DEAR DR. FOX: I am writing in response to a letter in your column regarding the hypersensitive cat in Fort Worth, Texas.
My 3-year-old female longhaired cat is an indoor cat who longs to spend time outside, which we supervise. The only time she allows me to brush her is when she is sitting on my legs outside. As long as she is outdoors, I can brush her as long as I want. -- C.W., Olney, Md.
DEAR C.W.: Cats are curious creatures in that they react differently depending on where they are. This place-determining trait is indicative of their awareness and sensitivity to certain stimuli, to which we may be insensitive, but which provide some insight into our cats' behaviors.
Outdoors, your cat may be more relaxed and does not feel threatened by the intense stimulation of being groomed by you. This is an invasive experience for many cats who require time and patience to enjoy being groomed and managed. Indoors, your cat no doubt feels confined, and she may therefore resist holding and brushing. You should also consider static electricity being generated indoors while grooming your cat, which can be discomfiting. Grooming and brushing on a cotton sheet or towel rather than on a synthetic material that quickly generates static electricity may be worth a try. You could also use a moistened brush.
DEAR DR. FOX: You may have already addressed this in your column, but I believe it bears repeating: Xylitol, a sugar alcohol, is DEADLY to dogs. I know this from firsthand experience. Luckily, our dog pulled through, but it was because of fast action.
Late on a Friday night last August, as we were getting ready for bed, one of our Shelties, Buddy, got into a pack of sugar-free Tic Tacs. Within 10 minutes, he vomited, couldn't stand up and was shaking. I called our Animal Emergency Clinic and rushed him there. They said his blood sugar was dangerously low, so they administered two IVs -- one of glucose and one of saline. They kept him for 48 hours. His liver enzymes were rechecked and had dropped from more than 900 to 204. We will be checking them regularly.
Please put a warning in your column from time to time. People react with "Really? Tic Tacs did that?" Xylitol is in most sugar-free chewing gums, too. -- J.M., Cedar Hill, Mo.
DEAR J.M.: Many readers will appreciate your letter of warning regarding the highly toxic effects of widely used artificial sweeteners when ingested by dogs.
Xylitol triggers acute lowering of blood sugar by stimulating the release of insulin from the pancreas. Doses in excess of 1 gram per four to five pounds of body weight cause liver damage.
Gastric lavage (stomach pumping) may be helpful if the dog has recently swallowed xylitol-containing confections or chewing gum. Xylitol in baked goods remains toxic to dogs because it is not deactivated by heat.
DEAR DR. FOX: I know how hard it is to try and diagnose an animal without physical examination, but I really need an opinion, however general.
I cannot afford to take my cat to the vet as I am 76 and on a fixed income. My problem is a cat that belonged to my granddaughter, whom I have kept for many years as she couldn't keep him. He is an indoor cat, always healthy and sleek with a good appetite.
I noticed during the winter that his water bowl would be almost empty, abnormally so. He wasn't overly fond of wet food, and he ate a lot of dry. Things have lately reversed. He is craving wet food and seems ravenous for any kind of food, including my dinner. He jumps up to where I am eating and tries to lick my plate, which has odd foods he never tried to eat before and that a cat wouldn't normally like -- salad oil, spaghetti, etc. He jumps on the covered garbage pail and knocks it over because he smells scraps. I now feed him wet food twice a day, and always keep a bowl of dry food available for him. As much as he eats, he is losing weight. Over the past three weeks, it is very noticeable how thin he is getting.
He doesn't seem to be in any pain. He sleeps a lot, purrs and is still active, jumping on the sofa. I am tempted to just let nature and age take its course, as long as he isn't vomiting or bleeding. He could he have diabetes. If he were an outside cat, I would think tapeworm, but I examine his stools, and they look normal.
If you could advise, I would so greatly appreciate it. -- L.W. Asbury Park, N.J.
DEAR L.W.: You and your cat have my sympathy. Such ravenous appetite and weight loss can be due to a number of disorders appearing in middle-aged and older cats.
A hyperactive thyroid gland often combined with diabetes and possibly kidney disease and one form of cancer or another are the kinds of diseases a veterinarian would first check your cat for, and the diagnostics and likely treatment will not be cheap.
If your community has an animal shelter or humane society, call and see what kind of financial support may be available. Some veterinarians offer discounts and set up installment payments for services. The alternative is to make life as comfortable as possible for your cat: Make big batches of my home-prepared cat food (on my website, DrFoxVet.com), and give several very small meals of moist food and all the dry food he wants. Also, give him pinches of organic cat nip, available in pet stores, which most cats enjoy immensely. In the evening, give him 1 milligram of melatonin, available over-the-counter in drug and health stores.
(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.)