution to my readers' discussion on this issue. I contended that Persian cats are freaks of human creation and suffer as a consequence. The same must be said about bulldogs, shar-peis and other breeds deliberately bred for extreme, abnormal physical traits. The selective breeding for dwarfed, hairless and extremely "refined" (long and thin bones and faces) feline varieties entails inbreeding and, as a consequence, more genetic abnormalities, disease and suffering.
I agree with you that we should love all creatures; for me, that four-letter word means respect and compassion. I see neither in the deliberate breeding and commercial propagation of animals with extreme traits such as pushed-in faces and abnormally large heads (which can force cesarean delivery), along with other abnormalities that can mean a life of suffering. For more details, see my book "Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health." Of course, if your cat lived in my home, he would be loved for who he is, which is quite separate from what humans have done to him.
J.O., Arlington, Va
Jul 01, 2012
I have a 6-year-old female beagle. She weighs 30 pounds, has underactive thyroid glands and is taking Thyro-Tab.
She had a problem with eating stool. I give her Nasty Habit Chewables. It helps.
My dog also has an anal gland problem. She has to have the glands expressed every three weeks. The vet has her on a reduced diet of dry dog food to control her weight. I have been adding psyllium to her dry food to give her more fiber for her gland problem. It doesn't seem to be helping. She is always hungry. I don't know what to do for her. I don't think she is getting enough nutritious food.
J.O., Arlington, Va Jul 02, 2012
I would say that your dog fits the profile of what I would call "American middle-aged dog syndrome." She's probably going to develop arthritis, skin problems and heart, liver and/or kidney disease next.
I don't mean to alarm you, just alert you and other dog owners about this health crisis, which is brought on by poor nutrition -- especially the high cereal and genetically modified content of dog foods -- lack of exercise and too-frequent administration of vaccinations and anti-flea and tick drugs. This combination creates a vicious cycle of weight gain, increased pain and anxiety and decreased interest in life, often with cognitive impairment and failing senses, notably hearing loss and cataracts.
Please visit the archives on my website, DrFoxVet.com, or get my book, "Dog Body, Dog Mind" (Lyons Press), to get your dog through this crisis and in better shape to face old age.
Dogs on many commercial weight-loss diets suffer from constant hunger and possibly malnutrition. This should not be: Feed your dog three or four small meals daily. Transition her onto my home-prepared diet, available on my website, gradually reducing the grain content down by 75 percent. Give her probiotics, but no iodine or seaweed supplements, which can make the thyroid problem worse. Ask your veterinarian to prescribe a multivitamin and multimineral supplement for her. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to her food every day.
Anal gland problems are often associated with a food allergy or intolerance. The psyllium may help her, but being more active could make a big difference. Get her outdoors for regular walks, and encourage physical activities. Try jogging, interactive games with a ball or Frisbee or playing with another friendly dog. But start this regimen gradually, otherwise torn cruciate ligaments in one or both knees could be the next issue for your poor dog!
M.R., Arlington, Va
Tags: cat Arlington VA
Jun 11, 2012
Our 13-year-old neutered male cat (Oggie) goes after our 13-year-old spayed female cat (Ella) in a sexual manner -- mounting her, pawing down her back and biting on her neck. He does this several times a day.
This seems very unusual since they both have been fixed. We thought Oggie would at least do this less as he got older, but he does not seem to be slowing down.
Ella tolerates it for a while, but it usually ends with her turning on him, voicing her annoyance and then chasing after him. It is a whole ordeal the two of them go through, but it also annoys my husband a great deal.
M.R., Arlington, Va Jun 12, 2012
As I describe in my book "Understanding Your Cat" (available now as an e-book), during normal play behavior, many cats will incorporate some sexual activities, even when neutered.
The back of the neck "love bite" is often the only component of male sexual behavior that one may see during cat play. This bite asserts dominance and triggers passive submission. When you seize the scruff of a cat's neck, you trigger that same passive, immobilizing reaction. This may have a calming effect, much like a mother carrying a kitten with her teeth.
During sex play, once the love bite triggers immobility, the physical contact the top cat feels can lead to the next behavioral sequence of mounting, back arching and pelvic undulations. If injurious fighting erupts, you should intervene with a loud clap or a squirt of water from a spray bottle.
From your description, it seems like a regular, non-injurious play ritual best left alone.
M.M., Arlington, Va
Feb 06, 2012
I have two cats. Belle is a 15.5-pound, 13-year-old indoor cat. The vet said she needs to lose weight.
How can I help my little darling lose this weight? I'm on a fixed income, so buying expensive food is hard to do.
She is also limping, and I think being overweight plays a big factor in it
M.M., Arlington, Va Feb 07, 2012
Your fat cat needs help.
Excess body fat produces inflammatory substances and certain hormones that can wreak havoc on a cat's body and start a downhill decline into arthritis, diabetes, fatty liver disease, etc. Dry cat food high in starches can be a killer.
Try my home-prepared diet on my website, which is cheaper and healthier than weight loss foods. Cook up a batch and store it in small containers in your freezer. Give your dieting cat one tablespoon four to five times a day, warmed to room temperature with her regular food; gradually transition to feeding her only the new food.
Encourage play and physical activity between your two cats. A pinch or two of catnip in the early evening may increase their activity levels. Give each cat up to a half-teaspoon daily of fish oil with their new food, which will help reduce joint inflammation.
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.
B.K.G., Arlington, Va
Tags: bird small pet Arlington VA
Aug 14, 2011
We adopted a blue male parakeet who is still jittery around my husband and has nipped his fingers more than once. He's fine with me and likes to nibble and rub my ear. Sometimes I think he's courting me.
So what to do about his nipping? Is he jealous of my husband?
B.K.G., Arlington, Va Aug 15, 2011
Your bird is probably used to being around and being handled by women, since birds naturally imprint or develop strong attachments early in life. Ideally, therefore, they should be socialized with both male and female handlers and, where possible, with children.
Parakeets are highly social birds that live in large flocks in the wild, and I consider it borderline cruelty to raise and keep them alone in separate cages their entire lives. While they compensate to a degree by bonding with humans (even engaging in courtship behavior, as well as social preening as they would with a mate), they generally fare better in pairs or small groups in large flight cages. With time and patience, your "rival" husband may win him over. In the interim, wear a protective glove.
B.M., Arlington, Va
Tags: cat Arlington VA diet food
Aug 08, 2011
My sister, who is a vegetarian, sent me an article by a veterinarian who said cats can be vegetarians. It began with a story about captive tigers in India doing fine on a vegetarian diet. She wants me to turn my three cats into vegetarians. What is your opinion?
B.M., Arlington, Va Aug 08, 2011
There are many reasons why people, such as my wife and I, choose to be vegetarians, including ethical, environmental and health concerns. But to force cats to eat a vegetarian diet is, I believe, both unethical and irresponsible. To impose some vegetarian or vegan ideology on one's cat is to go against the nature of cats and their right to be fed a biologically appropriate diet.
Cats are "obligate" carnivores. They require good-quality animal protein and fat in their diets. Cats can adapt to a vegetarian diet that must be carefully formulated and must include important supplements such as taurine and certain kinds of fatty acids. Kittens raised on such a diet may prefer it to a more natural (biologically appropriate) diet. This is due not to some kind of nutritional wisdom but to food imprinting; animals generally prefer the foods they receive after weaning. They also may prefer the foods their mothers ate.
This can cause serious health problems for cats, as documented in the book "Not Fit for a Dog! The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food" that I co-authored with two other veterinarians. Cat foods high in cereal content should be avoided, and while dogs will thrive on a balanced and supplemented vegetarian diet (because they are more omnivorous than cats), cats are carnivores and should be fed accordingly.
K.McD., Arlington, Va
Tags: dog Arlington VA
Jun 19, 2011
Our bull terrier mix Sam has spells of chasing his own tail. He acts like he's crazy, and it scares us. He usually snaps out of it when we yell and clap our hands, but that now seems to make it worse. What can we do?
K.McD., Arlington, Va Jun 19, 2011
This is one form of obsessive/compulsive behavior (OCD), more common in some breeds than others, which can lead to tail-biting and self-mutilation.
Some dogs may become more aggressive when one tries to stop them from chasing their own tails. There may be an underlying anxiety disorder, and many dogs seem to go into a trance-like state while they chase their tails. Some veterinary behaviorists have likened this OCD and associated other symptoms with infantile autism. Distraction and re- motivation/reward therapy rarely work; but some success has been reported with Clomipramine.
Consult with your veterinarian who can prescribe this psychotropic medication under the brand name Clomicalm.
D.W., Arlington, Va
Tags: small pet Arlington VA
Mar 21, 2011
Our 12-year-old son is pleading for us to buy him a pet iguana and a hedgehog. He has recently become interested in animals, and we think this is good for his education. Since visiting a big pet store and seeing these animals, he fell in love with the two he wants. I worry about proper care and wonder what you might advise.
D.W., Arlington, Va Mar 21, 2011
In my professional opinion as a veterinarian, conservationist and animal-rights advocate, both state and federal governments should outlaw the trade of importing and captive breeding of exotic, nondomesticated species. Many are harvested from the wild, including tropical fish. Others are smuggled, and many die in transit. Those that are captive-born generally do not adapt to the domestic environment, become easily stressed, require considerable expertise to be properly cared for, and can have diseases transmissible to humans and other animals.
Children can learn much and develop empathy caring for conventional cage pets, such as hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs. Your son is at a good age to start volunteering at the local animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitation center where he can help clean enclosures and wash out food bowls, learning the basics of animal care. I did the same at his age.