DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 3-year-old tricolor Australian shepherd named Coach. For the past two years, he has suffered from seizures.
Starting in February 2011, he began having episodes where he would jump as if someone poked him with an electrical prod. These types of seizures occurred every eight to 10 days through June. He would jump or spasm every 45 to 60 seconds for 45 minutes to an hour.
We took him to the vet, but by the time we got there, the seizure was finished. The vet checked him, did blood work -- and found nothing. We videotaped one of these seizures and took the video to the vet. At that point, the vet recommended we see a dog neurologist. She did a more thorough exam and ran a battery of tests -- all negative. We opted out of getting an MRI.
In July, Coach had his first grand mal seizure. The neurologist prescribed zonisamide, but she said it was up to us to decide whether to start the pills. She advised that we should start them when his quality of life (or ours) suffered. He had six more grand mal seizures over the next eight weeks. At that point, we started the pills. He gets two 100-milligram pills in the morning and two at night. He takes his pills with some peanut butter or soft cheese. He went for six weeks with no seizures, but began having them again, about once a week. His follow-up blood tests were OK.
The neurologist prescribed a second drug, Keppra, in addition to the zonisamide.
At this time, a friend who is a dog trainer gave us some advice about his diet. We removed all foods that have red dye, wheat gluten and corn. This seemed to help -- the seizures happened about once a month, so we did not give him any of the Keppra. However, the seizures are starting up again.
Coach has a loving, fun personality that has not changed since the seizures. He gets a good amount of exercise. He walks and plays with several neighborhood dogs daily, and he gets good rest and naps every day.
I make most of his food. He gets Iams dry food, but very little of it -- I usually have to add some shredded cheese to get him to eat it. He loves fish, especially tuna and salmon, but I am not sure if fish is OK for dogs and how much is too much.
Any advice you can give us would be greatly appreciated. -- P. & R.B., Machipongo, Va.
DEAR P. & R.B.: It seems from your letter that you have thoroughly considered the diet-related aspect of epilepsy.
I would avoid tuna for many reasons -- canned mackerel or wild salmon is preferable. I would suggest a pragmatic trial-and-test approach, including a twice-daily dose of melatonin, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in his food daily, and 1 teaspoon of fish oil for dogs daily. Discuss potassium bromide with your veterinarian as an alternative medication, and put a few drops of lavender oil on a bandanna around his neck morning and evening for its calming properties. Try to get Coach to drink a calming chamomile or valerian tea. An ice pack on the lower and middle parts of his back may shorten the seizure duration and intensity.
Try my home-prepared dog food recipe (at DrFoxVet.com), and avoid all manufactured pet foods -- what the labels say may not be in the can or bag. Keep me posted on Coach's progress.
DEAR DR. FOX: We adopted a 1-year-old Siamese-mix cat from the SPCA two years ago. He is very skittish but affectionate.
Several months ago, he stopped cleaning his anal area. This is causing a lot of problems, as he resists any type of help and runs when we try to approach him. He is on Prozac because he was urinating in the dining room instead of his litter box, and the medication seems to work for that problem.
He weighs 12 pounds, and we feed him Purina Indoor Formula dry food and a half can of Friskies moist food daily. He has no problem reaching his anal area, but he won't clean himself. We are at our wit's end. Do you have any suggestions? -- E.H., Virginia Beach, Va.
DEAR E.H.: Have you ruled out chronic cystitis rather than some emotional distress factor as the root of your cat's house-soiling behavior, even though the Prozac seems to help?
The type of cat litter you are using, how often you clean out his box (which should be at least three times a day) and the location of the box all play a part in determining your cat's litter box behavior.
I am not clear from your letter why your cat's posterior needs to be cleaned regularly. Certainly, longhaired, obese and older cats may need cleaning when debris from the litter box, urine and fecal matter adhere to the hindquarters. If your cat is dribbling urine or has fecal incontinence or blocked, painful anal glands, litter box aversion and house soiling may happen. If that's the case, your cat needs to see a veterinarian who can offer more than the Prozac. Also, your cat may benefit from a change in diet. Some food ingredients can cause bladder inflammation and associated incontinence. For details, visit feline-nutrition.org.
(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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