DEAR DR. FOX: Our 8-year-old neutered male cat, Tiger, was prescribed a seven-day course of Clavamox for a urinary tract infection, as he was urinating blood outside his litter box.
Less than two weeks later -- after completing this course of antibiotics -- I noticed that he was straining to urinate and constantly moving from place to place to try to go. It was obvious that he was in trouble. I took him to the vet immediately, and, after extensive blood work and X-ray, it was determined that he had crystals, but thankfully no bladder stones. He remained at the vet's overnight for catheterization and intravenous fluids. The vet also recommended a prescription from a combining pharmacy (sort of a Flomax for cats to help relax his urinary tract) along with a 14-day course of Clavamox. When completed, we did give him fish oil and pet probiotics in a syringe to offset the antibiotic effects.
The first week of treatment, he had to return to the vet's for additional intravenous fluids and an overnight stay. The vet prescribed Hill's Prescription Diet c/d for urinary tract health -- for the rest of his life.
My concern is that the fourth and fifth ingredients of the food are corn gluten meal and wheat gluten. As a very health-conscious individual who opts for natural solutions in my own personal health care, my concern is that these glutens are not a normal food that a cat would eat. Do animals need these grains in their diet? Also, the genetically modified organisms in corn and wheat are something else to be reckoned with, as they may affect humans and animals.
Weight gain also seems a side effect of this particular cat food.
We just spent hundreds of dollars for treatment of our pet (and we have four other cats), and do not wish for him to go through the pain, stress and anxiety of a repeat episode, nor do we have an inexhaustible budget for medical costs incurred with this problem. -- Y.J., Yadkinville, North Carolina
DEAR Y.J.: You have certainly been through the proverbial mill that was costly for you and stressful for your cat and all who love him.
I blame high-cereal-content cat foods, which make the urine abnormally alkaline; a sedentary life; and poor drinking habits or fluid intake, especially in cats given only dry cat food.
This problem is all too common in the cat population today. In some cases, it's possibly caused by corn, with secondary bacterial infection and crystals/calculi/stones forming that can block the lower urinary tract, especially in neutered males. A more biologically appropriate diet is the best preventive. For details, visit feline-nutrition.org.
I share your concern about the corn and wheat gluten ingredients in the costly prescription diet your veterinarian is selling you. Such ingredients have no place in a cat-carnivorous diet.
Keep up with the fish oil and probiotic supplements, and encourage Tiger to eat a meat-and-vegetable canned cat food, or try my home-prepared cat food recipe posted on my website, DrFoxVet.com. Several good varieties of cat foods are also posted on the website.
DEAR DR. FOX: Keltie, my 7-year-old female German shepherd, has exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, which was diagnosed at about 7 months, when my son was raising her.
The main symptoms were normal for this condition: large, loose, grayish cow pies for poop and drastic weight loss. Unfortunately, it took the vet some time to diagnose, though I don't know why since shepherds are susceptible and the signs were obvious.
She came to live with me when she was around 3, after being diagnosed and having pancreatic powder stirred into her food for some months. She was quite thin, but has progressed admirably through the years and is of normal weight with normal stools. Is the powder form better than tablets?
Keltie, though a very sweet, smart, loyal dog, is also afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder (pacing) and super sensitivity to almost any odd happening, from pulling curtains closed across a window to my flipping my head back to put drops in my eyes. Meal times or visits by friends create a pacing, whirling dervish punctuated by yips or barks, sort of like Tourette's syndrome. She still periodically paces back and forth (it used to be constant) for no apparent reason. This started when she was a puppy and my son played with a laser toy pointed and moving along the floor. He's convinced that she's still looking for the dot! If she can suck you in, she will continually bring you a ball, waiting for it to be kicked or thrown back and forth until hell freezes over.
She has been on Prozac for years, which I think helps. Since coming to me, she has improved dramatically, perhaps because she has a calmer household and another dog companion as well as competition. I use a Thundershirt on her when necessary and it helps, but generally I am amazed at her progress and am able to ignore her antics.
I would appreciate any suggestions you might have for such a super-sensitive startle-prone dog. I understand that shepherds are susceptible to OCD and believe it is probably mostly bad breeding. What a shame. -- G.B.G., Arlington, Virginia
DEAR G.B.G.: Poor Keltie has her genes to curse for her need for digestive enzymes. I am not aware of the powder being any better than tablets, but you might also try three to four cubes of canned pineapple, which also contain digestive enzymes. Before meals, give the dog some probiotics. A couple of tablespoons of plain kefir or "live" yogurt may also prove beneficial.
One theory is that shepherds and some other breeds raised on a high-cereal diet don't fare well because the diet leads to pancreatic enzyme deficiency and all the well-known symptoms you describe.
It seems you have done a good job dealing with Keltie's OCD, which may indeed have been triggered during her formative months by hyper-stimulation with a laser light. You may want to increase the daily dose of Prozac, but first try melatonin morning and night. This super-antioxidant can help calm down animals, and several readers have found it helpful for their dogs' "thunderphobia" and old dogs suffering from insomnia or dementia.
(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.)