DEAR DR. FOX: Do you have a homeopathic cure for cat dandruff? I have two beautiful 8-year-old brothers who have developed dandruff suddenly. There has been no change in their environment or diet. Thanks for any advice you may have. -- S.K., Highland, N.Y.
DEAR S.K.: There are many reasons why cats and dogs develop dandruff. In some instances, it is coupled with fur shedding, and not to be an alarmist, it can be an early indication of a serious health problem. But it is a fact that the shedding of skin flakes and fur is a cyclical process that can intensify in winter, when the animal's environment is typically low in humidity.
Cats enjoy sunbathing, which may benefit their skin, so providing carpeted window shelves that get sunlight may be advisable.
Poor skin and coat condition are often associated with omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, especially with dry food diets. A few drops of fish oil may solve your cats' problem, especially since they are eating the same food.
You say there has been no change in what they are fed, but pet food ingredients under the same brand can change. Also, it can take many months for nutritional deficiencies to develop. Since your cats are middle-aged, a full veterinary checkup is advisable, including testing for thyroid function if omega-3 supplementation does not improve this condition after six to eight weeks.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have read that diatomaceous earth can be used to rid horses, cats and dogs of worms. What is your opinion? -- E.L., Fort Myers, Fla.
DEAR E.L.: Food-grade diatomaceous earth is the only form of this product that should be used externally on the animals' coats and as a dust around the house to control fleas and even bed bugs. The pool-grade is dangerously high in silica, which could cause lung damage.
Diatomaceous earth, given orally for several days, has been shown to eliminate various internal parasites, such as whipworms, roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. The effective dosage is 1 teaspoon per 10 to 20 pounds of body weight mixed in with food once daily for 60 to 90 days -- though 30 days of treatment may suffice. This product is harmless and can contain some beneficial trace minerals. I would like to see a peer-reviewed report of clinical trials on it.
There are other natural products with various medical qualities that are being rediscovered. Silver -- in colloidal form -- can be used to enhance the action of existing antibiotics against gram-negative bacteria, thus strengthening the antibiotic arsenal for fighting bacterial infections. Clay also has antibacterial properties, and can help in the treatment of inflammatory bowel conditions.
(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.)