DEAR DR. FOX: We put a new flea collar on our 13-month-old mixed-breed dog last week. This dog has never chewed anything in our house. He is crated during the day while we are at work, and at night he sleeps on his bed (not crated); he has never chewed a shoe, slipper or anything.
Two days after putting on the collar, he destroyed an overnight bag sitting on the couch; he ate the bag, my husband's sweater, his dog bed and other reachable items. When we arrived home, he was panting from aggressively tearing apart a pillow. Could the flea collar have changed his personality to make him aggressive? -- A.R., Damariscotta, Maine
DEAR A.R.: Animals sometimes have unexpected and paradoxical reactions to certain medications and other products, like the terrier who was terrified after a few drops of calming essential oil of lavender was put on a bandana around the dog's neck.
While I have written repeatedly over these many years advising cat and dog owners not to use such chemical-releasing anti-flea collars and similar spot-on products and offered safer alternatives (which you can find on my website, DrFoxVet.net), your experience is notable. It means that one should not simply leave an animal alone after applying any such product, just in case the animal has an adverse behavioral or neurological reaction. I would like to hear from other readers with similar experience.
DEAR DR. FOX: My son adopted several cats who were homeless. He and my husband are currently not busy, so they think it is good parenting to feed them four times a day! As a result, more than one of them are now fat.
They give the cats wet canned food, and they leave out dry food continually. I do not want to see one or more of them get sick. How do I get two adults to use common sense and stop overfeeding these poor cats? They are all indoor cats, have been spayed or neutered and had their shots. I want to see these sweet cats live normal, healthy lives and grow old, not die young of obesity. What recourse do I have? -- T.J., Newark, New Jersey
DEAR T.J.: There are too many fat cats in America, and other countries, for multiple reasons. The main thing is feeding them the wrong kind of high-carbohydrate diet -- about 5 percent should be the max for these carnivores. Most dry foods have far too much, and I would not let them eat dry food from a dispenser whenever they want. Some cats do self-regulate, but others become addicted and pig out constantly.
The cats you are caring for should be fed four small meals a day. Cats prefer and are probably better at digesting small meals, rather than being fed twice a day, as is often the case.
We should also consider food addiction, which can lead to overeating and metabolic syndrome. Certain flavors or additives in pet foods may trigger hunger with a sudden insulin drop and even cause proliferation of dependent and demanding gut bacteria that influence dietary choices.
It would be good to weigh the cats before you start transitioning to the new feeding regimen. Give them a tablespoon of grain- and soy-free cat food (such as Orijen) and a tablespoon of good-quality grain-free canned or raw cat food. They may enjoy my home-prepared cat food recipe on my website.
The cats may initially protest and solicit their old food, so put some time in distracting them with interactive games, grooming and places -- such as a cat condo and padded window ledges -- to look out and entertain themselves.
Let me know your progress.
(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.)