J.P., Washington, DC
Mar 03, 2013
Our beagle/basset-mix has had a persistent itching/scratching/biting problem for the past two years.
We have tried many medications. They all bring temporary relief, but none cures the itching. We have tried many types of food, from grain-free to all-natural to homemade. Again, there is no consistent relief. We have spent a lot of money at different veterinarians, trying to pinpoint the problem -- to no avail. Prior to the itching, which started in August 2010, our dog had been on the same high-quality food for three years. We''ve added no new pets, changed his beds and given him baths with prescription shampoo and conditioner/lotion. There is no consistency as far as time of year.
We got him as a rescue, so we are unsure of his age, but we believe him to be 8 to 10 years old. We have grown weary of opening our wallet time and again to try and fix a problem that is frustrating for him and us.
J.P., Washington, DC Mar 04, 2013
It seems you and your poor dog have been through the ringer. He may have multiple allergies and a dysfunctional immune system. More costly tests and trial-and-error treatments may -- or may not -- put an end to his problem.
Here are a few suggestions: Have his thyroid function evaluated. Try short-term oral antihistamines. Discuss starting an elimination diet with your veterinarian. Give your dog cotton towels or bedsheets to sleep on, and never use scented laundry detergents. Don''t use any anti-flea or -tick products. Give him up to 1 teaspoon brewer''s yeast and fish oil. Give him a spritz of a mixture of aloe vera juice, calendula and witch hazel. (For more suggestions, check the archives on my website, DrFoxVet.com.)
J.S., Albrightsville, Pa
Feb 25, 2013
I have a 10-year-old sheltie who was recently diagnosed with Cushing''s disease. My vet put him on a 60-milligram Vetoryl capsule daily for the adrenal glands.
He growls at me when I try to put on his halter or touch his front legs, so I know his feet hurt. He doesn''t want to walk and is constantly sitting or lying down. His fur is coming out in clumps. He used to love being brushed, but no longer. I originally thought he had a bladder infection because he urinates in the house.
His appetite is good. He gets a small handful of Purina''s Beneful and 2 heaping teaspoons of canned Alpo in the morning. In the evening, he gets treats like Pup-Peroni, Beggin'' Strips, Meaty Bone and DentaStix.
Can you give me any advice on how I can improve his quality of life?
J.S., Albrightsville, Pa Feb 26, 2013
I am sorry to hear about your poor dog''s condition, which is all too prevalent in the canine population today.
With Cushing''s disease, adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone cortisol. It can be complicated by diabetes and low thyroid activity. You should have him tested for these conditions.
Improving your dog''s nutrition may help improve his physical and mental condition. Over 10 to 14 days, transition him onto a grain-free food such as Wellness, Orijen or Organix. Discuss the possibility of giving your dog digestive enzymes, probiotics and a source of omega-3 fatty acids in his food. He may enjoy my recipe for buckwheat treats, which you can find on my website, DrFoxVet.com. You can also buy freeze-dried meaty treats like Stella & Chewy''s. Don''t buy any imported from China!
G.R., Norman, OK
Tags: cat Norman OK diet food
Feb 25, 2013
We have a 13-year-old male cat who has started vomiting up his food on a daily basis. He is an indoor cat, and he eats California Natural chicken and brown rice formula and the occasional treat from the vet to clean his teeth.
We take him for walks on a leash daily. If he happens to eat grass while outdoors or if he drinks water after eating his first meal of the day, it will cause the vomiting. We have asked our vet for a remedy, with no solution. We would like to get your take on this because the vomiting is almost constant, and we are concerned about his health.
G.R., Norman, OK Feb 26, 2013
I wish more people would take your initiative and try habituating their cats to a daily walk in a harness. Many cats enjoy such outdoor stimulation.
Ruling out lymphatic cancer (considering your cat''s age) and fur ball accumulation in the stomach, I would consider a possible food hypersensitivity or allergy as the cause of his vomiting. Try transitioning your cat onto a different diet of known, whole-food ingredients -- no generic "meat meal" or byproducts. Avoid corn and soy because they may be genetically modified.
Do not allow your cat to eat grass, which can irritate an inflamed stomach. Give your cat small meals four to six times daily, since eating a large meal quickly can make hungry cats vomit.
D.W., Wilmington, Del
Tags: dog diet food DEL Wilmington
Feb 24, 2013
I have a neutered 10-year-old orange tabby who is an indoor cat. He is overweight. I have tried so many things over the years to help him.
He has an aggressive personality and can be very defensive. He does not do well at the vet, and he has to be sedated before his checkup. It is difficult and traumatic to take him to the vet for anything at all.
I am concerned about his weight. He was put on Hill''s Prescription Diet r/d years ago. I don''t think this is the best thing for him, but I don''t know where to turn for help. He seems to be hungry all the time and constantly cries to be fed. Sometimes I give in. It''s the only way I can get sleep. I don''t give him more than the amount he''s supposed to have, but I don''t see any results. Even though the bag of food says not to use the product long term, his vet still has him on it. I want to switch, but I don''t feel like I''m educated in the best possible source of food for him.
I want to help him feel better and lose weight. I feel like I have failed him. I love him and want to do what''s right. I''ve checked into Wellness CORE Grain-Free Indoor Formula and thought of trying it. Can you please advise me on what you think is best for my furry friend?
D.W., Wilmington, Del Feb 25, 2013
The main ingredients in the diet food you are feeding your cat are brewers'' rice, chicken byproduct meal, corn gluten meal, powdered cellulose, chicken liver flavor and soybean oil. Carnitine is added to "help burn body fat." Your poor cat may develop the feline equivalent of a metabolic syndrome on this kind of diet -- diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney, urinary tract and liver problems.
Your cat needs good-quality animal protein and fats of animal origin to stay full. Visit feline-nutrition.org for more insights, and check out my website, DrFoxVet.com, for a home-prepared diet you may wish to try.
The Wellness brand is good. Feed your cat six to eight small meals daily, weigh him weekly and adjust his diet accordingly. Whatever exercise you can get him to enjoy, such as chasing a lure on the end of a string, will help.
Tags: dog diet food
Feb 03, 2013
Six years ago, we brought home our female bichon from the vet's office after the breeder left her there when the vet delivered her puppies surgically. She was not socialized, and she didn't know how to walk with a collar and leash. We gave her the love and happy home she never had before.
She has been diagnosed with incurable kidney disease. She was dehydrated, vomiting and quit eating -- she always loved to eat. We want to give her the best possible medical care. Our vet hydrated her for a week and put her on antibiotics and nausea medication. She is starting to eat better now, but we understand that a diet for renal failure is necessary.
Do you have a good and tasty recipe that we can prepare for her? She is picky about her food -- if it doesn't smell good, she won't eat it.
We would appreciate any medical advice and a healthy dinner recipe you may have to keep our sweet little Sophie as healthy and happy as possible.
Feb 04, 2013
Chronic renal failure in dogs and cats takes more than a manufactured prescription diet to help maintain. Many of these special diets are unpalatable and high in cereals that may aggravate some of the consequences of kidney disease, especially when the patient is losing protein in the urine.
It is critically important to have the dog's creatinine level in the blood monitored, along with serum calcium and phosphorus. Potassium deficiency may call for appropriate supplementation, and high blood pressure and anemia need to be checked for and treated. Fish oil is one supplement that can help improve kidney function. For home-prepared diets for this condition, visit secure.balanceit.com. My website, DrFoxVet.com, will also give further insights into dealing with this all-too-common canine malady.
Tags: cat diet food
Jan 28, 2013
In one of your recent columns, you said not to feed your cats food that has soy or corn products in it. I feed my cats Purina, and it has both corn and soy in it. Can you please explain why Purina puts those items in its food if they are not good for the animals? I have been a loyal Purina buyer for more than 40 years. Am I feeding my cats something that will hurt them? Can you suggest a better food?
Jan 29, 2013
I would never advise people to feed their cats food high in corn and soy. Check my website, DrFoxVet.com, for details and brands of cat food, such as Evo, Organix and Wellness, that I prefer.
Cats are carnivores. Many are allergic to corn, and they do not need cereals in their diets, which can contribute to obesity, diabetes, arthritis and other illnesses. Soy is a cheap vegetable protein that has little nutritional value for cats and can cause digestive and other health problems.
M.A., Jacksonville, OR
Tags: dog OR diet food Jacksonville
Jan 28, 2013
I am responding to your request for success stories of dietary changes.
We have a beautiful, loved black Labrador retriever, Buddy. We''ve had Buddy since he was seven weeks old. When my husband and I retired, we moved from California to 20 acres in the Oregon countryside. Buddy was about 4 years old. About two months after we moved, he had a seizure. It was frightening for us and for him. It lasted about 10 minutes, and then he was back to normal. We thought maybe something he ate on the property caused the seizure. We didn''t take him to the vet. He wasn''t allowed to run on the property without being on a leash so we could make sure he didn''t eat anything he shouldn''t.
About three months later, he had another seizure. At that time we took him to our vet. Our vet said that a number of things could cause seizures in dogs and that we needed to keep an eye on him. Over the next year, he had four seizures. He had them about every three months, and they lasted 10 to 15 minutes. The vet said if the seizures became lengthy, we would put him on medication.
The vet suggested changing his dry food and periodically giving him raw meat. We started that immediately. We changed his dry food to Blue Buffalo, and we give him 1 cup of raw beef stew meat three times a week. After six weeks on his new diet, he had a seizure. We were dismayed as we hoped the change in diet would do the trick. We decided to keep him on the new diet regardless.
I am delighted to say that after being on the new diet for over a year, he has not had another seizure. I think he had the last seizure because his new diet had not had time to have an impact on his system.
My husband and I are totally convinced that his change in food stopped his seizures.
M.A., Jacksonville, OR Jan 29, 2013
I trust that all dog owners with epileptic/seizure-prone dogs will take note. Dietary change is no panacea because there are several causes, but diet should never be dismissed as a nonissue.
P. & R.B., Machipongo, Va
Tags: dog VA diet food seizures Machipongo
Jan 20, 2013
We have a 3-year-old tricolor Australian shepherd named Coach. For the past two years, he has suffered from seizures.
Starting in February 2011, he began having episodes where he would jump as if someone poked him with an electrical prod. These types of seizures occurred every eight to 10 days through June. He would jump or spasm every 45 to 60 seconds for 45 minutes to an hour.
We took him to the vet, but by the time we got there, the seizure was finished. The vet checked him, did blood work -- and found nothing. We videotaped one of these seizures and took the video to the vet. At that point, the vet recommended we see a dog neurologist. She did a more thorough exam and ran a battery of tests -- all negative. We opted out of getting an MRI.
In July, Coach had his first grand mal seizure. The neurologist prescribed zonisamide, but she said it was up to us to decide whether to start the pills. She advised that we should start them when his quality of life (or ours) suffered. He had six more grand mal seizures over the next eight weeks. At that point, we started the pills. He gets two 100-milligram pills in the morning and two at night. He takes his pills with some peanut butter or soft cheese. He went for six weeks with no seizures, but began having them again, about once a week. His follow-up blood tests were OK.
The neurologist prescribed a second drug, Keppra, in addition to the zonisamide.
At this time, a friend who is a dog trainer gave us some advice about his diet. We removed all foods that have red dye, wheat gluten and corn. This seemed to help -- the seizures happened about once a month, so we did not give him any of the Keppra. However, the seizures are starting up again.
Coach has a loving, fun personality that has not changed since the seizures. He gets a good amount of exercise. He walks and plays with several neighborhood dogs daily, and he gets good rest and naps every day.
I make most of his food. He gets Iams dry food, but very little of it -- I usually have to add some shredded cheese to get him to eat it. He loves fish, especially tuna and salmon, but I am not sure if fish is OK for dogs and how much is too much.
Any advice you can give us would be greatly appreciated.
P. & R.B., Machipongo, Va Jan 21, 2013
It seems from your letter that you have thoroughly considered the diet-related aspect of epilepsy.
I would avoid tuna for many reasons -- canned mackerel or wild salmon is preferable. I would suggest a pragmatic trial-and-test approach, including a twice-daily dose of melatonin, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in his food daily, and 1 teaspoon of fish oil for dogs daily. Discuss potassium bromide with your veterinarian as an alternative medication, and put a few drops of lavender oil on a bandanna around his neck morning and evening for its calming properties. Try to get Coach to drink a calming chamomile or valerian tea. An ice pack on the lower and middle parts of his back may shorten the seizure duration and intensity.
Try my home-prepared dog food recipe, and avoid all manufactured pet foods -- what the labels say may not be in the can or bag. Keep me posted on Coach's progress.
G.F., Derwood, Md
Tags: dog Derwood MD diet food epilepsy
Jan 06, 2013
My 7-year-old Lhasa apso, M.C. Fraggle, has had seizures since he was 2. They happened at least once a month, though often more frequently. Many were dreadful and lasted an hour or more, leaving him whimpering and unable to walk.
My veterinarian finally prescribed phenobarbital, despite the risk of side effects, since his quality of life was so bad. One day M.C. Fraggle had a fever of 106 degrees. I took him to the emergency clinic and spent $1,500 for one night of intensive care and several tests. The tests showed a low white blood cell count, allowing an infection to run rampant. The most logical diagnosis was lymphoma.
I was despondent. Even if I could write another four-figure check for chemotherapy, I knew it would keep him alive for only a few months, and a second treatment is rarely effective in dogs.
However, on our way out of the clinic, the doctor stopped us and suggested that I discontinue the phenobarbital. She'd been hitting the books and discovered that sometimes phenobarbital impairs the production of white blood cells. Within a week, his white blood cells were back to normal.
Three weeks later, the seizures returned. At this point, our doctor (who, for practical reasons too complicated to explain, lives 3,000 miles away) assumed authority and said we were going to try something that she had read about: putting our dog on a grain-free diet. Within a month, the seizures became shorter, milder and more rare. Nine months later, they stopped, and he hasn't had one since March 2012.
I feed him a diet of one part ground turkey mixed with two parts assorted canned vegetables, including pumpkin, carrots and beets. When I'm done cooking it, I mix in the water because I know it's where all the vitamins and minerals end up. I add fish oil, CoQ-10, vitamin D and SpiruGreen.
G.F., Derwood, Md Jan 07, 2013
Your letter is one of the stars that helps shine a light on a long-ignored diet-related connection with an all-too-common canine affliction: epilepsy.
Genetics can also play a role, and there are other reasons dogs develop seizures -- from adverse vaccine reaction to calcium deficiency and brain infection.
Spend time in a specialty pet store and check out the increasing number of grain-free canned and dry dog foods sold. It seems that some pet food manufacturers are aware of the problems some dogs and cats face consuming grains and cheap protein substitutes such as soy. I like to believe that the book I co-authored with two other veterinarians, "Not Fit for a Dog," has contributed to this revolution in ingredient formulation and nutritional quality. But, as we document, the pet food industries (like the human food and beverage industries) have a long way to go. The key, of course, is educating consumers to make informed choices in the marketplace.
K.V., Silver Spring, Md
Tags: dog Silver Spring MD diet food
Dec 31, 2012
I see that you have dropped kelp as an ingredient in your home recipes for making cat and dog foods. I recently read a feature article in a pet wellness magazine about the benefits of giving seaweed to dogs. So why are you not using seaweed in your recipes or recommending it as a treat?
K.V., Silver Spring, Md Jan 01, 2013
I decided to drop the seaweed ingredient in my home-prepared pet food recipes when it is not the only food given to dogs and cats. I made this decision after my veterinarian friend Dr. Jean Dodds alerted me to recent research that indicated a connection between high dietary iodine and thyroid disease in dogs and cats. Seaweed is high in iodine, so it would be advisable not to include this in the diet of companion animals. Fluoride is also a concern. For more details visit my website, DrFoxVet.com.
Dr. Dodds wrote to me stating, "Most commercial kibbled foods given to dogs and cats already contain more than enough iodine -- this can promote hypothyroidism and thyroiditis in dogs and hyperthyroidism in cats. So, when anyone also supplements kelp or other iodine-rich supplements daily, the animal is being overdosed on iodine. We recommend using these supplements, if desired or needed, no more than two to three times a week. If people feed raw or home-cooked diets, adding iodine-rich supplements should be safe and even useful."