DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 6-year-old female Pomeranian, Alla, who is indoor "pee pad" trained. For the past six years, she has faithfully utilized her pad for her duties.
Recently, we left her for three days at a trusted pet sitter's house. We are now experiencing her wetting once or twice daily on the floor just outside her pad.
Any insight or suggestions as to how we can restore the consistency she once had? -- C.D., Chesterfield, Mo.
DEAR C.D.: Before coming to a psychological interpretation of an animal's change in behavior, one must always first rule out a physical or medical cause.
The stress of separation and of being in an unfamiliar environment at the pet sitter's house could have brought on cystitis (bladder inflammation), possibly complicated by a bacterial infection and urinary calculi -- a veterinarian can rule out this possibility.
Try accommodating her behavior by putting four pee pads side-by-side on the floor, on top of several sheets of newspaper. Then, at weekly intervals, make the area smaller until you are down to one pee pad. This shaping of her behavior to re-train her to urinate on one small spot should prove effective. If she has difficulty squatting, you may want to have her checked out for lower lumbar or hip arthritis.
DEAR DR. FOX: My 5-year-old cat has recently started defecating in the bathtub, much to my disgust.
I have changed her diet to include wet food and fiber. I've changed her litter and taken the top off the litter box -- nothing works.
Her stools are always dry and hard, and I've caught her crying in the tub once or twice. I leave her alone while I'm at work, but I have another cat, and they get along fine, so I don't think it's an aggressive behavior toward me for leaving her without company.
I come home every day to tub poop now, and I am coming to my wits' end. Can you help with a suggestion or two? It will be much appreciated. -- A.D., Olney, Md.
DEAR A.D.: I am glad you wrote to me regarding this very common cat problem, because I am sure many cats are wrongly scolded for pooping outside of the litter box. Some will do this when the box needs to be cleaned or a cover makes the dark interior irritating. But most cats who behave like yours experience pain when evacuating in the box and become aversely conditioned by associating being in the box with pain.
Your cat could be suffering from painful constipation, blocked anal glands or both. A veterinary checkup would be advisable. The mild laxative Laxatone and a few mashed lima beans in your cat's wet food may help. Also, deep abdominal massage can help many cats who are suffering from chronic constipation.
MANUFACTURERS REFORMULATE JERKY TREATS
Two companies have reformulated their pet jerky treats and will reintroduce them to store shelves. Jerky treats made in China have been linked to illnesses in 4,500 pets, mostly dogs, and close to 600 deaths. Nestle Purina Pet Care's Waggin' Train treats for dogs and Del Monte Foods' Milo's Kitchen Chicken Jerky Strips and Chicken Grillers Recipe treats will soon be available again.
Nestle Purina is working with a single supplier in China and also has products made entirely from sources in the United States. Del Monte will use U.S.-sourced meat for its treats. Some consumers and veterinarians remain wary of the products because the Food and Drug Administration's extensive investigation hasn't yielded an explanation for the illnesses.
SELECTIVE BREEDING CAN MAKE DOGS SUFFER BRAIN-DEFORMING DISEASE
Selecting toy dog breeds for a desired appearance could cause Chiari malformation in some canines, which is like trying to fit a big foot into a small shoe. Dogs with the disorder had taller foreheads, and in severe cases, the cerebellum was folded under another part of the brain. Such malformations can lead to problems including headaches, brain pressure and cavities of fluid in the spinal cord, says lead author and veterinarian Clare Rusbridge. The disease affects many toy dog breeds, such the Brussels griffon, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Chihuahuas and their crosses. Rusbridge states, "There are responsible breeders out there who have invested in screening and who are breeding for health as well as producing attractive puppies, and it is vital that people only look to buy from them."
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)