DEAR DR. FOX: A friend once told me that pet owners should never buy rawhide treats made in China for canine friends due to health concerns. Is this valid? I have similar concerns over rawhide treats in general, regardless of where they are made, but my dogs love them. My current rule is to give only one or two a month, and only a small bone or chew stick at that. Your opinion would be appreciated. -- D.S., Louisiana, Missouri
DEAR D.S.: After the massive poisoning of thousands of dogs and cats in 2007 from a pet food ingredient imported from China, documented in the book "Not Fit for a Dog," which I co-authored with two other veterinarians, and because the U.S. government has little if any effective oversight of Chinese manufacturers, I advise against purchasing any pet product -- including pet beds and chew toys -- that indicate they are made in China. If the label says the product is "distributed" by a company in the U.S. but gives no indication as to country of origin or manufacture, I advise against purchasing it.
More recently, thousands of companion animals have been sickened and have even died from various chews and treats manufactured in China, even bearing well-known multinational food company labels (as distributors). Some of these products have been subjected to irradiation to kill bacteria and essentially mummify them, an issue that I have previously addressed in my column. So let's not throw caution to the wind with attractive packaging and thinking that a little bit won't cause any harm.
Check petzlife.com for some safe dental chews and other natural products -- all manufactured in the U.S. -- and visit smaller pet stores in your area, where clerks can show you other products, including rawhide chews that are organic and come from the U.S.
Check my website, DrFoxVet.net, for my buckwheat-based dog cookie recipe. Avoid U.S.-produced smoked and dried pig ears and other body parts for dogs because of potential bacterial contamination.
I advise a weekly 10-minute chew time for dogs using safe products such as rawhide strips and raw, scalded beef marrow bones to help clean teeth, limiting the time to avoid possible injuries like cracking teeth.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 15-year-old female tuxedo cat who has been drinking excessive amounts of water for the past three or four months. She is urinating a lot, so I believe her kidneys are working. I haven't changed her diet. She's basically an inside cat -- she goes outside only in my backyard when I'm out there.
Any idea why she would be consuming so much water daily? -- P.P., Toms River, New Jersey
DEAR P.P.: I urge you to seek a veterinary appointment and have your cat given a full wellness examination.
You are making an assumption that your cat's kidneys are working fine because she is drinking and urinating more than usual. This could be a sign of chronic kidney failure or some other health issue, such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism.
Kidney problems in cats are often associated with chronic, neglected dental problems. Your cat's fluid balance and electrolytes may be way off, and the kidneys are being overworked; in the process, she may be passing too much protein and certain vital minerals that ultimately mean your cat wastes away, a condition called sarcopenia. Complications can arise, such as high blood pressure, stroke and blindness.
So please waste no time and have the cat seen by a veterinarian without delay. Some do in-home visits, which are less stressful for many cats.
(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.)