S.E.B., Norfolk, Va
Tags: cat Norfolk VA
Apr 01, 2012
I have a 16-year-old female Persian cat who started pooping everywhere. I gave her a new litter box, but it did not help. Then one day, I decided to hide her litter box under a big desk, and I put a cover over the entrance.
Now she uses the litter box exclusively. Wow, who knew she wanted privacy when she pooped?
S.E.B., Norfolk, Va Apr 02, 2012
As I detail in my book "Cat Body, Cat Mind," there are many reasons why cats poop outside of their litter boxes. The most common reason is chronic constipation, especially in older cats.
A less-common reason not always considered is precisely what you have discovered. Some cats like privacy, and I always advise putting litter boxes in low-traffic spots in the home. It is natural for animals to feel vulnerable when pooping. One of my dogs would always choose to hide in the bushes to poop rather than do it by the side of the road so I could easily pick up.
Getting old, losing eyesight and hearing and painful arthritis in the back can make cats have difficulties evacuating. Give your cat a few drops of fish oil in her food every day, and give her a good evening massage along her back and around her abdomen.
L.G., Portsmouth, Va
Tags: dog Portsmouth VA
Mar 26, 2012
I am writing in reference to your article about animals crying.
I have four Chihuahuas: two 7-year-olds and two 5-year-olds (they are a mother, father, son and daughter). My husband retired three years ago, and since then our dogs have bonded to him more than ever.
Every time my husband leaves the house, our 7-year-old female, Monica, sits at the back door looking forlorn and showing signs of tears. My husband recently went on a weeklong trip to Texas, and Monica sat at the back door for several hours each day, hanging her head and crying. I assume she missed my husband.
When I approached her, she gave me hateful looks and skulked off to be alone. She waited for him at the garage door, then she'd sit on his favorite chair until bedtime. Her eyes were wet until he returned. When he got home, she was ecstatic -- dancing, prancing and squealing. She demonstrates these emotions every time he is gone, whether it's for five minutes or five days. My other three dogs were not as sad as she was; I think she missed my husband more than I did.
L.G., Portsmouth, Va Mar 27, 2012
I know that many readers will appreciate your letter confirming that some grieving dogs will get watery eyes and shed tears.
In humans, grief is recognized as an emotional disorder with varying degrees of severity, just like depression. I would make the same medical claim for animals, and I would distinguish this condition from separation anxiety, where there is often more agitation and destructive behavior.
Like many grief-stricken people, animals -- from dogs to horses to elephants -- can lose the will to live. They withdraw from social interaction, sleep more and refuse food and attempts to provide comfort and relief. Psychotropic drugs such as Prozac, injections of appetite-stimulating vitamin B-complex and physical activity and interaction with familiar, friendly animals can help ameliorate the grief.
Metaphysically, grief is a breaking of the heart or spirit, a psychological reaction to the trauma of close emotional connections being severed. This dispirited condition can lead quite rapidly to death in susceptible individuals, human and nonhuman alike, if not recognized and appropriate intervention initiated.
G.F., Alexandria, Va
Tags: dog Alexandria VA diet food
Mar 19, 2012
I want to thank you so much for your repeated suggestions to put dogs on a wholesome diet to get rid of itchy skin and digestive problems. After visits to more than one veterinarian who did not get my dog well after expensive tests and different medications -- including steroids, which made him anxious and overweight -- I took your advice and tried your home-prepared diet.
After a few days his bloating and occasional bouts of diarrhea stopped, and now he is a happy, active dog with a shiny coat and a much better disposition.
G.F., Alexandria, Va Mar 20, 2012
As Hippocrates, the founding father of modern Western medicine, advised, "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food." This is as true for our animal companions as it is for us.
I observe with horror what many people eat and feed to their children and pets. Apparently, they see no connection to the food and obesity, allergies, behavioral problems and various other health issues from arthritis to high blood pressure and heart disease.
I would very much like to hear from other readers whose cats and dogs have shown improvements and even full recovery from illnesses (please specify) following a change in diet (also please specify). Mail or email me at the addresses provided in this column.
A.E.S., Fairfax, Va
Feb 27, 2012
I have a 3-year-old Brussels griffon named Callie who was recently diagnosed with Addison's disease.
I have been able to get some information regarding this disease from my veterinarian and the Internet. Initially, when Callie was diagnosed, I was relieved because he was so sick (in "crisis"), but now I am overwhelmed by the disease.
It has been only three weeks since his diagnosis, and now I'm concerned about his long-term health requirements. Callie's vet told me that she will be testing him every four to six weeks to determine his progress with regard to his Percorten injection and his daily prednisone requirement.
Currently, Callie seems to be doing great: His appetite is back, he is up and running again and his bowels are normal (considering he did not eat for about five days).
Could you please give me some advice about Callie's long-term care? His daily dosage of 1.25 mg of prednisone is not a good thing for the long term, right? Can it be replaced by something else? How about his diet? Currently, he is on a home-cooked diet in combination with an excellent quality kibble.
A.E.S., Fairfax, Va Feb 28, 2012
Your dog is suffering from an all-too-common malady for which there is no simple remedy. There is also no definitive answer as to what causes the adrenal glands to stop functioning.
Many diseases of the endocrine glands seem to fall into the class of autoimmune disorders where the animal's immune defense mechanism goes haywire and attacks certain cells in the body.
Genetics can also play a role in susceptibility to environmental triggers in food, vaccines and infections that disrupt the immune system.
Discuss with your veterinarian giving Callie daily probiotics. Once he is stabilized, continue monitoring his condition while giving him oral melatonin, which may give some relief.
R.R., Manassas, Va
Tags: cat Manassas VA diet allergies food
Feb 12, 2012
My cat suffers from a very itchy face. The vet thinks she may be allergic to her food. At one point, it was suggested that I try to feed her an elimination diet and then continue her on a home-cooked diet. I was given some material from a workshop the vet attended; however, it was not specific enough for me to feel confident I was giving my cat all she needed.
For example, cats need taurine in their diet, but I wasn't able to find information on how much taurine to add. I also had no idea where to purchase taurine. Can you please provide me with a recipe for an elimination diet as well as a home-cooked treatment diet?
R.R., Manassas, Va Feb 13, 2012
I am happy to hear that your cat's veterinarian attended a workshop on the issue of pet food-related health problems. Allergies to certain food ingredients are now widely recognized health issues, thanks to more veterinarians making the right diagnosis rather than prescribing drugs like corticosteroids, antibiotics and tranquilizers to afflicted pets. Part of this increase is due to the prevalence of genetically engineered food ingredients in pet foods. For details on this important issue, check my website.
The elimination diet is easier to do with dogs than cats because dogs are less finicky. An elimination diet attempts to define which ingredients cause problems. Beef, dairy products, corn and fish are especially problematic for cats, as are soy- and cereal-based ingredients.
It is best not to add synthetic taurine or other essential nutrients to your cat's food. Instead, use minimally processed ingredients that you purchase or prepare yourself. For details on some supplements I include in my home-prepared dog and cat food recipes, check my website and visit www.feline-nutrition.org.
When you transition your cat to my diet, be sure to change the animal protein (beef, chicken) from what your cat has been eating.
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.
D.B.C., Suffolk, Va
Tags: cat Suffolk VA declawing
Feb 05, 2012
I have an 11-year-old Abyssinian cat, Alexandra. She is a strictly indoor cat who has been spayed and carefully looked after by both her veterinary allergy specialist and veterinarian.
Alexandra began scratching the upholstery on my furniture soon after I got her from the breeder in 2000. Since I am diametrically opposed to declawing, I tried bitter apple and the Feliway pheromone room diffuser, plus spraying with water. Nothing deterred the scratching. I also clipped her nails as often as I could.
Next, I tried Soft Paws caps glued to her nails. Her vet first applied them, and I am now successfully putting them on at home. Her scratching is harmless now.
In December 2010, a guest at a Christmas party in my home accidentally stepped on Alexandra's paw. We stanched the slight bleeding and wrapped her paw. Our vet told us she would be all right as long as there was no infection. The entire Soft Paw dropped off right after the accident, with a portion of her natural nail still inside. Now there is merely a stump where the nail ends, which appears to be at the quick of her nail. The nail has not grown back.
My question is this: Why can't modern veterinary surgery remove cats' nails without removing the joints and mutilating the cats?
D.B.C., Suffolk, Va Feb 06, 2012
If there is no sign of the nail growing back, the nail bed that regenerates the nail is probably permanently damaged. Normally, when a cat tears off a nail, a new one grows back within a few weeks.
Veterinarians who perform onychectomies (removing the cat's finger- and toe-tips) now use lasers that purportedly cause less pain and inflammation than conventional cutting with a clipper or scalpel. Even so, it is a profound alteration both physically and psychologically. The operation involves dissection and removal of the first phalanx at the first joint; look at your own fingers and envision each one being cut off at the first joint. This is done because digging into the root of each nail would actually be a more involved process with even greater post-operative pain, inflammation and possible deformed nail growth if the entire nail bed is not completely destroyed. After the multiple onychectomies are performed -- one on each nail -- each paw can become deformed as tendons contract and paw-pads shrink. Arthritis and an abnormal gait can also develop. For more details, check my review on this topic on my website.
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.