DEAR DR. FOX: The other day, my husband was reading your column and when he was finished he threw the paper down and started to cry. He looked at me and said, “Well, it’s pertinent.” I picked it up and read it, and then I began to cry. The subject you wrote about was happening to us right then.
Our beloved 16-year-old cat, Gracie, was terminal, and it was only a matter of time until she would be gone. Your column dealt with a man who had two cats and lost one. The surviving cat suffered with grief for a long time, so when the situation arose again, this time he took the surviving cat with him when the other cat was euthanized.
After reading this advice in your column we decided to take our Koko with us when Gracie was euthanized. Koko had been through this several years ago when his brother, Kiki, died. Koko was depressed after, and we made sure that we touched, petted and played with him extra to help him get over the loss -- and us, too.
Koko did not like being there, but after we got home, he went into a basket that was always Gracie’s. As soon as Gracie took it over, Koko never went into it until she was gone. It’s been only four days now, but he is taking over some other things that were Gracie’s alone. We are heartsick that we lost our very special kitty, even though she had been lucky as she had an ectopic ureter that was diagnosed when she was 2. She dealt with it very well, so did we, so to have 16 years with her was amazing. -- D.H. and J.H., Estero, Florida
DEAR D.H. and J.H.: You have my sympathy; I understand how devastating the loss of an animal companion can be. I am very glad that one of the issues in my newspaper column coincided with your situation and you found it helpful.
Koko's behavior is interesting in that he clearly accommodated or deferred to Gracie when she was alive. Being conscious that she is now gone, he is essentially filling in some of the spaces that she formerly occupied, both physically and psychologically.
Behavioral and neurological sciences have helped advance our understanding and appreciation of animals' consciousness and emotions. Such evidence that warm-blooded animals are more like us than they are different deflates the erroneous belief in human superiority. It forces us out of anthropocentrism to face the realities of animal use and abuse around the world. For instance, consider the suffering of billions of animals raised for human consumption and used for experiments to find cures for human disease.
For the views of some of history's deepest thinkers and social reformers, I would highly recommend a book by an old colleague and dear friend in Germany, Johanna Wothke. She is the founder and director of Pro Animale, an organization that has set up 25 animal shelters across Europe and Turkey and rescued thousands of dogs, cats, equines and abused and neglected farm animals. Her philosophy is captured in the book's title, "Memento," a derivative of the Latin "memento mori," which suggests being mindful of your death. Such mindfulness, she contends, can move us all to examine how we live in relation to the lives and eventual deaths of others, and lead us along the "paths of suffering and the destruction of our fellow creatures -- the animals -- as caused by us humans."
People in America can support her international animal rescue work and learn more by purchasing copies of "Memento" through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EXERCISE HELPS DOGS WITH INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE
Two veterinarians in Taiwan have documented the benefits of an exercise regimen in addition to standard prednisolone treatment in small-breed dogs living a sedentary life and suffering from chronic diarrhea. This was after other dietary treatments (hydrolyzed and hypoallergenic elimination diets) and various supplements either failed or only partially improved their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Although this was a small study inspired in part by the clinical improvement in human patients suffering from IBD who are able to participate in a regular exercise program, it offers a safe and potentially effective additional therapeutic approach to this all-too-common canine condition.
Living a sedentary life, rarely aroused and often being trained to evacuate inside, especially when living in high-rise apartments, could lead to longer retention times of fecal material prior to evacuation. This may cause inflammation of the bowels, exacerbated by various dietary ingredients and their metabolites with further possible health problems due to bacterial endotoxins. Physical activity may help improve circulation and help alleviate and prevent lymphangiectasia, the accumulation of lymph in the bowels seen in some forms of canine IBD.
Mental arousal with physical activity may increase peristaltic tonus of the bowel’s smooth muscles that may become flaccid with a placid temperament and an unstimulating indoor environment. Megacolon and fecal impaction, commonly seen in under-stimulated and under-active indoor cats, and weak urinary bladder tonus with urine retention and consequential cystitis may also be related to a lack of arousal and physical activity.
So walk more with your dogs and play more with your cats, some of whom may also enjoy outdoor walks in a harness or on a leash!
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.)