DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 13-pound, 6-year-old neutered male Brussels griffon. He has had three surgeries (every two years) to remove oxalate crystals in his bladder and urethra. I have changed his diet several times to no avail. He is on Hills Prescription Diet g/d Canine Early Cardiac-Healthy Aging dry food.
I have had two other male griffons who also had several surgeries for the same problem. Those two were not neutered, and both died of kidney failure relatively young. All three dogs came from Australia, from different breeders. I brought them to Hawaii to raise.
Dr. Fox, have you any recommendations for a diet that might help my little dog avoid future stones? -- F.A.V., Honolulu
DEAR F.A.V.: Several factors are at play in the genesis of oxalate urinary calculi in dogs. These include genetics/breed susceptibility, high cereal content diets and artificial acidification by manufacturers to reduce struvite crystal formation. Also, many dogs do not drink adequate quantities of water, especially when they are on a dry-food diet.
I find it borderline malpractice when dogs with bladder stones/calculi are put on special prescription dry foods with no instructions to keep their urinary tract well flushed with copious fluid intake! For details, see the book I co-authored with two other veterinarians with expertise in pet nutrition, "Not Fit for a Dog."
Give your dog water flavored with chicken or beef bullion (make up your own, salt free), and transition him onto a raw food or lightly cooked home-prepared diet, such as my own recipe on DrFoxVet.com. (Use about one-quarter of the amount of rice in the recipe, or use quinoa as an alternative.) Herbs such as gravel root, stone root, shepherd's purse, plantain and marshmallow are said to help dissolve stones, making future surgeries unnecessary. You may want to explore this with a veterinarian with interest and expertise in such holistic/integrative medicine. To contact a holistic veterinarian in your area, visit holisticvetlist.com.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our 4-year-old schnauzer has been diagnosed with dry eye KCS. This came on suddenly, and after three weeks of erythromycin with no results, she was switched to cyclosporine. I have been applying it twice a day, and after three weeks, I can see no difference. I have heard surgery is sometimes necessary for this. What is your opinion? -- G.B., Arlington, Va.
DEAR G.B.: There are many causes and predispositions -- such as breed and being spayed -- that can contribute to dogs developing this distressing and potentially blinding condition of keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), a chronic deficiency of aqueous tear secretion. Drying of the corneas can lead to opacity and ulceration and can be extremely painful. Your dog will need to be on the cyclosporine two or three times daily for the rest of her life.
Changing her diet gradually to a whole-food, organic formulation with omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as my home-prepared diet on my website, www.drfoxvet.com, or a commercial raw-food diet may provide some benefit. Artificial tears and eyedrops containing eyebright may also help and can be used once daily as a substitute for one cyclosporine treatment. Your dog's eyes must, of course, be constantly monitored, and any rapid blinking (blepharospasm) or rubbing of the eyes calls for a veterinary eye examination for possible corneal ulceration.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)