DEAR DR. FOX: I lost my German shepherd/chow mix and my Great Dane/Lab mix to cancer within months of each other last year. I immediately adopted Buddy, a 4-month-old golden retriever/Lab mix, from a no-kill shelter because I love big black dogs, and I know they have a horrible time finding homes.
I took him to the vet because he had a sore on his back leg and one on his penis. I wanted to make sure that he did not have ringworm. (He didn't.) The vet looked at some skin scrapings under a microscope and told me that he had a bacterial infection. She prescribed cephalexin. Buddy got diarrhea almost immediately after taking the medicine. His stool wavered between soft and loose. I stopped the cephalexin and called the vet. The vet put him on PVD FortiFlora Canine. The next day, his vet was off duty, but another vet put him on metronidazole. The stools were firmer after five days, so I stopped the pills.
After 24 hours, the soft/loose stools returned. I put him back on the metronidazole for several days. I called the vet to renew the prescription, and this vet informed me that the normal dosage should have been four times the amount I had been prescribed, so she changed that for him.
He was perfectly fine until the cephalexin. One of the vets suggested he be examined again, but I am not sure what good this would do. I seem to get different answers depending on which vet I speak to that day. I gave Buddy probiotics all of this time. Can you help? -- K.W., Imperial, Mo.
DEAR K.W.: I am shocked that the veterinarian prescribed such a powerful oral drug as cephalexin rather than treating the skin infection with a topical ointment.
Clearly, the cephalexin wiped out some of the beneficial bacteria in your dog's digestive tract, causing dysbiosis or bacterial population imbalance. The corrective treatments prescribed were appropriate.
I would give your dog a good-quality probiotic twice daily, along with a prebiotic such as inulin (not insulin) and digestive enzymes. Herbal preparation of marshmallow root, chamomile, aloe vera and cramp bark may help alleviate the diarrhea. Glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, lecithin and montmorillonite clay or calcium aluminosilicate are all potential remedies for this kind of diarrhea.
Avoid food with soy or grain. For more details, including my home-prepared dog food and treat recipes and a dog food quality scoring system, check my website, DrFoxVet.com.
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(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.
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DEAR DR. FOX: I am writing for your advice on food for my 16-year-old male cat, Chester. He's feeling the effects of his age with constipation and less-than-ideal kidney function (but not in the danger range yet).
The vet wants to put him on prescription low-protein dry food, either Iams or Science Diet. I'm not a fan of dry food or of those brands. Based on your column's pet food suggestions, Chester has been happily eating Evo moist food with pumpkin and fish oil added for several years.
Do you have any suggestions for alternatives to prescription low-protein food? Anything homemade? What is your opinion of giving constipated cats a laxative? -- M.S., McLean, Va.
DEAR M.S.: I would think twice about forcing an old cat onto a new, unpalatable diet he may loathe, which can make him suffer hunger pangs and a lowered quality of life.
While some of these prescription-only special diets can be beneficial, they are highly profitable and tend to be relied upon too much as the best remedy for various pet ailments.
I would never put a cat with kidney disease who likes moist, canned foods onto an all-dry diet. Low-protein diets are not advisable when the kidney disease causes more protein to be passed in the urine. Supplements such as fish oil (which your cat enjoys), potassium, vitamin D3 and a phosphate binder such as Renagel (under veterinary supervision) should help. The tasty product Laxatone and abdominal massage should help alleviate your cat's constipation.