DEAR DR. FOX: I'm writing in response to a letter by F.A.V. of Honolulu, who had a 13-pound, 6-year-old Brussels griffon with oxalate crystals in his bladder and urethra. The dog had to have surgery every two years.
Three years ago, our 9-year-old female Jack Russell terrier had the same problem, but only one surgery. After surgery, our vet prescribed Royal Canin Urinary SO dog food. This has solved the problem and keeps her urine clear. She has not had any problems since going on this prescription food. I give her both dry and canned servings of it.
This prescribed dog food might be something that F.A.V. may want to explore as an option. -- N.H., Middleburg, Va.
DEAR N.H.: There is a confounding combination of genetics affecting dogs' metabolism and kidney function. The artificial acidification of some manufactured dog foods, done to help prevent struvite crystal formation, may make dogs prone to developing oxalate crystals in their lower urinary tracts. High dietary calcium and low fluid intake when a dog is fed dry food only may also be contributing factors.
The best prevention is a home-prepared diet, as I offer on my website, DrFoxVet.com. Alternatives to the costly, and for some dogs, unpalatable, prescribed diet foods are available at secure.balanceit.com.
DEAR DR. FOX: What is your opinion on clumping litter and cat eye problems? Thank you. -- D.D., Naples, Fla.
DEAR D.D.: I have received several letters questioning the safety of clumping litter for cats. The most common concern is about them swallowing small particles of the litter that may adhere to their paws or fur and the risk of intestinal blockage. I have found no clinical evidence to support this concern, and I regard its perpetuation as an unfounded fear.
I use World's Best Cat Litter for my two cats, and I believe that it is one of the best. It has very little dust compared to the various clay-based cat litters. Your cat should have no problems with this brand, unless it is allergic to corn.
Any cat with eye issues may experience eye irritation and develop litter box aversion if his box has an odor-trapping cover. Covered cat boxes create an ammoniated and dusty interior space for cats, and I advise against using them.
DEAR DR. FOX: For years, St. Louis has displayed dogs in the dreadful Beggin' Barkus Pet Parade, an annual February fundraiser for the Open Door Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter.
I see no humor in humiliating our furry friends and spraying them with harmful chemicals (paint, etc.). In my opinion, this is animal abuse.
Could you please address this in your column? I find it very upsetting that it seems to become more extreme every year. -- H.S., St. Louis
DEAR H.S.: Having walked our dogs in fundraising and July 4 celebration parades, I can attest to the fact that most temperamentally stable dogs really enjoy the experience. Many seem to enjoy wearing various costumes (like children, they appreciate the extra attention they receive). But I do not like the idea of sprayed-on dyes to color their coats.
The most important considerations are noise and weather. People blowing antique car horns or playing instruments in marching bands should be separated from the dog part of any community parade. I would like to see an end to all fireworks.
In hot, sunny weather, very hot pavements must be avoided and dogs should wear protective boots -- the same goes for very cold weather. Drinking water and evaporative-cooling wet coats can provide comfort for dogs in summer, and umbrellas give shade. Where there is flexibility in terms of setting a fundraising walk, the mild months of spring and fall are wise, humane choices.
Speaking of St. Louis -- a city where I was a psychology professor at Washington University during the 1970s -- I will be giving a fundraising talk for Stray Rescue on May 5, titled "The Great Healing: Animal Feelings and Feeling for Animals." For more details, email email@example.com. For tickets, visit strayrescue.org/UrbanWanderersTailEnd2013.
(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.)