DEAR DR. FOX: I learned about one of your books, "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food," from my local newspaper
I am interested in this book because of my cat, Bella, who adopted us five years ago. According to her veterinarian, she was about 4 years old at the time. I would be grateful if I could find out where this book is available because I want to make sure Bella is healthy and happy. -- N.A., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
DEAR N.A.: I am pleased to inform you and other readers that a new, updated edition of this book has been published by Quill Driver Books. If you are unable to go online to order a copy from Amazon.com, just give the title to your local bookstore and they can order a copy.
This book is not just my own views, but also those of my two co-authors: feline nutrition expert Dr. Elizabeth Hodjkins and veterinary nutrition professor Dr. Marion E. Smart. It has contributed to the pet food revolution, and we are seeing some greatly improved cat and dog foods in pet stores and groceries.
Readers may be surprised to see so many references to nutrition in this column, but this is not planned on my part! The kinds of pet health issues described in readers' letters usually indicate nutrition issues, which bolsters my contention that good nutrition is the first and best medicine.
DEAR DR. FOX: I would really like to see information about feline diabetes -- symptoms, treatments, prognosis and prevention. -- S.P, Miami
DEAR S.P.: The best prevention of diabetes in cats is to feed a raw-food diet. If that's not possible, try diet free of a soy, corn and cereal, available on my website, drfoxvet.com. For more details, see feline-nutrition.org.
Seriously afflicted cats who do not respond to dietary change can be treated with insulin injections and monitoring of blood sugar levels. Early signs of diabetes in cats include weight loss and increased appetite and thirst. This condition is often coupled with hyperthyroid disease, which can cause similar symptoms along with irritability, excessive grooming and aggressiveness.
DEAR DR. FOX: Please give me some advice on elder pet care, including nutrition and medication. I am sure there are many things that I have not thought of. -- M.Z.W., Boston
Dear M.Z.W.: Elder care for cats, dogs or both? First, don't allow any more vaccinations or blood titers if you're in doubt as to your pet's immune status. I advocate a full veterinary checkup at least once annually, ideally in-home for cats. The vet should check weight and general condition, nutrition, teeth, ears, eyes and heart and take blood work for liver and kidney functions. Many geriatric dogs and cats need digestive enzymes, probiotics and a high-quality, easily digestible protein -- not meat or poultry by-products -- to help with food assimilation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the skin/coat, heart and joints. One good source is organic animal produce, including free-range poultry, beef, dairy and eggs. Resveratrol, CoQ10, SAMe (s-adenosyl methionine)and a good-quality multivitamin may be of benefit. Coconut oil, L-carnitine, choline and alpha lipoic acid may help dogs suffering from cognitive impairment.
As for amounts of these supplements, my rule of thumb is to give the suggested human daily amount reduced to the weight of the animal -- say one-third for a 60-pound dog, twice daily with food.
BUMPER TOYS APPEAR TO LEACH PLASTIC COMPOUNDS
Plastic bumpers used to train retrieving dogs appear to leach bisphenol-A and phthalates, according to research from Texas Tech University. The researchers found that bumpers exposed to artificial dog saliva and simulated chewing released the chemicals. It's not known whether the compounds put dogs at risk of any health problems. But as with other plastic items such as chew toys and food and water bowls, I would get rid of them. There are rumors that the chemical used by manufacturers as a substitute for bisphenol-A is not as safe as originally believed.
(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.)