D.D., Naples, FL
Tags: cat Naples FL litter box
Apr 28, 2013
What is your opinion on clumping litter and cat eye problems? Thank you.
D.D., Naples, FL Apr 29, 2013
I have received several letters questioning the safety of clumping litter for cats. The most common concern is about them swallowing small particles of the litter that may adhere to their paws or fur and the risk of intestinal blockage. I have found no clinical evidence to support this concern, and I regard its perpetuation as an unfounded fear.
I use World's Best Cat Litter for my two cats, and I believe that it is one of the best. It has very little dust compared to the various clay-based cat litters. Your cat should have no problems with this brand, unless it is allergic to corn.
Any cat with eye issues may experience eye irritation and develop litter box aversion if his box has an odor-trapping cover. Covered cat boxes create an ammoniated and dusty interior space for cats, and I advise against using them.
G.J.D., Naples, FL
Tags: dog Naples FL
Mar 30, 2013
I have two Shetland sheepdogs. Both are 7 years old, but they are not related.
When we were in Florida last March, one of my dogs developed a rash under his nose. It was red and he was rubbing his face on furniture and licking his feet. It looked like he lost some hair on his face since you could see the pink skin beneath.
I took him to the vet, and he said that there are a lot of molds and spores on the ground in Florida. He put my dog on prednisone, as he said the rash was inflamed. This did calm down the redness. However, when we returned to Michigan, my vet there also put him on prednisone, but after repeated use, the area looks pretty much the same. I noticed that the dog was beginning to get a white patch on his face that hadn't been there before. It's gotten larger, and other patches are beginning to appear.
I have taken him to a vet who specializes in dermatology problems in dogs. She said that it was just his hair. I don't think that's the case due to the fact that he is getting more white patches. She did a blood test that indicated he was allergic to dust mites. She also suggested that a punch test would show more. However, we don't want to put our dog through that unless it's absolutely necessary.
I have done some research online and found that there is such a thing as vitiligo, a condition that causes depigmentation of skin in dogs. The pictures looked similar to what is happening on my dog's face.
What would you suggest at this point? If it is vitiligo, is there anything that can be done?
Years ago when I bought my first dog, I read your book "Understanding Your Dog." This was one of the most insightful books I've read on dog behavior.
G.J.D., Naples, FL Mar 31, 2013
I am impressed by the number of readers who are going online in search of diagnoses for their pets' conditions when prescribed treatments fail or when veterinarians fail to communicate clearly or offer opinions that don't seem to make sense.
I find it disturbing that a veterinary dermatology specialist -- and I would ask if she is board certified -- did not raise the possibility of your dog having discoid lupus erythematosus, a chronic skin condition with inflammation and scarring of the face, ears and scalp, which is common in your breed. This condition fits the symptoms you describe. Other autoimmune disorders to which Shetland sheepdogs are susceptible include pemphigus foliaceus and pemphigus erythematosus -- these should also be considered.
Carefully monitored, long-term treatment with prednisone can help, especially in combination with tetracycline, niacinamide or gold therapy (aurothioglucose), fish oil and topical vitamin E.
D.M.W., Naples, FL
Tags: dog Naples FL diet food
Mar 24, 2013
Recently, I adopted a stray dog from the Humane Society. He is 8 years old, and part Lhasa apso, part poodle. He''s a very sweet and bright animal.
He has the strange habit of licking the sofa cushion and barking constantly. I am sure this is not healthy, but according to the veterinarian, it''s just a habit. I don''t agree. Is there something that can be done to cure him?
D.M.W., Naples, FL Mar 25, 2013
This excessive licking is an obsessive-compulsive behavior, and it is quite common in toy and miniature breeds. As one of the founding fathers of applied animal ethology/veterinary behavioral therapy, I caution against immediately jumping to a psychological diagnosis before ruling out possible physical causes.
A thorough veterinary evaluation is called for to check for a possible source of chronic inflammation: conjunctivitis, gingivitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, contact dermatitis, possible food allergy/hypersensitivity and even impacted anal glands.
You should also consider boredom, lack of physical and mental activities and anxiety as a cause for this behavior. When physical and rectifiable psychological causes are ruled out, a trial with a psychotropic medication such as Prozac may prove beneficial. But the best cure may lie in adopting another dog of similar size and friendly temperament.
J.M., Naples, FL
Tags: bird Naples FL
Mar 18, 2013
You should retract your advice you gave to a reader regarding suggestions for taming a parakeet. All interactions with this bird should be positive in nature, not aversive, like using the glove. I'm horrified at this advice. Picture a glove from a little bird's perspective. It's terrifying.
Much good information is available for the new bird owner without cost. I was a volunteer with Cleveland's Parrot Education and Adoption Center before I moved to Florida. The organization has online behavior courses that the reader could take. Barbara Heidenreich of Good Bird Inc. has tons of good information.
I assure you, no one with real parrot behavior knowledge would ever suggest using a glove. In the meantime, a much better approach would be to sit quietly by the bird's cage and place its favorite treat in a cup. Don't force interaction. In time, the owner can offer the treat by hand. Take small steps to keep the bird comfortable. The idea is to positively reinforce it stepping onto the hand. A glove does not breed trust.
Please retract your advice before more harm is done.
J.M., Naples, FL Mar 19, 2013
I stand by using the glove to protect birds and small animals, such as hamsters, from the avoidance reflex of children and adults who are not experienced handlers and when the animal is not yet used to being in contact.
I recall one veterinarian who was examining a hamster who bit him and evoked the avoidance jerk response, which flipped the poor animal onto the floor with a fatal concussion.
A light protective glove -- not a huge leather gauntlet -- gives self-confidence to the wearer and can be left inside the bird's cage for short periods to facilitate habituation/desensitization.
J.P.V., Naples, FL
Jan 21, 2013
I have a 6 1/2-pound Yorkie. He's a sweetheart. About three years ago, I found out he has an enlarged heart and a closed trachea. He loves to play, but when he does, he gets out of breath and tries to suck in air with his tongue. When I see him do that, I get tears in my eyes.
He takes pills twice a day. I've asked our vet if there's anything else that can be done. He shrugs his shoulders and puts his hands in the air.
Is there anything I can do or should have done? I hope so.
J.P.V., Naples, FL Jan 22, 2013
These sorts of developmental disorders are all too common in toy breeds. Such health problems, and a host of others, have a genetic basis. This places the burden of responsibility on the breeders to help eliminate these problems by not breeding dogs whose puppies inherit such disorders. This is called progeny testing. I would think twice about advising anyone to purchase a purebred dog without some form of health guarantee.
I regret that there are no cures for your dog. Monitor his weight, and keep him trim. Take him for slow walks so he gets some mental stimulation. He should wear only a harness and never a collar. Toy breeds prone to tracheal collapse should never be walked on a collar. Engage in short play bouts, followed by grooming or a calming massage.
J.A., Naples, FL
Tags: cat Naples FL litter box
Dec 30, 2012
I have a great, healthy cat, Monty, who is more than 12 years old. I adopted him from the Humane Society 10 years ago. He was there for more than a year.
He has always used the litter box, but the problem is that he never covers his urine or feces. He turns around to leave the box and scratches as if he is covering, but nothing's covered. I have tried for years to teach him, with no success.
And there is, of course, the smell. Do you have any suggestions?
J.A., Naples, FL Dec 31, 2012
Since your cat is probably set in his toilet behavior, I would accept this as a blessing insofar as he does at least evacuate only in the box. Besides, from the odor you know when his litter box needs cleaning.
I do worry about cats having to evacuate in covered boxes, even the costly ones fitted with an automatic cleaning system, because of the odor of urine and feces being trapped inside. Ironically, in a recent edition of the Humane Society of the United States' All Animals magazine, there is an article advising cat owners to not use covered or hooded boxes because they may develop an aversion because of the odor; on the next page is an advertisement for a hooded, self-cleaning litter box.
For your Monty, the issue could be an aversion to scented litter or clay or other clumping litter that sticks to his paws. He may like one of Purina's better products, Yesterday's News, consisting of recycled newspaper as pelleted cat litter, which neither clumps nor sticks easily to cats' paws.
C.Z., Naples, FL
Tags: dog Naples FL heartworm flea tick
Dec 16, 2012
I have an 8-year-old Tibetan terrier, Jesse; a 4-year-old Maltese, Sophie; and a 2-year-old Maltese, Dylan.
My vet believes that monthly heartworm prevention is necessary. All dogs get Heartgard Plus every month. Even though I've never missed a month, when it gets close to a year, the vet requires blood work for a negative reading before she will approve more medication. The blood work is $45 per dog. The medication is also quite costly. She requires that I sign a waiver for the meds if I do not buy them from her and get them on the Internet.
According to Dr. David Knight and Dr. James Lok of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, addressing recommendations for year-round meds, "The practice of some veterinarians to continuously prescribe monthly chemoprophylaxis exaggerates the actual risk of heartworm transmission in most parts of the country and unnecessarily increases the cost of protection to their clients."
What do you think?
C.Z., Naples, FL Dec 17, 2012
In most states, there are flea/tick and mosquito seasons that justify intermittent use of preventive drugs. But in areas like Florida, it can be a year-round battle. Check my website, DrFoxVet.com, for safer methods of flea and tick control.
If you are confident that you can keep mosquitoes away indoors and out, your dogs may stop taking heartworm medication. But since the Heartgard Plus also keeps other parasites at bay and the low dose is safe for most breeds, it may be wise to continue with the monthly preventive medication.
Use botanical insect repellents such as Organic Orange TKO Natural Cleaner (diluted in water) or a water/eucalyptus oil or lemon oil spritz to keep mosquitoes and other biting insects away from you and your dogs.
We must adopt precautionary principles such as keeping dogs off chemically sprayed sidewalks and lawns and fight the use of such poisons in our communities.
Lymphoma and other cancers, even in young dogs, are the main causes of death in our canine companion animals. I attribute much of this to the toxic environments we have created in our homes and outdoors, where insecticides and herbicides are used routinely and by and large unnecessarily for cosmetic purposes. Also, agrichemical contaminants of human food and pet food play a significant, but impossible to quantify, role in the genesis of cancer, some types being especially prevalent in farmers and agricultural workers.
L.W., Naples, FL
Tags: dog Naples FL UTI
Dec 02, 2012
My 6 1/2-pound Chihuahua had a urinary tract infection (UTI) three years ago, and we did not realize it until she was bleeding. The emergency room veterinarian said there was no way to keep her from getting another one. Her regular vet told me that the only water she gives her dogs and cats is purified water, and she does not have this problem. I bought bottled water and a special pitcher that purifies water. She has never had another UTI.
L.W., Naples, FL Dec 03, 2012
Some dogs, and especially cats, have chronic or recurrent bouts of lower urinary tract inflammation, often coupled with bacterial infection, which may lead to the development of calculi, cystitis, painful inflammation of the bladder and the formation of mucus plugs in the lower urinary tract.
Feeding your pet high cereal content pet foods that have been artificially acidified by the manufacturers can also contribute to urinary tract problems.
I would like to know what brand of water purifier you discovered that helped your dog. The ZeroWater purification system seems to do a good job. For more details about water quality and treated municipal tap water, check my review on Pure Water for Cats and Dogs.
D.S., Naples, FL
Tags: dog Naples FL diet food
Sep 23, 2012
I have a question about my two dogs. I have a Havanese and a Chihuahua. Both are very healthy, get regular exercise and have no abnormal bathroom issues. But I need to have their anal glands expressed often -- at $22 each every time. I don't have the stomach to express the glands myself.
I feed them an organic raw diet (usually chicken), and they get wheat-free treats (wheat treats appear to make them itch) and Bully Sticks.
Is there anything I should add to their diet? My neighbors don't have this issue with their dogs. I haven't had issues in the past with any of our other pets.
D.S., Naples, FL Sep 24, 2012
Two dogs with anal gland problems is a handful! Normally, the anal sacs empty out when the dog defecates, leaving a scent mark on the feces. With low-density/low-fiber dog foods, you can get smaller stools that may not provide sufficient pressure to stimulate the anal gland sacs to contract.
Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of psyllium husks moistened with water and a teaspoon of olive oil to your dogs' food every day; this should increase the bulk of the stools, which may help. Repeated manual emptying may cause more inflammation if not done gently.
If the anal glands are simply hyperactive, irrigation with antibiotics and steroids may help. But in many instances, there is an underlying food allergy or hypersensitivity. So you may need to experiment with different diets -- canned, raw and dry.
J.A., Naples, FL
Tags: dog Naples FL
Sep 02, 2012
Many years ago, we adopted a basset hound, Sadie, with her eight puppies. Our family loved her, and my mother knit her a sweater, which we presented to her on a cold Cleveland Christmas. It fit well and we all exclaimed over how beautiful she was, but Sadie hated it. She was obviously humiliated -- she hid behind a big chair and cried real tears. We tried one more time with a slow, private presentation, and we got the same results -- big tears ran down her face.
She cried one more time in her 12 years with us. Our daughter brought home an adorable longhaired guinea pig, and the family gathered and exclaimed over it. Suddenly, we realized that Sadie was watching with large tears running down her face. Her feelings were obviously hurt. She was the nicest, sweetest dog ever.
J.A., Naples, FL Sep 03, 2012
Thank you for confirming that some dogs can be moved to tears. Just as people cry for different reasons, so do some of our canine companions.
In humans, shedding tears has evolved from being lacrimation to protect the eyes and lubricate the cornea to a social signal. A similar process may be under way with dogs after many thousands of years associating with humans. This association, confirmed by recent cognitive behavior research on dogs, is based on their innate capacity to learn the meaning of human gestures such as pointing at an object. Dogs, like other social animals, also probably possess so-called mirror neurons in their brains, enabling them to decode body language signals and underlying emotions on the basis of their own subjective feelings. Many dogs will show distress or concern and affection when a human family member is crying, often licking the tears. It is a relatively small step for a dog to then cry to express emotional distress. This may be a spontaneous rather than deliberate act, but one facilitated nonetheless by human social interactions.