DEAR DR. FOX: Our family dog has bad hips. He is a Lab-golden retriever mix. He is about 9 years old. We don't know much about his early years because he came to live with us later in life.
How do humans know when a dog is in pain? He does not flinch, whine or show any different behavior when I feel his hips or hind legs. He just limps badly. Thank you for your advice. -- Y.P., Houston
DEAR Y.P.: Pain is a highly subjective phenomenon. Some dogs, like some people, have very high pain thresholds and can tolerate injuries that totally incapacitate others.
Your dog's limping is probably a combined protective response to minimize pain and a mechanical limitation in the range of joint mobility due to arthritic changes.
Some dogs show fear or appear depressed and withdrawn when experiencing pain, while others become snappy and show defensive aggressive behavior -- just like some people!
My book, "The Healing Touch for Dogs," and some of the supplements posted on my website, DrFoxVet.com, have helped many dogs with chronic joint issues like your canine companion.
DEAR DR. FOX: Four years ago we adopted two barn kittens (male and female siblings). The female is a healthy, happy cat (though not a lap kitty). The male, Cappy, who was the runt of the litter, appeared healthy until last year, when he was diagnosed with struvite (urinary tract stones).
He had had a couple of occurrences of urinating outside the litter box, but at the time of the diagnosis, he was unable to urinate and spent two days in the emergency animal hospital. Following this, both cats have been exclusively on a special prescription food (canned and dry) on the advice of our vet. Since then, Cappy seems to be fearful of the litter box. He avoids urinating in it as long as possible, then ends up going a huge amount in inappropriate places, most often a throw rug, occasionally on a bed. He will also sometimes defecate outside the box.
Cappy is a very loving cat, and his issues seem unrelated to anything in the household or our routine. Because he's very smart and has a good memory, I think he remembers when using the litter box was painful.
How do we rehabilitate him? And what role does diet play in struvite? His sibling seems happy enough on the current diet and shows no particular interest in other foods, but Cappy clearly would love a different kind of food and misses the treats he can no longer have.
What can you suggest? Thank you. -- T.N., Winston-Salem, North Carolina
DEAR T.N.: First, please check my website for some additional background information on struvite that may be helpful to you.
As an alternative to special manufactured prescription diets, transitioning your cats onto a raw food diet may be the best long-term solution. For details, visit feline-nutrition.org. Check my website for good cat treats. I would advise freeze-dried salmon and meats.
The litter box aversion is common in cats who associate pain from cystitis, blocked anal glands and urinary tract calculi or stones with being in the box. It can be helped through keeping the cat for a few days in the bathroom, for example, with no rugs on the floor and the bath and sink containing an inch or two of water to deter the cat. Provide a new disposable paper litter box or cut-down cardboard box containing a different brand of litter. Give the cat time out for play, feeding and grooming under strict supervision. Give some calming catnip to eat. Clean soiled areas with a product like Miracle Clean enzyme cleaner.
MORE CANINE HEALTH CONCERNS WITH EARLY NEUTERING
The University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has posted a study by veterinarian Benjamin L. Hart and associates on the incidence of various cancers and joint problems in golden retrievers and Labradors in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
Veterinary hospital records were examined over a 13-year period for the effects of neutering during specified age ranges: before 6 months; during 6 to 11 months; in year 1; or years 2 through 8. The joint disorders examined were hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear and elbow dysplasia. The cancers examined were lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor and mammary cancer.
In Labrador retrievers, where about 5 percent of gonadally intact males and females had one or more joint disorders, neutering before 6 months doubled the incidence of one or more joint disorders in both sexes. In male and female golden retrievers, with the same 5 percent rate of joint disorders in intact dogs, neutering at less than 6 months increased the incidence of a joint disorder to 4 to 5 times that of intact dogs.
The incidence of one or more cancers in female Labrador retrievers increased slightly above the 3 percent level of intact females with neutering. In contrast, in female golden retrievers, with the same 3 percent rate of one or more cancers in intact females, neutering at all periods through 8 years of age increased the rate of at least one of the cancers by 3 to 4 times. In male golden and Labrador retrievers, neutering had relatively minor effects in increasing the occurrence of cancers. Comparisons of cancers in the two breeds suggest that the occurrence of cancers in female golden retrievers is a reflection of particular vulnerability to gonadal hormone removal.
(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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