DEAR DR. FOX: Your column regarding pets and euthanasia was very touching -- so much so that I felt compelled to write to you.
In July 2011, I had to put to sleep my beloved 13-year-old Shih Tzu, Munchkin. She had severe cardiac issues and was completely blind. It was the most difficult thing I've ever done.
In your column, the writer asked how pets feel about euthanasia. My experience was interesting. When the vet gave Munchkin the initial injection to numb her so she wouldn't feel anything, she started kissing my husband and me.
We thought it was so strange, but in my heart, I knew she was saying, "Thank you. Thank you for releasing me. I love you!" She seemed so happy. It was comforting on a certain level, but still devastating. Her final moments were painless, and my husband and I held her and talked to her. We should all be so lucky. -- L.M., Naples, Fla.
DEAR L.M.: I believe your letter underscores the importance of owners being present when their beloved animal companions are euthanized, either at the veterinary hospital or, ideally, at home in safe and familiar surroundings. Some pet owners are not emotionally up for this final responsibility, just as some veterinarians are leery about occasional adverse reactions to the euthanasia drugs in some animals, which can greatly upset owners in attendance. These vets don't allow owners to witness the termination of life, which almost invariably is accomplished without incident.
We may never know if your little dog, like many others, was licking you to comfort you because she felt your distress and concern or because she knew that her time had come.
The transition to the afterlife or nonbeing was evidently without fear; I wish that for all creatures under our care. Someday, we may enjoy no less for ourselves, provided our culture evolves into one that is more compassionate and more accepting of death and euthanasia.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our 6-year-old male cat has been limping on his left front leg. Not all the time, but enough that it is a concern.
He has a good diet -- no grains and enough fish oil -- and he's healthy and frisky. We've taken him to the vet, who took X-rays. We were told there was nothing wrong with his bones and there were no signs of arthritis. Thinking there might be some muscle strain or soreness, the vet suggested applying a heating pad, but that hasn't made a difference.
Any suggestions? Should we get a second opinion from another vet? -- B.B., Washington, D.C.
DEAR B.B.: Since there is no evidence of arthritis or other joint abnormality and presuming there is no infection in one or more of the claw-beds, I would adopt a wait-and-see approach.
A small heating pad or wrap applied while he's on your lap or lying beside you and very gentle, exploratory massages (as described in my book "The Healing Touch For Cats") may be of benefit. I would discourage him from using a vertical scratching post -- place it on the floor horizontally or keep it out of reach for a while.
Also avoid any vigorous interactive games. A pinch of powdered turmeric, increasing up to 1/2-teaspoon daily, may prove beneficial. If he shows no signs of improvement after six to eight weeks, seek a second opinion and have his neck vertebrae examined.
DEAR DR. FOX: I am writing to get some advice and help dealing with my cat, Timothy.
Ever since my daughter left for college in August, Timothy has become very aggressive during mealtime. If I put food in his bowl and then try to touch his bowl, he growls and attacks my hand. While he eats, he growls until his food is gone.
He is a good-tempered animal and aggressive only at mealtime. I have tried to make him feel more comfortable by sitting with him in the kitchen while he is eating. I have also tried to feed him by hand, but he just becomes more aggressive.
After my daughter left for college, Timothy became depressed and had a urinary tract infection. He also had constipation problems.
When my daughter comes home on her breaks, Timothy is fine. He does not growl or have problems with bowel movements. I do have children come over once a month to visit, and I worry about him becoming aggressive toward them. -- L.P., Clinton, Md.
DEAR L.P.: As the caregiver of your daughter's cat, you deserve better!
My first question to you is: Have you considered the possibility of your daughter finding suitable accommodations where she is going to school so she can keep the cat with her? Clearly, the cat has a strong bond with her. I know of several cats who have become depressed, disinterested in food or more anxious when their human caregivers have left home for college or a job.
In the interim, give poor Timothy space and solitude while he eats, and put him in a separate room when children come.
Have your daughter mail you a T-shirt (in a plastic bag) that she has slept in for a week or so, and give it to Timothy to snuggle into.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.)