DEAR DR. FOX: My 16-year-old cat has understandably slowed down and sleeps a lot, but otherwise seems fine.
However, beginning a couple of months ago, every week or so he will make a hissing sound (not directed at anyone or anything) and drool or empty his bladder on the floor. Each episode lasts about 30 to 60 seconds, and afterwards, he reverts to normal behavior.
Could he be having a seizure of some kind? My vet says his blood work is normal for a cat his age. Thanks for any insight you can provide. -- V.B., Cabin John, Maryland
DEAR V.B.: Your diagnosis of your cat's bizarre behavior may well be correct. Cats can have brief, silent "seizures," quite unlike the more violent, falling-over, limb-trembling and extending "fits" seen in dogs and humans. Older cats can also suffer from dementia.
Considering your cat's relatively advanced age, some degree of brain deterioration is probable, especially if his diet was deficient in certain essential fatty acids and other nutrients (a common problem with many manufactured foods, dry or moist). As noted in my review (posted at DrFoxVet.com), neurological abnormalities can develop in cats when fed thiamine-deficient cat foods.
You should first have your veterinarian check your cat for cystitis, a painful bladder condition, and for urinary calculi, stones or sand -- all of which can make urination difficult and painful. This could make your cat hiss out of fear because of the pain.
DEAR DR. FOX: Please help me; I am at my wits' end: My 9-year-old shepherd/rottweiler mix, Max, has a very bad skin condition.
His skin is raw, but he won't stop scratching and biting. I have taken Max to the veterinarian and spent more than $800, not including new food (at $48 per bag) and shampoo ($25). His hindquarters and legs are all chewed up. The vet has run skin tests that indicate that there is no parasite and it is not mange.
Please advise. I can't stand to see my baby like this -- he is a great boy, and I am now near penniless. I drive a school bus, and with holidays and snow days, there has been no work. I don't know where to turn. -- B.B., Walden, New York
DEAR B.B.: I trust the veterinarian has also ruled out the possibility of fleabite hypersensitivity while also checking for mange.
Various ingredients in many manufactured dog foods can trigger allergic reactions or hypersensitivity -- symptoms range from severe scratching, redness and hair loss to chronic diarrhea. One possible solution may be in preparing your own dog food as per the recipe on my website, DrFoxVet.com. You can then take control of the ingredients and find out which kinds of meat or poultry and a few grains your dog does best with. Some dogs fare best on a "rotation" diet -- chicken one week, beef the next and so forth. A week on a diet using lentils as the main protein works well for some dogs.
Add a few drops of fish oil or flaxseed oil to each meal. Commercially available dog foods, such as AvoDerm, and diets based mainly on whitefish and potato, have helped many dogs. Be sure to give your dog a cotton sheet to sleep on, laundering it with fragrance-free detergent every three to five days. Wearing a tight T-shirt secured with Velcro strips around his chest and flanks may help reduce the itch.
(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.)