DEAR DR. FOX: I cannot get to the bottom of my 13- year-old female formerly diabetic tuxedo kitty's problem with head scratching and shaking.
For the past two months, we've fed her canned wet food instead of kibble; her last glucose test was normal. This head and face issue has been a long-standing one. When we've taken her in to see various vets, they all prescribe Tresaderm, but the scratching always comes back. She also overgrooms, and then vomits hairballs from licking so much. I believe she does this because of stress from her head and face condition. There are no visible sores on her head or face.
I thought the dry food was the issue, but changing to wet only cured her diabetes. Even on wet canned food, she still has the shaking and scratching on her face, head, neck and ears. What should we do? -- L., New Jersey
DEAR L.: This could be a variant of feline hyperesthesia syndrome. Keeping my cat off fish helped; catnip seems to calm him down, and evening games are a must.
Your cat may get some comfort from having a light blanket placed over her, since this may have a calming effect. Our other cat often goes to sleep when I put a newspaper over him or when he crawls into a rolled-up piece of carpeting.
I would not rule out a vitamin or other dietary deficiency or neurotoxin contaminant. And of course we have the established link between feline hyperthyroidism and flame-retardant chemicals, stain-repellent chemicals, formaldehyde and quaternary ammonium compound "sanitizers" for counter and floor -- all of which you can find in your home.
Hyperthyroidism, a symptom of which may include excessive grooming, affects more than 1 in 10 older cats. and might be due to exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are commonly used in plastics and furniture, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Researchers at Stockholm University found high levels of the chemicals in blood samples from cats with hyperthyroidism. PBDEs can get into dust that sticks to cats' fur and is then ingested when cats groom themselves.
Be sure her veterinarians checked her ears and teeth for issues. The cat pheromone product Feliway may help calm your cat, as may a drop of lavender essential oil where she sleeps, but be sure there are no synthetic fragrances in the cat litter or laundry.
DEAR DR. FOX: After our 16-year-old dog passed away late last year, we finally decided it was time to look for a new family member.
We came across a 3-year-old miniature American Eskimo mix at a local shelter, went through the process and brought her home. She's absolutely wonderful with us -- silly, playful, mostly well-behaved -- and we're very happy to have found her.
Our only problem is that when we have visitors, she barks nonstop for the longest time. Her tail is wagging, but she won't let the visitor pet her. When we go for a walk, she barks at anything close to us -- people, cars, other dogs. We know she lived with a senior couple previously, so we don't know how much training she got.
I've started to get her to sit and heel as a car or other "threat" approaches, but I wanted to get your opinion on what else we can do. We've only had her for 10 weeks, so we know it will take time. Thanks for any help. -- S.R., Beachwood, New Jersey
DEAR S.R.: An educated guess is that your dog was not taken out and about very much with her former caregivers, and she is showing the typical adjustment issues of a dog who has been raised in a relatively deprived environment, though clearly not unloved.
So take her exposure to the big world slowly, and help her learn self-control by teaching her to sit and stay. This exercise helps develop internal inhibition. She may handle better with a gentle leader or a harness around her chest. Three to four drops of lavender oil on a bandana around her neck before going out may help calm her down, as would PetzLife @-Eaze.
FROZEN DOG FOOD RECALL
OC Raw Dog voluntarily recalled 2,055 pounds of Turkey & Produce Raw Frozen Canine Formulation because it has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. The products were distributed in Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Colorado and sold to consumers through independent pet specialty retailers.
This recall is a result of a routine sampling program by the Nebraska Department of Food and Agriculture, which revealed a presumptive positive to salmonella. Consumers with questions may call 1-844-215-DOGS (3647).
(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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