DEAR DR. FOX: One of my female cats, who is about 10 years old, began vomiting a few months ago. Because she vomited all the food she had eaten, I changed the food to a more natural wet food with fewer additives and no grains. When she vomits, it is usually one to three hours after eating her food, and it is undigested.
Because she continued to vomit frequently, I took her to the vet, who did a basic evaluation that included urinalysis. Nothing unusual showed up on the tests, and the vet diagnosed the problem as irritable bowel disease and prescribed Cerenia. The medication stopped the vomiting, but as soon as my cat was done with the prescription, the vomiting resumed. I took her back for a second appointment, and the vet drew blood to provide a better diagnosis for the vomiting. The vet was surprised when the blood panel results were completely normal. She recommended other tests -- requiring surgery -- that I refused to do, not only because of the cost, but also because of the risk and discomfort for my cat. The vet agreed to keep my cat on a maintenance dose of Cerenia to prevent the vomiting. So far, I have spent $800 for the two vet appointments, which included a rabies shot.
Two days ago, my cat threw up all her food, undigested, three hours after eating. This happened the night before her next dose of Cerenia. My cat has lost weight, and I worry about the possible side effects of her taking Cerenia long-term. I am trying to balance my financial situation with my cat's health, comfort and quality of life.
What would you recommend I do at this point to give my cat the best care and treatment? -- J.G., Kensington, Maryland
DEAR J.G.: Blood tests are not likely to pinpoint the cause, which could well be lymphatic cancer invading your cat's intestines. Costly and risky gut biopsies can help confirm what could be the provisional diagnosis of inflammatory disease.
I am shocked that the veterinarian gave your cat a rabies vaccination, since sick animals should never be vaccinated.
Test for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. Try dietary changes. Prednisolone, chlorambucil and fenbendazole may help an occult giardia infestation. Supplements such as vitamin B12, D and E; probiotics; and glutamine or glucosamine may also be beneficial. Discuss this approach with your veterinarian. Be sure there is no carrageenan in the canned food she is eating. Also, try feeding her small meals four to five times a day.
DEAR DR. FOX: I rescued a dog from an animal shelter. He is a beagle mix, about 1 1/2 years old.
After having him for three days, he chewed part of his tail raw. I took him to the vet, and she tested for mites and fleas, but did not see any; I called the shelter where I got him, and they said he was allergic to grain and chicken. I changed his diet and that helped, but he still chews at his sides at times.
The real problem I am having is when I leave the house, he takes all the knickknacks I have on coffee tables and end tables, puts them on the couch and chews on them (he also chews DVDs).
He was in the shelter for more than six months. The vet suggested I put him in a crate while I'm gone, but I just cannot do that to him after he spent all that time in one. I do not have anything around for him to get into now.
Do you have any suggestions for this problem? -- D.A., Hyde Park, New York
DEAR D.A.: Good for you for adopting this poor dog. He was incarcerated for a long time, and this could have harmed him, both psychologically and physically. Many shelters need more volunteers to walk and socialize their dogs.
I am glad the dietary changes have helped. Try a few drops of fish oil and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil daily in your dog's food.
Your dog's destructive behavior when you are gone can mean boredom and separation anxiety. If your workplace is not too far away, you should try to get home for lunch breaks and take him out for a quick walk. Leave a TV or radio on, and get a rubber Kong toy from the pet store that you can stuff with cream cheese or peanut butter -- put it in the freezer and give it to him when you leave. Check my website (DrFoxVet.com) for more details about helping dogs with separation anxiety.
(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.)