DEAR READERS: I watched the Westminster dog show on TV, alternately admiring and weeping for the various descendants of wolves and dogs in their selectively mutated, purebred forms. Some were beautiful, graceful and extraordinary in body and mind. Others were handicapped by extreme breeding for sloping quarters or flat faces, the latter being called brachycephalics (“brachys” for short).
A brachy -- a pug called Biggie -- won the Toy Group category, regrettably enhancing the breed’s public appeal and demand. Biggie’s handler said, laughing, “They sleep with you and snore.”
Such snoring is no laughing matter: It is a sign of partial asphyxiation, so-called obstructive airway syndrome, for which corrective surgery may be needed. It is cruel and unnecessary to breed dogs with extreme genetic deformities, especially the pushed-in faces of bulldogs (including the increasingly popular French bulldogs), pugs, Pekingese, Boston terriers and boxers. All are prone to chronic respiratory and eye problems, often compounded by spinal, ear, dental and joint problems -- along with not-unexpected heart disease.
So have a heart, and don’t ever buy such a human-compromised sentient being (adopt one, though, by all means). And breeders: Get it together! These loving souls should not be born with the burden of such human-selected genetic abnormalities. Hopefully, commercial breeders and the breed clubs, along with the AKC, will address these animal welfare concerns and work to eliminate these problems by changing breed standards.
The only good news in this regard is that in the U.K. and New Zealand, veterinary organizations and animal welfare groups are reaching out to inform the public about these breed-related health problems. These issues are costly, and can mean a life of suffering for the dogs -- unable to really play, run and sleep well.
The overseas groups are also discouraging advertisers from using such dogs in their ads. I see pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers almost every night in TV advertisements and various shows. It must stop, like wearing furs in public did. Displaying one’s insensitivity to cruel animal exploitation is nuts.
DEAR DR. FOX: I recently wrote to you about our cat Sasha, who had taught herself to urinate on the toilet. I believe I have an explanation, and it may be even more interesting than the fact that she taught herself.
The past two days, this cat has sat on my lap for hours, simply purring and staring at me. Every so often, she sits up and taps my shoulder with her paw, then lies back down. This told me something else was going on, since this cat has never sat on my lap, ever (and she’ll be 9 years old in July).
Last night, I heard her using the toilet, and when I went to flush, I noticed there was blood in the bowl. I took her to the vet today and they found blood in her urine, and an X-ray revealed a large bladder stone. The vet wants to do a laparoscopic cystotomy, since he feels the stone is too large to break up with any special diet. This cat has always been fed a diet of Primal Raw freeze-dried nuggets (rehydrated), drinks plenty of water and has never been outside.
Previously, I was amazed that Sasha taught herself to use the toilet. Now I wonder if she was smart enough to do that so that I would notice something was wrong with her, since I would not have seen blood in her urine within her litter box. She seemed to have no other symptoms. -- G.S., Brandon, Vermont
DEAR G.S.: Since your cat only recently started to evacuate in your toilet, I would consider that happened because she associated pain with being in the litter box, leading to aversion.
This happens with many cats who have painful lower urinary tract problems, and usually they soil elsewhere in the house. On occasion, they will strain and urinate in front of their caregivers, clearly signaling with intent that they are in distress. Your cat coming onto your lap was her way of letting you know something was wrong. It is a fortunate and rare coincidence that you saw blood in her urine in the toilet bowl.
I am glad that she got immediate veterinary attention, and trust that all goes well.
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