DEAR DR. FOX: I am writing about my 6- or 7-year-old beagle, who I adopted four years ago from a local rescue group. Last year he started lifting his rear leg and walking and running on three legs -- not all the time, but particularly when he would rise from his dog bed to go outside. He seemed to do it consistently after intense playtimes or long walks. I took him to our vet right away, and she could not determine the cause. She worked his leg and knee, but neither seemed to give him any pain. He's been to the vet a number of times for the same issue. A couple of months ago, his back and rear spine were X-rayed and everything looked good.
He continues to raise his leg -- some days more than others. He will hop on three legs until he gets outside, where he then runs like a crazy dog with our two other dogs, chasing squirrels. Most of the time, he is running on all four legs. Our vet's position is that we need to wait for another symptom before we do anything. I appreciate her conservative approach, but I am wondering if further diagnostic tests are warranted. -- B.M., Charlotte Hall, Md.
DEAR B.M.: Your veterinarian's "conservative approach," rather than subjecting your dog to further tests and you to costly fees, is an appropriate wait-and-see response to your dog's intermittent lameness.
There could be a hairline fracture in one of the bones in the foot, for example, that may only show up later if it worsens. Such a lesion, sprain or torn ligament could eventually heal. Not allowing your dog to engage in vigorous running for six to eight weeks would be advisable. Regular swimming in a pool could be good physical therapy, as could going for long, fast walks. Try putting anti-inflammatory fish oil in his food, plus 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and Cosequin.
Your dog could also have a "trick knee" -- a patella that slips out of place intermittently. The veterinarian should have considered this, and should have shown you where to feel and what to look for when your dog is not putting the leg in question on the ground. If this is the issue, it is best corrected by surgery. Once your dog starts running, his body releases cannabinoids, which have a potent analgesia and feel-good effect on mind and body. Feeling no or less pain could then interfere with the healing process.
DEAR DR. FOX: I am reading your e-book "Understanding Your Dog," and I see that you did research on laboratory animals. What are your views on animal experimentation? I am doing a report on this for school and would like your opinion. -- S.V.K., Miami
DEAR S.V.K.: My opinion on this issue is detailed in my book "Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals." I am opposed to animal experimentation when the primary beneficiaries are not the animals themselves. This rules out using animals to test cosmetics and various consumables. The numbers of animals used in biomedical research could be minimized through greater coordination between surgical equipment manufacturers and drug companies. Veterinarians could treat animals already injured, rather than inducing disease and causing injury in otherwise healthy dogs, cats and other animals in research laboratories.
Healthy animals should not be subjected to intravenous procedures for training human and animal doctors when there are viable alternatives such as dummy surrogates and clinical cases in the supervised veterinary hospital.
DEAR DR. FOX: We adopted two kittens 18 years ago. Both cats were diagnosed with hyperthyroidism several years ago and have been treated with methimazole.
Over the holidays, one of the cats passed away. The other cat continues to be in good health and remains on methimazole. However, since the other cat died, the remaining cat is comfortable around the two of us here at home, but she runs and hides whenever anyone else comes into the house. She has taken on some new characteristics, and we wonder if this is a result of missing her partner or if she may be ill.
She makes a loud guttural meow on and off during the night and will stop only if we rub her tummy. Both the loud meowing and comforting tummy rub are newly acquired behaviors. Previously, she would not sleep with us, as that was her sister's domain. She sometimes continues howling during the day for no reason. She has an ear-piercing yowl that's followed by vomiting. She often eats grass and immediately vomits -- sometimes this happens three to four times a day. She has continued on the same food for all 18 years (Fancy Feast), so we don't feel it's the food.
Any advice you may have will be appreciated. Thank you. -- M.C., Bethesda, Md.
DEAR M.C.: Fancy Feast is not on my list of top-choice cat foods (listed on my website, DrFoxVet.com). But your cat is old and switching to a different, ideally raw, balanced cat food or my home-prepared diet (also on my website) must be done gradually over a seven- to 10-day period. Providing probiotics and a good-quality fish oil is also advisable. The supplement provides some relief if she has arthritis. This is common in older cats and is one reason they become restless.
The loss of her feline companion could play a significant role in her change of behavior. If she were younger, I would advise adopting another adult cat who is healthy and easy-going. She is probably a little too old for that now.
I would take your cat in for a full veterinary checkup. Considering her age and distress of bereavement, she could have suffered considerable physical stress that in turn could have triggered failing kidneys or another more severe impairment.
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