DEAR DR. FOX: A close friend has a police dog (a German shepherd, bred in Germany for that purpose) with severe health issues.
The major problem is pancreatic enzyme deficiency. His vet has him on pancreatic tabs, but he still has loose stools, is very thin and his coat is dry and lackluster. He also has recurrent ear infections, but I think that is a separate issue.
Is there a natural diet or any type of supplements that could help this wonderful dog? -- C.C., Fallon, Mo.
DEAR C.C.: This is a very prevalent issue for German shepherds, which used to be confused with chronic colitis associated with stress and sensitive temperaments. Chronic disease of the pancreas, producing insufficient digestive enzymes, is a problem more common in certain breeds like your friend's dog and is thought to be a kind of exhaustion due to having to digest a high-carbohydrate diet.
I would advise that the dog be gradually transitioned -- over five to seven days -- onto a grain- and soy-free diet, digestive enzymes (a few pieces of canned pineapple will provide these), plus a twice-daily human dose of good-quality probiotics and a few drops of fish oil to provide essential fatty acids to help improve the dog's coat and overall condition.
Check my website for more details. Let me know how the poor dog progresses.
DEAR DR. FOX: Why do some dogs chase cars and others howl when they hear the tornado test siren? I live in a rural area, and these dogs drive me mad. I have a dog who does none of these things, and I am the only person around who walks him on a leash. Most are chained up or let out to roam. -- I.M., Galesburg, Ill.
DEAR I.M., The answer to both questions is instinct. Dogs chase vehicles and kids on bicycles, which can be a hazard, as a displaced prey-chasing activity. I know of some vehicle-chasing country dogs, along with turtles and any creature on the road, being deliberately run over by some drivers.
People in rural areas should take responsible and appropriate care of their dogs, which means not letting them roam free or live most of their lives on a chain. There is a disturbing undercurrent in rural America of animal, child and spousal abuse -- all connected -- which calls for the ethical revival of a civilization in decline. Living in Minnesota, I am shocked that thousands of mainly rural people apply for permits to shoot wolves and other "trophy" species as a recreational sport.
PET POISONING INCIDENCES
Human prescription drugs came in first place in a recent report on the Top 10 pet poisons in 2013, ranked by call volume to the Animal Poison Control Center. Insecticides took second place, followed by over-the-counter drugs for humans; household products; human food (such as onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, chocolate and the sugar substitute xylitol); veterinary products and drugs; chocolate; mouse and rat poison; plants and lawn and garden products. Antifreeze, long overdue for manufacturers to add pet-repelling additives, continues to be problematic, as dogs are attracted to its sweetness. Note: macadamia nuts, bread dough and avocados may also harm animals.
(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.)