D.M., Virginia Beach, Va
Jun 04, 2012
My Lab/chi-chi-mix dog, Marty, is 2 years old. He will not go outside to pee if it is raining, so he goes on the carpet of the laundry room. He doesn't poop, just tinkles.
What do you suggest we do to get him to not be afraid of the rainy weather?
D.M., Virginia Beach, Va Jun 05, 2012
Your rain-phobic dog may respond well to desensitization. Chose a nice day, but go out with a large umbrella over both of you so that he gets used to it. Repeat for a few days until he is accustomed to the umbrella -- and your neighbors think you are certifiably insane! During the next light rain, take him out on the leash for a walk with both of you under the umbrella. Give him treats and praise. After a few walks in the rain, move the umbrella away as you give him a treat so he gets some rain on him. Then get him used to a rubdown with a towel.
Many dogs do not enjoy getting soaked, but will put their ears and tails down and get on with their business, the rewards of a good toweling and a treat being enough incentive.
In the interim, purchase disposable pads from the pet store to protect your laundry room floor. Your dog may need treatment with an anti-anxiety medication like Xanax, especially if he has a fear of thunder and lightning, which he might associate with rain.
B.K.K., Alexandria, Va
Tags: cat Alexandria VA
May 27, 2012
In May 2009 we adopted an abandoned cat that our friends found in a box giving birth. A home was found for the kittens, and we took mama cat. We immediately took her to the vet, who spayed her, gave her shots and performed a complete physical exam. The vet estimated the cat was about 10 months old. She weighed 6.5 pounds, and her tests indicated she was very healthy.
We named her Jackie Paper and took her back to the vet for a checkup in June 2010. She presented as a healthy cat, except that her neutrophil level had dropped from 7,000 to 1,350 (the normal range is 2,500 to 8,000). The vet suggested we have her retested. We did so one month later, and her level dropped even more, to 957. At that point, the vet tested the cat for feline leukemia and the corona virus -- the results were negative for both. A few weeks later, new tests indicated her neutrophil levels had increased to 1,408. The vet thought she might have had some temporary condition that she was getting over.
Jackie's neutrophil levels go up and down for no reason we can explain. And, with one exception (February 2011), her levels remain below normal. The vet consulted with other vets, set up a blog and researched the possible causes, but neither she nor any other vet has come up with a plausible cause for Jackie's condition. We had a bit of hope early in the summer of 2011 when one consulting vet suggested a probable bacterial infection and prescribed Orbax. The cat loved the medicine, but, unfortunately, her neutrophil level dropped from 1,940 to 1,540 during the four months she was taking the medication.
We're at a loss as to what to do. The vet and her consulting vets suggest a bone marrow biopsy, but we hate to put the cat through that if, in the end, there's nothing we can do to help her. Can you suggest any probable causes for her condition or any medications or food that would boost her neutrophil level?
B.K.K., Alexandria, Va May 28, 2012
As you have no doubt learned, neutrophils are white blood cells produced by the bone marrow and play a vital role as part of the immune system defense mechanism to fight infection and inflammation.
Feline viral infections can result in neutropenia (low white blood cell counts). It is my opinion that your Jackie Paper may have a viral or bacterial infection that is not showing up in blood tests. Alternatively, she could have a congenital bone marrow defect or have been treated for ringworm prior to you adopting her with a drug such as griseofulvin that damaged her bone marrow neutrophil production.
Since the antibiotic treatment did not help improve her neutrophil count, we can probably rule out a chronic bacterial infection. I would give her supplements to help boost her immune system functions such as coenzyme Q10, Resveratrol, fish oil and a good multivitamin and multimineral supplement such as Platinum Performance Plus. Short-term treatment with recombinant human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) may be beneficial. I would question doing a bone marrow biopsy. Ask what treatments might be subsequently prescribed, depending on what is diagnosed.
Cats do not respond well to invasive procedures. If your cat were mine, I would wait and see, especially since she is showing no other signs of illness. A prior infection from which she recovered could have brought on her neutrophil anomaly, and, provided her health is maintained with good nutrition and a stress-free environment, she may live happily for many years.
Some normal cats may have low neutrophil counts (between 1,800 and 2,500). As a precaution, I would avoid giving your cat any further vaccinations or anti-flea drugs.
V.A., Virginia Beach, Va
Tags: dog Virginia Beach VA
May 20, 2012
I am writing about my 4-year-old male papillon, Papi Lee. I was pleased to have him join me and my 3-year-old rescued female papillon. I have now had Papi Lee for two years.
A few months after I got him, I noticed that he started to stumble a lot. Initially, it just seemed odd, but I soon realized something was wrong.
After observing him for a few months, I took him to my vet. After several visits and a few hundred dollars, the vet found no problem with his inner ears, kidneys, blood and eyes. The vet could not offer an opinion about his problem.
In spring 2011, I was in Alabama visiting my family. I took Papi Lee to a vet there for an ear problem. While there, the vet said that he might have a growth or tumor on his cerebellum, but it would cost a lot of money to find out for sure. The tumor probably couldn't be removed.
Since then, I've been doing all I can to make my pet feel safe and happy. He has an excellent appetite and appears to be in no pain. His back end seems to curve forward when he walks or runs. He falls at the least provocation, but he gets right back up and continues to play. He has fallen off the bed and patio steps, and he stumbles around in the car unless I put him in his bed on the floor on the passenger side.
Since he is failing so quickly, do you think he'll just not be able to get up one day?
V.A., Virginia Beach, Va May 21, 2012
I did some canine neurology research and clinical studies in the past, and, without being able to examine your little dog, the best I can offer is an educated guess to help put your mind at ease.
Your dog most likely has a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia, where the part of the brain that helps control balance and coordination did not develop normally. One test is to cover his eyes with a bandanna. If he cannot walk at all and falls over, it is probably this developmental defect, which he compensates for visually. This condition is not painful, nor is it fatal.
If his condition is actually getting worse, another possibility is hydrocephalus -- water on the brain. Hydrocephalus is not uncommon in toy breeds. Your dog is probably too young for a brain tumor. Either way, you are doing the right thing. So long as he enjoys life and you keep him away from situations where he might fall and injure himself, his handicap is something you can all live with.
K.T., Sterling, Va
Tags: cat Sterling VA
May 20, 2012
My cat is 18 1/2 years old and in good health. He eats well, has good bathroom habits and seems to drink enough water. He is an inside-outside cat, but he can no longer climb the fence, so he does not leave our backyard.
He has had rabies shots every year. It's time for his shot, but I really don't want him to have it. I know other animals can come into the yard even if he can't get out. If he gets sick, he'll go to kitty heaven.
I have heard it is hard on older animals to keep getting shots. It seemed it was very difficult for him at the last shot, which is why I'm putting off this most recent one. I know rabies shots are important, but having it every year until now, can I just skip it this year?
K.T., Sterling, Va May 21, 2012
Since your cat is old and was adversely affected by the anti-rabies vaccination last year, I think you have legitimate reasons to avoid putting him at risk from another vaccination. But you need to check on the regulations regarding such vaccinations for cats in your municipality, since they vary. In some areas, cat owners are liable if they allow their cats to wander off their property without a valid rabies tag on their collars.
Discuss this issue and your concerns with your veterinarian, who may find it acceptable to write a letter stating that your cat has had prior anti-rabies vaccinations and his health might be jeopardized by giving further vaccinations.
It is also possible that the anti-rabies vaccination is not needed because your cat has adequate circulating antibodies, for which your veterinarian could run a blood test.
B.M., Chesapeake, Va
Tags: cat Chesapeake VA
May 13, 2012
I have a shorthair Maine coon (according to my grandson). We rescued him as an abandoned cat. He was an indoor/outdoor cat when he came here, and he will not stay in all the time. Because of this, I treat him with Frontline or similar products.
This takes care of fleas and ticks, but not flies and mosquitoes. They bite his ears, and he scratches until he bleeds. He has lost a lot of hair on the ears. I put on antibiotic ointment, but as soon as his ears halfway heal, he gets bitten again. People use Avon Skin So Soft on dogs' ears to repel insects, but I'm afraid it would be poison to cats because they wash and clean themselves so much.
Do you have a suggestion as to what to use that won't harm my cat? We would truly appreciate it.
B.M., Chesapeake, Va May 14, 2012
Some cats develop a severe hypersensitivity to insect bites, especially mosquitoes. This can become an inflammatory, proliferative skin disease (eosinophilic granulomatosis) that can be difficult to treat. This is one of many reasons to encourage cats to enjoy life indoors and to not let them out during the summer months.
Essential oils such as eucalyptus are good insect repellants but pose some risk when applied to areas that cats can reach to groom. Hydrosols (water-based distillates) are safer for cats. If you can't find any, dilute one drop of essential oil in 10 drops of olive oil. From that mixture, put one drop on the tip of each ear. Alternatively, put a few undiluted drops on a strip of gauze wrapped around a breakaway collar.
Outdoor cats should wear collars with their ID tags and, as is mandated by law in some municipalities, a valid antirabies vaccination tag. Breakaway collars are advisable since they can pull apart if the cat gets the collar snagged on a branch or fence and might otherwise get strangled.
J.A.W., Annandale, Va
Tags: cat Annandale VA allergies
May 06, 2012
My two female cats, Angel and Melon, have been constantly licking and biting themselves for a number of years, creating bald areas and sores on their legs (and on Melon's stomach).
They have had blood allergy tests that indicated they are allergic to ragweed, goldenrod, birch and mulberry trees, June grass, penicillium mold, fleas and black ants. Since they are strictly indoor cats, their contact with any of these is extremely low. In foods, they tested at high levels for milk, pork, potato, wheat and barley.
Over the years, their vets have prescribed various medications (amitriptyline, Xanax) that had no effect. A combination of prednisolone and Clavamox has worked in the short term, reducing the amount of licking and healing sores, but when they're finished, they revert back to licking.
I vary their foods among Natural Balance duck and green pea, Wellness Core turkey and chicken, Evo turkey and chicken and California Natural chicken and rice. Because they are allergic to potato, I will eliminate the Core from their diet.
I would appreciate any suggestions on how to treat Angel and Melon. My male cat (Melon's brother) does not have this problem.
J.A.W., Annandale, Va May 07, 2012
I realize you have spent much time and money trying to find a cure for your two cats. When allergies like these are diagnosed, it is surprising how many allergens in a cat's environment and diet may be identified. There could be one particular trigger that impaired their normal immune system function, opening the door to allergic reactions to an increasing number of substances.
Contact allergies to various floor cleaners, scented products from cat litter and wool in materials such as upholstery and blankets -- these are all worth addressing. An air ionizer may help.
I would also advise getting your cats used to a few drops of fish oil in their food, increasing the amount to about 1 teaspoon daily -- this is a supplement with almost miraculous benefits for many cats with skin problems. With older cats, a blood test for thyroid disease is advisable since hyperthyroidism can be associated with skin hypersensitivity and excessive licking. Giving them clean cotton sheets to lie on may also give some relief.
P.G., Virginia Beach, Va
Apr 23, 2012
Two years ago, I adopted a beautiful male snowshoe cat from the animal shelter. He is very sweet, natural and content to be with me. But in all this time, I have never heard or felt him purr. I've had cats my entire life, and I have never known one not to be able to purr.
Do you have any explanation for this? He's 4 years old.
P.G., Virginia Beach, Va Apr 24, 2012
There is no scientific answer to your question, only educated guesses about genetics and individual differences. Many readers will attest to the fact that their cats never purr or meow. Some silent cats become vocal after a vocal cat in the home passes on.
Fear is a significant inhibitor of purring. The word "copycat" is appropriate -- cats learn from one another, so being separated from other cats at a young age might account for some cats' vocal sounds not being triggered. Try brushing your cat, and learn some massage therapy to help induce deep relaxation, which I've detailed in my book, "The Healing Touch for Cats." Hearing harp music or Gregorian chants can make cats relax and might get yours into a purring mood.
While cats may purr to relax and convey friendly intentions, one scientific theory holds that the vocal vibrations may influence bone density and help prevent osteoporosis. My view is that since purring may involve circular breathing to create an almost-continuous sound -- a trick some musicians employ, as I do when playing a didgeridoo -- the cats may be inducing a meditative or altered state of consciousness.
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T.L., Chesapeake, Va
Tags: cat Chesapeake VA
Apr 09, 2012
I have never told this to anyone before, but I think it may help some readers.
I had a cat who slept and died at the foot of my bed. About a year later, when I went to bed at night, I felt it walking around at the foot of the bed. I had a dog who would jump up and run next to my head, trembling, when it happened. Eventually the dog refused to sleep on the bed. It scared me so much I would say the Lord's Prayer, and the walking would stop.
I miss the cat and dog so much. The little dog died from kidney failure at about 4 years of age. The cat was an indoor-outdoor, and someone poisoned it. It dragged itself home after it had been missing for two days. I laid it on my bed. It had a few seizures, lifted its tail up and down as if in farewell and died.
The walking was a constant foot padding I felt on my feet and lower legs. I'm glad it stopped.
T.L., Chesapeake, Va Apr 10, 2012
Some people with experiences such as yours think they are going crazy, or share your fear over some disembodied presence that they can feel but not see. Such presences can affect senses other than touch -- some people hear the claws on the floor, purring or whimpering, or see a visual image, often fleeting or mist-like. For details, visit my website, www.DrFoxVet.com/info.
The logical argument that all of these manifestations are like holographic projections of our own conditioned memories is defeated when other household members -- human and, in your case, a companion animal -- also sense and respond to the disembodied presence.
Apart from your cat's traumatic and tragic death, your experience, if not an affirmation of your cat's devotion and attachment to being close to you on the bed, is at least a phenomenal one that was affirmed by your dog. And it opens us to the great mystery of life and spirit, if not to feelings of reverence and awe.
C.B., Springfield, Va
Tags: dog Springfield VA
Apr 08, 2012
In late August, we adopted a very handsome, neutered, longhaired German shepherd, Bear. He is about 5 years old and as sweet and gentle as can be.
A month or so after we got Bear, he began to whine loudly whenever we went anywhere in the truck. He willingly jumps into the truck when we are ready to go, but the whining starts before we've left the driveway. There appears to be nothing in particular that causes Bear to do this.
Since we were driving to see my mother on Christmas Eve, we got a prescription of alprazolam from his vet to try to calm him while on the road.
At 7:30 that morning, we gave him a half tablet. We left at 9. We had not gone a block before he started howling. It continued to get worse and worse until we stopped 10 minutes later and gave him the other half. We opened the window and let him hang his head outside for a few minutes -- when his head is out the window, he is 90 percent better -- but it was cold. After our experience with his behavior while under the influence of the prescription drug, we probably will not drug him again.
Today we took him to the dog park about 25 minutes away. Loud howling started immediately. For the few minutes I allowed him to have his head out the window, he was OK; when the window was closed he howled until I filled his Kong toy with treats to keep him quiet and occupied. Sometimes even when the window is open, he whines.
It appears to be an anxiety attack, but what would have brought on such behavior? Do you have any suggestions as to how we can change it? His Bark Buster trainer has no ideas. At his suggestion, we tried the Thundershirt, but it made no difference.
C.B., Springfield, Va Apr 09, 2012
Your dog is probably suffering from a combination of anxiety and excitement.
Alprazolam is a potent anti-anxiety drug, effective for many dogs who are afraid of fireworks or have developed specific phobias. But the effective dose for many dogs can make them groggy and uncoordinated, which can have the effect of making the dog more fearful, possibly because they feel more vulnerable.
Many dogs benefit from wearing a bandanna imbued with a few drops of lavender oil around the neck. Since getting treats out of his Kong works briefly, fill it with peanut butter and freeze it so it will last longer. Get two or three for a longer drive, and store them in a cooler. Try giving him a Nylabone. For motion sickness, a big piece of ginger candy can provide relief.
M.T., Oakton, Va
Tags: cat Oakton VA euthanize
Apr 08, 2012
I'm concerned about the recent experience I had with a sick cat. There doesn't seem to be any palliative care for pets the way there is for humans who are suffering, and I don't understand why that is.
Jingles, my lovely little buddy, was about 16 years old. I'd had her for 12 years. In early December 2011, she started to have upper respiratory problems. I took her to my vet on Dec. 5, and she was given a shot of what I believe was an antibiotic for a possible sinus infection.
She continued to get worse, so I took her back on Dec. 12. She was given a blood test -- she had high white blood cell counts, but otherwise normal liver and kidney values -- and Pepcid and dexamethasone injections.
As a last-ditch effort on Dec. 13, I brought her back to the vet, and she was given a Convenia injection. Jingles only got worse. My vet doesn't do in-home euthanasia. The people the vet's office recommended didn't want to do the euthanasia unless I had taken her to an animal hospital -- which I did on Dec. 14. I was there for hours. I knew she was dying, but I made her go through all these tests in her weakened state because they wanted to make sure she was sick. Four hundred dollars later, the diagnosis was that she probably had lymphoma. She had lost half her weight, was no longer eating and was the sickest I've ever seen any living thing. Because of her age, I opted for euthanasia rather than chemo. Before I left the hospital, they gave her mirtazapine, a famotidine injection and subcutaneous fluids.
She found peace on Dec. 16 with the help of the in-home vet.
What I've left out of this narrative is the emotional wreck I was. I carted her all over town in her final days, made her get shot after shot, missed work, cried at work, etc. I'm still so sad just writing this. I understand that animals get old and sick. What I don't understand is why there doesn't seem to be any type of hospice mentality in the veterinary profession. I'm no doctor, but I think all those injections were a futile attempt to save her, and none was to ease her suffering -- except the final one. I knew she was dying; surely these professionals did too. Please help me understand why there is no kitty morphine or even kitty aspirin. Why did my sweet old girl have to toss and turn in pain in her final days, waiting for the in-home vet, when she could have had some of her discomfort ameliorated with a little palliative care?
M.T., Oakton, Va Apr 09, 2012
Your detailed, tragic account of the last days of your poor cat raises serious ethical questions for companion animal veterinarians to address.
I have discussed these in my new, controversial book, "Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health" (CreateSpace), where we see similar parallels in the extended, costly care and suffering of the terminally ill victims of the human health-care industry. Providing security and relief from fear and pain when there is no chance of recovery is the best medicine.
In-home hospice care for humans (which we provided for my late father-in-law) is a blessing that is becoming more widely practiced across the U.S. It is just a matter of time before such services are provided for companion animals like yours -- who already had the unquestioned benefit of in-home euthanasia. There are a few veterinarians where I live (in Minneapolis) who operate an exclusively in-home hospice care practice. I hope your letter encourages more veterinarians to follow this compassionate path.