The Animal Doctor

DEAR READERS: Babies who have regular exposure to livestock have more diverse gut microbe communities than their urban counterparts, according to a study published in Frontiers in Immunology that confirms previous findings.

When microbes from the rural babies’ fecal samples were inserted into piglets kept in a germ-free lab, the piglets developed more robust lymphoid and myeloid immune cells than piglets that received urban babies’ gut microbes. (Bangor Daily News, 8/5)

This kind of research underscores the benefits of getting children outdoors and exposed to soil and vegetation, where many of these beneficial bacteria can be found. These good bacteria also get in and on the dogs in our homes when they get to run in natural places, rather than mowed and chemical-treated municipal parks and playgrounds.

So-called petting zoos are seasonally popular, especially at state fairs, and are a good source of potentially beneficial bacteria for children. But they should be avoided by the immune-compromised, and every animal should have a veterinary certificate of sound health and be free of any communicable diseases such as harmful strains of salmonella and E. coli.

DEAR DR. FOX: My 8-year-old female cat was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and has lost considerable weight. The veterinarian says there is no cure.

We also have several other cats. They have all been fed dry cat food (Purina Fancy Feast, various flavors). Since this cat has lost weight, we basically feed her anything she wants. Her favorites are canned Fancy Feast, the ”Gravy Lovers” flavors. Usually she only eats the gravy. She also likes bacon, grilled cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Her personality and actions have not changed, and she is not timid around the other cats. We have been taking her in the past year (every two or three months) for injections of B12 and Depo Medrol. Are there any other medicines or treatments I can administer to help her? -- S.E., Sapulpa, Oklahoma

DEAR S.E.: If the veterinarian who examined your cat did not discuss diet, I would seek a second opinion. To find a holistic veterinary practitioner near you, go to ahvma.org.

Chronic diarrhea in cats is a signal of gut inflammation, which can be due to food intolerance or allergy. One cat I know made a full recovery when rice was eliminated from her diet. Others may have adverse reactions to corn, soy, eggs, fish or beef.

In some instances, the problem is lymphatic cancer invading the intestines, for which there is no cure. A biopsy can help confirm this cause, but it is costly, and should be the last resort after addressing the above considerations.

Transition your cat onto my home-prepared diet and see if that helps (if it is acceptable to her, since cats are finicky eaters). If she accepts it and she shows improvement, let me know. Otherwise, let her eat what she likes, and try meaty Gerber baby food and canned sardines. Also, I do not advise feeding cats or dogs an entirely dry, manufactured kibble for many reasons, from obesity to dental and digestive problems.

DEAR DR. FOX: We have a finch that comes to our window every day, all day long, for almost two weeks now. He or she sits on the hummingbird feeder hook and pecks on the window, and then flies up against the glass. We also have a birdseed-filled feeder on the window, but the bird doesn’t go to that. This goes on all day long. Other birds come to the feeders, too.

We don’t know what to do for this bird. Is it just looking at its reflection, thinking it’s another bird? Last night, I took all the bird feeders down, and today, he is back -- hitting and flying up against the window with nothing there. The hummingbirds are looking for their food, too.

If you can, please let us know what to do for this bird. -- J.S., Trenton, New Jersey

DEAR J.S.: Male birds of various species will display and attack their reflected images in windows.

This is an instinct-driven territorial behavior that can be stressful to them when they are unable to drive the perceived rival away. So, it would be a kindness to tape some newspaper on the outside of the window to cover it for a few days.

There are stickers and reflective strips one can purchase at pet- and bird-supply stores to stop birds from flying into windows, and I wish more property owners, including glass-box corporate offices, would take the initiative. These are not likely to deter your little finch, but you may wish to consider this for the other birds coming to your feeders.

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)

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