I receive many inquiries about how effective certain herbal and homeopathic products are, along with letters singing these products' praises -- some of which I feel may come from unscrupulous marketers. My basic advice is to first consult with your veterinarian. Then, go on the Internet and see what kinds of consumer reviews are posted, if there are no peer-reviewed clinical studies published. If you find any of the latter, share them with your animal doctor. Check my website, drfoxvet.com, for some effective and safe products for various conditions. All products should clearly list the ingredients.
I do not have the resources to help pet owners through the process of trying out these many products being marketed, and it is my sincere wish that more clinical trials would be conducted by veterinarians in full-time companion animal practice, and by veterinary college departments of small-animal medicine. I have, for instance, heard that cats with kidney disease have benefited from Azodyl, a dietary supplement, and both diabetic cats and dogs from Blood Sugar Gold, an herbal extract/tincture. But I have no hard, published evidence or confirmation from veterinarians to unconditionally endorse these and other products -- much as I would like to, if they are indeed safe and effective. My final word: Discuss any new products with your veterinarian, and try them with caution if your animal doctor believes that they should, at least, do no harm.
DEAR DR. FOX: My son got me a Yorkie last May. The dog is less than a year old. I am handicapped, and he is hyper and constantly barking.
Is there anything I can do? I love him, but don't like his behavior. He is about 10 lbs. I had a Yorkie several years ago that was small, and the most wonderful dog you could have. This dog is hard to understand or try to teach anything. He is so strong-willed. Please help! --P.L.
DEAR P.L.: I presume that your son is a caring person, and not just giving you a dog as a substitute for him visiting as often as he can. If he were better informed, he would have found you an older dog, not a young one who is physically active and probably gets easily bored when not engaging in various activities.
All being well, as the dog matures in a year or so, he will calm down. But right now, he needs lots of stimulation that you must provide to whatever degree you can, considering how severe your physical handicap may be. Call in a dog trainer to teach you interactive games and how to reward him for not barking, which he probably does for attention. If you can't walk the dog and get him outside for off-leash running and exploring in the yard or a safe dog park, hire someone to come over at least once a day. Maybe your son could help, too.
Good luck to you and your young dog.
DEAR DR. FOX: I know how hard it is to try and diagnose an animal without a 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 involves a cat that I have kept for many years, after my granddaughter couldn't keep him. He is an indoor cat, never been out, always healthy and sleek with a good appetite.
I noticed during the winter that his water bowl was always nearly empty, abnormally so. He didn't used to be overly fond of wet food, and ate a lot of dry. Things have lately reversed and he is craving wet food, and seems ravenous for any kind of food -- my dinner, anything he smells -- and he is losing weight. He doesn't seem in any pain, sleeps a lot, purrs when he sleeps near me at night, and he is still active, jumping on the sofa, etc. I am tempted to just let nature and age take their course, as long as he isn't vomiting or bleeding, etc.
Could he have diabetes? If he were an outside cat, I would suspect a 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 some form of cancer, is the kind of thing a veterinarian would first check your cat for. The diagnostics and likely treatments 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 drfoxvet.com), and give him 5-7 very small (1 tablespoon) meals of moist food and all the dry food he wants. Also give him daily pinches of organic catnip, available in pet stores, which most cats enjoy immensely; you can even get live plants in some garden supply stores and nurseries. In the evening, give him 1 mg 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.)