DEAR DR. FOX: I lost my 10-year-old cat, Daddy's Little Boy, earlier this week, and it's taken until today for me to have the strength to write. I think there are lessons to be learned from his death at the vet's office for a relatively routine procedure -- radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism.
Daddy's Little Boy was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism about a year ago, and he was prescribed methimazole. It stopped working, so I decided on the radioactive iodine treatment, even though it was $1,200. I took him in for the treatment last week. The day he died, I asked to see him, but they wouldn't let me because he was "hot" -- I think that means radioactive. That evening he had a stroke and was dehydrated and disoriented, and the vet's office told me I should get there. He was in an oxygen incubator. I made two visits that evening to comfort him while wearing protective gloves and vest. They called me on my way home to say that five minutes after I left, he stopped breathing and they had to put a tube in his lungs. By the time I turned around and got back, his heart had stopped.
The vet told me this had happened only once before in 10 years. I believe him, but that's of little consolation. Whenever an animal is left at a facility overnight, there must be a sense of abandonment and separation anxiety. If the pet cannot go home by the next day, arrangements should be made for visitation. Even if the pet is radioactive, precautions, like the vest and gloves I wore, should make that possible.
Though this facility holds the pet only 48 hours, I'm told there are others that hold them them for up to two weeks. It's not a coincidence that my cat's death happened at the facility. It wouldn't have happened at home. -- B.H., St. Louis
DEAR B.H.: My deepest condolences. What a sad ordeal you and your poor cat went through. Hyperthyroid disease is almost an epidemic in cats today. Fire-retardant chemicals in carpets, furniture upholstery/stuffing and possibly even in the food chain; fluoride in drinking water; toxic levels of iodine in some pet food ingredients; and endocrine-disrupting BPAs and phthalates in pet food containers are contributing factors.
For most cats and many dogs, being left in a veterinary hospital for even a few hours can be stressful enough to compromise treatment and recovery. Veterinarians aware of this problem encourage visiting/petting hours for animals in for long-term treatment, and others do house calls and provide in-home treatments.
But with your cat's diseased thyroid, after methimazole treatment failed, large doses of iodine might have proven effective. Surgical removal of the gland under general anesthetic was another option. Treatment with radioactive iodine 131 is not advisable if there are any signs of poor renal function. Beta-blockers are often prescribed to reduce elevated heart rates and blood pressure in cats with this thyroid disease while undergoing treatment, which may lead to renal failure.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a disgusting question about my 5-month-old female Lab-mix.
She was originally rescued from a barn as a tiny puppy. I had the privilege of adopting her at three months. I feed her and her 7-month-old male Lab-mix adoptive brother a broiled chicken breast for breakfast (split between the two of them), and a can each of puppy food for dinner. They get a rawhide each day and assorted puppy treats throughout the day, and I keep their bowl of dry food full.
She has access to a doggy door that opens to about a half acre of land. Although her adoptive brother is completely house-trained, she still, on occasion, goes in the house.
Now here is the disgusting part: I believe she might be eating feces. I have not seen her eat it, but I've noticed that occasionally her breath smells like poop. Fecal matter is missing from the lawn -- she has very solid feces that become like logs when dry, and when I return to pick them up, they are gone. I have joked that both dogs have pica because they are always eating things that are inedible (sticks, paper, feces).
Are they missing something from their diet? Is this typical puppy behavior? -- N.C.T., Mount Airy, N.C.
DEAR N.C.T.: This is the most unsavory of all dogs' behavior that is, to a degree, normal. Check the archives section on my website, DrFoxVet.com, for a host of letters addressing this issue.
"Cures" range from muzzling your dog when outdoors and feeding her digestive enzymes, probiotics and brewer's yeast to not letting the dogs see the poop being picked up. Cleaning up the den area and acquiring essential digestive bacteria and trace nutrients are some of the possible reasons for canine coprophagia. Unfortunately, there is no simple remedy.
As for the halitosis, PetzLife Oral Care for dogs will sweeten the breath and help keep teeth and gums clean and healthy.
(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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