DEAR READERS: Flat-faced cats, like Persians and exotic shorthairs, are rising in popularity, as are flat-faced dogs such as Boston terriers and pugs. This condition, called brachycephaly, can mean a life of suffering from restricted airways, partial suffocation, chronic infections, eye problems and difficulty eating.
Over the past few years, breeders and show judges have selected extreme forms of this condition as a desired trait, with no regard for the animals' welfare. This abominable situation is being decried by the feline welfare charity organization International Cat Care, which is calling for cat lovers to speak out against such deliberate breeding of deformed animals. Under the revised Animal Protection Act in Switzerland, strengthened by regulations against intentional breeding to produce specific traits that compromise animals' health and well-being, two breeders of extreme brachycephalic cats have been successfully prosecuted.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a Pomeranian who has been suffering for a couple months, and I've been unable to help him.
He has a history of anal gland issues, and has his glands expressed by a vet every four months. Recently, he was showing signs of discomfort, so I scheduled an emergency visit for the next day. It didn't help; he still was squirming and crying a little as he tried to itch. I called for another emergency visit a couple weeks later, with the mandatory wellness check. The vet once again expressed the glands and found little fluid, and suggested we may have to remove them to alleviate my dog's issues. Again, there was no relief from his itching. I was very hesitant about a drastic step like removing his anal glands, so I started researching for alternate causes.
I think he may be suffering from a yeast infection. He has small black specks on his belly in addition to a slight discoloration of the skin. He's also been a little smelly. The symptoms described online fit what he was going through.
Here is what I am doing, as of yesterday: I changed his dog kibble (he does get high-quality food, not a supermarket brand) to a single-source protein kibble. I know that is not perfect, as you cannot bind kibble without a starch. I am looking for an alternative regarding the food, but I feel what I am giving him now is an improvement. No treats except protein. I am using an anti-fungal spray on his belly.
Is there something else I should be doing? I certainly don't want to make it worse. If I don't see an improvement shortly, I will take him back to the vet, as maybe he needs to be tested for allergies. I just wanted to try something natural first, so I don't put him through any additional trauma. I'm annoyed that the vet charged me for two wellness checks and clearly didn't check much, just jumped to a surgical option. -- G.L., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR G.L.: You should contest the charge for a second wellness exam. I would avoid surgical removal of the anal glands. The glands have sacs that can be irrigated with antibiotics and steroids under light sedation and anesthesia. The more often they are squeezed (and often improperly at that), the more inflamed and secretory they can become.
Avoid going on the internet to find solutions. If you suspect a fungal issue, let your attending veterinarian determine that. Turmeric is messy when applied externally and is best taken internally as an anti-inflammatory supplement.
Many anal gland and chronic ear problems are related to food allergies, so try a single-protein diet with a few drops daily of anti-inflammatory fish oil in the food, or try my home-prepared recipe, posted on DrFoxVet.net. It has helped countless dogs with various health issues.
Pigment changes in the skin in older dogs can mean an endocrine problem is developing.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.)