DEAR DR. FOX: I am writing regarding our 7-year-old neutered tuxedo shorthair cat. We wonder why he will occasionally walk up and down the hallway between our bedroom and living room, meowing loudly early in the morning. That's after he has been sleeping in bed with us. After the meowing, he will come back to bed with us until it's time to get up.
We think he is calling for his mother, who was killed and eaten by a coyote before he was weaned. He had to be bottle-fed.
Any information you can give will be greatly appreciated. -- M.L.S., Arlington, Va.
DEAR M.L.S.: I appreciate your interpretation of the genesis of your cat's early morning vocalizations. While cats, dogs and other animals can suffer separation anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), your cat was too young to have been harmed by the early separation from his mother. Being bottle-fed, he imprinted onto you; if he has no contact with other cats he may well wonder what or who he is.
His vocalizations are typical cat yowlings, to make contact with other cats. It's an instinctual behavior studied in detail by German ethologist Dr. Paul Leyhausen. He interpreted this behavior as a "calling to" and a "calling out," inviting other cats to come and socialize.
Older cats suffering from dementia or arthritic pain often yowl, especially in the evening and early morning. I advise a full physical for your cat. If he is otherwise healthy, consider adopting an easygoing adult cat. For steps to follow regarding introducing a new cat, check my website, DrFoxVet.com.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have an 11-year-old pit bull named Liz-ee. She had parvo as a puppy. The vet gave her no chance to live, but I nursed her back to health with antibiotics, colloidal silver, Pepto Bismol and Pedialyte.
For a few years, she was very healthy. But about five years ago, she developed a rash on her neck, face, tail and toes. It was a red, swollen, weepy rash. My vet gave me various creams to treat it topically, to no avail. He then gave her antibiotics, prednisone and shots of cortisone. She cleared up for a few weeks, only to have the rash return. She was treated for fleas and worms (no previous evidence of either), and I was referred to a local veterinary hospital with a dermatologist. After three surgical biopsies over the course of 12 months and many blood tests (all costing thousands of dollars), I was told that nothing was medically wrong with my dog. The dermatologist treated her with the same meds as my vet, only to have her clear up for a few short weeks. I am now told she should not continue to take all of these meds as it could hurt her kidney and liver function.
I came across one of your columns talking about how bad it is to give dogs canned food, so I took her off of all commercially prepared dog food about two months ago. I cook her a stew of chicken, beef, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, parsley, green beans, olive oil and eggs. But her skin is still breaking out in these rashes.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I want my Liz-ee to live out her last years in comfort. -- C.W., Long Branch, N.J.
DEAR C.W.: I know how distressing atopic dermatitis can be for both your dog and you. It can be frustrating for veterinarians who need to explore every possible avenue of cause and possible cure, rather than relying on steroids.
I don't know where you read that canned foods can be bad for dogs -- I prefer most canned foods rather than most dry dog foods.
Go to my website to read my responses to many different skin-related conditions. Then give her fish oil or a teaspoon of organic butter plus probiotics (for omega-3 fatty acids). Use only one kind of animal protein in her diet for three to four weeks, then switch to another. Many dogs are allergic to chicken; some are allergic to other animal proteins, which a single-protein diet can help pinpoint.
I presume the veterinarians have ruled out mange. Your dog should be checked for hypothyroidism. A weekly rubdown with liquid aloe vera followed by a chamomile and oatmeal shampoo or similar soothing herbal blend may also help. Use cotton sheets for your dog to reduce any contact allergy with synthetic fibers in carpets and upholstery.
(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.)