DEAR DR. FOX: I just read your “Effective pain relief for old dogs” column, and wanted to share another thought with you.
Years ago, I had a Brittany spaniel who wouldn’t forgive me if I went out without her out to hunt, even though she was old and would spend several days in pain from the exertion. While hunting, I met a man and told him I felt a little bad about bringing her out, knowing how much pain it would cause her. He told me that he gave his old dog a child’s chewable vitamin C tablet whenever his dog was going to get a workout, and it relieved her pain. I tried it with my Brit, and it seemed to work wonders!
Thoughts? -- T.R.K., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR T.R.K.: Anecdotal evidence, such as yours regarding vitamin C as a treatment for activity-related pain, calls for clinical evaluation.
Many holistic veterinarians have long recognized vitamin C as a beneficial antioxidant, helping reduce oxidative stress. I would caution readers to give this vitamin with a little food, since it could otherwise irritate the lining of the stomach. Give your dog 25 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This could be done on a daily basis, or on occasion, with a larger dose a few hours before exercise.
I would like to hear other readers’ experiences along these lines, and reiterate that the widely prescribed analgesic for dogs, tramadol, has questionable benefits. And NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), widely used by humans, can be fatal for dogs.
While humans need an external food source of vitamin C, healthy dogs do not, since their livers normally produce this essential vitamin. But where there is liver disease, vitamin C supplementation is advisable. It is not advised for dogs with urinary calculi of the oxalate type, since it may aggravate the condition.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 17-year-old female Siamese cat who has been diagnosed with dementia.
She still eats and uses the litter box. The vet says he finds nothing else wrong, but she is howling at night to the point of keeping us awake. She sleeps on a heated pad on a dining room chair.
Do you have any suggestions on what we can do to help stop the howling at night? I do not want to drug her. -- J.N., Fort Myers, Florida
DEAR J.N.: This is a common problem in older cats. With already-vocal Siamese cats, it can be very disturbing.
There could be concurrent painful arthritis, and other conditions that the heating pad can help alleviate. To help further, try anti-inflammatory fish oil, a canned sardine or two a day and a prescription of tramadol or gabapentin (discuss with your veterinarian), along with glucosamine and chondroitin.
A session of full-body massage later in the evening (as per my book “The Healing Touch for Cats”) and 3 milligrams of melatonin a half-hour before you go to bed may also give your cat -- and your disturbed nights -- some comfort. (I take melatonin myself for a good night’s sleep, and it is also a purported super-antioxidant.)
Many cats like catnip, another gift from the plant kingdom we humans are rapidly wiping out around the world, along with the indigenous peoples and their herbal knowledge. It is related to valerian, from which we get diazepam (Valium). Try making a tea of catnip: Steep 1 heaped tablespoon in 1 cup of boiling water. Strain when cool, and encourage your cat to drink it, or mix it in her food (about 2 tablespoons a day). If acceptable, double the concentration to 2 tablespoons per cup of water. Be sure it is labeled “organically certified herb.”
Your cat may well just like a pinch or two of catnip at night to chew, roll on and go into a relaxed, trancelike state for a short while. But not all cats are attracted to this herb.
(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.
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