DEAR DR. FOX: My husband and I have four cats. We have two 15-year-old Siamese sisters and two 5-year-old gray tabby sisters. We also have a 3-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter.
One of our Siamese started peeing in our bedroom closet shortly after our daughter was born. We put up a gate and ended up tearing out the carpet. She has avoided the closet lately, but has moved her habit to the stair landing in our home -- plus she has started pooping. We are using puppy pads to absorb the pee.
Is this a symptom of something Siamese cats get in older age, or is this something to do with the change of adding our daughter to the family? We have tried putting a cat box on the landing, but she wouldn't use it. We have five cat boxes in the home for the four cats to use, but no real place to put one in our upstairs area for her.
Is there anything you could suggest to calm her or get her to accept my child, if that is the case? She adjusted better to my son, but she was also a little younger then. -- H.S., Arlington, Virginia
DEAR H.S.: The cry of human babies, and possibly your hormonal change in scent, can upset some cats. Older cats can also develop dementia. Stress in the home can also bring on cystitis, which can lead to house soiling.
I would first have your cat checked for a urinary tract infection or inflammation. The feline pheromone Feliway in a plug-in room diffuser can work wonders and is harmless to humans. Catnip may also help calm your cat; you may try a low dose of Valium, which will not only have a calming effect, but will also help reduce bladder spasms.
Discuss this medication approach with your veterinarian. Clean urine-contaminated areas with an enzyme cleaner like Nature's Miracle. Give your old cat lots of extra attention, let her see you nursing the infant and never scold her.
Good luck, and let me know how things turn out.
DEAR DR. FOX: My 8-year-old Doberman looks as if she has wobbler syndrome. I read online that you successfully treated this problem using chiropractic adjustment.
What should I do? She is a wonderful dog whom I love very much. -- J.L., Springfield, Missouri
DEAR J.L.: I have never used or advocated chiropractic manipulations for this disorder in dogs. This is a nasty affliction affecting the alignment and ligament support of the neck vertebrae, with neurologic signs including abnormal gait, lowering of head and neck, and neck pain. It is not uncommon in larger breeds such as the Doberman pinscher, Great Dane, borzoi, basset hound, Rottweiler, German shepherd and Dalmatian. It may be aggravated by misuse of neck collars and choke chains.
When symptoms develop suddenly, exercise restriction, low-dose prednisone treatment and using a body harness (no neck collar or chain) can help, as can a neck brace. A veterinary chiropractor may or may not make this condition worse, since manual manipulation may cause inflammation and damage to the spinal cord. Surgical stabilization by an experienced veterinary surgeon may help, but the dog may be unable to walk for several weeks, or even months.
The prognosis is not good, and the treatment is costly. Mild cases get by with long-term anti-inflammatory steroid treatment with regular monitoring for drug side effects.
(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.net.)