DEAR DR. FOX: For the past two weeks, I have been dog-sitting for my son's 10-year-old boxer, Rocco.
For the past year or so, Rocco has had a swallowing problem that keeps getting worse. He has seen his regular vet and two specialists. I was told it has to do with his esophagus: As he eats, he chokes and regurgitates bile. It's not pleasant to clean up, but it must be terrifying for our beloved Rocco.
I have been cooking him ground turkey, vegetables and brown rice. He gobbles it down with no difficulty. He wasn't drinking much water prior to his new diet, but now you can't keep his water bowl full. Bowel movements are healthy, and his energy level is on the rebound.
We are all so happy to see his health coming around and would like your input on this new diet and if you would suggest any supplements that would help our dear pet.
Even though I am pet-free, I still enjoy reading your advice in our local paper, always passing on tidbits I get from your column. -- W.R.G., Estero, Florida
DEAR W.R.G.: I congratulate you on confirming that the kind of food you prepared for this poor dog essentially cured him of his esophageal dysphagia. This is fairly common in older dogs, and many would be helped by your dog food -- moist, palatable and not "gluey" or too dry. It's simply easier to swallow, especially for dogs with neurodegenerative disease of the pharynx and swallowing mechanism. Dry mouth, brachycephaly (short muzzles) and acid reflux damaging the esophagus are contributory factors. Feeding dysphagic dogs your kind of food from elevated food and water bowls, so they do not have to swallow with their heads low to the ground, can give much relief.
DEAR DR. FOX: My brother Larry is a musician, and he frequently practices with a four-piece band and for his solo act, too. Whenever he plays a CD with steel guitar music on it, his cat closes her eyes, sits there and seems to be smiling. She appears to be listening to and enjoying the music, especially Buddy Emmons' instrumental version of "Nightlife." She does not do this when other music is being played.
Is it possible that this 10-year-old cat is actually listening to and enjoying that particular music? Could she think that the music might be some kind of cat choir or something? Or is she simply off her rocker? I thought you and your readers might get a kick out of this, as some consider cats to be special gifts from God. -- T.W., Yadkinville, North Carolina
DEAR T.W.: Many animal species enjoy various kinds of music. Our two feral cats both sat in front of loudspeakers when they heard Gregorian chants for the first time. One of my research wolves (featured in my book "The Soul Of The Wolf") would howl in perfect harmony with my shakuhachi flute playing.
Animals' evident enjoyment of various kinds of music, and their enjoinment vocally and in movements, affirm their capacity for aesthetic experience. Many deny this capacity, as well as animals' empathetic sensibility and rights. As human history informs, the world would probably be a better place without such denial. Those who believe in a higher power will appreciate philosopher Meister Eckhart's contention, "every creature is a word of God."
DEAR DR. FOX: I am 92 years old, and I have had dog and cat pets for many years as my kids grew up. And it raises a question that may sound silly to you, but I just have to ask: As you have noticed, I'm sure, dogs and cats won't eat unless they're hungry. You just can't force them.
Watching TV commercials for pet foods, I have long wondered how they get these dogs and cats to gobble up the advertised pet food. My conclusion: They must not feed the animals for a day or two to get them so hungry, especially cats. And I'll bet they have a bunch of dogs and cats because they can't be sure just one will act right.
Have you or people at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ever investigated the making of these commercials? -- B.B., Manchester, Missouri
DEAR B.B.: I wonder if people half your age are as perceptive as you!
I agree with you absolutely that the dogs and cats used in TV commercials promoting manufactured pet foods shown ravenously gobbling up the food must have been deprived of food for some time to have such an appetite. Or else they have some compulsive eating disorder!
Of course, the advertisements' intent is to imply that the food is irresistibly delicious; but only fools are so deceived.
Animals are exploited in many ways, and their suffering (severe in some instances, as in ritual slaughter and the millions confined in factory farms and puppy mills) must be opposed by all and outlawed.
(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.)