DEAR DR. FOX: I adopted two cats from the Humane Society 5 years ago. The brother and sister were kittens at that time. They were both neutered at 6 months. Two years later, my male cat had a complete blockage of his urinary tract. It cost almost $1,000 to get him back to good health. They are now both on Royal Canin Urinary SO dry food.
In the last week, I have noticed two occasions where one of them urinated outside of the litter box by my bed, on the bed skirt and on the carpet. I don't know which one it is, but I am suspecting it is my male cat. I like to keep my windows open slightly at night to allow fresh air in. But we have stray cats wandering in the yard at night, and my male cat gets very agitated.
Could this be his way of marking in response to the cats outside? I will be taking both of them to the vet next week to rule out any medical conditions that could cause this. -- M.C., Scranton, Pennsylvania
DEAR M.C.: You are not alone in having your cats disturbed by other cats outdoors. Seeing, smelling and hearing free-roaming cats outdoors can be very stressful to indoor cats who may begin to fight with each other and become stressed to the point of being motivated to spray-mark their indoor territories and even develop stress-related conditions, such as cystitis.
This is why, in addition to helping prevent the demise of wildlife from cat predation, all cat owners should keep their cats indoors if they do not have a cat-proof yard or patio. Municipalities should have laws prohibiting such irresponsible cat ownership with significant fines after a one-time warning. But it is difficult to find which homes free-roaming cats come from, some having no homes because they are lost or feral.
You will have to keep your widows and shades closed from early evening until morning. Use an enzyme cleaner where there are cat urine stains, and get some organic catnip to help calm your cats. Not all cats enjoy this herb, but many do. A quarter-teaspoon per cat should suffice early in the evening.
DEAR DR. FOX: Every weekend I read your column, and many times people talk about the desperation to find something to alleviate the side effects of their animals' allergies. I, too, have faced this with our 18-year-old poodle until our vet was informed about the new drug Apoquel. This is administered twice a day for two weeks, then reduced to once per day thereafter, and the dosage is decided by weight.
While there were minimal side effects, they were not serious, and they diminished once the dosage was reduced. Through time, they have totally disappeared. It has made an amazing difference in the quality of life for both my dog and myself.
Please mention this drug so other people can get the same relief from the never-ending turmoil associated with allergies. -- M.M., Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR M.M.: In my opinion, Apoquel (oclacitinib) from Zoetis, which was approved for use in dogs by the Food and Drug Administration in May 2013, should be used as a last resort because of potentially harmful side effects. Alternative treatments, including elimination and single-protein diets, and supplements should first be considered. In many cases, a transition onto an organic, GMO-free diet -- and balanced, raw food diets in particular -- can work wonders. But cases of allergic skin disease and atopic dermatitis can be devastating to both dogs and their caregivers. This drug can help in some, but not all cases.
The manufacturer states: "In clinical studies, the most common side effects observed in dogs treated with Apoquel were vomiting and diarrhea. Other reported side effects included lethargy, decreased or lack of appetite, skin irritation or infection and ear irritation or infection. Apoquel may increase the susceptibility to infection and demodicosis and may exacerbate neoplastic conditions. While most current therapies are broad-based agents, Apoquel is uniquely targeted to stop the itch and inflammation associated with allergic skin disease. It is a selective inhibitor of the Janus kinase (JAK) 1 enzyme, a protein that is integral to the signaling pathway that results in itching and inflammation. Its novel mechanism of action on the JAK enzymes is specifically designed to target the pruritogenic (itch-triggering) and proinflammatory pathways involved in the itch cycle, allowing control of the signs of allergic disease."
The company reports that the product was effective in 67 percent of dogs suffering from allergic skin disease and in 66 percent of those with atopic dermatitis. With careful monitoring for potential side effects after alternative treatments have failed, this drug may indeed be a small miracle for many suffering dogs.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.)