DEAR READERS: Dog breeders and associations in Europe are beginning to address the tragic plight of certain breeds suffering from various genetic or inherited disorders, an issue that is gaining momentum now in the United States. (Read more at unethicalbreederawareness.com).
Now, as certain cat breeds are developed and become popular, they, too, are suffering the consequences of various genetic disorders. Steve Crow, chairman of the United Kingdom's Governing Council of the Cat Fancy said, "We can't put the genie back in the box with the Bengal and the sphynx (because these breeds are already registered), but we will not add any more."
Crow is referring to spontaneous mutations that compromise health -- as with the hairless sphynx, the munchkin suffering from dwarfism and the pixiebob, which has a short or no tail -- and domestic-wildcat hybrids like the Bengal, a cross between a domestic cat and an Asian leopard cat. Hybrid varieties that are domestic cats crossed with small wild cats, such as the serval, Asian leopard or jungle cat, can be fearful, difficult to handle and are prone to develop behavioral problems. They are often euthanized if not put in a sanctuary like the Wildcat Sanctuary (wildcatsanctuary.org). The ocicat is a cross between domestic cat breeds, and it has no wild ocelot background, but inbreeding is an issue with these popular spotted cats. Certainly, some people can rise to the challenge and provide proper care to wildcat hybrids, but as with wolf-dog hybrids, many suffer because they fail to adapt to the domestic environment.
If you are looking for a good cat, visit your local animal shelter first, and if you are drawn to a particular long-established breed such as a Siamese or Persian, you may find one there. If you go to a breeder, be sure to get certification that the parents have no health or behavioral issues of hereditary origin that could break your heart and your savings account.
DEAR DR. FOX: About a year ago, my 14-pound, 12-year-old unspayed female Shih Tzu began to show signs of what I thought was hip dysplasia. Since she's small and very healthy, this surprised me. A friend recommended glucosamine chondroitin treats, and after about a month of these, she seems to have improved a lot. At least she's on all fours most of the time when she's active. She shows no signs of pain or discomfort, and she will make a mad dash for the door to join us outside. But she still has times when she drags her hindquarters behind her.
It puzzled me that an otherwise healthy small dog would develop hip dysplasia. I now have a hunch about what might have caused it: We have an ongoing rat infestation, and for a while I was using rat bait that contained bromethalin. The bait stations were placed in such a way that the dog would never have been able to come into contact with them, but I'm now convinced that the dog did come into contact with the bromethalin. How?
I've seen evidence that the rats are drinking from the dog's water bowl; when they do that, they sometimes leave in the water little bits of whatever they have been eating. And I do remember seeing once a tiny speck of something with the distinctive green color of the bromethalin product on the edge of the water bowl.
I discontinued use of the bromethalin product months ago, and I now take up the water bowl in the evening. The dog seems to improve a bit weekly, and I'm hoping for a full recovery.
I went online to check the label of the rat bait I used. I may have thrown you a red herring by describing the symptoms of bait ingestion as hip dysplasia. What the poison label does say is that symptoms of ingesting bromethalin include loss of hind limb use. I translated "loss of hind limb use" to "hip dysplasia."
Whatever the cause, Biscuit seems to be recovering the use of her hind legs. Obviously, these bromethalin products have to be used with extreme caution. -- J.M., Washington, D.C.
DEAR J.M.: Your experience with your dog evidently being exposed to rat poison of the kind that can cause weakness and paralysis of the hind limbs and lead to fatal seizures is a warning to all who put out rodenticides in their homes -- especially at this time of year, when mice and other rodents are seeking refuge for the winter. Outdoor predators often die after consuming rodents poisoned indoors that then go back outside.
DOG FOOD RECALL
Mars Petcare U.S. announced a voluntary recall of a limited number of Cesar Classics Filet Mignon Flavor product due to a potential choking risk from hard white pieces of plastic that entered the food during the production process.
For more information, visit truthaboutpetfood.com/mars-petcare-announces-voluntary-recall-of-limited-number-of-cesar-classics-dog-food/.
(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.)