DEAR DR. FOX: My cat Samantha and I want to thank you for writing about feeding cats several small meals a day if they eat too fast and vomit. That was Samantha's issue -- not hair balls or a food allergy, which you also suggested could be the cause.
The other night, we watched "My Cat From Hell," the TV show with cat "expert" Jackson Galaxy, who told the couple to feed their cat twice a day only. How many viewers are going to take his wrong advice and have puking cats? -- N.M., Winston-Salem, N.C.
DEAR N.M.: This reminds me of some of the cat-food ads -- even featured during this show -- where a cat races to the food bowl and gobbles down the dry kibble like a dog would. This irresponsible advertising gives the impression that this is how cats normally eat. In actuality, the cats used in these commercials are clearly food deprived and, therefore, ravenous.
A cat fed twice a day may behave in this way, and like your Samantha, have episodes of vomiting, experience digestive upsets and have diarrhea. Feeding twice a day is not the best way to have a cat lose weight or become more sociable. Feline veterinary experts, nutritionists and behaviorists are unanimous that a twice-a-day feeding schedule, which is fine for dogs, is biologically inappropriate for cats. At least four small meals a day is closer to the natural feeding pattern.
It is regrettable that there is such poor control over what gets put on television these days, especially with regard to programs about dogs, cats and pet care. I wonder about the qualifications of purported experts and advisers, and I find many of these shows exploitative of animals and of the human-animal bond. And all of this to sell advertisements promoting dubious pet foods, pet products and even purebred and exotic animals. Sound science, common sense and ethics seem to have been lost in the commercial haze and celebrity daze of these vacuous times.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our local low-cost spay-neuter clinic is offering free Esterilsol for neutering. What do you think of this new procedure? -- J. and J.H., Fort Worth, Texas
DEAR J. and J.H.: Esterilsol is a zinc gluconate solution that is injected one time only into each testicle to shut down sperm maturation and transportation -- it's a kind of chemical vasectomy. However, dogs still produce testosterone.
One benefit of surgical castration under short-acting general anesthetic is that the vet does not run the risk of making a wrong injection, as can happen with Esterilsol, leading to severe inflammation, ulceration and the urgent need for remedial surgical castration. This would be disastrous for dogs who are set free immediately after injection, as is happening in some countries where this product is being used as an alternative to surgical castration.
With either neutering procedure, dogs should be held for a few days prior to release for observation after injection -- which I do not see in the manufacturer's protocol -- and to allow for healing after surgery. After the injection, pain and swelling can be severe for some dogs, and it can last for up to a week. This is a problem even with the most careful adherence to the manufacturer's protocols, as I have learned evaluating this product some years ago when it went under the name of Neutersol. I vetoed it then, as I veto Esterilsol now. Surgical castration can be safer, even in tropical countries, and surgically neutered dogs with lowered testosterone suffer fewer fight injuries.
Better alternatives to using hormonal implants and a birth control vaccine are being developed to help address pet overpopulation in many countries. For more details, visit the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs at www.acc-d.org.
VETERINARY PRESCRIPTION DIET RECALLED
After a product sample of its canned cat food tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicated a low level of thiamine, or vitamin B1, Nestle Purina PetCare recalled Purina Veterinary Diets OM Overweight Management canned cat food with a "best by" date of June 2013 and the production code 11721159. The lot was distributed to veterinary clinics between June 2011 and May 2012. It was not sold in retail stores.
This recall was in response to one consumer complaint received by the FDA. Though the company said it has not received any other complaints of thiamine or other health issues related to the product, it acknowledged that cats fed this lot exclusively for several weeks may be at risk for developing a deficiency of thiamine, which is an essential vitamin for cats. Early signs of thiamine deficiency include decreased appetite, salivation, vomiting and weight loss. Advanced symptoms may include the neck bending toward the floor, wobbly walking, falling, circling and seizures. However, if treated promptly by a veterinarian, thiamine deficiency is usually reversible.
In my professional opinion, this is unacceptable corporate irresponsibility. Sending out products exclusively to veterinarians that have not been adequately formulated and tested for nutrient content, and, in the process, putting at risk cats and veterinarians' reputations is unnecessary and dangerous.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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 DrFoxVet.com.)