DEAR READERS: By the end of every summer, I have received several accounts from dog and cat “parents” whose animal companions have suffered physically after the use of common anti-flea products: shaking and trembling, even having seizures; seeming more anxious; and developing loose stools or vomiting.
Sometimes these adverse reactions are reported by veterinarians to the government and manufacturers. But other times, cats and dogs may not be taken to a veterinarian, or no immediate association is made between the animals’ evident distress and their oral and/or topical exposure to various pharmaceuticals. While rarely fatal, little is known yet about the long-term consequences -- to animal health, public health and the environment -- of these widely used products.
I would like to hear from readers about their experiences with their animals this past summer and fall, which, in many U.S. regions, have been favorable for the proliferation of fleas and ticks.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 12-year-old male Persian cat who has suddenly begun biting his tail about 1 inch from the tip.
He has basically removed all the fur. I have taken him to the vet (I use a cat-only vet), who has done a CBC, as well as checking for possible infected anal glands. All tests are negative, and nothing in our lives has changed since this behavior began in May.
Both my vet and I are at a loss as to the cause. What can I do to get him to stop chewing his tail? -- M.K., Falls Church, Virginia
DEAR M.K.: You must be a detective to find some source of irritation/discomfort that is being redirected to the tip of the tail, possibly as a displacement behavior.
This can be due to stress/anxiety or to a physical condition such as anal gland inflammation, lower urinary tract problems and even dental issues. In my book “Cat Body, Cat Mind,” I write about one grieving cat who chewed off his tail after his companion cat died. On some occasions, cats have started to chew their tails after part of the tail was accidentally damaged in a refrigerator or other kind of door, and this may be worth considering.
If nothing can be found to account for this behavior, then your cat should be put on a sedative medication and possibly wear a “lampshade” collar or neck corset to stop him from reaching his tail easily until it is healed.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 4-year-old Bluetick hound. During her first year, she developed hot spots, constant ear infections, dull fur, and was overweight and lethargic (especially for a 1-year-old dog). After numerous switches to vet-recommended foods that were supposed to help her, I switched her to your homemade dog food recipe. She immediately improved, and has had none of those issues since.
I recently took her to her veterinarian for a regular checkup, where they performed both urine and blood tests. He said her specimen came back with a lot of struvite crystals, and that I needed to take her in to do an X-ray to see if she has any stone formation. He also told me that she needed to be placed on a special food that would dissolve the crystals. Obviously, with how well everything else has gone on her current diet, I am not eager to change back to a commercial brand.
Is there another route to take to help improve the struvite crystal formation? I searched online for suggestions and found very little. She is not a big water drinker, so I have been trying to get her to drink more in hopes that this would help. I also reduced the grain amount in her food, while increasing the meat. -- S.K., Fort Pierce, Florida
DEAR S.K.: I am glad that my home-prepared recipe helped your dog recover from the various maladies that so often arise when a dog is fed commercially manufactured dog foods that are nutrient-deficient and unbalanced. It is quite possible that the adverse dietary consequences of “nutrigenic” disease persisted in her urinary bladder as a chronic inflammation coupled with secondary bacterial infection, common in young female dogs. This creates the conditions, along with alkaline urine caused by cereals in the diet, for struvite crystal formation.
If urine tests indicate no chronic bacterial infection, I would simply make the changes to the home-prepared diet you have initiated and add a tablespoon of stewed chopped tomatoes to each meal (twice daily, since I presume you feed your dog two meals a day). This is an old remedy for struvite crystals as a urine acidifier to prevent crystal formation. In addition, I would give your dog a daily probiotic and a tablespoon of canned, unsweetened pineapple once daily as an additional acidifier and source of beneficial digestive enzymes.
Add a little chicken or beef bouillon to flavor your dog’s drinking water to encourage more drinking, which is one of the best remedies for this problem.
CALIFORNIA PET STORE LEGISLATION
The historic Assembly Bill 485, the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, has been signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown.
This has made California the first state to ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits from commercial breeders in pet stores, and encourages retailers to facilitate the adoption of animals from local shelters. This is a major step forward in animal protection, in response to animals in our culture still being treated as commodities and mere objects of property. For animals’ sakes, every state should adopt this kind of legislation.
(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.)