DEAR DR. FOX: My daughter has a 6-year-old female bullmastiff who eats napkins, socks and other clothing. These become impacted in her system and require surgery. Is there a way to break her of this habit? -- G.C., Naples, Fla.
DEAR G.C.: Your daughter's dog has what is called pica -- a depraved or abnormal appetite for nonfood materials. For some dogs, this can include rocks, pebbles and soil.
Have your daughter check my website, DrFoxVet.com, for more insights. She also should consider taking the dog to a veterinarian to rule out a physical cause, such as intestinal parasites, inflammatory bowel disease and tonsillitis/pharyngitis. She can also get a referral to a behavioral therapist. It's quite possible the dog is left alone all day and is bored out of her mind. Is it possible the dog could go to work with your daughter?
Your daughter's home should be tidied, and she should keep all chewables away from the dog, with the exception of a variety of safe doggy chew toys, including a flavored Nylabone and rubber Kong filled with peanut butter.
DEAR DR. FOX: Your thoughts regarding euthanasia were both enlightening and heart-wrenching. I have had several wonderful pets euthanized, and I grieved and wondered if I was doing the right thing, even though there was no hope of them recovering from their aged conditions.
My last experience was totally different. Max was my most beloved, sweet, intelligent, gentle giant of a dog, and when he got so bad he couldn't walk anymore, I felt I knew what I had to do. A second before he took his last breath, he looked up at me as if to say, "Thank you, I won't be in pain anymore, and I'll see you again someday."
That was 15 years ago. I can still see those big brown eyes looking at me with love, and I know I did the right thing. -- R.K., St. Louis
DEAR DR. FOX: Thank you so much for your article on euthanasia. Last June, I had to have my Westie, Holly, put down.
Holly had become so ill I had no other choice. She didn't want to eat, and when she did, she was sick to her stomach. I was afraid she would starve to death.
Holly's regular vet did not want to put her down until $2,000 worth of tests were done, so I had to find a more compassionate vet to help me. When I took her to the second vet, she seemed to be at peace with what was going to happen. I held her when she went to "sleep." I know she is in a better place now. -- M.S., Virginia Beach, Va.
DEAR R.K. and M.S.: Your letters are important because they confirm how beneficial it can be for the beloved animal and the devoted caregiver to be together at the time of departure/euthanasia.
Some veterinarians do not allow this procedure after having had rare instances of animals having adverse reactions to euthanasia drugs or the animal's guardians being emotionally unprepared. A few follow the unethical money-making practice of making people feel guilty if they do not pay for all kinds of diagnostic tests and life-extending interventions, which I have documented in "Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health." As a voice of conscience for the veterinary profession -- by default and not by design, since I have nothing to sell except compassion and bioethics -- I have received some castigating emails. But when we put animals before financial interests and do not shy away from euthanasia when quality of life and the degree of suffering justify a humane death, we may call ourselves civilized and human.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have had three cats over the years, and I recently adopted a stray. She has turned out to be a wonderful pet. I had her spayed, checked out and given all the shots she needed when I got her. But I found out quickly that she liked to use my sofa and chair as scratching posts.
My last three cats were all declawed, and I felt so bad when I had this done, as it didn't seem natural and it left them defenseless from other animals should they escape. And, of course, the vets like to make money! I doubt most would ever discourage one from doing it.
I was determined that I would not do it to the next cat I adopted. And I found a wonderful alternative -- a cardboard scratcher. I poured catnip on it, and she absolutely loves it! She has not touched, scratched or bothered my furniture since. It lasts for quite a long time, so you don't have to replace it often. I believe the one I just threw out was a year old. And she lets me trim her nails with no problem.
So tell your readers to rethink declawing their cats. How sad it is that they have to endure this awful surgery when all the owner has to do is buy a scratcher. I hope it works as well for others as it has for me. -- N.B., Cumberland, Md.
DEAR N.B.: Your letter says it all! Readers, clip this letter and give it to your veterinarian when you take your cats in for whatever reason, especially to those vets who may still declaw kittens without question.
(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.)