DEAR DR. FOX: Here's another diet change success story for you: My 12-year-old cat, Bonzai, became very ill in 2007. He stopped eating, was very lethargic, threw up and had other intestinal issues.
After an ultrasound and colonoscopy, Bonzai was diagnosed with irritable bowel disease (IBD). He was given prednisone to control the inflammation and put on one of Science Diet's limited ingredient foods. He did well for a time, but then had two recurrences of IBD within a year.
We were concerned about the long-term effects of taking prednisone, so we explored other alternatives. We started making our own raw food by grinding together raw chicken, eggs, fish oil and salt. Bonzai has not had a recurrence of the IBD since we started him on this diet in 2010. He is more active and playful than he has been since he was a kitten.
As you say: Cats are carnivores, and even limited ingredient diets still have grain products and other fillers in them. -- M.A.G., Bristow, Va.
DEAR M.A.G.: Your letter is very much appreciated, and I hope other veterinarians will read it. I know that many readers clip my columns and pass them on to their own animal doctors. I hope that people with cats will take note of your insights and read the ingredient labels on the food they are feeding their animals. So many cats, even those with no evident illness, have a new zest for life when they are taken off highly processed, high grain and soy diets.
I find it absurd that so many expensive special prescription diets contain various fillers and even ingredients that may cause allergies and digestive problems. For details, check out my book, "Not Fit For A Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Food" and visit feline-nutrition.org.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 5-year-old West Highland white terrier, who, in the last year, has had to have his anal glands cleaned out at the rate of once a month.
He is on Science Diet Sensitive Stomach dog food, plus a tablespoon of pumpkin twice a day. None of this seems to help. He walks around 1 1/2 miles most days and has a very bad flea problem in warm weather.
These problems arose within the past year and a half. Any advice to help me help him? He is such a lovable dog -- I feel I am letting him down. -- V.L., Keyser, W.Va.
DEAR V.L.: Check out the search feature box on my website, DrFoxVet.com, for more details about anal gland problems and coping with fleas.
In many instances, a gradual changeover to a home-prepared diet of known, ideally organic ingredients is all that is needed when the anal gland issue is diet-related.
Fleas do seem to be more attracted to animals with weakened immune systems. Better nutrition can make a world of difference, as can an integrated flea control routine. Giving your dog a course of good-quality probiotic supplements may help because many canine (and human) ailments are improved by seeding the gut microbiome with beneficial bacteria. Discuss this with your veterinarian, and if she is dismissive or disinterested, find an animal doctor who will listen!
DEAR DR. FOX: I was interested in the recent letter about the cats who ate plastic bags. We have three cats: one 10-year-old Maine coon and two adopted feral cats, approximately 2 1/2 years old. All three cats are afraid of plastic bags.
I use these bags to line my wastebaskets, and at the sound of a bag being opened, the cats run and hide. We have never teased them with the bags or punished them in any way, and their reaction remains a puzzle to us.
Why do you think they react in such a fashion? -- P.S., Bonita Springs, Fla.
DEAR P.S.: The two formerly feral cats who are now sharing my home also spook when they hear the sound of a rustling plastic bag. My guess is that the sound, which has some high-frequency elements, mimics the kind of noise that a larger animal might make moving through rustling vegetation. This feline response could be triggered by this noise, and they instinctively run and hide as part of their evolved predator-avoidance behavior.
(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.)