DEAR DR. FOX: My boyfriend and I adopted our 4-year-old male tabby cat from a rescue a little over a year ago. He is a sweet, personable and playful cat, and he seems well adjusted to us and to our apartment. Unfortunately, we have a couple of problems.
He has a chronic ear infection -- he had one when we adopted him -- which three different prescriptions have failed to clear. While the prescriptions seem to help during treatment, the brown gunk comes back as soon as the drops run out. The vet ruled out mites on the first visit.
He shakes his head and scratches at his ears constantly, and it's heartbreaking. Is surgery an option? What can we do?
Secondly, he keeps waking us up hours before his breakfast time. We feed him moist food twice a day -- at 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. This worked fine for a while, but he is now waking up at 6:30 a.m., and he misbehaves and makes noise until we get up to feed him. The sleep deprivation is taking a toll. Any advice? -- J.P.H., Brooklyn, N.Y.
DEAR J.P.H.: Your cat may have ear mites that might not have shown up on the initial examination. Thoroughly clean his ears, then use a cat-safe insecticide in the ear canal. Have your veterinarian prescribe Zymogen, which will help reduce inflammation and possible bacterial and/or fungal infection.
You are not feeding your cat frequently enough. Dogs do fine, as most humans do, on two meals per day, but many cat owners are unaware that it is better to give cats three to six small meals a day. Weigh your cat and keep a note on weight gain or loss, adjusting the amount of his meals.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 6 1/2-pound Yorkie. He's a sweetheart. About three years ago, I found out he has an enlarged heart and a closed trachea. He loves to play, but when he does, he gets out of breath and tries to suck in air with his tongue. When I see him do that, I get tears in my eyes.
He takes pills twice a day. I've asked our vet if there's anything else that can be done. He shrugs his shoulders and puts his hands in the air.
Is there anything I can do or should have done? I hope so. -- J.P.V., Naples, Fla.
DEAR J.P.V.: These sorts of developmental disorders are all too common in toy breeds. Such health problems, and a host of others, have a genetic basis. This places the burden of responsibility on the breeders to help eliminate these problems by not breeding dogs whose puppies inherit such disorders. This is called progeny testing. I would think twice about advising anyone to purchase a purebred dog without some form of health guarantee.
I regret that there are no cures for your dog. Monitor his weight, and keep him trim. Take him for slow walks so he gets some mental stimulation. He should wear only a harness and never a collar. Toy breeds prone to tracheal collapse should never be walked on a collar. Engage in short play bouts, followed by grooming or a calming massage.
(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.)