DEAR DR. FOX: Today's Palm Beach Post has an article about a study of the effects of mixing chlorine with pee in pools. As it turns out, many people do urinate in pools. Apparently, the combination of uric acid and chlorine causes a chemical reaction. The dangerous gas cyanogen chloride is the result, which can harm the central nervous system, heart and lungs.
I thought of cat and dog owners who clean up accidents and litter boxes with bleach. I use white vinegar to clean up after my cats and used club soda as the immediate cleaner after my dogs' accidents. Perhaps you could look into this and give a warning to all your readers and pet owners. -- B.C., Palm Beach, Fla.
DEAR B.C.: Thanks for waving the red flag to minimize a possible risk from improper use of chemicals in the home environment. I NEVER suggest using bleach to clean things around the house, and especially for disinfecting various dog and cat urine and fecal deposits in and around the home. This fairly new information about the interaction of urine with chlorine in swimming pools underscores the hazardous nature of chlorine bleach products, which are also implicated in ozone layer destruction and endocrine system disruption. Safer enzyme cleaners, white vinegar and baking soda should be used in the home. Many people have died from inhaling mixtures of cleaning and disinfecting agents such as bleach with ammonia.
DEAR DR.FOX: I have two 10-year-old Devon rex altered female cats. They were born on the same day, but they are not littermates. They are very different in looks, size and temperament, but they get along well. They have always been very affectionate with us and others. They are indoor-only cats, have no fleas and are fed both wet and dry food.
Several months ago, the usually outgoing tortie began to groom her lower back a lot and would warn you if you tried to touch it. The vet said that many cats do not like to have their lower backs and tail area touched, but she had never minded before. Last week, she actually bit my husband while in her frantic grooming.
I began a Google search and believe that she is demonstrating the symptoms of hyperesthesia. We moved several times last year and have settled in Florida. We have had a lot of renovations done in the house and think maybe all the changes, noise and extra people in the house may have overstressed this normally pleasant cat.
She now has a bald spot on her back, and we have an appointment to see the vet again next week. We don't know how to help her stop the grooming. What can we do for this much-loved member of our family? -- P.M., Sanibel, Fla.
DEAR P.M.: You must first rule out hyperthyroidism, which is common in older cats and can be precipitated by stress when the thyroid gland is already compromised. One of the symptoms can be hypersensitivity to touch and obsessive-compulsive grooming. Another possibility, especially where there is much humidity, is a malassezia fungal infection.
In the interim, see if the cat will eat or drink a tea made from catnip that can act like Valium and have a calming effect for a few hours. Try a half-teaspoon of good-quality catnip, available in health stores. Some folks make a tea of it for themselves before bedtime. Another treatment could be one milligram of melatonin in the cat's food daily.
A possible food allergy, which could have been brought on by a change in the ingredients in the cat's usual food, should also be considered. Regardless of the same brand name, changes in ingredients from batch to batch of manufactured pet foods can pose problems. For more details, check my website, DrFoxVet.com.
(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.
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